Saturday, 31 July 2010


At St Andrew's Church, Jarrom Street, for the wedding of Elizabeth Wayne and Rev Alan Hawker.

Elizabeth is Head of Religious Education at Soar Valley College, long-standing member of Leicester Council of Faiths and a mainstay of Leicester SACRE. She's been very supportive of me in my post and was particularly helpful when I was writing the series of leaflets on each of our member faith communities and putting together my first training presentations. Her dress is very distinctive, having a lovely Pre-Raphaelite look about it.

I'm here with Harry and Grace and there's a good turnout of members of the Council of Faiths (about a dozen of us I'd say, from a variety of religious backgrounds). The three of us arrive early (very early by Ballerntyne standards, with more than ten minutes to spare before the start time of twelve noon) but there's standing room only, in what is a pretty big church. The service is conducted by Canon Barry Naylor (afterwards I tell the ubiquitous Barry that I'm beginning to believe there's more than one of him ).

I've never been to a Church of England wedding ceremony before - and St Andrew's seems very High Church. There's something in the service that I've not heard before: after the bride and groom have exchanged vows, the congregation is asked, "Will you, the families and friends of Alan and Elizabeth, support and uphold them in their marriage now and in the years to come?" to which we all respond "We will!" If that's normal in a Church of England wedding ceremony, then how nice; and if it isn't - then how nice!

It's such a pleasant afternoon and the kids have a lovely time too. I'm grateful to Elizabeth and Alan for inviting us to share in their special day.

Friday, 30 July 2010


I phone the Leicester Mercury this afternoon, to ask what's become of our reply to Mr James Gore Browne's letter published in Tuesday's edition, in which he urged the Council of Faiths to respond to his proposals about the wearing of the burka by Muslim women in Leicester. Since the reply was sent to them by email early Wednesday evening, we could have expected to see it published Thursday or Friday, but it hasn't shown up yet. I speak to the person in charge of the Features Desk today, who assures me that it will be printed in Monday's edition.


Today, REDP has organised a free full day of training for members of its Core Reference Group (and others) on community cohesion at the Holocaust Education Centre in Laxton, near Newark. I'm offered the chance to get a lift from Leicester, but decide to show my independence by getting there by public transport. A combination of train and two buses look simple enough. Yeah, right ...

I get to Nottingham in time to catch the first bus, but then realise that I've mixed up the Broadmarsh Bus Station (the only one I've used in the city) with the Victoria Bus Station (from where the bus I want departs). So I miss that one. I text Laura Horton, REDP Project Manager, who has organised the day, to check if it's still worthwhile coming late or if it would be more of an insult to turn up an hour late. She says that I should get there when I can. I ask the bus driver to let me know when we get to the stop I need in New Ollerton. According to the timetable, we should get there in just under an hour. An hour and a half later, I go forward to ask the driver, "Are we there yet?". "Sorry mate, I thought you'd got off" he tells me. I politely challenge that, so he clarifies things by telling me, "Sorry mate, I didn't understand your accent when you got on. Didn't know where you were asking for." I thought I'd ask him how he knew what to charge me for my ticket then, but couldn't really seeing this going anywhere useful at this point. I'm sure that he's been driving much faster than this old bus is meant to do and we've been hurled around like dried peas in a tin can for the past 90 minutes, so I'm glad to get off in one piece.

Next stop Worksop. It's my first visit there. There's a conveniently situated train station that allows me to get back to Nottingham. I'd got up at 0530 to make sure I managed this trip according to plan. I arrived back in Leicester at 1500, after achieving nothing more than a coach trip round Nottinghamshire. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed that if it's what I'd actually wanted to do today.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

blessed are the peacemakers

Our Chair (Manjula Sood) and Vice Chair (Tony Nelson) saw - and made some amendments to - the letter to the Leicester Mercury before it was emailed to their Mailbox eafrly this evening. It was copied to several other members, one of whom responded by calling it "eirenic". I had to look up the definition of this word. Here's the first online definition I found:
eirenic adj. promoting peace. eirenicism, noun. such state of mind. eirenicon, noun. such act. eirenics, noun. theology aiming at religious unity.
Religions are known to encourage their followers to be be at peace. Most people who would call themselves religious would be glad to be in such a state. But greater than being at peace oneself is the act of bringing it to others. It would be a good result if this letter could be seen as an example of that by a wide number of readers. that would count as a good response by the Council of Faiths.

I know that to say, "you learn something new every day" is a truism, but I find that to be the case in this job.

Local Democracy Week (1)

A meeting at the Welcome Centre this afternoon involving Manjula Sood (our Chair), Tony Nelson (our Vice-Chair), myself and Peter Bradley from Speakers' Corner Trust about Local Democracy Week.

Leicester City Council's Adult Learning and Skills Service is charged by the City Council with "targetting activities to engage people in local democratic processes". The Service hopes for a strong presence from local organisations who are committed to public debate and the potential of informal adult learning.

Most of the text below comes from "The Speaker's Corner Initiative and Leicester City Council: A Programme for Local Democracy Week", a briefing note written by Peter Bradley.

Speakers’ Corner Trust (SCT) is a registered charity which promotes public debate and active citizenship as a means of revitalising civil society in the UK (and supporting its development in emerging democracies). Its work includes both the promotion of local projects and the development of national programmes, many of which provide resources and support for the projects.

At local level, SCT typically works in the first instance with local authorities to recruit local stakeholders to independent Speakers’ Corner Committees which in due course take ownership of the project.

Their work might include the establishment of permanent Speakers’ Corners in public spaces as platforms for free expression and exchange (and potent symbols of citizens’ rights) but their priority will always be to stimulate and support public deliberation and debate.

At the heart of each local initiative lies a programme of events designed by the local Committee to reach every community in its area. They could include debates led by local interest groups, consultations mounted by public services or local politicians or discussions stimulated by academics or others on subjects from the global to the local to the cultural.

The central principle in all these events is that they should be accessible to all, strictly non-partisan and non-adversarial, welcome diversity and seek to inform opinion, identify common ground – and, as often as possible, enrich and entertain.

SCT’s approach is based on the belief that association between citizens and the free, face-to-face exchange of ideas, information and opinions - with each other as well as with the decision-takers among them - is a key to rebuilding trust and participation in governance and sustaining vibrant, cohesive communities.

Leicester City Council has been awarded ‘lead accountable body’ status (LAB) with the responsibility, as envisaged in the previous Government’s The Learning Revolution white paper, for developing a local partnership, vision and plan for informal adult education which encourages and enables people to continue learning throughout their lives. Among the tasks identified as priorities for LABs is “targeting activities to engage people in local democratic processes”.

