Amathus -Birmingham

birmingham-rep-theatre-1940sThe Amathus to Birmingham project is a heritage journey of how the 1st Greek Cypriots arrived in Birmingham documenting their struggles achievements and evolution into British society. Amathus is the former ancient capital of Cyprus and also known as the city of Cleopatra IV Queen of Egypt who was gifted the island by Emperor Marc Anthony in 58 BC. Cleopatra resided in the ancient city of Amathunda which now lies in the district of Limassol.

In the 19th century, two events drew Greeks towards Britain; commercial potential after the defeat of Napoleon, and the Diaspora, in which the Greek War of Independence saw a wave of emerges settle in Britain. Initially trading in shipping and commodities, most of these families were from Chios and Constantinople, and settled around Finsbury Circus in London, close to the commercial heart of the shipping industry; the Baltic Exchange and Lloyd’s of London. Others settled in the commercial cities of Liverpool and Manchester, and later Glasgow and Cardiff. They were joined by other Greeks from the Aegean, Ionian, Smyrna, Athens and beyond. As they prospered these Greek merchants began to settle in London’s Bayswater and established permanent institutions such as the Greek necropolis at Norwood in 1842, a Greek school and the Greek Orthodox church, later Cathedral of Aghia Sophia in 1877.

Britain gained control over Cyprus on 4 June 1878 as a result of the Cyprus Convention and formally annexed it in 1913. Greek Cypriots began to settle in London only from the 1930s. The earliest migrants came to the area around Soho, and many more arrived at the end of the Second World War. As rents in the West End increased, Camden and Fulham became popular areas for Greek-Cypriot migrants. Women initially worked from home in industries such as dressmaking. By the 1960s, a Greek language school and Greek Orthodox church, St Nicholas, had been established in Fulham.

The Greek Cypriot community in Birmingham was a very small minority and only increased  leading up to its independence in 1960 in notable numbers. There was a larger wave of migration after the invasion by Turkey in 1974, where many became refugees and many left the country migrating settling in America, Australia and the UK.

The stories of the people that settled in UK are remarkable; they demonstrate courage, resilience and entrepreneurship. On arrival to the UK they were unable to find employment. As a result they started to open fish & chips shops. They have shaped the fast food industry making fish & chips the nations favorite take away. The fish & chips shops have now been handed over to the second generation, some of them have built on their parents success and opened further catering establishments. We would like to collect the stories of 20 first and ten second generation Greek Cypriot migrants that have settled in Birmingham and neighbouring cities and use the information to create a book. The book will be used as resource to educate 2nd / 3rd generation Greek Cypriot and the wider community of their journey and the positive impact that they have had on British culture.

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