Oriental Film Artistes' Union


179 High Street Poplar
London, E15 2NE
United Kingdom
Date began: 
01 Jan 1938
Precise date began unknown: 

The Oriental Film Artistes’ Union was a body formed to protect the interests of Asians working as extras in crowd scenes, for example in London Film Studio's empire films such as The Four Feathers and The Drum. These films provided much-needed casual work for Indian migrants. To ensure better working conditions and pay, it was thought that through unionization their needs could be represented more effectively. The OFAU was founded by trade unionist Surat Alley, who became its secretary, and Chaudhri Akbar Ali Khan, who was its President. Akbar Ali Khan was also involved with the India League and Indian Workers' Union.

Established in early 1938, the OFAU had attraced 194 members by the end of the year. It achieved official Union recognition in January 1939. The Union worked in close cooperation with J. Cox's and Peter Blackman's Coloured Film Artistes' Association (located at 65 Warren Street, London, W.1). The Union sought affiliation to the Trade Union Congress in 1939, but a final decision was deferred until 1940.

Key individuals: 

E. P. Harris (TUC), A. M. Crickett (Film Artistes Association).

Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/645, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras 

MRC Mss 292/91/108, Trade Union Congress Papers, Modern Record Centre, University of Warwick