This brief paper outlines proposals for a programme of activities which the Council, with SCT and other local partners, will undertake during Local Democracy Week (15-19 October). The proposal has been framed so that the programme can comprise either a self-contained initiative or the prelude to a longer term Speakers’ Corner project.

The Proposal
SCT proposes to work with the Council and other key stakeholders in Leicester, including other public services, the education sector, voluntary organisations, community groups and the business community, to organise a range of ‘Speakers’ Corner’ events during the course of Local Democracy Week. In broad terms, the aim of the programme will be to
  • involve as wide as possible a cross section of Leicester’s communities in the discussion and debate of a range of issues of importance to them;
  • provide platforms for sectors of Leicester’s community which are seldom heard;
  • create opportunities for constructive engagement between the public and local policy makers and decision takers.

Developing the Initiative
As outlined above, SCT promotes its local projects by forming Speakers’ Corner Committees made up of representatives of the public, private and voluntary sectors which ‘own’ and steer them. The credibility of the Committees as authoritative but independent bodies representing the broad community is essential to the success of the Speakers’ Corner initiative.
As this project is time-limited (though it is hoped that it may give rise to a longer term initiative), SCT will as a priority work with the Council to identify potential members of a steering committee (rather than a fully fledged Speakers’ Corner Committee) which could include representatives of

  • the City Council (possibly both Member and officer)
  • the Leicester Partnership
  • other public services (the police/PCT)
  • the education sector (higher/further/secondary)
  • the CVS
  • local arts organisations (in particular theatre)
  • local media (in particular local daily paper)
  • the multifaith forum
  • trades council (if appropriate)
  • chamber of commerce (if appropriate)

An Outline Programme
The Democracy Week programme could, subject to further discussion and the steering committee’s approval, comprise a launch event in a prominent open air city centre location (perhaps with appropriate historic associations); a series of events throughout the week in different locations including perhaps
  • the Council Chamber
  • neighbourhood community centres
  • schools
  • places of work
  • places of worship

Developing Partnerships
While the City Council will have a key coordinating and promotional role to play, much of the organisation of the events could be undertaken by other bodies, particularly those which should especially benefit from the initiative.

There are extensive networks of voluntary groups and organisations in every community. Most have important issues and causes to promote but many struggle to be heard. The Speakers’ Corner project is designed to provide them with an important platform in return for which the groups themselves will often take the lead in organising events, suggesting topics, securing speakers (and sometimes venues) and advertising the initiative among their membership and mailing lists.

Particularly if they have sufficient notice so that their participation can be included in their curriculum planning, schools and colleges are also often keen to participate in Speakers’ Corner events. At the launch of the Lichfield project, for example, students from three secondary schools spoke on a range of issues and several volunteered to speak again on the project’s first anniversary.

Universities also represent very considerable resources in terms of their intellectual capacities, student populations, facilities and potential as venues.

The press and media are also important partners, both as potential participants and in the promotion and reporting of events.

The Launch Event
As suggested above, the programme could be launched at an event in Leicester’s city centre. SCT is currently developing a mobile Speakers’ Corner which could provide a platform both here and subsequently at local (indoor) events.

The central event could comprise:

  • an introductory speech on the theme of Democracy Week by the Council Leader
  • a brief speech on the importance of free/self expression by a local celebrity
  • contributions from young people from local schools
  • contributions from members of the public
  • an element of performance/entertainment 

‘Local’ Debates
The steering committee would be responsible for determining the number of events and subjects for debate which are likely to reflect the city’s diverse communities and sectors and feature topics which will include though not necessarily be limited to local issues.

The summary below describes the events held on a single day at the launch of the Speakers’ Corner project in Nottingham and illustrates the range of topics, venues, formats and times which can be used to attract different target audiences.
Listening to Mothers – a discussion at Community Centre in Bulwell on the challenges of parenthood and the needs of young mothers. Representatives of the City Council and the Primary Care Trust came to listen and learn and by the end of the event, the mothers had set up a self-help group.
The Best of Both Worlds – a packed discussion in the Council Chamber in which older people talked about the advantages of modern living and younger people speculated about how life might have been better in past times. The debate was such a success that it overran by half an hour.
Common Ground – a discussion which was chaired by a Muslim woman and took place in a Synagogue bringing together members of Nottingham’s Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha’i and Christian communities to discuss the articles of faith and principle which unite Britain’s mainstream religions.
Future Gazing – a discussion in the Council House led by four distinguished academics on the direction in which science and technology are taking us, how they may change our lives and how we may have to change our thinking and our values both to exploit and control progress.
Getting the Best Out of Our Neighbourhoods – in a Community Centre in Sneinton, in which members of the local community asked, what are the strengths of our community and how can we play to them? What do we need to improve the quality of life in the short, medium and long terms? 
The Future of Football – in the Council House, uniting Nottingham Forest and Notts County fans and a panel including the former Forest player and manager Frank Clark to ask what’s right and wrong with football? Do the fans get what they deserve? What will it take for England to win again? What changes would make football a better experience? 
Less formal events could also contribute to the programme. At open air People’s Hustings organised by Speakers’ Corner Committees in Bristol, Nottingham, Lincoln and Lichfield in the run-up to the 2010 general election, local voluntary groups took centre stage by setting the agenda for the politicians who responded to their priorities for public policy and local action on issues as diverse as recycling, social enterprise, homelessness, overseas aid, debt, barriers to employment and environmental protection.

The mobile Speakers’ Corner could be used in a number of locations to provide a platform for local voluntary and community groups as well as members of the public.

Public Speaking Workshops
Everyone has good ideas and strong opinions. But few have the confidence or experience to communicate them to others. Wherever SCT works, it seeks the support of local theatres in providing training for members of the public in the skills required to speak confidently and effectively in public.

For example, free workshops have been conducted at the Nottingham Playhouse, Lichfield’s Garrick Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic at which professional actors and trainers have coached members of the public in the techniques of speaking in public and several have subsequently spoken at their local Speakers’ Corner.

It is hoped that theatres in Leicester might also be prepared to

  • run free workshops for members of the public who would be asked to perform at the launch event; these could take place at the theatre and/or in community centres or schools;
  • run free/subsidised workshops in participating schools;
  • perhaps help secure a celebrity for the launch event.

Creating a Record
Securing a record of some at least of the discussions and debates would be a distinct advantage, particularly if they focus on issues of public policy.

The local Universities and Colleges are likely to have media studies departments which may be able, with sufficient notice, to include in their course work assignments either to film and/or to create a documentary treatment of the initiative.

The Longer Term
Much of the work required to plan and organise the Democracy Week initiative could also contribute to the establishment of a permanent Speakers’ Corner project in the city. Indeed, if the October events are successful, there may well be demand for more.

In designing the initial programme of events, it would be sensible to keep in mind the potential for further developing the project over the longer term.

The Next Steps
The first priority is to consult with and secure the support and participation of key stakeholders in Leicester, set up a steering committee and begin to plan the scope of the programme for Local Democracy Week.

Find out more about Speakers' Corner Trust:


Amy Sample-Ward
At Phoenix Square this morning, for the final fortnightly session in the current season of Amplified Leicester: "Community Driven Social Impact", led by Amy Sample-Ward.

In her biographical note, Amy describes herself as being "dedicated to supporting and educating organizations and changemakers in the use of evolving technologies that cultivate and engage communities. I am inspired by opportunities to catalyze community building and social action, online and offline, whether it’s through blogging, facilitating, training, or speaking. In 2009, I co-authored Social by Social, a handbook in using social technologies for social impact, and have had the great opportunity to contribute to additional publications about social media. I am the Global Community Development Manager for NetSquared, leading the strategy for our global Community both on and offline. I have worked in private philanthropy, advocacy nonprofit organizations, web design companies, and as a consultant."

This session focuses on strategies and case studies for creating successful community-driven media, events and campaigns. Participants learn about best practices and work in small groups to put learning into practice. This session include a presentation, discussion and small group scenarios. In our "small group scenario", we focus on four aspects of strategy. Below are the questions - and my answers to them, from the perspective of my own work.
1. Who is your community?
Faith communities (first and foremost, those represented on Leicester Council of Faiths; secondly, those faith communities who are not)
Wider "equalities" communities
City of Leicester at large
Fellow members/attendees at Amplified Leicester, CreativeCoffee Club etc
Other constituencies (education, mental health etc)
2. What do they want to do?
Improve/increase "community cohesion"
Promote good relations
Have their specific identity and contributions recognised, met and valued
3. Which tools would help?
Constant Contact
Online maps
4. Which roles would help?
Key Contributors
Social Reporters
Community Manager
Tech Mentor
Amy gives me a complete set of the cards we used for this activity, which I'm sure will come in useful.

Toward the end of the session, Prof Sue Thomas fills us in on the format for Amplified Leicester when it returns in September. Rather than meet fortnightly on Wednesday mornings, we'll meet monthly on Wednesday evenings 1900-2000 (still at Phoenix Square, with the opportunity to socialise before and after). Each of these monthly meetings will be given over to a speaker or panel discussion. I've accepted Sue's offer to run a panel on Wednesday 23 March 2011, on "Amplified Communities of Faith and/or Belief".

Follow Amy Sample-Ward on Twitter: @amyrsward

Read Amy's blog: Amy Sample-Ward's version of NPTech


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Prayer sets a tone for debate
The subject of prayer has been at the centre of public debate in recent times.
Mr Mike Simpson joins in by declaring that prayer has no place prior to a meeting, debate or other such forums. He even proposes that the Leicester city councillors who did, and still do, engage in this very human act of sharing are not fit for office and should step down. I'll leave the reader to consider the ridiculous implications of his radical, secular view.
It is correct to say that the absence of prayer prior to a meeting may not change the order of who sits where, the agenda items or outcomes. What a short prayer does do, however, is set the tone at the very start by everyone silently declaring that no matter how heated the debate or polarising the views, all will treat others with respect. Mr Simpson may say this is unnecessary as it is taken for granted due respect will be given, not in my extensive experience of meetings Mr Simpson. When people are left to set their own level of respect standards, too many seem to fall well short of a reasonable standard.
A prayer at the start of a gathering for whatever reason, if conducted properly, can provide a benchmark of respect that has a tangible effect. As an example, consider the House of Commons. In debates, MPs consistently refer to each other as "Honourable friend''. This was introduced many, many years ago to remind MPs that during debate, a level of decorum and respect is expected. For the rest of us, a short prayer often suffices.
Whilst I have no doubt most secularists strive to be decent people, I suspect the active secularists would rejoice if prayers were generally dispensed with outside of religious services.
I say the world would be a much poorer place for it. I would implore all who follow a faith to firmly resist this attempt by secularists to deprive our children of the personal and collective benefits of sharing daily communal prayer as they grow. We need to reverse this secular fashion of individualism, disrespect and irresponsibility. Abandoning daily communal prayer is precisely what we do not need to do.
Stephen A Warden, Leicester

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


At Kona Blue Coffee, Highcross, for the regular Tuesday morning Community News Café, run by Citizens' Eye Community News Agency.  Alastair (my firstborn) is there and spends the whole time off to the side with a couple of local documentary film makers.

This morning we meet Laura Elvin, Trainee Reporter at the Leicester Mercury, who's coming into contact with Citizens' Eye for the first time.

These Community News Café sessions are held here twice every Tuesday, 0930-1030 and 1830-1930.

"I urge the Council of Faiths to respond"

A friend brings to my attention a letter in today's Leicester Mercury which is particular relevance to the Council of Faiths:
Let's lead the way on this issue

Suleman Nagdi (Mailbox, July 20) makes a strong ,but provocative, case for opposing any ban on the niqab: He doesn't mention the burka.

As he says, the French Assembly has passed a bill banning the niqab and the burka in public places and that piece of legislation now goes to their Senate. The Spanish Parliament, by contrast, has voted against a similar proposal.

A possible explanation is that France has a long tradition of fighting to maintain the principles of the 1789 revolution: liberty, equality and fraternity.

I see no reason for a British citizen not to respect their decision: A great deal of blood was spilt during that revolution.

The question is, do we want to follow the same path? Would, as Suleman Nagdi suggests, such a decision run counter to the "liberal values" of our country? The answer to that question depends upon your definition of liberal values.

Historically, this country is quite familiar with a decision by a woman to "take the veil''. It is unusual nowadays but in the past significant numbers of British women "took the veil", withdrew from society, joined a nunnery and no-one raised an eyebrow.

The change the indigenous population are having to deal with is the fact that not insignificant numbers of Muslim women come to this country, "take the veil" so to speak and do not withdraw from society. Quite the reverse, in fact. Some Muslim women "take the veil", get married, raise a family, drive their children to school and undertake employment.

That is contrary to the British tradition and some non-Muslims feel threatened by this behaviour. It is indeed a test for all the indigenous population. I doubt whether Suleman Nagdi, a reasonable man, would deny the existence of this test. Incidentally, I do not accept that "any change to the law will discourage particular groups from being active members of society''. Indeed there are good grounds for thinking that the removal of the Niqab at sensitive times and for specific events will lead to greater understanding and improved interfaith relations.

Whether this requires a change in the law is a matter for debate: I rather hope not.

In a liberal democracy, the way forward might be to look for a compromise. That requires very detailed knowledge of the subject by the parties charged with responsibility for negotiating the compromise. A public code of practice – not in any sense legally binding – would be admirable and would show that this city is leading the way on a matter of public interest. I urge The Council of Faiths to respond.

James Gore Browne, Leicester
After a few emails are sent round, and phone conversations with Manjula Sood (our Chair) and Suleman Nagdi, I get to work on drafting our response. Manjula and I have a meeting on another issue tomorrow afternoon (along with Tony Nelson, our Vice Chair). Hopefully, we'll agree on a text then which can be sent to the Mercury in reply.

Monday, 26 July 2010


A couple of hours this morning in Coffee Republic, Granby Street with Bob Clarke, carrying out an evaluation of the first full year of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP). Bob is an independent consultant who helped us draw up the business plan submitted with our bid that helped us win this project. He's interviewing all the Core Partners in the project: Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL), Leicester Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre (LGBT Centre) and The Race Equality Centre (TREC). While in no way feeling self-satisfied or resting on our laurels, we'd feel justified in saying that our first year has been successful and I'm happy to admit that I've learned a lot on this project. Undoubtedly, the second year is going to be harder.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Muslim women who wear face veils are suffering rise in abuse and hostility
Muslim women who wear face veils say they are seeing a rising tide of hostility and abuse because of the way they dress.
Women spoke out as police reported a sharp rise in crimes, ranging from verbal abuse to physical attacks, against Muslims in the past year.
Two women who wear the niqab, a veil which leaves only the eyes showing, said Leicester had become more "hostile" since the French Government said it planned to ban the garment and the burka, which covers the entire body.
The women also believe publicity surrounding Conservative MP Philip Hollobone's decision to refuse to meet constituents wearing veils had deepened public hostility.
Mr Hollobone, an MP in Northamptonshire, also attempted to introduce a private member's bill in the House of Commons to pave the way for a law similar to that being considered in France.
One of the women, a 29-year-old from Leicester's Clarendon Park, said: "There is a more hostile than usual atmosphere at the moment.
"I have been called names like ''Taliban'' and ''terrorist'' and one man, who was drunk in the middle of the day, told me to go back to where I came from.
"I just want to live my life in accordance with my faith, I don't see what harm I am doing by wearing the niqab.
"People talk about women who wear these garments being outside of society in some way. I was born and brought up in this country and don't want to live anywhere else.
"I have been to university and I have a well-paid job, I live by the law and I love my family. How am I not taking part in society?"
Another woman, aged 32, from Evington, Leicester, said: "Women are saying that they feel intimidated by some of the comments they hear in the media or in the street.
"There seems to be this feeling now that women who choose to dress this way are some kind of threat to the British way of life."
Police in Leicester have seen the number of cases of Muslims being verbally abused or physically assaulted rise in the past year.
Between April 2008 and March 2009, officers in the city recorded 25 offences. In the following 12 months, it rose to 42.
Chief Inspector Bill Knopp, of Leicestershire police's community safety unit, said: "Although the number of offences is relatively low, it's the trend that concerns us.
"We cannot be sure whether that rise reflects greater public confidence and people are coming to us when these things happen to them or an actual rise in incidents.
"What I do know is that we are getting better at catching the offenders."
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, said meetings had taken place with police to discuss the recent incidents.
He said: "The figures the police have only show the number of women who have come forward to tell them about their experiences.
"I fear there are others who have been abused in this way but have never told anyone about it.
"There is a debate going on, but calling people names in the street is never part of any debate."
Leicestershire police have a new hate crime website:

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Treat everyone equally
I found the Bishop of Leicester's article "Ban on religious symbols is not the way forward" (First Person, July 17) rather confused.
He states that "in secular societies religious symbols are increasingly seen as dangerous and problematic" and "in secular societies there is always a tendency to get anxious about expressions of religion".
I would suggest that it has nothing to do with whether or not a society is secular, but on whether the constituent parts of that society are comfortable with each other. Indeed, I think the Bishop would probably find a high proportion of his own congregation would advocate banning full face veils.
As a member of Leicester Secular Society, I can say that we are certainly not unanimous in our approach to this issue, but we do maintain that all must be treated equally, regardless of religion. We also believe that people should have the greatest possible freedom both in action and speech.
As a man, I find the idea that a woman wants to hide their face from me because she thinks I am a threat to her and is not prepared to allow full communication with me (of which facial expression is an important part) offensive. However, it is necessary if we are to live in a free society to tolerate both actions and speech that offend.
I suggest that in the case of the "'wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness' that stopped Christians wearing religious symbols at work" the correct solution would be to advocate getting the rules on what can be worn changed for all, rather than demanding an exception for a particular religious symbol.
People should be allowed to cover their faces where they so wish, but where this is problematic, all should have to show their faces.
Where motorcycle helmets and hoodies are not allowed, the same should apply to the full veil, with no exception on the basis of religion.
John Catt, Loughborough

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


To London this morning, to attend a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. Cllr Manjula Sood, Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths and former Lord Mayor of Leicester, secured invitations for Ajay Aggarwal (Coordinator at the Council of Faiths office) and I to attend this event today. I don't really know if you're invited to attend a Garden Party for a particular reason, but Manjula said it being in recognition of our work in promoting community cohesion - and her word is good enough for me.

The process started back in January. Manjula recommended our names to the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, whose office passes them on to the Palace, whence the Lord Chamberlain's Office issues the invitations. We can each take one guest with us. Ajay's wife is poorly today and can't come. Clare is with me. We've both agonised over what to wear. I buy a new suit (the day before, of course!) I haven't bought a new suit in at least seven years and am embarrassed to admit that I've gone up from a 34 inch waist to a 38 in that time.
Dress code for the day is:
Ladies: Day dress with hat or Uniform (No medals). Trouser suit may be worn
Gentlemen: Morning Coat, Lounge Suit or Uniform (No medals).
Chains of Office may be worn; National Dress may be worn.

Clare is wearing a Fascinator. If it were not for occasions such as this (and Ladies Day at Ascot), the Fascinator would surely have died out by now. There are plenty on show here, of varied designs and colours. Some of them look amazing, like little clouds of sprites orbiting the wearer's head; others look weirdly like the result of an explosive gunshot wound! Clare's is very subtle - it's cyan, matching the main colour in her outfit. She's worn it since leaving the house this morning. When she got into a taxi to go to the train station, the taxi driver asked her, "And where are we going to?" She replied, "Buckingham Palace" to which the driver responded, "No, where are we going to now?"

Gates open to admit guests at 1500. We spend an hour or so before that in Green Park. We have a brief pleasant chat with a fellow guest, who turns out to be Photo Editor for the magazine Derbyshire Life. I take the opportunity to leave her my card for REDP (of course). I get two 99s from a kiosk at the other end of the park and walk back to the bench Clare's on with arms ever more outstretched, to prevent the melting ice cream dripping onto my suit.
Here's the timetable for the afternoon, taken from the printed programme:
1500 Gates open
1530 Tea is served in the main tent until 1700
1540 Yeomen of the Guard hold ground
1600 The National anthem announces the arrival of Her Majesty The Queen and Members of the Royal Family. A small number of individual presentations will be pre-arranged with those who are to be presented in the Garden near the Terrace Steps. Gentlemen at arms will then form lanes for the Queen and Members of the Royal Family to move through the guests.
1615 Tea is served in the Diplomatic Tea Tent
1630 Tea is served in the Royal Tea Tent
1710 The Queen and Members of the Royal Family depart
1800 The National anthem

We enter the Palace grounds not through the gate at Hyde Park Corner, as the queue is probably shorter there, with a wait of about 20 minutes. We move down through the gardens following the sound of the band, eventually settling in a shady spot from which we can see the front entrance to the Palace. The Royal Car (I don't know if that's meant to have initial caps, but best to play safe) draws up and two people who appear to be the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh (recognisable at some distance by his distinctive gait) alight and go on up the steps into the Palace.

Several myths and misconceptions exist about these Garden Parties (many of which I believed myself before attending). It's certainly a mistake to describe it (as so many do) as "taking tea with the Queen". We don't see the Queen or any other member of the Royal Family close up. No one comes into contact with any of them unless you have a specific invitation to the Diplomatic Tea Tent or the Royal Tea Tent. A good number of people position their seats in front of the Royal Tea Tent (which stretches for quite a way and is open to view for almost its entire length) and get a good view of the dignitaries inside. That's not really our cup of tea (Ah thang yaw!) and we spend most of our time looking round the gardens. Clare's a bit of a birdwatcher, so takes an interest in what's swimming on the lake.

In the general information all guests receive in advance of the day, we're told that "cameras may not be brought as photography is not permitted in the Palace or Garden" (that's in bold caps) and that "mobile telephones must be switched off" (that's in bold caps and underlined). So there are no personal photos to illustrate the visit (although as we walk round the garden, we do see folk taking sneaky pics here and there). I did try and take a few in Green Park, before and after, but I haven't yet mastered the arms-length camera phone self portrait (as you can see, from the one below).

This is a pleasant experience (no matter what my expression might say in the photo above) and a lovely way to spend a sunny summer afternoon. We're glad we went and we're grateful to Manjula for putting our names forward to receive the invitations.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


At St Mary's Triangle, Clarendon Park, for The Big Lunch – a local contribution to a national string of activities  inspired by The Eden Project. This local event was organised by a group of three women from Holy Trinity Church, on Regent Road. They (plus one bloke blowing up balloons) are the only ones there when Harry and I arrive shortly before 1300, but numbers soon swell. At its peak there are at least 30 people gathered on a fairly small patch of public land hiding in plain sight halfway down (or up) on Victoria Park Road: little known, little used green space, quiet and well preserved and just the other side of the road from one of the city's largest and most popular parks.

The food and drink everyone brings is pooled, tables are nicely laid out with proper china tea sets. Gazebos are dotted around, fun and games abound with a giant snakes and ladders, Frisbees and footballs. Props to Leon Charikar for services above and beyond the call of duty for keeping my children (especially Gracie) busy and entertained. If they sleep well tonight, it's largely down to him! Harry got to make a wallet out of a juice carton. Gracie struggled with learning how to cast on (knitting is a very popular activity today).

As always, when meeting a bunch of people for the first time (and there were many of those), I get to talk about my work, to some sympathetic ears. It's a weekend of diversity – but with a difference. Here's another lively example of what Leicester is good at, if not presented in a way that plays up to the stereotype of a multicultural city. the national organisers give a whole load of reasons for doing this, which I quote here:
To stoke up community spirit – we call it Human Warming.

To make the third of us who live alone feel happier, closer and friendlier.

To show how local people can change a neighbourhood for good, forever.

To conquer our natural shyness, to open our curtains, doors and minds and look out for one another the way we used to.

To share stories, skills and tools, so we all end up richer in every sense.

To discover common ground across age, class, faith, race and the garden fence, and to remind ourselves that charity begins at home, or at most, a couple of doors away.
Some people are doing it to promote a cause of common interest or to raise funds for an appropriate charitable purpose. We're not doing that as a group here today, although some attendees take the opportunity to spread the word and solicit opinion about issues of concern locally.

On The Big Lunch's own blog it says, "Today The Big Lunch has inspired an estimated one million people to participate in a lunch with their neighbours across the UK – a fantastic turn out and a big thank you to everyone who took part and organised their very own Big Lunch."

To find out how The Big Lunch went today – and in anticipation of The Big Lunch 2011, when you, faithful reader, might be able to join in if you haven't done so already –  visit their own blog, which is crammed full of entertaining, inspiring and interesting content.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


At Southfields Library this afternoon, to join in "Fiesta Latina", a day of family fun celebrating Leicester's link with its twin town, Masaya, in Nicaragua.

No need for me to say here that Leicester prides itself on its diversity. But among our established, settled or newly arrived communities identified with different cultures, ethnicities, languages, nationalities, races, religions, here is a different expression of Leicester's diversity, though not so well known, recognised or celebrated.

Leicester and Masaya were officially twinned in 1987. Since then, the Leicester Masaya Link Group (LMLG) has worked to develop and maintain an exchange of contacts between the two cities by co-ordinating projects aimed at enriching life in both cities. LMLG is a registered charity, with two objectives:
  • To work towards the relief of poverty in the Masaya Region by facilitating partnerships for sustainable development.
  • To raise public awareness around global issues in both Leicester and Masaya.

LMLG aims to foster mutual understanding and friendship between the people of Leicester and Masaya, by celebrating the diversity of our respective cities. The link ensures that the global issues which affect our sister city in Nicaragua are as important here as they are in Masaya.

As well as facilitating practical projects that promote sustainable development on the ground in Masaya, the LMLG contributes to the provision of development education and global awareness raising across all sectors of the community, by organising exchange visits, cultural activities, projects in schools, speaker meetings and other public events in Leicester

Today, in the little theatre at Southfields Library there are colourful and informative displays showing life in Msaya and some of the food, drink and other products that come from Nicaragua and its neighbour countries. We get the chance to do some craft activities. Harry and Grace particularly enjoy the mask-making.

I join in my first salsa lesson this afternoon. I tweeted at the time that I was the best guy in the group, because I was the only guy in the group. I've since realised that there was one other man there, who had adopted my own approach (stand at the back so no one can see you) and taken it one step further - in other words, he stood behind me even. Well, at least I can confidently state that I was in the top two guys there. And, as we all know, faithful reader, "People love to say 'salsa'!"

An initial tweet, announcing the event, was retweeted by @WCWDT - the twitterfeed of What Can We Do Today, an independently published free magazine distributed to primary school children and their families across the borough of Charnwood.


The Bishop of Leicester's First Person column appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Ban on religious symbols is not the way forward
The Bishop of Leicester sees France's move to ban the niqab as a disturbing development
Earlier this year a nurse was banned from wearing a crucifix by her employers. In his Easter sermon the Archbishop of Canterbury subsequently spoke out about "wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness" that stopped Christians wearing religious symbols at work.
He went on to say that there is currently a strange mixture of contempt and fear towards Christianity.
Last Tuesday the French took the banning of religious symbols one step further. Their parliament passed a law which will affect fewer than 2,000 people out of a population of 64 million. The people whom the law targets are the small number of Muslim women who wear a full-face veil or niqab.
The French parliament voted 335 to one in favour of a bill that would make it an offence punishable by a fine to appear in public in the full veil. Any man convicted of insisting that his wife or daughter wear it can be imprisoned for up to a year. During the debate the niqab was described as a "walking coffin" by one MP, and "a threat to French values" by another.
In secular societies religious symbols are increasingly seen as dangerous and problematic. Last month I listened to a distressed woman speak about being attacked by a youth in Leicester while she was wearing a niqab. The youth tore down her veil and shouted abuse at her. This was not the first experience of abuse she has suffered but it was the most serious.
The woman went on to speak of how the incident had knocked her confidence, but she knew that she must stand up and go ahead with the complaint to the police. The offender was found through CCTV evidence.
Subsequently, other Muslim women have come forward to her to say they have suffered the same kind of abuse, including the woman's own daughter.
The Lord Mayor of Leicester recently expressed the view that "religion has no role to play in the conduct of Council business". In secular societies there is always a tendency to get anxious about expressions of religion. The niqab can be unsettling for many people but why do the state and employers feel the need to ban it?
Many of the great cities of the world are made up of people from different cultures and faiths. In plural societies people live plural lives. One of the main strengths of Leicester is that its diverse citizens and communities respect each other's cultural and religious differences and value them rather than be threatened by them.
If we follow the example of the French and try to impose a single culture it leads us to question what would be banned next? Banning religious symbols is not the way forward.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


To London this morning, for a meeting of the English Regions Equality Network (EREN). I'm travelling with Dee Martin (Chief Exec of Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living and first/past Chair of the Regional Equality and Partnership). Dee is currently Co-Chair of EREN.

The meeting is being held at Age UK on Pentonville Road. I'm last to enter the meeting room and make a slightly more memorable entrance than I'd like by forcefully and noisily pulling on a door clearly marked "push".

There are 14 of us here in all. from pan-equalities groups working in different regions: London, East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West, South West. Each of us has our own particular area of interest within equalities work. We also have representation from the Equality and Diversity Forum.

The session is facilitated by Ange Jones, from the National Equalities Partnership. She begins by setting us an interesting icebreaker activity, in which we speak with the person sitting next to us, and say what we're like when we're at our best. After ten minutes we have a list of qualities, including the following: action-based; balanced; challenging; charming; creative; debonair; enthusiastic; facilitative; focused; giving constructive criticism; having a vision of the future; honest; hopeful; inclusive; laughing a lot; listening to others; non-judgmental; pragmatic; respectful; seeing links others don't; sensitive. These are the qualities we're asked to draw on throughout the day in our interactions here. (We do, of course, spend the same amount of time talking to the person next to us about we're like when we're at our worst, come up with a list of those qualities and are asked to steer clear of that way of doing things in this meeting.)

Paul Dunn (Co-Chair of EREN and CEO of Equality South West) gave an introduction to the short but fruitful history of EREN and positioned it within the current social, political and economic landscape - what some might describe as "flux", while others might call it "slash and burn". He set the task of the day as our need to discuss how we might sustain the network, how we might move on. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has funded EREN for the next 12 months, though it is unclear precisely what it wants EREN to do in that time. GEO's own agenda for the regions is not clear. All we can say at present is that funding EREN for a year appears to be their regional agenda (if that sounds a bit circular or confusing, then I have conveyed it accurately). There's a sense of urgency about the meeting. Is it useful to look at what EREN has done in the past, how it has done it? Or should we think of the present as Year Zero, since things around us have changed so much, so quickly?

We start our work proper with the question, "What do we need EREN to be now - and for the future?" After brainstorming some key words for a few minutes, we divide into three groups and spend a quarter of an hour juggling some of those words to come up with a sentence that says what EREN is all about. Our gang of four experiments with diagrams and flow charts before coming up with "The vehicle between policy and practice within and across the regions". Another group has "Promoting equality voices nationally". The third group doesn't come up with one of their own. After lunch we try to blend those two sentences into one - but we don't quite manage it.

In our small groups again, we undertake a SWOT analysis of EREN. For the uninitiated, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Our group is asked to consider opportunities and threats. We come up with a whole lot more of the former than the latter. I can't believe that we're being naive about this or hiding our heads in the sand, but among the challenges that lie ahead, some of us can see a real chance to help set the agenda and push for real progress in the equalities field. Some people and organisations might be able to do no more than lay down and die; others might be deliberately killed off. But some are going to survive - not just that, but thrive. We need to learn to speak a new language, work with the new conditions, rather than against them, to go with the flow rather than try and turn back the tide.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

REDP core reference group

The Core Reference Group of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP) meets for the first time today. This is the main membership that will set the direction of the whole partnership. Its esgablishment marks our entry into the second phase of the project, at the start of our second year of public activity.

We're meeting at Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL) from 12100 to 1500. We had originally thought of holding our first meeting in neutral territory, outwith the main cities of the region (Derby, Leicester, Nottingham). Our first choice was Grantham. But we decided to hold it here in the end, so that the rest of the membership of the Core Reference Group would have the chance to see the facilities at our disposal and to meet the team supporting the project.

The Core Partners, with the regular and practical assistance of the Delivery Group, has put a lot of thought and effort into preparing Terms of Reference, Code of Conduct and Criteria for Membership. These have all been sent out to potential members of the Core Reference Group in advance; we've encouraged these organisations to consider all these and only to commit to membership if they can meet the standards contained in these documents. If that smacks of being a bit harsh or controlling, it's born out of the need to be realistic. We're aiming for a fine balance between principle and pragmatism here. We want people who support the pan-equality nature of the project, but who also have the practical wherewithal to do their bit in advancing it. Each of the protected characteristics (and other areas of interest) have their own criteria for membership. Here are the general criteria which each one of the represented organisations needs to meet:
Organisations represented on the Core Reference Group need to demonstrate the following:
That they include, within their regular activities, campaigning for change and making appropriate challenge.
That they have experience of, or are willing and able to, work collaboratively across the East Midlands.

That they are open, honest and respectful in their dealings with other organisations, while holding their own ideas open to change so that all participants may benefit from shared learning and good practice.

That they can make active input not only to their own particular equality area, but also support the common work across equality strands. This is necessary so that the partnership is inclusive of all equality areas and does not operate according to an assumed hierarchy of protected characteristics.

Those individuals who sit on the Core Reference Group for the member organisations should be practitioners, working on the ground on a day-to-day basis (e.g. Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, managers) rather than those bearing honorific titles (e.g. chairs, Presidents, directors, trustees). The intention is that the Core Reference Group should be practical in its focus and be able to respond immediately to challenges and opportunities.
As a group, we have two interesting and practical kinds of shared learning today. We're asked to adopt a traffic light system of cards to help smooth our discussion: red for "I want to speak"; orange for "clarification needed"; green for "I agree". We're also challenged often for use of abbreviations, acronyms and jargon and asked to refine our discussion to the simplest and clearest possible choice of words.

Today we have representatives round the table from almost all the recognised "protected characteristics": age, disability (not gender), race, faith or belief, sexual orientation. We also have representatives for areas not always represented in their own right in terms of equality and diversity: adults with learning difficulties, mental illness, refugees and asylum seekers. Not all the seats on the Core Reference Group are filled yet - and we're in no rush to do so just for the sake of it. Vacant spaces will be held open until appropriate organisations are found to fill them. The groups who are represented around the table today were mostly nominated by people who attended REDP's Involvement Events held in various venues around the region during January, February and March. Now we're partly looking to those who have taken their places on the Core Reference Group to nominate others who may meet the challenge to join them.


It's Cathedral AM this morning at Leicester Cathedral Visitor Centre. This bi-monthly networking breakfast brings together people working in, living in, or otherwise concerned with Leicester city centre. For the first time in a long while, I actually get there in time to have breakfast! There's a smaller turnout than usual today (maybe only half what we're used to) which host Canon Barry Naylor blames on "the July effect". I guess that means a lot of people are on holiday just now.

Our speaker this morning is John Florance (photo above, with Barry Naylor) from BBC Radio Leicester. He gives us a whistlestop tour of the past, present and possible future of local radio in general and BBC Radio Leicester in particular. Leicester was the first city in the UK to have its own radio station (from Nov 1967) and it pioneered certain aspects of radio broadcasting that we now take for granted, such as the on-air phone-in. John is very funny (if a bit risque for this time of the morning) and he provides an enlightening and entertaining 20 minute talk. At the end of the session I get the chance to tell him that BBC Radio Leicester's web page on Inter Faith Week was featured in a presentation to delegates at the Inter Faith Network UK national conference in London just last week. This web page was, in part, based on the content of an interview John conducted live with Noel Singh, Ibrahim Moghra and myself on the first day of that week in November last year.

Speaking of Inter Faith Week, this morning I meet Mark Murphy, who has recently been appointed General Manager at Highcross. After introducing myself, I speak with him about the possibility of Highcross once again mounting the Council of Faiths exhibition when Inter Faith Week rolls around again later this year. It's a friendly first meeting and he asks me to drop him a line soon, so that Julie Ann and I can explore this with him and his staff.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

REDP delivery group

Regular Tuesday morning meeting of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP) delivery group at Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL). Six of us here today, including myself. Main focus of our attention is the latest draft of the Community Engagement Strategy for East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS). We've already seen one version of this, made comments and sent them to EMAS. We'll be doing more of the same with this latest version.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Leicester Leaders

At the Walkers Stadium this morning for a Leicester Leaders Partnership Meeting, a pretty large event in the Great Hall involving Head Teachers of city and county schools, Senior Leaders, School Governors, educational advisers, specialists in community cohesion etc. I signed up for this at the SACRE AGM a couple of weeks ago, although all of us who enrolled at that meeting are missing from the list of attendees for today.I guess our forms got last somewhere between there and here.

The keynote speaker is Ted Cantle, the man who virtually invented community cohesion in terms of how it has been known, discussed, argued over, owned and disowned in the past ten years or so. He gives an overview of the past, present and future(s) of community cohesion, especially as it affects schools and the communities in which they are located. It's a pleasure to listen to him and to see his professional and easy (by which I don't mean slick") presentation. In a break later in the morning, I get the chance to speak with him for a few minutes one-to-one. Ted used to live in Leicester (his children were schooled here) and he has warm and positive associations with the Council of Faiths. He offers a few tips about strengthening our position in the city, which I find helpful and reassuring.

At the request of Jill Carr, Secretary of SACRE, I take part in the workshop presenting our new series of booklets, "Engaging with Faith Communities in Leicester", a round table discussion (literally) with representatives of half a dozen or so schools about the process of the series's development and the potential uses of the material it contains.

This is  rather high-powered occasion, with many influential figures from the world of education in Leicester, Leicestershire and beyond. From my understanding of our contract arrangements with Leicester city Council, we should be involved in such events by right. I'm only here because information about today was included in the pack that was given out at the SACE AGM. The Council of Faiths didn't receive any other notice of this occasion. I mention this (courteously of course) to Jasbir Mann, who leads this morning's meeting and she agrees the Council of Faiths should be automatically invited to any such event in future.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


This is my third time attending this annual event since I began working for Leicester Council of Faiths. The first was in this same venue, Glaziers Hall (2008), the second at Grace Road, home of Leicestershire County Cricket Club (2009). On those two earlier occasions, I acted as note-taker at one of the workshops. This time I'm free to take part in the day in my own right.

The theme of the National Meeting this year is "Shaping Our Shared Society: The Key Role of Local Inter Faith Organisations". Growing numbers of inter faith organisations are working at local level to develop good inter faith relations and to encourage cooperation on social issues. This meeting offers a chance to hear about how they are developing their work and about the challenges they are facing and the opportunities they see ahead. The topic is relevant to all types of body in membership of the Inter Faith Network: to local bodies themselves; to national faith communities which support and encourage their work; and to national and regional inter faith bodies which are, increasingly, looking to find ways to work in partnership with local projects and to support their work.

We're welcomed by Rt Rev Dr Alastair Redfern and Dr Girdari Bhan, Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network

Plenary sessions this morning:
Building good inter faith relations locally: a task for our times
Dr Harriet Crabtree, Director, Inter Faith Network, considers the changing landscape for local inter faith work and some of the key issues helping shape this; and reflects on the vital importance of local inter faith initiatives.

Developing good relations in the multi faith city
Kashmir Singh Rajput, Chair of Bradford District Faiths Forum, gives an insight into how this busy metropolitan faith forum has been working to identify issues of importance to the different faith communities in the city and its neighbourhoods and to build a range of partnerships to enable dialogue and social cooperation, both across communities generally and also bilaterally and trilaterally between particular communities.

A perspective from Government on the importance of local inter faith work as part of developing good community relations
Andrew Stunell OBE, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government with responsibilities including community cohesion (including future of Prevent); building regulations; race equality and the Big Society.

Dialogue on the spot
A moment to talk with your neighbours about the themes of the day

Developing local inter faith work in less diverse areas
Dr Maureen Sier, on secondment from the Scottish Inter Faith Council to the Scottish Executive/Government draws on her experience of working with local inter faith groups in Scotland to discuss how inter faith work is being developed in less diverse areas. How – if at all – does this differ from work in a multi faith city?

National faith communities – supporting and encouraging local inter faith work
Moulana M Shahid Raza OBE, Chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) talks about its new initiative to encourage imams to play a role in local inter faith bodies and to encourage their congregations to do likewise.

Inter Faith Week
Stella Opoku-Owusu, Local and Regional Inter Faith Officer and Elin Henrysson, Project Assistant, Inter Faith Network give a short presentation of images of the 2009 Week and ideas for 2010. Fakhara Rehman, Community Faiths Coordinator, Kirklees Faiths Forum: our Inter Faith Week story - a packed Week of events for every age!

Sustaining the vision: resources and structures
Anna Allen, Head of Programmes, Community Development Foundation (CDF), talks about how recent funding programmes have been helping support local inter faith initiatives and reflects on some of the challenges for these of developing sustainable patterns of funding and structures which can help underpin their work well.

Seven workshops are run this afternoon on the following themes:
1. Developing a relevant and lively programme
Hear from two local groups about how they have been developing their programme and exchange ideas with members of groups in other areas.
Facilitator: Patricia Stoat, Chief Executive Officer, Faith Forum for the East Midlands
Presenters: Ryad Khodabocus, Community Relations Development Worker Luton Borough Council/Luton Council of Faiths and Peter Adams, Luton Council of Faiths; Dr David Capey, Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource

2. Outreach and membership
Developing a strong membership base and involving the faith communities in your area. A chance to discuss methods of outreach and patterns of membership, including some of the issues to consider when developing a constitution.
Facilitator: Amy Willshire, "Faith Ambassador", Waltham Forest Faith Communities Forum, London
Presenters: Brian Pearce OBE, Adviser, Faith and Public Life, Inter Faith Network; Resham Singh Sandhu MBE DL, Member, Leicester Council Faiths, Vice-Chair, Leicestershire Faith Forum and Trustee Faiths Forum for the East Midlands

3. Resources and training for religious literacy and inter faith understanding
A number of local inter faith bodies now run training for public authorities and others and produce materials to help people learn about the faiths in their areas or to understand what inter faith work is about. A chance to hear from two groups and to share your own experiences of this kind of work.
Facilitator: Rev Andrew Brown, Public Education Programmes Manager for the Woolf Institute, Cambridge
Presenters: Jatinder Singh Birdi, Warwick District Faiths Forum; Jonathan Marshall and Vallabhdas Meswania, Plymouth Centre for Faiths and Cultural Diversity

4. Involving young people in local inter faith programmes
Last year’s Inter Faith Network National Meeting had a special focus on young people and inter faith relations and an Inter Faith Network/National Association of SACREs looked at this in the course of a seminar on joint working by local inter faith bodies and SACREs. This workshop is a chance to talk about how local inter faith bodies are working to involve young people in their activities.
Facilitator: Ramona Kauth, Birmingham Council of Faiths
Presenters: Pastor Charles Kwaku-Odoi, Faith Network 4 Manchester; Dr Phil Henry, Director, Multi Faith Centre at Derby University which is developing a Derby Youth Inter Faith Forum (in consultation with the Faith Forum for Derby)

5. Multi media approaches to making the work known
Websites, radio interviews, DVDs, leaflets, newspaper articles. What are some of the ways that local inter faith bodies are using to gain more profile for themselves?
Facilitator: Jyoti Mehta, Institute of Jainology, Young Jains and Inter Faith Network Executive Committee member
Presenters: Paresh Solanki, Assistant Director (Communications and Development), Inter Faith Network; Selina Brown, Executive Communications Officer, West Midlands Faiths Forum

6. National faith communities and support for local inter faith work
Looking at how national faith communities are helping local members building good inter faith relations locally – and also learning from local inter faith groups.
Facilitator: Mgr Andrew Faley, Assistant General Secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Inter Faith Network Executive Committee member
Presenter: Philip Rosenberg, Interfaith Officer, Board of Deputies of British Jews
With brief responding reflections from Dr Joy Barrow, Inter Faith Relations Officer, Methodist Church in Britain and Ramesh Pattni, Co-Chair, Hindu-Christian Forum and Chair of the Interfaith Committee, Hindu Forum of Britain

7. Inter Faith Week: Looking back to 2009 and forward to this year’s Week
Discussion about the 2009 Week and plans for the 2010 Week. Come and share your news and ideas.
Facilitator/ Presenter: David Vane, Buddhist member and Secretary, Southampton Council of Faiths
Presenter: Rev Alan Bayes, Chair, Inter Faith Council for Wales

The final session of the National Meeting is:
Perspectives on the development of local inter faith work for the future
Short reflection pieces from: Deanna Van der Velde, Newcastle Council of Faiths, Chair, North East branch of Council of Christians and Jews and Chair, Newcastle SACRE, and member, Task Group, North East Regional Faith Network Ganesh Lall, member of South London Inter Faith Group and Caribbean Hindu Society; Mehru Fitter, member of Coventry Multi Faith Forum, Executive member, West Midlands Faiths Forum and member of Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe.