Yorkshire Day has been celebrated for more than four decades with people from all walks of life observing the region’s unofficial holiday.
Yorkshire Day is marked on 1 August since 1975, to promote the historic county. It was initially set up by the Yorkshire Riding Society in Beverley, East Yorkshire as “a protest movement against the local government re-organisation of 1974”.
It is also in recognition of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which commenced on 1 August 1834. William Wilberforce, a Yorkshire MP, had campaigned for the emancipation of enslaved people.
The day was already celebrated by the Light Infantry, successors to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, as Minden Day, after the battle of Minden which happened on 1 August 1759.
In Yorkshire, 11% of the population is British Asian or Asian, with this number increasing to 22% in Bradford, 17% in Kirklees, and 6.8% in Leeds, with the majority of people being from either Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh.
Early migrants to Bradford from modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh moved here in the 40s and 50s, living in low rent houses owned by Polish migrants, next to the factories of work.
However, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s where most of the migration of people from the Commonwealth came to Britain. In 1959, Pakistanis owned two grocery/butchers shops and three cafes, with Bradford’s first mosque opening on Howard Street.
South Asian workers helped to keep textile mills running at a time when most people could get jobs. Despite this, they faced racist prejudice and discrimination. In 1962 The Commonwealth Immigration Act restricted migration to Britain from the countries of the old British Empire such as India and Pakistan. The new law encouraged migrant workers to settle in Bradford before the new rules became law.
By 1964 there were 12,000 of Pakistani heritage and by 1966 there were 133 Pakistani heritage businesses in Bradford including 51 grocery/butchers shops and 16 cafes. In 1985/86 Mohammed Ajeeb became Bradford’s first Asian Lord Mayor.
For British South Asian people, August is also an auspicious time. Between 18 July and 17 August, South Asian Heritage Month is celebrated, with events happening up and down the country, live and digitally due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The month, which coincides with important dates in the Asian calendar such as Haj and India and Pakistan’s independence days, seeks to raise the profile of British South Asian heritage and history in the UK through education, arts, culture and commemoration, with the goal of helping people to better understand the diversity of present-day Britain and improve social cohesion across the country.
Both being from Yorkshire and being South Asian is important to Bradfordian identity. The working-class roots of Yorkshire coupled with the hardworking foundations brought over from the home countries have produced a modern identity where multiculturalism is celebrated, where people can express both their Yorkshireness and South Asian heritage at the same time.
Councillor Talat Sajawal, of the Bradford Independent Group for Little Horton, said: “I am extremely proud to be a Yorkshire man, born and bred in Yorkshire. What makes me even more proud is the contribution of my father and many like him who came from Azad Kashmir as young men, for a better life. They worked their socks off to establish a permanent home in Yorkshire. A home we live and enjoy every day.”
Sheena Hussain, an activist, and lawyer-turned-poet said: “Being a proud Pakistani Yorkshire woman I would say that coming from a South Asian background has been at the core to what I have done during my lifetime and what I will continue to do so.
“Finding poetry later on in life has cross-pollinated my desire to learn more about poets such as Sir Allamah Iqbal, Pakistan’s very own national poet not just the romantics. The wisdom and values passed on through generations have helped shape my identity.
“The place and its heritage, namely my home city, Bradford have given me a sense of belonging. I am the daughter of a former proud mill worker. Knowing your roots is very important, and yes, you can have more than one root.”
Cllr Mohammed Nazam of the Conservatives Party for Keighley Central said: “Being a proud Yorkshire man being born at Airedale Hospital and having lived in Keighley all my life I am proud of the fact that I am a true Yorkshire man with South Asian ethnicity.
“I will be celebrating Yorkshire Day on Saturday with pride and joy and of course will be wearing my Yorkshire cap.”
Dr Anwar has a PhD in epidemiology and a background in the management of trials and research portfolios in a number of different disease areas. She said: “For me being Pakistani and from Yorkshire demonstrates my working-class background and proud heritage.
“it was not easy for parents, there was discrimination and racism but as a family, we now identify and British Pakistani and from Yorkshire.”
Labour Councillor Mohsin Hussain for Keighley central, said: ” I am proud to be from Yorkshire, it’s this place that has given me the opportunities in life to enhance my career. I graduated from Leeds, I work here in Keighley, and my social life is around Yorkshire mostly. I have made good friends, colleagues here.
“This day is also important for us because in 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was passed where slavery was abolished in most parts of the British empire. This was a great achievement for the people of Yorkshire and the MP at the time William Wilberforce campaigned for the emancipation.”
Founder and director of Neesie, a platform for single mothers and their children to enable them to grow independently and better their lives, Noreen Khan, said: Having been born in Scotland and adapting to the Yorkshire way of life many years ago, being Muslim and from the South Asian community, I would describe my experience living in Bradford as emancipation.
“I value my heritage and my culture and recognise the strength of diversity and that the bonds of multiculturalism form the foundation of a prosperous district.
“Colour brings attraction across many landscapes and I am proud to say that in a city like Bradford with the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on our doorstep, it truly encapsulates the slogan of ‘God’s Own Country’.
“Living and working in Yorkshire, my interaction is with many people and from a broad spectrum of society. This rich diversity of cultures, heritage and belonging truly brings the strength of unity and cohesion.”