For the first time, Kirklees’ influential South Asian community, along with leaders, politicians, dignitaries and the Deputy West Yorkshire Mayor came together at Huddersfield Town Hall to the platform and celebrate the achievements of the local South Asian community.
At the invitation-only event, hosted by Asian Standard Kirklees more than fifty esteemed guests braced the steps of Huddersfield Town Hall to network and honour the region’s most influential South Asian men and women.
In attendance, were tycoons of business, prominent law professionals, third sector leaders, pioneers in education, three West Yorkshire deputy Lieutenants (DL), the Deputy Mayor for Policing & Crime and local leaders, Councillor Naheed Mathers, Councillor Musarrat Khan, and MP for Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater.
Surprise special awards were also given, which recognised outstanding contributions to the community in Kirklees.
These were given to the Deputy Mayor for Policing & Crime, Alison Lowe OBE, for putting the safety of women and girls at the heart of policing in the region and her work in mental health during Covid-19 while working for Leeds organisation Touchstone, Musharaf Asghar for overcoming his stammer, his public speaking work in schools and despite all odds graduating with a broadcast journalism degree, Sofia Buncy MBE DL, for being named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for her pioneering work on the Muslim Women in Prisons project and providing a voice to young people in Bradford through the Young in Covid documentary.
Managing director of SKA Textiles and SKA Developments, who is responsible for developing the Greater Waterfront Quarter in Huddersfield that is due to open this year, was recognised as one of the ‘Most Influential South Asians’, as well as the Yorkshire Post’s business reporter, Ismail Mulla, and founder of Ready Steady Active, Rashida Salloo for her work in providing safe spaces for women and girls to exercise, among seventeen others.
Speaking on the night, managing director and editor of Asian Standard, Fatima Patel, said: “We established Kirklees’ Asian Standard just three years ago – yes, I know it feels longer but that is not just down to the impact we have made but the nature of the last two years where we sometimes all feel we’ve been locked up for a decade.
“The experiences of South Asian people in this area have been absolutely essential to understanding those two challenging years. Everyone has suffered during Covid-19, but the South Asian community has been hit especially hard.
“The South Asian community here in Kirklees is louder and more visible than ever before. That is not just because the community has grown in number, though that course is true. Around 100,000 people in Kirklees are from an ethnic minority, with 75,000 being of South Asian origin.
“From these 75,000 people, it has been a challenge to pull together a list of the most influential South Asian figures in Kirklees, but that is what we have done, and those people are among those we celebrate tonight.”
Leader of Kirklees Council, Councillor Shabir Pandor gave a speech, followed by Batley and Spen MP, Kim Leadbeater (Lab), Alison Lowe MBE, and Vice-Chancellor of Huddersfield University, Bob Cryan CBE DL.
Cllr Pandor said: “I am proud that Kirklees Council has launched our second Inclusion and Diversity strategy at our last meeting. One of the things we are trying to do is make sure that Kirklees is welcoming. On the back of the Ukrainian refugee crisis, we have always been open to all people and communities.
“However, we can’t do everything, which is why all these influential leaders in this room must do their bit so that we can show the world that in Kirklees, we do things differently, and the things we do matter.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe, said: “Thank you for all the contributions you are making.
“Like my dad back in the fifties, your mums and dads came to this country, worked hard, and faced barrier after barrier, racism, discrimination, and different treatment.
“They were pioneers, they made it possible to make it possible for you to survive and thrive. You are making it possible for them to see their children and grandchildren be proud. You make me proud to live in Kirklees, I live in Batley and Spen.
“I am delighted that I have traipsed over the boundary from Leeds to Kirklees to celebrate with you, the people I live amongst, the wonderful contribution not only to business, education, and health, but to communities in Kirklees, the UK, and the world.”
Mr Cryan said: “These awards are absolutely amazing. When I read the list, I had to drop everything I was doing to come here tonight. I want to say thank you for all the work that you do.
“My family, like a lot of yours, flew thousands of miles to come to Kirklees, leaving everything behind, to go to a completely different part of the world, which is entrepreneurial. It is the risk that our families took, the inspiration that they have given us, the work ethic that they have instilled in us that is what we see here tonight. It is our parents that have influenced the work that we have done. I think the work you have done is amazing, but the work your family has done is fantastic.”