September 5, 2019 Bradford Civic Society

Bradford partners with Leeds to celebrate 1950s migration in new exhibition

Bradford Civic Society will co-host a special photography exhibition with Leeds Civic Trust as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days festival. The exhibition, ‘4000 Miles to Home’, will open at the Bradford Mechanics’ Institute on Friday 13 September, and tells the fascinating story of Punjabi migration to West Yorkshire from the late 1950s onwards.

The exhibition has been curated by Gurj Kang, of Pudsey, whose father used a keen eye for photography to document life in industrial post-war Bradford. The photographs provide a unique insight into what life was like for those who travelled thousands of miles around the world to set up home in West Yorkshire.

Gurj says, “The exhibition is a celebration of Punjabi immigration into Bradford through the photographic hobbies of my Father, Akbal Singh Kang, who arrived at 11 years old, and then went on to become the first non-white Headboy in England at [the now closed] Fairfax school. His career involved being a student at Bradford University, studying Textiles, going on to become a member of the Textile Institute in 1988 following his work as a Technologist with Interface and the International Wool Secretariat. The exhibition is not simply about his achievements, but a record of the Commonwealth, with a unique view of Punjabi Sikh immigration. The pictures depict their daily life, the Yorkshire Mill life, landscapes and new world they would have adapted 4000 miles away from their resident Punjab. It celebrates all the generations of new migrants into a city, community and industry and the way in which they married into and continued the long established traditions of textile workers and the rich local Yorkshire way of life, proving how their perseverance, energy and efforts over 4000 miles settled them into a new home.”

Si Cunningham, Chair of Bradford Civic Society, says: “As true world cities, Bradford and Leeds have proud histories of welcoming people from all backgrounds, and this exhibition is a real celebration of that. The photos are beautiful, intimate snap-shots of post-war life in West Yorkshire. I encourage everyone to see the photographs for themselves and enjoy some of the fascinating stories behind them. As Bradford gears up to bid for City of Culture status, it’s really important to emphasise that our heritage goes way beyond old buildings and ruins — it belongs to everyone who has called Bradford their home at some point.”

Martin Hamilton, Director of Leeds Civic Trust, says: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Bradford Civic Society and Gurj Kang on this wonderful exhibition. Our cities have so much shared history and culture and this exhibition is a very tangible reminder of the vital role the Punjabi community played in the development and success of our cites.”

The exhibition is free and runs from Friday 13 September to Friday 20 September at the Bradford Mechaincs’ Institute on Kirkagte. There will be a special evening viewing from 6.30pm on Tuesday 17 September which will feature a talk by the exhibition’s curator Gurj Kang.
More information about the exhibition can be found here.