Saturday, 21 November 2009


Final day of our exhibition in Highcross. Well, if I thought I'd lost track of the days, there really couldn't be any doubt that this is Saturday! Highcross is much busier, which shows itself in one unexpected way: while no one has bumped into the exhibition all this week (well, none that I saw anyway) today it felt like it had a bullseye painted on it! In one 20-minute period, four or five people collide with it, including one boy who almost runs right through the banners into the space in the middle and a young mum with a buggy, who hits one of the banners so hard, it spins right round 90 degrees!

Having got on the phone to the Leicester Mercury yesterday evening, a photographer from the paper arrives today. He seems only to want to shoot with the Christian stall in the background. When I ask him why he's doing this, he replies, "Well that's the religion bit, isn't it?" I persuade him at least to pull back a bit, so at least he gets the Buddhist and Hindu banners on either side of the Christian one. He takes some photos of me and Raheyma as if we're chatting and looking at some of the literature. In the end, however, the Mercury ends up printing neither the pictures nor the article I had sent in the day before.

An interesting visitor to the stall this afternoon: one Bhasker Solanki, a cameraman / Senior Producer for the BBC, who lives in Leicester. He's co-founder of the Rushey Mead Foundation, through which the school of that name in Leicester sponsors a school in Gujarat. Bhasker phoned me a couple of weeks ago when he'd heard about the upcoming exhibition, offering some material for it. We couldn't make use of it on this occasion but hopefully we'll be able to arrange for some way to use it at another time. We had a very interesting chat, which promises some good things for the future.

The very last visitor to the stall (when most of the banners had already been taken down and put away) was a woman carrying a wet umbrella, who stood right up against the wrap-around poster on the drum stand and got it all wet. This results in a great big splodge where the ink has run! Thankfully, we've been using these wrap-round posters as stop-gaps as they're the wrong size. We've just been using them for this week, and they'll be replaced by proper ones shortly. We'll have to be careful, though, when lending these items out to anyone - will have to give clear instructions that they should not be allowed to get wet!

The exhibition ends at seven o’clock. Two of us are able to dismantle the exhibition, pack it away and get it all back to the Welcome Centre by eight. It's raining cats and dogs all the while and just before we quit Highcross, staff are positioning big yellow buckets near the spot we've just left.

Here are some comments from the reflective journal, by some of those who helped out with the exhibition on this final day:
“I’m very happy that Council of Faiths organised such an event and brought faiths to public eyes. The place (Highcross) is the best place to promote community cohesion as so many people pass by with no interest or with an interest but look around and realise so many different faiths can live together happily.”

“This is the first time that something so visible for members of the public has been organised. I feel strongly people should learn about each faith and discover how they are connected to each other as they all come from the same source. Hope this is the start of many other events for members of the public.”

“First comment: people (the visitors) to Highcross are aiming at shopping and slightly less interested in stopping. However they do glance at the exhibition when walking. Secondly there were some visitors who were not tolerant to the exposure of LCOF during this week.”

“Much busier today, and more people stopping to chat.... One child, a boy aged about eight years, stopped and read each banner intently. Children this age seem to be hungry for knowledge wherever they find it.”
As well as this reflective journal which has been used by those volunteering on the exhibition, we've kept a visitors book in which members of the public could leave their comments. There are 17 pages filled with these. Some follow similar lines, with many examples of "Brilliant!", "Well done!", "Very good!", "Lovely!", "Fabulous!"and so on - welcome as they are. Some run a bit longer: "Beautiful info, people and display", ""Great idea to understand others and bring people together"; "It's great to see the multi faith. Religion is great - we can all be friends"; "Fantastic, an exemplary display of oneness, community cohesion and respect. Bravo"; "Great concept - I hope it flourishes!"; "Really good to see religions coming together!". Two visitors from London commented, "Good discussion. Should not be funded by taxpayers" (it wasn't, but they didn't leave contact details so we could tell them that). Some comments were left by teachers who happened to be passing by ("Good positive posters. I would love to have A4 sized copies for my citizenship teaching please"). We were visited by a number of schools, the biggest group being from the Leicester Community Islamic School on the Tuesday. Lots of young people wrote in the visitors book during the week. My personal favourite, from one of them, simply says "Thanks babes!"

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