top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureHarjot Sidhu

A CONVERSATION ABOUT SOUTH ASIANS & SWIMMING, WITH BBC PRESENTER SUMMAYA MUGHAL

The below is a short piece intended to accompany a longer audio conversation with Summaya Mughal.

LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION VIA LINKS BELOW (SUBSCRIBE OR FOLLOW THE “LONDON WRITING GUY” PODCAST FOR FUTURE EPISODES)





Are you South Asian and unable to swim? You’re not the only one. In fact, you’re in the majority. Research conducted by Swim England found that 68% of South Asians cannot swim 25 metres [i]. If you’re female and South Asian, then the likelihood you can swim is even slimmer (76% of South Asian females identify as not being able to swim 25m [ii]). The latter group is now one (self-proclaimed “pint-sized”) person short and these stats may not ever have been available had it not been for the subject of this conversation.


Summaya Mughal, Senior BBC Journalist

Summaya Mughal is a Senior BBC journalist, presenter and the “brown gal” behind the award winning podcast series Brown Gal Can’t Swim. It was when interviewing Alice Deering, just before the Tokyo Olympics (Team GB’s first female black swimmer to compete in an Olympic Games), that Summaya thought this was a topic that needed more focus. Alice was already raising awareness about the challenges the black community was facing with swimming. Issues such as hair, swim caps and other conversations around debunking myths was top of Alice’s agenda.  It was a moment of realisation for Summaya. What were the challenges facing the South Asian community when it came to swimming? Was anyone talking about it? Well, now Summaya would be the one picking up the conversation. Not only that, but at the age of 27, Summaya would begin learning to swim and would tell the world about it!


Brown Gal Can't Swim Podcast series

Getting the series green-lit was the first stage. The next was getting her family on board. For the series to have that little something extra, Summaya needed the involvement of her dad and brother. She always knew her British and Pakistani heritage would mix (or, some may say, clash) when creating this series. That said, this clash of identities was not something new. Anyone of the South Asian diaspora living in this country will have faced this their entire lives. It was time to face this again, but this time, publicly.



South asians and swimming

In October 2022, Brown Gal Can’t Swim, the 5-episode podcast series went live on BBC Sounds. To say it was a success is an understatement. The series won the 2022 Sports Journalists' Association (SJA) Podcast of the Year (as well as a number of other awards). Quite the feat, given that the previous year’s SJA Podcast winner was by Sky Sports.  Summaya’s public journey of learning to swim, culminating in a 500m open water swim, was not only enlightening but also revealing. It was as much a personal journey as it was an investigatory and awareness piece.

 

I spoke to Summaya about how the podcast came together, her path into journalism (for which she rejected a job at Deloitte) and many other things. Listen to the full conversation below:

 

LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION HERE>

LISTEN TO BROWN GAL CAN’T SWIM HERE>

FOLLOW SUMMAYA ON INSTAGRAM>

FOLLOW SUMMAYA ON TWITTER>


[i] Swim England, England Swims survey, 2022

[ii] Swim England, England Swims survey, 2022

93 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page