Tributes paid to man who helped establish a Northampton community centre

Akram Zaman, pictured in 2011
Akram Zaman, pictured in 2011

The first Asian magistrate in Northampton, who was awarded an MBE for his service to the county, has died.

Akram Zaman, died on Saturday from a suspected heart problem.

Mr Zaman undertook a huge number of community projects, including helping to establish the Gateway Centre, a community centre in Semilong, which was one of the reasons he was recognised in the 2011 New Year’s Honours list

Brian Binley, MP for Northampton, said: “I’m saddened by the death of my good friend, and my family send their sympathies to his family and friends.

“Akram was a big figure in Northampton society and a real force for good.”

Mr Zaman, who held the post at Northampton Magistrates’ Court from 1974 until 2001, said when the award of his MBE was announced:

“I wanted to encourage the Asian community to stand on their own two feet and now they have.”

The octogenarian grandfather, who lived in Weston Favell, Northampton, with his wife, Hazel, set up the Asian Advisory Panel in 1965 to help Asian people settle into the community.

The organisation helped to enrol people in educational programmes, find them jobs and places to live and get them involved in sports and activities.

He said at the time his biggest achievement was helping to encourage Asian women to take up education. He added: “I am very happy when I look at the progress I see. That was what I really wanted to do.”

Mr Zaman, who created the Norpak leather company in Northampton in 1961, founded the Northampton Bangladeshi Association, based at the Gateway Resource Centre, in 1998 and was chairman until 2007.