Friday, 26 February 2010

Cultural eXchanges festival launch event

At the Leicester Creative Business Depot, Rutland Street, early evening for the Cultural eXchanges festival launch event, hosted by Dean of Humanities at DMU, Prof. Heidi Macpherson and Festival Patron Lars Tharp (that's him addressing attendees in the photo above).

Of the festival events, I have tickets for Alexei Sayle (Monday afternoon), Ken Loach (Thursday evening) and Prof. John Williams' "Football Nation" (Friday afternoon). I was told I'm lucky to have got places for the first two of these, as both of them sold out quickly.

Interesting chats with Tony Graves (Festival Director); Kathleen Bell (Programme Leader for Creative Writing at DMU) who was also promoting "States of Independence" an independent publishers' day at the university on Saturday 20 March; and Rakesh Parmer (Head of Marketing at Phoenix Square Digital Film and Media Centre and follower of this blog). Phoenix Square is showing "Flying Sikhs" next Sunday - a short documenatary which provides an intimate portrait of the Sikh pilots who valiantly contributed to British success in both world wars. He talked with me about some interesting and unusual challenges he's faced when promoting this film within Leicester's Sikh community.

Find out more about Cultural eXchanges 2010:

Find out more about Lars Tharp:

Thursday, 25 February 2010


To Northampton, for the seventh in the series of "Involvement Events" hosted across the East Midlands by the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership. Dee (from LCIL) drives Taherah (from TREC), Dennis (from Leicester LGBT Centre) and me down from Leicester. We're getting on familiar terms with Dee's SatNav and now all talk back to it.

The meeting is held in the King's Park Centre. When we arrive, a group is setting up in the smaller room next to ours. Before long, they start singing - in tongues. First time we've encountered anything like that on one of our days out and about.

It takes a while for our attendees to begin showing up and there are a few moments of anxiety about our support today. One East Midlands is running a health equality event in Northampton today, which has drawn away some of the people who'd said they'd be joining us. REDP has a good working relationship with One East Midlands and we'd normally have been able to avoid this sort of clash, but it was the health sector which set the date, time and place.

I chair the first part, Dee does the "Beginner's Guide to REDP". She describes the current lineup of REDP as being a "catalyst". Nice analogy, but only partly true. A catalyst promotes change, but remains unchanged itself in the process: the four core partners are certainly changing and learning as we go along.

On the floor, there's general assent that the reason why previous attempts to establish a regional partnership on equalities have come to grief is because they have been "top down" operations rather than "bottom up".

Guest speakers this afternoon are Patrick Devine and Jagdish Singh Shemare, from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. They're both Regional Advisers for EHRC - Patrick for the East Midlands, Jagdish for the West. They give a deep and knowledgeable presentation about the Equality Bill and the Non-Statutory Guidance that will accompany it (as you'd expect). The photo at the top of this entry was taken during their joint presentation.

I have the last half hour or so to present Carolyn's statistical profile of Northampton and Northamptonshire. I haveen't done this before, but have seen Carolyn do it at the six previous events. Mind you, that's a bit like having been to the circus half a dozen times and thinking you can have a go on the flying trapeze. I seem to carry it off alright - with a smattering of trapeze-themed jokes as I go along.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Engaging with Faith Communities in Leicester (2)

At the Schools Development Support Agency this afternoon, for a third meeting on a new series of texts for schools, with the overall title, "Engaging with Faith Communities in Leicester". First in the series is a text on the Muslim community; we're hoping to agree a final version of the content today. There are four of us meeting today: Jill Carr (Secretary of Leicester SACRE); Fiona Moss (of RE Today Services), Robert Vincent (of the Schools Development Support Agency) and me. Jill has printed out a version of the second booklet in the series, on the Sikh community, ready for us to start work on just as soon as we can sign off on the Muslims text.

Glad to recognise a kindred spirit in Robert, as far as caring about good writing goes!

REDP training @ LASS

At the LGBT Centre, Wellington Street, this morning to deliver a half-day's training on equality, diversity and human rights to staff and volunteers of the LeicesterShire Aids Support Service (LASS). We in REDP received a half-day's training in HIV and Aids awareness from LASS last year, so here we are returning the service.

This is the first time we've ever done this: all four of the Core Partners jointly delivering a session together. And it is just four of us - Dee, Ian, Iris and me - without support on the spot from of any of the office staff. We have become perfectly comfortable doing this sort of joint presentation now, having honed our shctick over the last few weeks at out regional Involvement Events and we feel secure with one another, even if we have to think on our feet and make last-minute changes. Dee and Iris have been doing this sort of thing together for years, I'm a relative newcomer and Ian's the latest additon, but we seem to work well together as a team in public.

The aims and objectives of our session are: to review the equality focus of the organisation; identify the protected characterisitcs within the equality legislation; define the equality terms located within the legislation; indicate the development of action plans (organisational and personal). None of these are peculiar to LASS of course and could be readily adapted for just about any organisation with which we'd be asked to work.

My particular contribution to the day is to lead an hour or so on our "Good Practice Equality and Diversity Healthcheck". For today's purposes, we've split that into six parts, each being one section related to what we're being encouraged to call the "protected characteristics": age, disability, gender and gender identity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation. We distribute this to the attendees and get them to work through one section, in groups of three. Their responses to this form the basis of an Action Plan which will more firmly embed equality, diversity and human rights within their organisation.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Leicester Cathedral plans "will wipe out history"
Conservation experts say plans to create a square outside a cathedral would remove "everything of historical importance" from the area.
The Diocese of Leicester wants to develop the space around Leicester Cathedral into a public square able to hold concerts for more than 1,000 people.
The project has been recommended for refusal by Leicester's conservation advisory panel, an independent body which advises the city council on planning applications.
Its two main objections centre on the removal of headstones and fears that ancient pathways, such as St Martin's Walk East and West, will be "lost in the proposals".
Richard Gill, chairman of the panel, said: "The headstones are characteristic of the area and some of the examples, I'm told, are originals.
"The walkways are ancient routes and we cannot lose that."
A spokesman from the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society said: "We have some major concerns about these proposals, particularly the loss of headstones and the loss of ancient pathways."
A report of the panel's meeting to consider the plans, which took place last month, reads: "The panel felt that the proposed scheme did not enhance or preserve the area as it was destroying everything that is aesthetically and intrinsically pleasing.
"How can it possibly preserve or enhance the historic environment when everything of historical importance is being swept away?
The panel also voiced concerns that underlying archaeology and burials would be compromised.
The diocese says the headstones would be replaced by an alternative memorial.
The diocese wants to spend £12m on the three-stage project – which involves creating a Cathedral Square, turning the former Leicester Grammar School buildings into St Martin's House for social outreach work and changing the cathedral so it lets in more light.
Earlier this year, the city council indicated it could not help with the £2m needed for Cathedral Square, so the project is believed to be in limbo.
The Ven Richard Atkinson, Archdeacon of Leicester, said: "The diocese is continuing to progress plans for the square.
"We note the observations of the Conservation Panel and believe the emerging plans will provide a public space of high quality that respects the past and opens up the future."
Leicester Civic Society has previously said it has no objections to the plans.
The conservation advisory panel has no powers of determination but about 80% to 90% of its recommendations are agreed by the planning committee's final decision.
The plans also need approval from the Cathedrals' Fabric Commission for England, which is discussing them but is thought to be supportive.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A Single Man

