Sunday, 15 November 2009
INTER FAITH WEEK 2009: DAY 1
It's also day one for for our exhibition at Highcross, for Leicester Council of Faiths' new website – and for this blog of course!
To BBC Radio Leicester early this chilly, misty Sunday morning, to appear live on John Florance's show, just after 0800. I'm one of three being interviewed, the others being Noel Singh (Policy Officer, Leicestershire County Council) and Shayk Ibrahim Moghra (Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain's Interfaith Committee, amongst other positions). Ibrahim will be speaking mostly about Islam Awareness Week (when I arrive at the studio, Ibrahim is already in another soundproof booth, doing an interview on that subject with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire). Noel has been coordinating NIFW events throughout the city and county, publicising them through leaflets and posters and the County Council's website.
John introduces me live as someone rejoicing "in the title of 'Quality and Diversity Officer' for Leicester Council of Faiths". I don't know what a "Quality" officer would do in the context of that organisation (or any organisation, for that matter), but I like the sound of it too much to correct him on air. Each of us is given the opportunity to respond to three questions. I speak mostly about the exhibition in Highcross, Noel about what's going on in the wider scene around the city and county, while Ibrahim gets the harder questions about differences and divisions among and between religions - which he handles adroitly and diplomatically of course. I get a chance to plug our conference at Leicester College this coming Wednesday and then it's over. We leave the studio at 0830, shake hands, wish each other good luck with our respective activities for the rest of the week and go our separate ways for now. John Florance has posted about National Inter Faith Week and its celebration in Leicester. My content on that web page is not from the radio interview, but from a written statement I'd sent in to the station (at their request) a few days earlier.
Soon after, on to Highcross, to unload our exhibition material, put up our banners and display our wares in the Lower West Mall. First of all, we go to the Welcome Centre, to get all the stuff into Clare's little car. Amazingly, it all fits, but we've left behind the map of how to find "Service Area C". Once that's located and we get the material inside Highcross through the back door. Harry and Gracie are there to help, and do their best to pitch in, despite the greater attractions of the "Nintendo House" nearby.
We're a bit behind schedule, but have the whole thing up around 1130. I think itt's rather beautiful in its simplicity and adaptability. While I'm not officially on the rota today, it's hard to pull myself away. Julie-Ann Heath, Gursharan Thandi and Amanda Fitton are there virtually all day, till Highcross shuts at 1700. They do a great job together, of course, but I hover around the display – when I can drag the kids out of that Nintendo House, that is. They play Wii Sports and Super Mario Bros while I get my "brain age" checked. It's 71, apparently. The woman there tells me not to be upset about it, as most people "my age" come out around the mid-80s. Somehow, I feel neither relieved nor reassured by that.
We've provided a "reflective journal" for volunteers, in which they can record their thoughts and feelings about working with the exhibition, interacting with visitors, the reactions of those visiting etc. Excerpts from this journal will appear throughout the blog for this week, which will open it out with more than just my impressions.