Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Here's the poster put up around town for Billy Bates & Sons Fun Fair, currently at Victoria Park. In an interesting example of diversity, the poster states that Billy Bates is "Supporting Leicester Pride" and extends an invitation to "Celebrate Eid at the fun fair". Not often you'll see those two occasions linked together, faithful reader - gotta love Leicester!

Saturday, 27 August 2011


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Mosque users "block street"
A mosque which opened without permission is facing an investigation into its use and complaints about worshippers parking in the streets.
A former plumbing supplies store on the corner of Harewood Street, in Humberstone, has been used as a mosque for the past week.
Neighbours said the number of visitors' cars for evening prayers had made the narrow street impassable.
Leicester City Council has launched an investigation into the use as a mosque.
One resident of Harewood Street, who did not want to be named, said: "There are problems with parking and cars are being scratched."But the other big worry is that they could never get a fire engine into the road – you can't get a normal car through."
A 29-year-old woman who lives in the road, said: "The other night I found it impossible to get out of the street.
"The city council has closed part of Fernie Road and the parking was crazy at the top of Harewood Street.
"People are parking wherever – in the middle of the road, even."
The one-storey building was bought in June by members of Masjid At-Taqwa mosque on the other side of Harewood Street. The original mosque is now solely used for women.
Idris Waraich, 50, of the mosque's committee, said members of the community had raised £300,000 to buy the derelict building, which was being refurbished as a mosque and community centre.
He said: "We have wanted to extend the services we provide, including providing a place for prayer, social events, charitable work and education.
"Planning permission was granted to extend our original premises."Unfortunately, due to the need for a bigger venue – and the enthusiasm the new building has generated – events rather overtook us.
"The fact that all this has taken place during Ramadhan has made it difficult."
"We want to work much more closely with the council and wider community and will be submitting a formal planning application in the next two weeks."
The application will include a travel plan involving cycling and public transport for visitors, along with warning signs to deter parking in the street.
A spokesman for Leicester City Council said: "There isn't planning consent for it to be used in that way and, depending on the outcome of the investigation, we would have the power to serve an enforcement notice requiring those activities to cease."
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "This has happened in the past where people have identified a place, collected the money and purchased it, then applied to the local authority for permission.
"It's a problem in inner cities of finding suitable places of worship."The original mosque in Harewood Street is obviously not big enough."

Friday, 26 August 2011


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 385
  2. United States 158
  3. Germany 67
  4. Russia 50
  5. France 43
  6. Ukraine 26
  7. India 21
  8. Canada 17
  9. Latvia 16
  10. Thailand 14

This week's total: 797 (last week's: 818). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of this map for "now" (whenever that is), today, this week, this month and "all time" (which seems to mean the last 12 months). They're updated each time I look at that them.

Personnel Management Group

Meeting with my Personnel Management Group this morning in Pilgrim House. For the first time, we meet in the downstairs office, as the Welcome Centre is being used by LARA (Leicestershire Active Retirement Association) who book it every other Friday morning.

For one reason and another, we've been unable to meet according to our schedule over the summer. I have another appointment on the outskirts of the city at 1300 for which I can't be late. We have a lot to discuss, both general and particular and there's plenty left over at the end of the meeting. So we fix another meeting for a fortnight from now.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Church query
Could I please ask if any Mercury reader knows what has happened to St Gabriel's Church, in Kerrysdale Avenue, Leicester.
I have a friend who has moved to Fareham and has written to ask me, as she had heard it was due to close. She played the organ there in the late 1960s.
Mrs Susan Foulds, Anstey

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Riots reveal disaffection on a wider scale

