Meera Syal: Introduction (01:35)
Comedic actor Meera Syal travels to the British library to uncover six historical items of personal and professional significance. Syal is a first generation British-Asian and hopes to learn more about her heritage through her research.
Treasure One: Inspiration (05:35)
Syal is currently playing the role of the nurse in “Romeo and Juliet” and decides to look at the library’s theater collection with Kathryn Johnson for professional inspiration. Johnson shows Syal one of John Gielgud’s scrapbooks covering his production of “Romeo and Juliet."
Treasure Two: Childhood Memories (06:05)
The British Library has one of the world’s greatest collections of sound recordings. Accents and dialects curator Jonnie Robinson and Syal listen to recorded dialects found in Syal’s home region of the Black Country in England.
Treasure Three: Roots (07:39)
Exploring her British-Asian heritage, Syal studies a group of oppressed female, Indian servants known as “ayahs.” Penny Brook, India office records curator, tells Syal the story of an abandoned ayah and the home begun by Christian missionaries that took her in.
Treasure Four: Hidden Connection (07:02)
Syal states that Jane Austen’s novels often reflected the Indian cultural practices surrounding her. Sandra Tuppen, manuscripts curator, guides Syal through a document containing two original chapters of Austen’s last novel “Persuasion." Syal and Tuppen also read Austen’s final letter to her brother Charles.
Treasure Five: Esprit de Corps (05:23)
Syal and her friend read a book about the origins and instructions for their favorite sport, Netball. The two discover that the sport has significantly changed throughout the centuries.
Treasure Six: Passion (05:51)
Activist Jayaben Desai inspired Syal's passion for politics and social justice is activist. Journalist Amrit Wilson and Syal scour through British newspapers from the time of the Grunwick Dispute.
Meera Syal's Donation (03:20)
Syal states the stories of the lives of seemingly ordinary people are the most influential. Inspired by her time in the archives of the British Library, Syal donates her script of "Romeo and Juliet" that contains personal and director notes.
Credits: Meera Syal (00:35)
Credits: Meera Syal
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