To Phoenix Square this evening, to see "A Single Man". The film (or rather, fashion designer director Tom Ford) has been criticised for being obsessed with its look, to the detriment of other cinematic aspects; as if it's nothing more than a series of high fashion tableaux vivant. I found the visuals alluring, but not at the expense of other kinds of engagement we'd want with a well-crafted movie.

Colin Firth (who well deserves his BAFTA for the role, I'd say) plays a fastidious man, a professor of English Literature in California in 1962 who has lost his partner of 16 years, dead from a car accident some months before. He is consumed with grief, loss and loneliness. We are introduced to him on the day that he has decided to end it all by shooting hmself. The reason I'm giving this space in my blog is because the film made a very strong and lively link with what I've been learning on the Monday evening course in "Mindfulness". Because this is the central character's last day on earth, he experiences everything as if it is his first. The film shows him engaging in a new, different and special way with all aspects of his existence, of his interaction with the world around him. He sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels everything anew and fresh - the last of these related to both the outer sensation of touch and the inner feelings to do with selfhood and relations with others, personal integrity as well as openness.

Near the end of the movie, we hear Firth's character's inner monologue, as he approaches some kind of resolution to his situation: "A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think … and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be." I'd say there were some genuine spiritual principles operating here, which took "A Single Man" beyond the superficial debate over anything to do with its fashion conscious look.

As we sat through the closing credits, one member of the audience, who had spotted a friend sitting in our row, came along, leaned over and said, "Oh my God, that was so depressing." Her experience of the film and mine were clearly very different!


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Anglican church congregation in Leicester considers converting to Catholicism
The congregation at one of the oldest Anglican churches in Leicester is considering converting to Catholicism.
About 50 members of St Mary de Castro's congregation met Catholic leaders yesterday to discuss the move.
It followed the Pope's invitation last year to disaffected Anglicans, who feel their Church has become too liberal, to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Pope Benedict XVI's decree would allow traditionalist Anglicans to accept all Roman Catholic doctrine and teachings while maintaining aspects of the Anglican tradition.
Nine-hundred-year-old St Mary de Castro, in Castle Street, near St Nicholas Circle, is already an Anglo-Catholic church.
Anglo-Catholics agree with most the Roman Catholic church teachings, but use the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer and hold Evensong. They would still be able to do if that, if they moved to the Catholic church.
Terry Doughty, from Leicester's West End, organised yesterday's meeting.
He said he believed that if a vote took place now, the majority of the congregation would stay as they are, but added there was lots more to discuss before a decision was reached.
"The Church of England has deviated from traditional beliefs and has become more liberal in its way of looking at things – for some it has become too liberal," said Mr Doughty.
"Women as bishops is one of the reasons traditionalists are unhappy."
He said there were "certainly members of this congregation who would want to take up the Pope's generous offer".
"It's hard to say what could, or might happen until more discussions are held at a higher level," added Mr Doughty.
He said if the congregation did convert, he believed the church building would "in all probability remain with the diocese and those who wanted to become Catholic would have to worship elsewhere".
The Church of England's ruling General Synod voted in 2008 to consecrate women as bishops.
Churchwarden Joyce Levell and her husband, Frank, from Groby, both said they were against female bishops and would support a move to Catholicism if a vote took place.
Mr Levell, 78, said: "There's not a lot of difference between Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic.
"I wouldn't be opposed to joining up with the Catholic church if things continue and I think a lot of people within the church share my views."
Father Leon Pereira, prior at the Catholic Holy Cross Priory, in Leicester, was at yesterday's talks and answered questions.
He said: "Recent developments have made them sit up and think their church is not Catholic, whereas they have always had this mindset they were very much linked to Catholicism."
The Archdeacon of Leicester, the Ven Richard Atkinson, said he valued the Catholic church but hoped Anglo-Catholics would remain within the Church of England.
He said: "The invitation is a fundamental shift in identity. It's not that simple.
"Our focus is working closely with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in the county but I'm surprised by the Pope's offer, which I believe is untimely and unhelpful.
"The whole church is in a careful process of deciding how we can respect and celebrate the role of women."

Monday, 22 February 2010

mindfulness (5)

After a one-week break for half term, it's back to the course on Mindfulness, offered by Christians Aware at Christchurch, Clarendon Park Road. Leading the session is Ian Grayling (backed up by his colleague, Kevin Commons) from the city's Serene Reflection Meditation Group. I know it's still winter so I probably shouldn't complain, but I must say it's bloomin' freezing tonight! I'm wearing two jumpers, that's how cold it is. the walk from my house to Clarendon Park Road and back is crisp!

This evening is our fifth session and the theme this time is "Thoughts and Feelings". We begin with a quick recap in small groups. We share our varied experiences, listen to diverse understanding and apprecitions of what has happened so far. One of the most intersting, from my point of view (or perhaps, one suited to my taste) is how the practice of mindfulness brings an enhanced awareness of the body, an acceptance of the physical. It's not an attempt to deny our bodily nature or flee the material world. We spoke about how mindfulness may be seen as a state of reverence toward creation and our place in it. This appears to sum up our first four sessions and offers a bridge into the second part of the course. So far, we've been trying to be mindful of the world around us, mediated by our senses. Now we're going to begin to look within.

