4000 Miles to Home: Achievements

May 21, 2015 Bradford Civic Society

4000 Miles to Home: Achievements

From arriving in Bradford at 11 years old, this is the official Fairfax school photo showing Akbal Singh Kang as the first non-white Head Boy in England, 1967. An achievement covered by local and national press at the time.

Part VIII: Achievements

Introduced by Gurj Kang

“The development of the youth culture, and the confidence among these young Bradfordians, sparked a growth in their involvement within all fields. 

“For Akbal Singh Kang and his friends, there was a desire to integrate but, importantly, to flourish. Despite challenges, their persistence and enthusiasm was welcomed. We see newspaper reports of the time, detailing work being done to encourage more participation from South Asian communities settling in Bradford. There was a promise that this was a city and region that was willing to accept and recognise talent.

Telegraph & Argus, 13 November 1967. Akbal Singh Kang and friends’ role in the local football leagues is celebrated. The language, while generally positive, is illustrative of the era.

“Off the football field, this extended academically. The pictures below showcase Akbal Singh Kang as he became the first non-white Head Boy of a school in England. 

“Having excelled, it was a moment of solidarity, as to the new community, Bradford proved its culture and system could be meritocratic in nature. The reach of these achievements indicated acceptance and recognition, proving for many that the futures they had hoped for, had currency. Interviews with local and national press followed, as well as a TV appearance, a picture of which is also included here. It’s important to note that this event occurred against the national political climate of wariness surrounding Commonwealth immigration and fears of integration that would overshadow the landscape for the following decades in protests and riots, illustrating Bradford as being comparatively progressive at this time.

“For Akbal Singh Kang, this translated into a distinguished career, following a degree in one of the last tranches that studied Textile Technology in a city whose heritage was built on its innovation. It was fitting that the industry which lured promise of economic work and a new life, was able to provide the stimulus for a career as a Textile Technologist, and as member of the Textile Institute, but also reward and embed the community into its city.

“The following pictures are in themselves a testament to the ability of this Punjabi community to not only arrive and integrate, but to contribute and thrive within the region.  Having travelled 4000 miles to a country and culture that they only knew through its rule, and to embrace a new environment; language; working practices, and systems would be jarring enough. 

The Football Team. Akbal Singh Kang far left.

“These pictures chronicle a brief period of time, that showcases the quick adaption and the courage and ingenuity to survive and surpass those barriers.  It also showcases a city and region that welcomed and nurtured the community, recognising and supporting the initiative, drive and ambition of these settlers in cementing the journey from Punjab into a new home…”

A screenshot of the Television as Akbal Singh Kang is being interviewed.

Bradford University dissertation of Akbal Kang.

Akbal Singh Kang being admitted to the Textile Institute in 1988.


·4000 Miles to Home was originally exhibited at Bradford Mechanics’ Institute in 2019, in partnership with Bradford Civic Society and Leeds Civic Trust. This extended online version was created in response to the lockdown period of 2020. It was curated and written by Gurj Kang. You can see the full eight-part series online here