FROM his first sight of snow to being the first Asian head boy in the UK, Akbal Singh Kang’s childhood was full of firsts. Now his striking photographs of Punjabi migration to Bradford from the 1950s are captured in a new exhibition.

Called 4,000 Miles to Home, it opens at Bradford Mechanics Institute on Friday (to September 20) as part of Heritage Open Days. It is curated by Gurj Kang of Pudsey, whose father, a keen photographer, documented life in post-war Bradford. Mr Kang captures his extended family’s immigration from the Punjab to West Yorkshire, and his own life from academic study to chemistry and invention, working for the area’s textile industry. The photographs offer an insight into life for those travelling thousands of miles around the world to set up home here.

“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 became the first non-white head boy in England at Fairfax school,” said Gurj. “He studied textiles at Bradford University, 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 daily life, mill life, landscapes and a new world to which they adapted 4,000 miles away from their resident Punjab. It celebrates generations of migrants, the way they married into and continued long established traditions of textile workers and local life, proving how their perseverance, energy and efforts over 4,000 miles settled them into a new home.”

Si Cunningham, chairman of Bradford Civic Society, which is co-hosting the exhibition with Leeds Civic Trust, said: “Bradford and Leeds have proud histories of welcoming people from all backgrounds, and this exhibition celebrates that. The photos are beautiful, intimate snapshots of post-war West Yorkshire. As Bradford gears up to bid for City of Culture, it’s important to emphasise that our heritage goes way beyond old buildings - it belongs to everyone who has called Bradford home.”

Lord Mayor of Bradford, Cllr Doreen Lee will visit the exhibition on Tuesday, when Gurj Kang will talk about his father. Tricia Restorick at the Mechanics Institute said: “It opens a window to a hugely significant period of Bradford’s history which will bring back poignant memories for many families and help us all understand where we are today.”