Ian asks us to consider how we think: "What is the stuff of thought?" Why is it so hard to express in terms that are comprehensible or meaningful to ourselves or to other people the nature of our constant experience of thinking?

Is it visualising - seeing images inside our head? Is it hearing a voice or voices? Is that voice our own, someone elses's or does it vary? Do ideas exist independent of words? Are they in a place that is somehow pre-langauge? If so, then by what means do we access them? Do different people think in different "sensory modalities" - an internalised version of the senses that mediate our external experiences? Is it all random and uncontrollable?

We try a number of thought experiments, imagining some everyday sensory experiences. While some of those present appear to be reacting as if they are undergoing those experiuences inside their heads, to me they are felt at arm's length. It's not too hard to imagine my favourite song (the one that leaps up, unbidden, is XTC's "Life Begins at the Hop") or to see a nice garden, but I can't feel the taste of lemon juice, the touch of sandpaper on my skin or the smell of freshly cut grass. This leads us back to something we discussed at the alst session, how the senses of taste, touch and smell or invasive, how they take place inside the body, as distinct from sight and hearing, which show us things that are "out there". Other interesting questions arise from this exercies: when you imagine a piece of music in your head, are you the performer or are you listening to a performance? Are you originiting something or remembering something - and what's the difference between the two?

Arguably, there are only two ways in which people can think: through "internalised senses" and verbally. Once we become aware of how we think, we become more aware that we can be the author of what we think. This reminds me of that phrase in the Council of Faith's Buddhist leaflet: "that mind can be cultivated".

We're asked to go back into the small groups in which we started the evening and to make a list of as many emotions as we can. We come up with 34. Ian starts to make a list of some of these on the flipchart (no more than half a dozen though) under two columns: "good" and "bad". But that's too simplistic, too value-laden (deliberately on his part, I'm sure). We plump for a list of emotions that we like to have and emotions that we con't like to have. But there's general agreement that we can't have the former without experiencing the latter. That would be like never being asble to experience the pleasure, contentment of satisfaction of eating if we hadn't known hunger or emptiness.

We spend the last quarter hour or so considering the triune model of the brain, which we touched on at the end of session four: the reptilian part, which deals with the basic functions of life, is rigid and compulsive; the limbic, shared by all mammals, which deals with memories and emotions, is the basis of value judgments in humans and has unconscious influence over behaviour; and the neo-cortex, which deals with language, thought and imagination and is the seat of planning and intentional behaviour and problem solving.

visit of Swedish MP

An unexpected meeting this afternoon at the Welcome Centre with a couple of visitors from Sweden. Suzanne Eberstein is a Member of the Sveriges Riksdag - the Swedish Parliament. Among the many posts and portfolios she holds, she is Deputy Chair of the Committee on European Union Affairs and a Judge in the Administrative Court of Appeal. Accompanying Mrs Eberstein is her Political Adviser, Margareta Fallman-Strandberg.

Mrs Eberstein talks about having seen a programme on Swedish television (as long ago as two years, I think) about Leicester as a model of a multicultural city. She's made the trip to Leicester to find out first hand how we do things.

I'd been invited to meet our visitors in the evening and hadn't expected to see them in the afternoon, but found myself in the office when they arrived and it was a good opportunity to make them a cup of tea and for Ajay and me to speak with them while we await the arrival of our Chair and of Hashim Duale. Hashim is a representative of Leicester's Somalian community and our visitors are particularly interested in finding out how that group has settled here and to compare their situation with those of Somalians in Sweden.

At the end of our chat, there's an exchange of gifts - Manjula gives Mrs Eberstein a sari, which says she'll try and wear at the next Nobel Prize award ceremony dinner. That'll be one up for Leicester!

In the photo (l-r): Margareta Fallman-Strandberg, Suzanne Eberstein, Cllr Manjula Sood (Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths), Ajay Aggarwal, Hashim Duale

Saturday, 20 February 2010


To the Quaker Meeting House, Queens Road, for a dayschool looking at correspondences between Hinduism and the Bahá'í Faith. This is led by Anupam Premanand, who has travelled here from Nivelles, Belgium (despite difficulties with the Eurostar service since the train crash outside Brussels earlier this week). Anupam came into the Bahá'í Faith in India some 19 years ago. He's a striking example of a phenomenon that often happens when people become Bahá'í, and after a while find themselves possessed of a deeper knowledge and greater love for the faith tradition into which they were born. The same thing happened to me when I became Bahá'í in 1979, having been brought up vaguely Protestant in the Church of Scotland.

Anupam has an infectious enthusiasm for the subject that conveys itself to everyone here today. There are more than 25 attendees, mostly from Leicester and its environs, a few from Nottingham.

While the Bahá'í World Centre in Israel has long sported buildings of architectural note and splendid gardens (recently named to UNESCO's World Heritage List in recognition of their "outstanding universal value" to the common heritage of humanity) it's the Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi that has arguably become the single most recognisable symbol of the Bahá'í Faith worldwide. The Lotus Temple (as it's popularly known) was dedicated to public worship in 1986 and has become a tourist landmark in India. Figures show it to be the most popular visitor attraction in the country after the Taj Mahal. Many people of Indian origin and heritage in Leicester have visited the Lotus Temple and have come away with a very positive impression of it. While that is undoubtedly a good thing, one may wonder how much such visitors glean about the history, beliefs and practices of the Bahá'ís themselves. Of course, a similar question may be asked of the Bahá'ís: how much do they know in their turn about Hindus and Hinduism - particularly in Leicester, where  Hindus are such a large and significant element in the local population? The purpose of this study day is to help the Bahá'ís understand and appreciate more about their Hindu neighbours: what they believe and how their beliefs impact on their lives. Bahá'ís are into finding correspondences between the world's religions as part of their programme for elimination of prejudice and building bridges between different cultures. This event is a good example of them doing just that.

Our day starts with an introduction to the religious and cultural diversity of India, and we see how the history and development of the Bahá'í community of India fits in that context. Since the earliest days of the Baha'i Faith, in the 1840s, some of its followers settled in India, having trading links with the city of Bombay (as it was then). Over the years, many teachers whose names are still celebrated in the annals of the Bahá'í community travelled the length and breadth of India, introducing the Bahá'í teachings to people of diverse backgrounds and interests. Up until the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were only a handful of Bahá'ís scattered around India, mainly in the north, mostly of Zoroastrian (Parsee) background. Indian adherents of Bahá'í would mostly have been educated people, living, working or studying in the major cities. However, after that period, the Bahá'í Faith became more widely known and better supported in the smaller towns and villages. In terms of numbers alone, India has the world's biggest Bahá'í community, at nigh on one-and-a-half million, although this pales into virtual insignificance when seen as part of that country's total population.

Now, many of the Hindu friends I talk with don't seem to mind the name, "Hindu" being used to describe themselves or their communities. But as I learned while writing the Council of Faiths leaflet on Hinduism, when it comes to the name of the religion they follow, many dislike it and prefer the term Sanatan Dharma - meaning the eternal path, way or law. Seeing this religion in that light helps Bahá'ís align their thinking with Hindus, as it brings out relations between the way the two religions see "progressive revelation" - a concept central to them both. Indeed, there are so many fundamental beliefs and practices in common between Bahá'ís and Hindus, many Bahá'ís have found (and, to go on the reactions here today, are still finding) that some of the more abstract teachings in their religion make sense when seen alongside comparable teachings in Hinduism. This is often to the surprise of many Bahá'ís who come from a background more influenced by the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam - and surprise most often grows into delight at recognition of the similarities.

Before the end of the day, Anupram has us learning a Bahá'í prayer in Hindi and chanting a key verse from the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit! When one of these songs is over, someone wonders if there are any recordings of it available; "As long as it's not that one" I pitch in. Well, the comment sounded amusing on my side of the room! Here's a photo taken in the garden at the Quaker Meeting House of some of the attendees at this study day. Anupram is second from the right:

During one of our breaks, I bump into a few members of a chapter of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) newly established in Leicester. They're holding their own meeting upstairs. In my job for the Council of Faiths I'm keen to establish, maintain and develop good relations with all kinds of religious and spiritual groups in the city, so I stop them for a chat. A little later in the afternoon, when their meeting is over, one of their number comes downstairs to hand out invitations that we might join them in their future day retreats or discussion evenings, which are held in the Quaker Meeting House. As their business is done for the day and they're in the process of packing up, I'm invited upstairs for a few minutes to tell them a little about the Council of Faiths and about my role with them. Positive contact is made today, and I come away with a phone number for follow up.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

equality bill non-statutory guidance consultation

To Nottingham (again!) for this consultation on the Non Statutory Guidance that will accompany the Equality Bill. The meeting is hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, at the Nottingham Hilton Hotel (photo above). A good event in a nice venue with warm and courteous staff, good range of food at lunchtime with decent vegetarian, vegan and halal options.

I'm here representing REDP, but also on behalf of Leicester Council of Faiths - my badge has both on it. Also on hand from REDP is core partner Ian (from the LGBT Centre) and staffer Kelly. There are two delegates from Leicester City Council and I spot at least two people who attended our Involvement Event in Derby yesterday and one from the Retford event last week. On my table is one person whom I first met at our Involvement Event in Leasingham.

Today we're looking at this guidance, seeing if it's fit for purpose, helping get the language right. It's not the time to look at the Equality Bill itself, but to concentrate on the Non Statutory Guidance. There will be changes in gthe Bill as it proceeds toward being signed into law; the final version of the Non Statutory Guidance will reflect that.

The Codes of Practice that go with the Bill are legal documents. They take a ling time to prepare beacuse they have to be legally watertight and they have to take into account the case law that has built up in relevant areas. Non Statutory Guidance is a bit quicker in the making. They mirror the Codes of Practice, but are more in the nature of being practical "how to" guides, aspiring to be simple and easy to follow, user-focused and tailored to their identified audience. They will inform employers, businesses, service providers, clubs and associations of all kinds what they can and can't do, how they should and should not behave toward individuals and groups. Non Statutory Guidance will advise us how we should expect to be treated as individuals an/or as members of groups in society. NSG is written for people who are not HR specialists or legal experts, often working in (or receiving services from) smaller organisations. The NSG has to reflect the language, needs and aspiration of those whom it directly affects. Two versions of the documents are being produced, in print and online: one for service providers and the like, the other for recipients of the services etc. It will also provide examples of good practice and will incorporate a short, straightforward "What's New" guide that will be helpful to newcomers as well as those already familiar with equality legislation.

The four people round our table are asked to consider two scenarios: the first, in the morning, has to do with making reasonable adjustments in order to make public buildings accessible to as wide a variety of users as possible; in the afternoon, we look at the theory and practice of Positive Action as included in the new Bill.

Interesting article in today's Guardian: "Voluntary sector is key to a 'good society' says Etherington". Stuart Etherington is Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). His article can be read at:

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

REDP involvement event: Derby

To Derby, for the sixth in the series of "Involvement Events" hosted across the East Midlands by the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership. Dee (from LCIL) drives Taherah (from TREC) and me through from Leicester. We leave just after eight and would have got there in double-quick time if Dee's sat nav hadn't thrown her off when we arrive in Derby city centre by telling her to take the third turning off a roundabout that doesn't appear to be there.

Today's venue, The Spot, is very "clubby". There's no natural light, the air conditioning is noisy and the place is festooned with posters for appearances by the "UK's number 1 tribute act!" (self-proclaimed, methinks) for a variety of turns: Calvin Stardust, Mylie Minogue, Rake That (I might have made those names up, but you get the picture). A great night's entertainment plus a three-course meal for only £22.95. Well, at least the venue is central and should be easy to find, but the whole place is fraught with roadworks and the venue itself appears to be in the middle of a building site, like an unfinished Spanish resort hotel. The sound of drilling outside occasionally intrudes on our presentations and discussions.

We have 10 attendees from the Voluntary and Community Sector when we get underway, a few minutes late to accomodate those delayed by the roadworks. I'm chairing the morning session. Dee's presenting the Beginner's Guide to REDP and Ian (from the LGBT Centre) is operating the slides. His is the hardest job in the first session, as Dee does a fair bit of extemporising. She has much more historical knowledge related to this project (particularly knowledge about a number of  failed attempts to do something similar across the region in the past); well, she just has much more knowledge about this, full stop. She's the best known of all of us who make up the core partners of REDP; she can speak with authority and experience, but not necessarilly to the running order of the slides!

