Birmingham Stories launches writing competition with Dishoom

Birmingham Stories, a campaign from the National Literacy Trust and the University of Birmingham to raise literacy levels across the city, has launched a writing competition to celebrate the opening of Dishoom Birmingham at One Chamberlain Square.

Birmingham is a city full of excellent food and wonderful stories. Dishoom Birmingham embodies this by serving a menu of Bombay comfort food and award-winning tipples within a space that shares the Dishoom team’s deep love for Bombay – its food, its history, its culture and its quirks.

Each Dishoom restaurant has a story – a sort of founding myth – deeply rooted in Bombay history. This story sets the scene for the café and informs all aspect of its design. Inspired by Birmingham’s history as the “city of a thousand trades”, the Dishoom Birmingham myth tells the story of Roda Irani, and begins in Bombay’s historic Swadeshi Market. It’s 1953, the newly independent India is finding its voice as a nation, and Roda Irani is reminiscing about the years leading up to Independence…

To win a meal for six at Dishoom Birmingham and a signed copy of the Dishoom cookery book (and highly subjective guide to Bombay with map), Birmingham Stories is asking anyone aged 11 and above to come up with their own take on the restaurant’s founding myth by adding no more than 500 words to the following extract. Entrants should submit this piece of ‘flash fiction’, a very short story, by Monday 14 September.


Crisp and organised, Roda Irani leads her daughter through the narrow gullies of Swadeshi Market. “Come, let us get to the café.”

They begin to walk the length of the market, shoulder to hip. Each gully is lined with stalls separated by thin partitions or simple thick cloth. Roda and Farah navigate past shoppers haggling over the price of scissors, padlocks, bolts of cloth – an array of products with one thing in common: all made by Indian hands, on Indian soil.

Entries adding 500 (or fewer) words should be sent to or messaged directly on Birmingham Stories’ social media pages on Facebook or Instagram.

For advice on how to finish an entire story in just 500 words, Dr Ruth Gilligan, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at University of Birmingham, has shared her top ten ‘flash fiction’ tips on the Birmingham Stories website. Dr Gilligan’s number one piece of advice for this Dishoom competition is to get into a foodie frame of mind and draw on your own food memories and stories for inspiration.

Harinder Matharu, Manager of Birmingham Stories, says:

Birmingham Stories launched last October to spread awareness of the importance of storytelling and literacy at every stage of life. We work with local schools, young people, businesses and cultural organisations to develop engaging activities and, during lockdown, we have focused on creating compelling content for our social media channels and distributing books across the city. 

We are delighted to partner with such an exciting and delicious new local restaurant to inspire people to share their stories. Dishoom’s motto is From Bombay With Love. For this competition, we’re making it From Birmingham With Love.

The competition runs from Monday 17 August to Monday 14 September. The writing will be judged by Co-Founder of Dishoom, Shamil Thakrar, Dr Ruth Gilligan, acclaimed novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at University of Birmingham, and Birmingham Stories Manager, Harinder Matharu. The voucher for the meal for six will be redeemable up until the end of 2020.

Visit the Birmingham Stories website [], Instagram or Facebook page for more details.

About Birmingham Stories

Birmingham Stories is a campaign run in partnership by the National Literacy Trust and the University of Birmingham. Together we are working to raise literacy levels and change the life stories of young people and adults across the city.

By working directly with communities and schools, we are spreading a love of storytelling across Birmingham, and equipping young people and families with the literacy skills they need to succeed in life. As well as events in schools and communities, we are running a city-wide campaign to encourage reading for pleasure and inspire young people.

To find out more about the Birmingham Stories campaign, please visit

About the National Literacy Trust

Our charity is dedicated to improving the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of those who need it most, giving them the best possible chance of success in school, work and life. We run Literacy Hubs and campaigns in communities where low levels of literacy and social mobility are seriously impacting people’s lives. We support schools and early years settings to deliver outstanding literacy provision, and we campaign to make literacy a priority for politicians, businesses and parents. Our research and analysis make us the leading authority on literacy and drive our interventions. Literacy is a vital element of action against poverty and our work changes children’s life stories.

Visit to find out more, donate or sign up for our free email newsletter. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.  Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.

About Dishoom

Dishoom pays loving homage to the Irani cafés that were once part of the fabric of life in Bombay. Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, there were almost 400 of these cafés at their peak in the 1960s. Today, fewer than 30 remain.

These cafés broke down barriers by bringing people together over food and drink. They were the first places in Bombay where people of any culture, class or religion could take cool refuge from the street with a cup of chai, a simple snack or a hearty meal. People from all walks of life shared tables, rubbed shoulders and broke bread together.

Like the old Irani cafés, Dishoom breaks down barriers: in its restaurants, which employ and serve people from all walks of life, at its events, and through charity, donating a meal for every meal served – 9 million meals so far.

Dishoom serves a lovingly curated menu of Bombay comfort food and award-winning drinks in beautiful restaurants, each with a unique story. Everything Dishoom does shares its love for Bombay’s culture, heritage and people, and everyone is welcomed with warmth.

Dishoom is managed by a team of Babus* led by co-founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar. Naved Nasir is the Executive Chef. The first Dishoom opened in Covent Garden in 2010, and Dishoom now has five cafés in London, one in Edinburgh, one in Manchester, and one in Birmingham. Shamil, Kavi and Naved published their first book, “Dishoom: From Bombay with Love”, in September 2019.

*Babu can be a term of respect in India but is more frequently used to refer to bureaucrats behind desks who don’t do much.

Dishoom Birmingham, One Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3AX


Instagram: @dishoombhm
Twitter: @dishoom