New civic mayor Majid Khan on growing up in Doncaster, family inspiration, racism and his ambitions for the borough

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press
Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

Doncaster's new Civic Mayor Majid Khan has a knack for breaking records.

Elected as the borough's first British Asian councillor in 2015 for Labour in the Bessacarr ward, he then was chosen by his political peers as the first Muslim to hold the ceremonial mayor position in Doncaster.

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

But his journey has not come without troubles. Growing up as an British Asian in Doncaster, he experienced appalling racism.

Bright, energetic and with a burning passion for Doncaster, a place he's lived all his life, he cant wait to get to stuck in.

Sat on a sofa in the impressive Mansion House, it's quite clear from the get-go the sense of community plays a big part in his vision for Doncaster. He speaks openly about prejudice, Brexit and how he hopes to unite communities across the borough.

Majid is now tasked with chairing full council meetings and will be present at countless charity events raising the profile of Doncaster. His role is not to be confused with elected mayor Ros Jones - Majid's role is ceremonial.

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

But Majid will still be representing his constituents on the standard issues of potholes, grit bins and dog mess.

Away from his political and mayoral duties he loves nothing more than to spend time with his family and is pretty nifty on the Jiu-Jitsu mat.

Speaking from his Mansion House office, he said: "It's a huge milestone.

"But before that, getting elected in 2015 was a huge achievement in a ward which historically has a lot of different political dynamics.

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

Civic Mayor Majid Khan at Mansion House. Picture: Marie Caley/Doncaster Free Press

"For me to be elected and be 'visibly foreign' - it was a massive thing. If you look at the ward split going back, it's a Tory ward really so to be elected in a ward like that as somebody who is Muslim and has Pakistani heritage - I made no secret of that - it's great.

"I think it's the fact people have some kind of faith in me or they like something about me which encouraged them to get out and support me."

His father left Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in the 70s and settled in Stoke-on-Trent working a pottery factory before moving to Lancashire to work in the mills.

He then moved to the roaring steel furnaces of Sheffield and settled in Doncaster to raise his family.

Majid was born just a stones-throw away from the town centre and he said friends of his joked his would-be autobiography should be called 'From Park Road to the Mansion House'.

The Civic Mayor started off at Town Fields Primary, moved on to Wheatley Middle School before going to Hall Cross.

His school life has no doubt shaped who he is today along with his parents who always wanted better for their children.

"We were given opportunities here where in Pakistan, people aren't given," he said.

"My parents always encouraged me and my brothers to make the most of that and really pushed us in education.

"It's quite funny because they were so uneducated in one way, they pushed us even more. It was doubly hard as well because you would come home and you haven't got anyone there to help with homework and at the young age, I built up a sort of resilience and that I had to rely on myself a bit."

But his school life wasn't plain sailing. As a British Muslim growing up in Doncaster, he recalled the appalling racism he encountered as a child and was called a P*** at school.

"When I was very young, up to the age of about ten or 11, there was very visable, outward racism in school, in classrooms

"I felt as the years went on, we went through a long phase of where it wasn't bright to be racist and it wasn't accepted anymore. But I'm really worried that we're now seeing in a post-Brexit world a slip back towards that.

"For me like me who are brown we're always the main target because we're physically different and easily identifiable and that there's some kind of 'Muslim takeover'.

He mentions the story published by the Free Press on his mayoral inauguration ceremony and the prejudicial comments that came with it.

"If you read some of the comments on there, they're bad but at the same time, it's really good that people who I don't know were really supportive and came to my defence," he said.

"My speech at the mayoral ceremony was all about communities coming together and having that network around you and I feel that's been eroded somewhat and I feel it's the cause of some of this behaviour.

"It's why I've chosen Doncaster Samaritans as my charity to raise money for."

Majid said he discovered an interest in local affairs during his A Levels and had a 'political awakening' during a stint in Manchester.

His first taste of local politics was opposing a plan to allow bits of woodland in Cantley to be transferred over to bereavement services.

He started a campaign to stop that happening and with the support of wife Sobia and three children, he's not looked back since.

"I feel the role of civic mayor may have been underused in the past and undervalued for what it can really achieve and because it's apolitical, I want to reach across the political divide and bring people together and help community groups top come forward and be the best that they can.

"I want to show what Doncaster is all about because it's a fantastic place. Every town and city has its own challenges like we do but if we come together united then we can overcome those."