I haven't said much about the workshops that form such an important part of the progrmme at these events. We've been using this "world cafe" model for workshops at these events, where participants are invited to write or draw on the paper covers we put on the tables they sit around. If you've ever taken part in a workshop where you've felt that your views aren't being recorded (and felt that means your contribution has not been respected) then the world cafe approach is an antidote to that. You get the chance to write down your own thoughts and feelings there and then. There's an REDP staffer sitting in on the discussions on each table as scribe too, so hopefully, just about everything gets recorded. These paper table cloths and notes are being compiled into one set of notes, for sending out to all those who have participated in these Involvement Events once they're over. All very good and well, but then, there's the pens ... we started using some alcohol-based pens, in a variety of bold colours, but we got complaints about their intoxicating properties when working with them so close up for the hour or so that these workshops take. At our event in Loughborough, Laura nipped out to buy some non-intoxicating pens, but these older ones refuse to die, and keep turning up, no matter that we think we've chucked them away!

The questions to be considered by each of the workshops are:

"What should REDP look like and what model best fits the needs?"

"How do you ensure engagement of all organisations?"

"What are the natural organisations that could sit on the core reference group to not only represent your views but also work in partnership?"

"What do you think are the key issues that should be considered at a regional level for your area?"

Mind you, we all know what Alexei Sayle said about anyone who uses the word "workshop" who isn't connected with light engineering, don't we?

We have the services of two palantypists today, who keep a full record of the day's proceedings, although the person for whom we'd booked them doesn't appear at the meeting. Gill Croft's website is; Georgina Ford can be contacted on

After lunch (the first hot one we've been offered on any of these events) we're joined by another ten people from the public and private sector, making this the best attended of these events so far. Ian takes over the chairing. Carolyn Pascoe presents her "Profile of Derby" based on published statistics. She gets more vigorous interogation today then she probably has at any of the earlier events, but rides the wave in her usual confident and professional manner.

Next up it's me, presenting half an hour on the Equality Bill. Since we have to use a hand mic today, I feel that makes me a little more awkward and a little less natural with the presentation. The projector (provided by the venue) blacks out halfway through my presentation. I prefer not to use PowerPoint and can happily cope with that; but if it goes off halfway through, that's not quite so easy to deal with. Still it gets done, though having to move into the audience with the mic for questions is also stiff and awkward - especially if people actually shrink from me when I approach them with the microphone! At the end of my presentation, Dee takes the opportunity to emphasise the importance of Carolyn's stat-based presentation and clarifies how that aspect of REDP's work will become more of a two-way process.

There's a question why so much time is being given to the Equality Bill, when surely we're preaching to the converted on this topic. An assumption's being made that everyone who attends a meeting such as this will know the Equality Bill inside out, but that proves not to be so. During the break in the afternoon session, two attendees (one from the public sector, the other from the private) confess to me that this is the first time thy've been onb the receiving end of any presentation on the Equality Bill, that their employers, although they have clear interest in it, have not provided any kind of briefing on it.

For the second time in this series of events, Vidar Hjarding is our guest speaker, bringing proceedings to a close. Vidar, who is blind, is Diversity Manager for ITV News Group. There's some interesting discussion about the relationship between diversity and equality in the context of Vidar's work. You can read a profile of Vidar at:

Friday, 12 February 2010

karma police

I found £20 on the pavement in Narborough Road earlier this week. I spent it treating myself and a friend to a meal in a restaurant. Next day, in the same road, I lost a leather slip case for my iPhone that had cost me £20. Thanks to Gursharan thanis who, when I told her this story, said that there's room in the blog for this sort of thing!

Thursday, 11 February 2010


At Retford Town Hall, for the fifth in the series of Involvement Events held by the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP). This is the second day in a row that I've travelled out to Nottinghamshire for REDP-related purposes and the third time in a week I've come to this part of the region, counting my visit to Nottingham Trent University last Saturday to lead the first session of the term for the Open University course I'm tutoring.

Bit of an odd journey over here. Iris from The Race Equality Centre (TREC) driving, with Dennis from Leicester Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre and Taherah (also from TREC). Taherah input the postcode for today's venue into an AA route planner and printed out directions. But when we get to what's supposed to be our destination, it's a private house on the main street through Rampton! Thankfully, Retford is only six miles further on, so we still get there in decent time.

On our arrival, the laptop isn't working; Kelly appears to have been struggling with it for ages and a man from the hall is trying to help too. We eventually get it working - sort of - although I'm unable to access my PowerPoint presentation. But such things no longer faze me. On more than one occasion I've had to proceed with a session without use of PowerPoint. I would say that, more often than not, it actually improves things - if you're up for the challenge of actually talking to people, rather than reading to them (or at them). Everyone has a printout of the slides in their packs anyway, so we talk through them together. Feels like there's more audience participation doing it this way, which is a bonus in the end.

We're getting some good and positive suggestions from attendees at all these meetings. Having attended all these Involvement Events to date, it really feels like we're drawing in a good number of potential supporters and contributors - and that REDP is taking off.

I'm beginning to think that the real legacy of these Involvement Events will be a photographic collection of examples of civic architecture around the East Midlands, as used to illustrate these blog entries.

On the way home, we stop off at Tuxford Windmill, where Fari and Paul Wyman treat us to some very nice cake and coffee in the tearoom. I've been hoping to visit them at the windmill for years and am glad that today's trip has allowed me to do that at last.

East Midlands Network on Spirituality and Mental Health

To Bulwell, Nottingham, this morning, for a meeting of the East Midlands Network on Spirituality and Mental Health (EMNSMH) at Highbury Hospital. It's my first visit to Bulwell and my first (six-minute long) trip on the Robin Hood Line from Nottingham station. I'm mildly disappointed that no arrows are fired at the train from the surrounding woods when I made this remark to someone at the meeting, I was told that if I'd stayed on the train for another few stops ...).

The quarterly meetings of this network are usually held at Kingsway Hospital, Derby, where the network was founded in summer 2007 - all barring the last one (Oct 2009) which was held in Leicester, at our Welcome Centre. Only five people attended that meeting and I'm apprehensive that we'll have even fewer this time. If that turns out to be the case, I fear we'll decide to pack it in today. Thankfully, my fears prove groundless. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this meeting felt like something of a rebirth for our network.

