‘Stories of migrants since 1960s to be traced’
1st March 2010
Fifty years after the Sikh immigrants arrived in Kent, celebrations are being organised to commemorate the event. The largest group of migrants is in Gravesham, and they are the second largest number of Sikh residents in the South East.
To celebrate the story of their migration and settlement the Sikhs are organising an exhibition. It is being held with the aid of a grant of £36,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Using the cash, the North West Kent Racial Equality Council will create a book, website and exhibition tracing the stories of the migrants back to the 1960s.
The migrants’ working, lives, cultural and sporting activities and places of worship will be revealed in the exhibition, along with memories of their earlier lives in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Volunteers and members of the Gravesham Historical Society and Kent County Library Service will gather information from members of the older generation to find out what it was like to be a migrant in the 1960s.
Information and research will be used to create an exhibition, community events and school workshop sessions. It will then be left in the care of Gravesham Library to assist in future projects.
Special celebrations about Sikh migrants, one for schools and one for the community, will be held at the Gravesham Civic Centre to coincide with Black History Month in October.
Stuart McLeod, regional head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said that it was an important project for the borough. He added Gravesham was a priority development area. It was an excellent example of a project that filled gaps in the social history of a particular community that had settled and made a contribution for some 50 years.
The Sikh immigrants arrived in Kent 50 years ago after travelling from their homes on the subcontinent to find work. They came all the way from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Among them some were already skilled craftsmen or farmers looking to earn a British wage to support their families at home. Others were students hoping to further their education.
The Assistant Director of the North West Kent Racial Equality Council, Gurvinda Sandher, – which works to stamp out discrimination – expressed his excitement about the project. He said there was an important story to tell about the early migrants from the Indian subcontinent that arrived in Gravesham.
He asserted that these migrants have made such an important contribution to the area over the past four decades economically, socially and culturally, but it is important to learn how their story started when they first arrived.
The importance of the Sikh community was cemented in July, last year, when a spectacular temple, costing £12.5 million, opened its doors for worship.The Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara is one of the largest of its kind outside of India and has attracted many visitors to Gravesend since work began in 2002.
It can house 1,200 worshippers and forms part of a larger complex containing educational facilities, sports pitches and a library.