This Golden Mile

This Golden Mile documents the migration histories of British Indians over successive waves of migration from the State of Gujarat in India to one neighbourhood in Leicester (UK).

Photographed over five years as Britain pivoted toward anti-immigrant popularism, the project attempts to redefine the city as I move back to the neighbourhood I grew up in after 30 years away.

The waves of Indian migration to Leicester have taken many routes: Some came directly from India in the 1950s as Commonwealth citizens. In the 1960s and 70s, Indians arrived from East Africa, including many, like my parents from Uganda, after Idi Amin expelled them in 1972. More recently, in the 2010s, Indians from former Portuguese colonies of Gujarat settled in Britain by way of their EU passports. I was born in Leicester in the 1970s, just ten minutes from the Golden Mile. Growing up, I would visit it most weekends exploring these streets with my cousins. It was a time when overt acts of racism – being spat at or chased by the National Front – were normal, when being told to ‘Go back home’ was everyday. It is why I escaped the city as soon as I turned 18 and never looked back. That same prejudice and bigotry were echoed in the language of Brexit supporters just as I returned to the city with my young family.

Making pictures here has been a way for me to reconnect with the community I grew up in, which as an adult, I felt I no longer knew. Through portraiture, we re-started a lapsed conversation. Making new connections has shown me that while I may no longer be part of this neighbourhood, I am of it. And it has also allowed me to define the neighbourhood as one that’s as British as any other in the country.

This Golden Mile isn’t about the one-mile stretch of Melton Road with its sari shops, Indian restaurants and jewellers. It’s about the arteries and veins that come from it, giving life to the parts of the neighbourhood away from the central commercial thoroughfare. This Golden Mile exists in the poetry of homes, temples and grocery shops; it’s down the alleys and the gaps in steel fencing leading to crumbling industrial plots. This Golden Mile is both an entry point and an ending, the last mile of a long journey to Britain.

For over fifty years, families around This Golden Mile have had a shared experience of migrating to Leicester, re-articulating their South Asian identity to exist within an English context. These experiences bond this community, and they bond them to me. I made this project to give voice to that bond and to contribute to the conversation around immigration in post-Brexit Britain. We have a multicultural society in Britain because Britain is the product of a multicultural empire. Communities like this are not an erosion of British values or its culture but a vital artery in our intertwined and tangled colonial histories.

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