A good omen: I find a decent cafe on Main Street that serves a nice hot veggie breakfast: English muffin with scrambled egg, cheese and mushroom. That's the kind of thing that sets up the day nicely for me, especially in a strange town on a bitterly cold morning like this one. Guided by my iPhone GPS I walk a quarter of an hour or so to Highbury Hospital. There's a lot of building going on here, and our meeting is in what appears to be high quality temporary accommodation.

There are eleven in attendance including me, representing (in geographical terms) Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire (and myself, Leicestershire). We also have a visitor from the West Midlands counterpart of our network - Capt. Keith Shaw, from Staffordshire. I met Keith when I went over to spend a day at a meeting of the West Midlands network, in Jan 2009. I still owe him a set of the our leaflets! In terms of "interest", we have representatives of practitioners (psychiatrists and psychologists), spiritual or pastoral care providers, chaplains and service users. It's pointed out by Sarajane Aris (chairing) that I'm the only one there not directly paid by the NHS. There are several new faces around the table; introductions take a full hour!

Katja Milner (Spirituality Healthcare Worker, Notts Healthcare NHS Trust) gives a PowerPoint presentation introducing Values in Healthcare, a personal and team development programme for healthcare practitioners, which is being used in Nottinghamshire. Katja describes this programme as helping healthcare professionals tap into what it was that attracted them to this kind of work in the first place and helping put them back in touch wth those values and principles, as well as helping them nurutre their own sense of spirituality.

To close her presentation, Katja gives us a five-minute guided meditation, using one of the CDs from the "Peace" module of the "Values in Healthcare" resources. The theme of the meditation is "Inspired to be me".

This approach is inspired by the teachings and leadership of Dadi Janki, Administrative Head of Brahma Kumaris. The Janki Foundation for Global Health Care is "a UK-based charity which encourages research and awareness in the field of health and spirituality. It is dedicated to positive human development and whole-person healthcare, an approach that considers the needs of patients and practitioners at the levels of body, mind and spirit." Some attendees at this meeting have attended training provided by the Janki Foundation and described it as having been beneficial and enjoyable.

When I get the chance to input to the meeting, I stress the potential for involvement of this network with the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership. The nature of EMNSMH's engagement with mental health care in its many forms would allow it to bring a distinctive contribution to REDP's work.

Dave Waldram, the voice of service users in this network, reported on a conference on Mental Health and the Exploration of Faith which took place in Derby, 2 Feb 2010. Downloads from this conference can be found at the Diocese of Derby Faith in Action website.

Sarajane tells us about two regional conferences on spirituality and mental health to be held in the East Midlands (probably both in Derby, but there's the possibility that one of them could be in Leicester) in October and November respectively.

One memroable thing to take away from this meeting is an aphorism from Vaclav Havel, chipped into the consultation by Hugh Middleton: "Follow the man who seeks the truth; run from the man who has found it."

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


To Loughborough Town Hall, for the fourth of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership's "Involvement Events" spread across the East Midlands over seven weeks. We're getting the hang of these meetings nicely now and are able to be pretty laid back and relaxed about them. That's helping bring out the best in other attendees, I would say. I chair the morning session, in which Iris Lightfoote from The Race Equality Centre (TREC) presents the Beginners' Guide to REDP. then we go turn about in the afternoon when Iris chairs and I do a presentation on the new Single Equality Bill. We get some lively and informed engagement from the audience, which helps the whole thing go with a bit of a swing.

I take the opportunity today to pass on one of the Council of Faiths' "generic" banners to Gulnaz from East Midlands Ambulance Service. EMAS made a contribution to the cost of our new exhibition and their logo is on each one of the banners. This one will go on permanent display, touring ambulance stations in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Our guest speaker this afternoon is Vidar Hjarding, Diversity Manager for ITV News Group. Vidar himself is blind.

Monday, 8 February 2010

mindfulness (4)

Fourth session in the course on "Mindfulness" offered by Christians Aware at Christchurch, Clarendon Park Road. Leading the session is Ian Grayling (backed up by his colleague, Kevin Commons) from the city's Serene Reflection Meditation Group. This evening's topic is "the other senses" (in what Ian describes as "a job lot").

Ian shows us two "calming techniques" using accupressure which we can apply ourselves, on our wrists, then our hands. Ian wonders aloud if these techniques actually work or if it's just the practice of doing something mindfully that brings a sense of calm.

We are each asked to pick a single raisin from a tub that is passed around the room. We hold it between thumb and forefinger and roll it around. How does it feel? Then hold it up to our noses. How does it smell? Then place it against our lips: how does that feel? Pop it in our mouths, roll it around on your tongue - but don't chew it! How does that feel? Start chewing, but don't swallow it until you feel compelled to.

Later we try standing perfectly still. This is rather like our attempt to be completely silent last week. When we're trying to be silent we hear stuff going on inside our bodies and inside our heads. When we try to stand still, we feel our body making adjustments to our position as our brain checks and fixes our balance.

soup song

At St Nicholas Church, 12 noon, for a "Soup Lunch". I've been invited by Julie-Ann Heath. Her husband Barry and his mate Bill have a range of hearty soups on offer - and it's just the right day for it too, with the snow belting down outside. I get a few mugfuls of the butternut squash. There are 13 of us round the table together, which raises a few knowing laughs.

It's remarkable how many people just come in to the church over the hour or so I'm there. They can't smell the soup from outside or even know that we're in here; the door is firmly shut against the cold.

Find out more about St Nicholas Church:

Thursday, 4 February 2010

box 15

To Walkers Stadium this afternoon, for a meeting called by the Leicester Strategic Partnership for those doing the work in their Host Organisations. This meeting follows on from an all-day event, the latest in the "Making It Real" series of events - this one on the theme of "Stronger Neighbourhoods". We only received a week's notice of this and the other Host Organisations may not be able to send someone in support, but I thought it a good idea to go, so I've confirmed that I'll be there. This despite the fact that I'm labouring with a heavy cold and it's raining.

