by LAUREN CODLING
THE visit to Bradford by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last Wednesday (15) has been described as a “great moment” for the British Asian community there by a local business owner.
The royal couple visited the West Yorkshire city on their first official engagement of the year. They were welcomed at Bradford City Hall, before making appearances at local British Asian kitchen MyLahore and community forum Khidmat Centre.
They also took part in a workshop hosted by the Near Neighbours project, which aims to bring people from diverse communities and different faiths together.
Asghar Ali, CEO and co-founder of MyLahore, said the local community appreciated the opportunity to host the royals in Bradford. “It was a great moment for Bradford and our British-Asian community,” Ali told Eastern Eye. “It was like an endorsement and approval of what we are doing.”
While visiting the restaurant, the duke and duchess met staff members – including local students who are on a kitchen apprenticeship scheme – and tasted some of the food on offer. The couple even helped to make kulfi (traditional ice cream from the subcontinent) milkshakes.
They also learnt about some of the charitable work that the restaurant does to aid the community, including their support for the Muslim Women’s Council.
Describing William and Catherine as “very down to earth and welcoming,” Ali said it was a “huge boost” for everyone concerned. “Everyone is so proud and honoured to have met the royals,” the British Pakistani business owner said. “From our perspective, it was appreciated to have that opportunity to have them here.”
Following the time spent at MyLahore, the royals then visited one of Bradford’s Khidmat Centres. The local community hub aims to help the most vulnerable members of the population from ethnic minority backgrounds. They discussed the activities and workshops offered at the centre, including the Older Yet Wiser project which supports grandparents with child-caring responsibilities.
The pair were also presented with a variety of gifts such as hand-knitted clothes for their children and a royalty-themed cake by local baker Siama Ali.
Sofia Buncy, national coordinator at Khidmat Centres, agreed the visit had had a positive impact on the local British Asian community and Bradford itself.
“It gave Bradford a much-needed boost,” she told Eastern Eye, acknowledging the city did not always get positive media coverage. “It gave Bradford its self-worth and dignity back. People had that attitude of ‘if we are special enough to have the royals visiting us, maybe there is something that we are overlooking about ourselves.’”
She added: “It may also prompt other people to visit Bradford, have a look at what it has to offer and give it a chance.”
Agreeing with Ali, Buncy added that her experience meeting the royals was a positive one. “What struck me was how casual and personable they are,” she revealed. “They were so talkative and warm, and they really radiated that warmth with their smiles and their willingness to speak to everyone”.
The royal couple visited Pakistan for the first time in October last year, which Buncy said had “meant a lot” to Asian elders. For many of that generation, she explained, seeing them in Bradford (sometimes called ‘Little Pakistan’) was a special experience.
“People felt it wasn’t just Pakistan that was afforded the privilege of hosting the royals, it is now Bradford as well,” she said. “It left the community on a real high