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Indian Presence in Liverpool

22 November 2002 to 23 February 2003, Museum of Liverpool Life

Please note that this exhibition has now closed

Liverpool is well-known for its multicultural community, the legacy of once-thriving ports and docks. However, little is mentioned of the city’s Indian population, although Indian seafarers are thought to have travelled to Liverpool since the 1860s.

Outside Laurel Road

Outside Laurel Road.
From left to right: Baij Majitha, Unkown, Dutt Prassad Vij, Krishan Dev Vij, Chaman Hal Khama, Laijpat Raj Vij.

Khan family on tour with the Pakistani Theatre

Members of the Khan family on tour with the Pakistani Theatre in the Isle of Man, 1951. They performed sword dance, snake charms and other magic tricks.
From left to right: Raymond, Doreen, Rasool and Derek.

In the early 1900s, a distinct group of young males came to Liverpool from Jalandhar, Hoshiapur and Ludhiana in the Panjab (a region of north west India). It is their families and descendants that make up the city’s present day Indian community.

Indian Presence brought together a collection of photographs and personal histories that tell the story of these early settlers. It recorded their motives for coming to Liverpool, the places they settled, the work they undertook and the community they built together.

During the First World War, many people came to Liverpool to look for work, settling in and around the docks area. Others left India in 1947 when the country gained Independence from Britain. Some came to Liverpool to escape the civil unrest that followed when the country was partitioned into two countries, India and Pakistan.

Discrimination made it difficult for Indians in Liverpool to find work. Many became pedlars and established small businesses. Others worked in factories and supplemented their incomes as entertainers or fortune-tellers.

Those moving to Liverpool relied on fellow Indians while they looked for work, accommodation and adjusted to life in a new country. The Seamen’s Club and Indian Association became popular meeting places, where people shared their common experiences and supported one another.

Bachan Singh Burman left Calcutta for Liverpool in 1954. He wanted to ensure that the Indian families he met in Liverpool would be remembered. Together with his son Ashok he collected and recorded the histories that make up Indian Presence. Sadly, Bachan passed away in 2002.

View the individual biographies and images on the biographies page.

Ashan Burman, Bachan's younger son, made an award-winning debut film about Indian settlers in Liverpool. Video extracts from ‘Vilayat’ (the Hindi word for England) can be viewed on the videos page.

Ashok has also published a book in conjunction with Museum of Liverpool Life, entitled, Indian Presence in Liverpool.

All photographs are copyright of the respective families and may not be reproduced without prior permission.