The woman on reception has this event on her schedule as the "Post 3:30 Meeting" and she directs me to Box 15, on the third floor. I sit in Box 15 (which has a very nice view of the pitch, as you can see, above) for about 20 minutes, wondering when anyone else is going to show. Sitting in this empty room, gazing out on the deserted stadium, pitch partly covered, goalposts taken down ... it begins to feel like a meditation on nothing much at all. After a while, I start to wonder if I'm in the right place. I make my way back down to the Grand Hall, where the "Making It Real" event would have been held. Perhaps it's overrun. I'll probably meet some people making their way up to the third floor for my meeting. These corriders are longer and quieter than I would have first thought - and because the lights switch on automatically by sensor as you pass under them, it's all a bit darker too. When I do find the Grand Hall, it's empty, with only a few staffers in the early stages of cleaning up. I ask one young woman picking up empty cups and saucers if she knows whether anyone was making their way up for the "Post 3:30 Meeting"; but she tells me she heard them making the decision to cancel that meeting earlier in the day.

On the way home through the rain, I phone Dee at LCIL. She reminds me that we'd made a decision that since we couldn't all go, then none of us would go. I remember discussing this at our meeting on Tuesday, but don't remember actually deciding anything about it. But it makes sense, and it's our mutually supportive way. But if that's so, how come the woman doing the cleaning up heard them decide to cancel the meeting this morning? And why was it still on the schedule at reception? My head is too full of cold and I've had way too much Lemsip to figure this one out - obviously.

Find out more about the Walkers Stadium:


While I was involved in the “Leicester on the Map” consultation yesterday, the Council of Faiths was holding an open-air prayer meeting for the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti. Here’s how it was reported on BBC Leicester's website:
Prayers were given in Leicester on Wednesday 3 February 2010 for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Organised by Leicester Council of Faiths, the event aimed to raise awareness of Haiti's continuing struggle to recover.

Representatives from the Bahá'í, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities, gathered in Town Hall Square for the midday prayers.

A collection also took place, to raise funds for the earthquake appeal.

Chair of the Council of Faiths and Deputy Lord Mayor, Manjula Sood highlighted the ongoing issues affecting the people of Haiti and the scale of the natural disaster.

"It was very important for all of us to come together today and to show our solidarity, because Leicester people are very generous.

"When it comes to devastation or suffering they will always come together."

Vice Chair of the Council of Faiths and representative of the Orthodox Jewish community, Tony Nelson agreed that it is crucial Haiti is not forgotten.

"This has been a terrible disaster and it's very easy to say, 'Oh, it's a nine day wonder', but it certainly isn't.

"One only has to look at the television to see the pictures of the ongoing suffering that is still going on and we feel for our fellow human beings."

He continued, "I think raising the awareness so that people from their daily lives here can reflect and consider these terrible things that are happening in other parts of the world is a good thing."

Lord Mayor Cllr Roger Blackmore, who introduced the proceedings, said he thought it was "wonderful" that the city's faith groups had come together for an important cause.

"I've found that very moving and I'm very pleased to have been part of that."

He added that the day was also a chance to think of the people, such as fire-fighters, from Leicester who were directly aiding relief in Haiti.

It is not just direct action that can help the victims of the earthquake.

Sikh representative Resham Singh Sandhu wanted to give a message to the people of Leicestershire;

"This is the best cause or donation anybody could give to those who are really in need."


Manzoor Moghal has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

Wrong to blame wrathful God for Haiti earthquake
Incorrect conceptions of the deity inhibit some faiths from explaining natural disasters, says Manzoor Moghal
In the aftermath of the massive Haiti earthquake, people of some faiths have been asking how a loving God could allow the tragic deaths of human beings on such a gargantuan scale, with many of the victims being innocent children. These people, who are confused by this obvious contradiction, ask further as to how could an omnipotent and omniscient God permit such mayhem and misery?
Leaders of these faiths have thrown up their hands as they can offer no explanation and have suggested that the Creator works in mysterious ways which they cannot comprehend. The failure to explain such a heart-wrenching event lies in the mistaken belief that there is a personal God who loves all human beings equally, and that He personally observes and dictates all their actions.
Some other faith leaders ascribe such phenomena to the wrath of God visiting upon a sinful people. They justify the Haiti earthquake on the grounds that the people of Haiti have been punished by a wrathful God for their voodoo practices and devil worship. This argument is also seriously flawed, as it, too, believes in a personal and revengeful God waiting to strike them down for their sins.
If we move away from these concepts and take a dispassionate and scientific view of the world phenomena, we would arrive at more sensible and plausible explanations of such natural calamities. The earth and the rest of our world function according to universal natural laws set into motion by some Supreme Being, whom we call God. In this creation everything is automated and flows continuously, maintaining a natural equilibrium in accordance with these immutable laws. As we know, the earth moves on tectonic plates and it breathes through various volcanic outlets, spewing out molten lava which comes out from its core.
Because of their knowledge, scientists know the seismic locations of the earth, and have drawn up maps indicating places of earthquake activity like Haiti. In many places there are obvious cracks in the earth's surface, like the cracks in California visible to the naked eye.
The earth has a self-regulating and self-correcting mechanism as part of the creation, which gives rise to physical upheavals of different magnitudes at different times, resulting in earthquakes and other natural disasters. Those who live in the proximity of these vulnerable areas are likely to suffer more destruction than those who live away from them. All this happens in accordance with the laws of science, and has nothing to do with the concept of an unfeeling or revengeful God. The Creator also does not interfere in the lives of human beings whom he has given free will to lead their own lives, and therefore it is naïve to expect that He would be looking down from the heavens upon individuals to mould their lives one way or the other.
One of the greatest gifts we have from our Creator is the ability to be logical, and in understanding all natural events we have to apply this yardstick to judge what have been seen as incomprehensible mysteries.
Manzoor Moghal is chairman of the Muslim Forum


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Prayers said in Leicester for Haiti earthquake survivors
Religious leaders gathered in the city centre to conduct a public prayer for survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

All of the city's major religions joined in to show support for victims of the humanitarian disaster.

They said it was important to show solidarity at a time of crisis.

Prayers were said outside Leicester Town Hall yesterday lunchtime, after which a collection was held to raise money for the Disaster Emergency Committee's Haiti appeal.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, read a prayer prepared by the Church of England.

Speaking beforehand, he said: "The world understands the scale of the tragedy that has hit Haiti.

"In recent days it has gone off the headlines. We feel a responsibility to pray for Haiti and keep it in people's minds. The faith communities of Leicester represent a global crossroads – global events always touch us here."

The Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Roger Blackmore, joined religious leaders from the Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai and Jain faiths who also led prayers.

They were observed by a small crowd of well-wishers.

Ramanbhai Barber, president of the Shree Sanatan Mandir Hindu temple in Belgrave, Leicester, said: "Prayer is important to give strength to those people in Haiti. By all the faiths joining together we can give more strength and keep raising awareness."

The collective prayer was organised by Leicester Council of Faiths.

Chairwoman Councillor Manjula Sood said: "Leicester people are very generous and have always come together to help in times of suffering.

"This devastating disaster has touched everybody's hearts and when things like this happen our prayers and thoughts go out to those people. It is important that people of all faiths show solidarity."

The quality of the photos on the Mercury's website really does leave a lot to be desired though. They look alright in the paper.

The "First Person" column in in the same edition of the Mercury is entitled "Wrong to blame wrathful God for Haiti earthquake", by Manzoor Moghal, Chair of The Muslim Forum and long-standing member of Leicester Council of Faiths.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Leicester on the map

To a lunchtime meeting convened by Ben Ravilious, whom I've got to know through our attendance at CreativeCoffee Club. The topic is the establishment of "Leicester on the Map", a project to promote the good name of Leicester - but with a few novel twists. I'm a few minutes late in arrving and the discussion has already started by the time I take my place at the table. Around the table there are a dozen or so people, including a few I know and would expect (or rather, would hope) to see at a meeting of this kind: Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director; John Coster from Citizens' Eye among them.

From a certain point of view, this is a legacy arising from Amplified Leicester. In keeping with that project, Leicester on the Map would make extensive use of social media - a Facebook page, use of a hash tag on twitter etc. Many of us who are present today bring an extensive address book of contacts and our own networks. I get to speak a little about the Council of Faiths venturing into the realm of social media for the first time and how our positive experience might bode well for this new enterprise.

This is not be another "One Leicester" or another "Big It Up", not a campaign sponsored by any official agency. The idea is that it should be more of a popular movement, a groundswell from the bottom up - and not something led by any individual or identifiable collection of individuals.

BASIS advisory group @ VAL

At Voluntary Action Leicester this morning, for the second meeting of their BASIS advisory group. REDP is a BASIS grant holder and it's part of our terms of receving that gant that we should establish and maintain good working relations with other BASIS grant holders in the region - and VAL is just across the road after all. So I'm here representing REDP, but also on behalf of Leicester Council of Faiths, who may well be one of the infrastructure support bodies that will benefit from VAL's programme.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Centuries of history will end with Leicester church's closure
Nearly 1,000 years of history is to end with the closure of an 11th century church.
Within weeks, the doors of St Peter's Church, in Belgrave, will be bolted shut.
Nearby St Gabriel's Church, on Kerrysdale Avenue, will also close after the Church of England upheld the proposal to decommission the buildings.
Worshippers yesterday said they felt devastated.
A public consultation prompted 135 letters of protest at the plans, most concerning the closure of St Peter's.
At a meeting on Monday at the Church of England's London headquarters, the Diocese of Leicester was given permission to go ahead with the closures.
A spokesman for the Church Commissioners, responsible for church assets, said they "concluded that the parish only needs one church building".
St Alban's Church will be the only church serving Belgrave.
Ian Bewley-Parker, 71, has worshipped at St Peter's Church for most of his life. He used to be church warden.
"I'm devastated," he said.
"I couldn't say right now whether I will go to St Alban's once St Peter's closes."
St Peter's Church is a Grade II listed building that has been traced back to 1082.
Stuart Bailey, chairman of Leicester Civic Society, said the closure was "extremely short-sighted and destructive".
The Diocese of Leicester said it could not afford to keep three churches open in Belgrave.
If there is no appeal, the churches will be closed after Easter.
Did you worship at St Peter's? Did your parents get married there – or did you? We'd love to hear your stories of the church and if you have pictures then we would like to see them. Contact Simon Ward on 0116 222 4262 or:

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

REDP, EDP monthly meetings

At the LGBT Centre, Wellington Street, for the regular meeting of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP), followed by the Equality and Diversity Partnership (EDP) which meets after lunch. These meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every month, usually at the Leicestershire Centre for Integraterd Living (LCIL). This is the first meeting I've attended which we've held at another venue. I'd not been beyond the reception area on the ground floor of the LGBT Centre before today. I must say, I'm rather envious of the layout, the facilities and the open, airy space. But when I tell Ian this, he responds by saying tha the whole place is about to be gutted, redecorated and kitted out with new fixtures and fittings. I wouldn't mind some of their old stuff!

Oh and if you don't know the difference between REDP and EDP, then read on - all (well, some) will be revealed ...

Things don't get off to the greatest of starts for me this morning, when I fail to get to the Centre in time for the start of the meeting. I've been suffering under a heavy cold for the past few days and it was at its worst last night and I didn't get to bed until very late, which led to me oversleeping this morning. I arrived in time to join in a debriefing on the three REDP Involvement Events that we've held in Nottingham, Oakham and Leasingham. I'm still impressed by how constructive, positive and supportive our little group is. More than two years I've been involved in this partnership and in that time I've never witnessed an argument or heard a harsh word used by any member against another. We still have five of these Involvement Events to go, in Loughborough (Tue 9 Feb), Retford (Thu 11 Feb), Derby (Tue 16 Feb), Northampton (Thu 25 Feb) and Leiceester (Thu 4 Mar). On the back of what's happened in this project so far, we've been asked to make presentations to a regional event at an as yet undecided date in March and to a national event for the English Regions Equalities Network (EREN) in London on 3 March. This last one will be done by Laura Horton (Project Manager for REDP), Ian Robson (Director of the LGBT Centre) and me.

In the afternoon, we have a meeting of the Equality and Diversity Partnership, at which we welcome representatives of Age Concern, Leicester City Council, Leicester City NHS and Leicestershire Constabulary. We receive a strong and useful presentation on the city's domestic violence strategy - an issue that cuts across all the equality strands and on which we can all collaborate.

So, what's the distinction between EDP and REDP? Basically, the Equality and Diversity Partnership is the vehicle by which we offer our services in/to the city. The Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership is the vehicle by which we do the same for the whole of the East Midlands. That should be good enough to be getting on with.

Find out more about the Leicester LGBT Centre: