A FASCINATING photographic exhibition that captures life in and around Leicester’s Melton Road comes to Leicester Museum and Art Gallery next month (9 September).
This Golden Mile is the work of Kavi Pujara, who began to photograph the neighbourhoods close to Leicester’s Golden Mile as a way to reconnect with the city, its residents and his own past after 30 years of living in London.
Pujara was born in Leicester in the early 1970s, just ten minutes from the Golden Mile and would visit most weekends to see his grandmother. He says it was a time when overt acts of racism - being spat at, chased by the National Front, and being told to ‘go back home’ - were common.
As soon as he turned 18, Pujara moved to London and never looked back. When he did return, nearly 30 years later with his young family, making pictures allowed him to rediscover the community he grew up in but no longer knew.
“This exhibition is not about the one-mile stretch of Melton Road that turns into Belgrave Road with its sari shops, Indian restaurants and jewellers” he said. “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 street corners; it’s down the alleys and through 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.”
Kavi Pujara is a self-taught photographer. He works as a film editor for the BBC alongside independently making personal, long-term documentary photo projects. He was one of the winners in the British Journal of Photography, Portrait of Britain 2020 and recipient of a Martin Parr Foundation photographic bursary in 2020.
Two portraits from This Golden Mile were selected for the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2022 exhibition and will be on display at Scottish National Portrait Gallery over the summer of 2023.
Leicester deputy city mayor for culture Cllr Adam Clarke said: “This part of the city was in decline in the 1960’s and ‘70’s following the collapse of the shoe factories and other industries in the area. The former workers’ terraced houses were empty, but became home to newcomers from India and Pakistan, who were joined by families fleeing from Uganda. These new communities brought with them resilience and enterprise and rejuvenated the area, which is now an iconic part of our city.
“This fascinating exhibition captures the beating heart of the community, and gives us a unique insight into it, thanks not only to Kavi Pujara’s documentary- photo skills, but also his relationship with his former home town. “
This Golden Mile opens at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery on 9 September and runs until 31 March 2024. Entry to the museum is free. For opening times visit www.leicestermuseums.org
Photo credit: Boy with the Union flag, Hildyard Road, 2021 © Kavi Pujara