Here's the First Person column from today's Leicester Mercury:
Riots reveal disaffection on a wider scale 
Suleman Nagdi asks why integration is seen exclusively as an issue for Muslims? 
As the fallout and recriminations begin over the causes of the riots that have devastated the social fabric of Britain, it is time to discuss a most pressing issue, an issue that needs to be discussed by the media, expert commentators and academics. Simply put, when there was large scale rioting a decade ago in some northern cities, various analyses blamed Muslims for failing to integrate into mainstream society as the main cause. Now consistency in our analysis is needed to ask whether the young hooligans carrying out the riots from white, black and Asian communities have also failed to integrate themselves into British society. 
Among the problems cited as causes for the riots have been unemployment, failure of education, lack of opportunities, boredom and a frustration with politics over national and international policies. However, what has not been cited as a major cause is the issue of integration and whether young people from certain communities have behaved irresponsibly because they or their parents have failed to integrate fully into British society and have failed to become British. 
We need to look seriously into this as a society and accept that integration is an issue for all communities not just one, especially when integration has not been deemed as a problem in some of those communities affected by the riots. 
Just as I disagree with the pigeon-holing of the Muslim community whereby we are all expected to share the blame for the latest atrocity committed by a tiny few, I cannot blame anyone for this violence except people involved who are united in their common greed and disregard for others in society. These are people from many races, cultures and backgrounds who have plunged our country into disarray seeming not to share a cultural or indeed religious heritage, making it more complex to profile them. Thus they have been spared the wrath of commentators who are boosted by public resentment to lambast certain social groups. 
Muslims in Britain are especially victims of this, as was seen most recently with the Norway terror attacks, following which every major news outlet spent several hours pouring scorn on the Islamist threat. They were forced to make drastic U-turns when the facts emerged, quickly brushing their mistaken analysis under the carpet, fearing no accountability. 
We cannot compartmentalise the issue into a faith-based conflict regardless of the causes. Let us hope that the current riots do not lead to the vilification of any racial group. Rather let us avoid the mistakes of the past where one group has been stigmatised and vilified and instead consider integration as an issue not just for some but for all, for it is an issue in which we are all stakeholders in our desire for a better Britain. 
Suleman Nagdi is spokesman for the Federation of Muslim Organisations


From today's Leicester Mercury:

"Amazing" start to Ramadhan Festival 
About 1,000 people visited the first day of an event to celebrate an important Muslim festival. 
Ramadhan Festival began yesterday at the O2 Academy at the University of Leicester, and will be running until Sunday. 
Some 60 stall holders sold a range of Islamic gifts and art, while visitors enjoyed music performances, calligraphy displays and dance shows. There was also a play zone for children. 
Festival organiser Abdul Osman said: "It has gone pretty amazingly so far. There were so many people, all having a good day, with lots going on. 
"Lots of people of all faiths have visited." 
Throughout the festival, cash will be collected for charity Muslim Aid, which will be spent on relief in drought-hit Africa. 
Professor Robert Burgess, Vice Chancellor of The University of Leicester, said he was delighted to host the festival which he says will make an important contribution to the city's multi-faith community.

 In the photo: Aatiqua Rawat, 21, looking at some of the clothes at the O2 Academy, Leicester

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Leicester Speaks 2011 steering group

A meeting this morning of the steering group for Leicester Speaks 2011 at Leicester Adult Education College, Wellington Street. Apart from ourselves, representatives from the following organisations are attending:

We debrief on the pre-launch event in Gallowtree Gate three weeks ago and watch the video of that day that's been posted on the Leicester Speaks website. To give us better access, capacity and control, the Leicester Speaks website will shortly be migrating to a dedicated service based at the Adult Education College. The website is already very impressive - and it gives good promotional exposure to Leicester Council of Faiths.

We discuss the connection of Leicester Speaks to other events happening in the city before our week, most significantly, Our Leicester Day in Leicester Market on Sunday 11 September. We also talk about the content and structure of the week and tentatively agree that while we'll encourage diversity and variety of activities across the city during the mornings and afternoons, we'll try and we should aim for just one badged event each evening to obtain maximum support and exposure. The first major theme for potential discussion at one or more of our events emerged this morning: volunteering.

The big launch on Wednesday 12 October will be an all-day event focused on Humberstone Gate, where there will be a variety of exhibitors, entertainment and participation of the City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby. Our "Just a Minute" feature, that was so successful at last year's launch will be done three times during the day.

Libraries, community centres, Leicester Adult Education College and a number of other venues under City Council control will be available free of charge (subject to availability) to community groups who want to put on any activity during the week of Leicester Speaks.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Hindus mark Lord Krishna's day 
There was singing, dancing and feasting as hundreds of Hindus gathered for one of the most important festivals in their calendar. 
Krishna Janmashtami, which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, is marked every year by millions of worshippers all over the world. 
Among the celebrations were two days of festivities hosted by the Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Hare Krishna group at Leicester Coliseum in Melton Road. 
These started on Sunday and are due to continue until midnight tonight – believed to be the exact time of Krishna's birth over 5,000 years ago. 
The group's chairman, Pradyumna Das, said: "We like to take the opportunity to bring the ingredients of culture and devotion to God to the people of Leicester." 
It is the first time in Iskcon Leicester's history that the festival was celebrated outside temple premises, following an explosion which destroyed their building in Thoresby Street, North Evington, in September last year. 
The group has lodged a planning application to change the use of the grade II-listed former HSBC bank, in Granby Street, from a bank into a new place of worship.

In the photo above: Bansh Dhari Govanda Das (right) with Himani Solanki, from Oadby

Monday, 22 August 2011


Today is the start of the Castle Park Heritage & Arts Festival - one of the most popular such events in Leicester's calendar, now in its 22nd year. These posters have been up all over the city - and it's interesting to note that two of the images on the poster are faith community related: Leicester Cathedral (main picture at top) and the Nagarjuna Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Guildhall Lane (second from right).

Saturday, 20 August 2011


From today's Leicester Mercury:

Beat bobby shows solidarity by fasting with colleagues 
By Ciaran Fagan, Social Affairs Corresspondent
A police officer wanted to know how Muslim colleagues and people on his beat felt while fasting during Ramadan – so he went without food himself. 
Sergeant Danny Graham, who works at Leicester's Spinney Hill Park police station, abstained from food during daylight hours for three consecutive days this week. 
On each occasion, he then went on to break his fast with worshippers at the Masjid Umar mosque in Evington Road. 
He said: "I wanted to do it because it gave me a small insight to what colleagues and people in the community do during Ramadan. 
"I did it for a day last year, but I went for three days this time. 
"It is a challenge but it was a pleasure to break the fast with the people at the mosque each time. 
"It makes you focus your thinking and appreciate all the things we have and that there are many poor people in this world who have little or no food and water." 
Inspector Bill Knopp, commander at Spinney Hill Park station, said: "Danny is responsible for an area which has a very diverse Muslim community and he wanted to step into their shoes for a while. 
"Last year, he fasted for a day to show solidarity with the four Muslim colleagues we have here at the station who were fasting at that time. 
"This time, he has gone for three days and that is a credit to him." 
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman for the Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "I'm sure members of the community will appreciate Sgt Graham's gesture. 
"It's a good example of how people in Leicester want to learn about each other. 
"Fasting helps people realise how fortunate they are when there are so many in this world who do not have even the basics – as we are seeing in East Africa at the moment." 
The dates of Ramadan, which concludes at the end of the month, change each year because they are governed by the lunar calendar.
This year, members of the community will face some of the longest days in recent times, on occasions fasting for about 19 hours.
Pc Yusuf Nagdi, who works at Spinney Hill Park station, told the Mercury last week how he combined his duties with his faith commitments. 
He said: "It is a juggling act, but one that I feel I can do well, thanks to a few changes such as when I start work, and fitting in prayers during my patrols. 
"Obviously, if there was an incident that would take priority, but as long as I am not too busy, I am encouraged to pop into the local mosques in my beat, in uniform, and carry out my prayers."

Friday, 19 August 2011

This week's visitors

Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 392
  2. United States 124
  3. Germany 55
  4. Latvia 44
  5. Slovenia 43
  6. Russia 40
  7. Netherlands 39
  8. India 35
  9. Romania 28
  10. Canada 19

This week's total: 818 (last week's: 820). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of this map for "now" (whenever that is), today, this week, this month and "all time" (which seems to mean the last 12 months). They're updated each time I look at that them.

Meeting at The Towers

Meeting at The Towers this morning with Abida Hussein (Equality & Human Rights Officer, Integrated Equality Service, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust). We're concentrating on wrapping up the text for the staff resource booklet on hospital care for patients of different affiliations in terms of religion or belief. Copy for the communities who are members of Leicester Council of Faiths has been finalised some months ago; those sections closely follow the text of our leaflets and I have easy access to individuals from those communities to check facts for me. However, the resource is supposed to be more wide-ranging than just those eight faiths, so I've been writing additional sections in similar style on Humanists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Pagans and Rastafarians. Abida wants to sign off on the project later today before she goes on leave for the last part of Ramadan, which means that I have till 1515 this afternoon to finish those additional sections. So it's back to the office, toot de suite, after our meeting to polish off those final sections!

We need an ethos that we can all share

Here's the First Person column from today's Leicester Mercury
We need an ethos that we can all share 
Allan Hayes considers the social problems underlying the outbreak of street violence 
In the last week I have gone through a range of feelings: disbelief, shame; reassurance/relief; and pride in the way communities were asserting themselves. Government must carry out its overriding responsibility for law and order, but we need to ask if there are things about our society that need correcting. 
In his speech to the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed to the importance of the ethos of our educational institutions – he wants them to educate "citizens, not consumers, not cogs in an economic system"; to produce empathy with others and a "deepened sense of our involvement together in a social project". This is admirable and it is surely something that all our schools aim to do – we need to put more into helping them. 
But the ethos must be one that we can all share, whatever might be the motivation or basis that we may bring to it personally or from our own culture; and empathy and a sense of involvement are surely better nurtured when children from different backgrounds grow up together. 
Moreover, we need also to be concerned about the ethos of our society as a whole: is it fair, does it care for all its members? There is a perception, not restricted to rioters, that the poor and the young are bearing an unfair share of the consequences of amoral, detached financial mismanagement; that a game is being played that ignores most of us. 
Government must show that people count, that in deciding policy, the effect on people carries weight. Financial management is important, but we are getting the impression that the financial bottom line comes first and the effect on people is a side issue. 
We need to be aware of some deep problems in our society: gross income inequalities, and how low we rank internationally in care for our children. We need to work on building one community, one caring society; and we need to develop its capacity to act.Central to this will be more and better communication and ways of helping one another: getting to know one another – help from professionals and businesses in providing our youngsters with hope and vision.Should we not replace the present prescribed courses in religious education with an inclusive celebration of our humanity, including our religions? The recent television series on the life of Muhammed was a fine example (the account of his last sermon was particularly moving), and we should teach about the Muslim contribution to civilization – we must be able to be proud of one another. 
The Archbishop ended by referring to this time as a moment "which could be crucial for the long-term future of our country and our society" – I think he was right. 
Allan Hayes is director of Leicester Secular Society

Thursday, 18 August 2011


I'm facilitating an "away day" for members of Nottingham Inter Faith Council. Our host for this occasion is their Treasurer, Richard, whose lovely big garden is the setting for the photo of today's attendees.

Being the sort of meeting that it is, it's no surprise that those attending are from a variety of backgrounds and traditions - but I do like to list these all the same: Bahá'í, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Christian (Anglicans and Roman Catholics), Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Sikh.

Patricia Stoat, Chair of Nottingham Inter Faith Council (and who represents them on the Core Reference Group of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership) poses three questions at the start of the meeting which we return to during the plenary sessions and which form the topics for our buzz groups:
  • "Where is the next generation?"
  • "What resources might be available to carry on our work in the future?"
  • "What is inter faith activity for?"

Of course, it would be improper to go into detail about our discussions here today. Suffice to say, we consider inter faith activity, dialogue and work in the context of the changing landscape of relations with civil authorities and service providers, public and private funders, legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 and the proposed Bill of Rights.

I'm grateful to my friends and colleagues in Nottingham Inter Faith Council for inviting me to join them for the day, to help facilitate their discussions. I hope we'll find reasons to collaborate again.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Transforming Local Infrastructure in the county

Fourth meeting of the day: 1400 at Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL). This si the second part of today's  meeting to discuss Transforming Local Infrastructure, the latest tranche of money to be released by The Big  Fund. If you want to find out more about The Big Fund and what it's funding in a big way, faithful reader, then visit the Transforming Local Infrastructure website. I'm not going to try and explain how this one works here - my head hurts enough trying to understand it myself.

As well as ourselves and VAL, there are ten infrastructure service support groups represented here this afternoon, each of which has expressed an interest in this bid:

This is the second of two meetings at VAL on this topic today. The morning meeting looked at a potential bid for this funding in relation to the city; the afternoon meeting is doing the same, but for the county.

Stronger Communities Partnership

Third meeting of the day - and it's still only 1100. I'm at 16 New Walk for the Stronger Communities Partnership. Iris Lightfoote (who chairs the Partnership) and I have dashed over here from the meeting on Transforming Local Infrastructure at Voluntary Action Leicestershire (which will go on till 1300 in our absence).

Leicester Council of Faiths has been represented on the Stronger Communities Partnership by our Chair, Councillor Manjula Sood. However, Manjula was appointed one of six Assistant Mayors who make up the Cabinet of Leicester City Council. The Assistant Mayors are being asked to attend meetings of the Stronger Communities Partnership when it discusses topics realted to their portfolios. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, Manjula asked if I would take her place in representing Leicester Council of Faiths on this body. I have attended these meetings several times in the past, but then I was representing the late lamented Equality and Diversity Partnership (EDP).

The theme for today is Children and Young People. There are several members of the City Council's Children's Trust here today, to make a presentation and to asnser questions. We also have the benefit of Assistant Mayor Vi Dempster attending (she is Cabinet Lead for Children and Families). Other community groups represented here today:

Transforming Local Infrastructure in the city

Second meeting of the day: 1000 at Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL). We're meeting to discuss Transforming Local Infrastructure, the latest tranche of money to be released by The Big Fund. I'm not going to try and explain how this one works here - my head hurts enough trying to understand it myself. If you want to find out more, faithful reader, then visit the Transforming Local Infrastructure website.

As well as ourselves and VAL, there are nine infrastructure service support groups represented here this morning, each of which has expressed an interest in this bid:

This is the first of two meetings at VAL on this topic today. The morning meeting is looking at a potential bid for this funding in relation to the city; the afternoon meeting is doing the same, but for the county. I have to dash out of this meeting after only three quarters of an hour (along with Iris Lightfoote) to get to the meeting of the Stronger Communities Partnership at 16 New Walk. I'll be back at VAL for part two of this meeting in a couple of hours though!


First meeting of the day: 0800 at Leicestershire Aids Support Service (LASS), Regent Road. This breakfast gathering of the Voluntary and Community Sector Chief Executive Officers (VCS CEO) Leadership Network is meeting with Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and Deputy Mayor, Councillor Rory Palmer.

Leicester Council of Faiths doesn't have a Chief Executive Officer; it would be a bit mad to have a CEO in an organisation with 1.5 full time equivalent (FTE) staff - including the CEO. But I have the backing and blessing of our Chair to be here this morning and no one protests at my presence.

I came to the first of these meetings, perhaps as long ago as two years back, but then missed several on the trot and eventually dropped off the invite list. As well as ourselves and LASS, there are ten VCS organisations represented here this morning:

A sub group has been working on concrete proposals to put to the Mayor, aimed at strengthening relations between Leicester City Council and the Voluntary and Community Sector. These are focused, innovative and practical and they're all well received by Sir Peter and Councillor Palmer.

All in all, I'd describe this as a happy, positive and warm meeting, where everyone wants to work together to achieve the best outcome for the city and the sector: which are not mutually exclusive. I was glad to be a part of the Forum this morning and I look forward to being involved on a regular basis.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Learning a few home truths from the riots

Here's the First Person column from today's Leicester Mercury:
Learning a few home truths from the riots 
Riaz Ravat considers the repercussions of the violent events of England's 'Angry August' 
While the country reflects on the actions of indignant and unrepentant gangs who have destroyed livelihoods and in some cases more sickeningly, taken innocent lives, the post mortem into "Angry August" has already begun. However, the riots must be seen within a much wider context of what defines the nation. 
A day after the disturbances, St Philip's Centre organised for a group of faith workers to come together to show solidarity with traders and police in the city centre. Over decades, many residents of our city have worked tirelessly to create and uphold our reputation as not only a diverse city but also a resilient one. We were supposed to be different. The faith communities' public show of unity sent a message to the violent perpetrators: You can hurl rocks but you can't harm our resolve. 
The police who deserve our wholehearted support have been hamstrung by a culture of fear. We owe them gratitude for their bravery and commitment to maintaining order. Some politicians, however, need to stop the political "ping pong" and give the police and our justice system the apparatus required to arrest and convict those who have defamed our city and country. The courts need to re-inject public confidence through appropriate sentencing. 
Those who have looted, damaged properties, destroyed essential charity services, killed innocent citizens and terrorised others have benefited from a deregulated society which has struggled to define what it stands for and what its vision is. This vacuum has created a "concierge culture" where responsibility lies elsewhere rather than beginning at home. 
A particular contrast is with the people of North Africa and Arabia. Many of whom are losing their lives daily. While they fight for freedom, the rioters here console themselves with flatscreens and Rolex watches. They have rejected dictatorships while we have embraced designer labels. They have demanded the tools of democracy while we have blunted ours. This contrast is vivid but brings home several home truths about the materialistic, egotistic society we've created. 
While some rioters may have escaped the law, they have been apprehended by the law of unintended consequences. A song dear to my heart reads "At the end of the storm there's a golden sky". The efforts of the community clean-ups in Clapham and the Sikh community protecting Mosques in Southall have highlighted that we may well have accidentally fallen upon the Prime Minister's vision of the Big Society, the irony being that this has been achieved without a penny of Government investment. The usually cumbersome and inconspicuous British have rediscovered their confidence and commitment to each other in the face of aggression. 
Riaz Ravat is based at St Philip's Centre in Leicester.

Friday, 12 August 2011

This week's visitors

Regular update on the number of visits from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 460
  2. United States 116
  3. Germany 53
  4. France 36
  5. Ukraine 32
  6. Russia 31
  7. Romania 27
  8. Latvia 26
  9. Canada 25
  10. Hong Kong 14

This week's total: 820 (last week's: 858). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of this map for "now" (whenever that is), today, this week, this month and "all time" (which seems to mean the last 12 months). They're updated each time I look at that them.


The Leicester Mercury's First Person column today is by Cllr Manjula Sood, Assistant Mayor and Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths.

How we'll keep our promise to voluntary sector 
Assistant city mayor Coun Manjula Sood reflects on the city's vision for those who help others 
We are clearly living in challenging times. While the public sector is bearing the brunt of national financial pressures, the impact is being felt far more widely. For many years, the fortunes of the public and voluntary sectors have been closely linked – not least because the voluntary sector relies so heavily on the financial support of the public sector. 
So the pressures on public finances are being keenly felt by the many voluntary organisations that provide valuable help to citizens. 
When Sir Peter Soulsby was elected as city mayor back in May, he announced his commitment to build a strong relationship with Leicester's voluntary and community sector.
Indeed, one of his 100-day pledges was to set out a vision for the voluntary sector, based on positive work with the many groups in the city. 
I am leading that work and I am delighted to be doing so. When I first came to Leicester over 40 years ago, it was a very different place. The changes I have witnessed are partly due to the efforts of voluntary groups that were established to support different elements of our community. 
I have been an active supporter of these groups – both as a councillor since 1996 and especially during my time as Lord Mayor.Reaching out to our communities through these groups has allowed the city council, along with other public sector organisations, to build strong bridges with everyone – no matter what their background or status. 
It is that ethos we want to continue to develop. We see the council working closely with the voluntary sector – not just through those groups traditionally funded by the local authority, but the many groups and individuals who we cannot fund but who do equally valuable work. 
We're already planning a major summit – hopefully to be held this autumn – when groups and individuals involved in the voluntary sector can come together with the council and others to map out a way forward. 
It is clear that funding will be a critical issue. We know there are difficult times ahead. So it's all the more important we engage with people right across the voluntary sector, explore how they can develop better business skills, use the limited funds available to best effect and open up different channels of funding. 
Despite the financial challenges we are facing, I strongly believe this is a really exciting time for the public and voluntary sectors to work together and tackle these issues in an atmosphere of mutual respect, which I'm sure will benefit the people of Leicester.

A wheely good way to raise awareness

The Citizens' Eye column in today's Leicester Mercury leads with this article about current developments at Network for Change. I taught basic literacy skills and Creative Writing at Network for years. It's a terrific organisation and there's really nothing like it in Leicester, let alone in the whole of the East Midlands. I love Network for Change and all it stands for; I'd support just about anything they do there.

A wheely good way to raise awareness 
By James Black
A director of mental health support group Network for Change is going on a sponsored bike ride to raise awareness of mental health issues. 
Operations director Darren O'Brien, who has worked for Network for Change for 18 years, will travel from Leicester to Bradford to highlight the good work done by the organisation, which has been facing financial difficulties. 
A keen cross-country cyclist, Darren will be aiming to complete 40 miles each day. His 170-mile journey begins on August 23 and takes in much of the Pennine Way along the route. 
The Network for Change resource centre on London Road, Leicester, has been threatened with closure if the group is unable to secure the required funding. It costs £100,000 a year to provide supported housing, activities and advice services to vulnerable people. 
But many of the charitable grants it used to rely on are no longer available. 
Last month, city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby visited the charity to hear the personal stories of people who use the group and how it has helped them. 
Sir Peter has promised to return "within weeks" to give his decision on whether the group would be allocated funding. 
Darren believes that Network for Change offers a unique service vital in the rehabilitation and support of people suffering from mental illness. 
He said: "One of the main things I like about working for Network for Change is that the staff members and the people who use our service are equal partners. 
"We work with users to suit their individual needs and try to improve their lives." 
As well as highlighting the good work done in Leicester Darren also hope to draw attention to The Soteria Project, a national charity based upon the ideas of American psychiatrist Loren Mosher. Mosher was critical of using drugs to treat mental illness, favouring emotional support in a residential environment. 
He said: "I feel the values and ethos of The Soteria Trust are very much suited to Network for Change." 
If you would like to sponsor Darren's bike ride visit:

Thursday, 11 August 2011


At Victoria Park this evening, supporting the "Sharing is Caring" Flashmob Iftar. Iftar is the name given to the evening meal with which Muslims break their fast each day during Ramadan. Similar events were held here during Ramadan 2010. They were successful and attracted some positive media attention; I only got to go to the last of the weekly meetings though. I'm glad to see this return and I'm keen to see how it goes this year.

Harry, Grace and I have been down to De Montfort Hall and Gardens to get our wristbands for Summer Sundae Weekender, checking out what's happening onsite the night before the festival proper begins tomorrow. It's just a short step over to the Pavilion, where the Flashmob Iftar is taking place. The point of this is to extend charity and hospitality to some of the people who virtually live in Victoria Park or who are based in some of the hostels nearby. I used to teach in some of these hostels, when I worked for Leicester City Council's ReMit and Reach programmes, so I'm interested in this event from more than one perspective. I'm also happy to get Harry and Grace involved.

There are more people here this evening than I recall being at the one I managed to attend last year - both from the local Muslim community and the intended beneficiaries of the event. There's more of a mixed turnout in terms of people helping out from other communities. In the photo below, Sughra Ahmed and Selma Ravat (from the Islamic Society of Britain) flank Lesley and Alan of Street Pastors. Lesley and Alan are wearing hi visibility orange  vests, which say "Community Mediator" on the back. they also appear to glow in the dark, judging by their effect on the picture!

When I introduce the kids to some of my friends here, more than one remembers that I told them how Harry stood up for Leicester's Muslims at school, when rumours and falsehoods were being spread about them in the days before the English Defence League visited Leicester in October last year. I was proud of him for doing that and am glad it's not been forgotten.

This event - and others to follow weekly on Thursday evenings during Ramadan - has been organised by Farhaanah Surti on behalf of the Islamic Society of Britain. It's been coordinated largely through the Sharing is Caring page on Facebook.

"We must show united front"

I posted yesterday about members of Leicester Council of Faiths and of St Philip's Centre out and about in the city centre, during the clean up after the disturbances on Tuesday evening. Here's how that's reported in today's Leicester Mercury, linking it up with other positive responses by the community in general.
"We must show united front" 
Peaceful protestors were among those out on the streets of Leicester yesterday to try to prevent further violence. 
A group of about 30 people gathered at the Clock Tower waving banners and playing music from about 3.30pm. 
They were led by 18-year-old Austin Williams, of St Mark's, Leicester, who helped organise the demonstration following a meeting of residents and community groups in Highfields. 
Mr Williams said: "We've been voicing how we feel about the riots and doing what we can to prevent them. 
"We're all about getting kids to harness their energy and make a difference." 
Faith leaders also joined together to offer comfort and support to people and businesses affected by Tuesday night's violence.

Representatives from the Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faiths visited some locations which saw trouble, including Granby Street, the cultural quarter and the Highcross [no mention of the Bahá'í community being involved, although Minou Cortazzi, who represents the Bahá'ís on the Board of Directors of Leicester Council of Faiths - and is its immediate past Chair - is at the front of the photo.]
The event was organised by Riaz Ravat, of the St Philip's Centre, an Evington charity which promotes inter-faith relations in Leicester. 
He said: "We've been appalled by the incidents that have taken place. There's quite a bit of anger and, as faith communities, we need to show a united front." 
Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, said: "We need to send a message that an attack on one section of the community is an attack on us all." 
Resham Singh Sandhu, chairman of the Sikh Welfare and Culture Society [sic], said he had spoken with Sikh youths in East Park Road on Tuesday evening who were guarding not only their temple and shops from potential attack, but also the mosque. 
He said: "I'm saddened this has happened but we're lucky we respect each other in Leicester, because we have to look after each other." 
The Right Reverend Christopher Boyle, assistant Bishop of Leicester, said: "We've endeavoured to show solidarity for the city of Leicester and its citizens" 
Volunteers also took to the streets during a clean-up operation in the aftermath of the trouble. 
About 15 volunteers met at the Clock Tower at 9am after word of the event spread on social networking websites. 
Aimee Packwood, 25, of Clarendon Park, a member of Voluntary Action Leicestershire, said: "The fact people have come out to clean up shows more want to make this kind of difference, rather than what happened last night. There was a peaceful protest but it was hijacked by people who wanted to cause trouble." 
Representatives from the city wardens were also on hand to help out.
Fosse warden Jethro Swift said: "What happened last night was atrocious but cleaning up is the right thing to do. It shows the great community spirit we have in Leicester."
City MPs condemned the violence and praised police. Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth was due to speak in Parliament today to put pressure on the Prime Minister to confirm Leicester had all the resources to support police dealing with incidents. 
He said: "What we have seen by a small minority is shocking and, though we have not witnessed the criminality of the scale of other cities, there must be no excuse for the burglary and vandalism our city experienced last night. 
"I want to commend the bravery of the police in Leicester who have been consistently excellent on the frontline." 
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said: "The damage this senseless criminality has caused will not be tolerated, however, we need to get to the bottom of the reasons why this tiny minority have behaved in this disgraceful way."


This open letter from Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester, is published today on the front page of the Leicester Mercury.

Yobs won't ruin our proud city
I know that the people of Leicester share my anger and sadness at the disturbances that have taken place in the city.
These were carried out by a small group of people – mostly very young – who have no regard for others, or for their community.
This is not what Leicester is about. Leicester is a proud, harmonious and peaceful city – and the actions of local people since the disturbances have demonstrated, once again, that our true community spirit is alive and well.
I would like to thank the police for their thoroughly professional work to keep our streets safe, and the council staff who have done so much to help clear up and keep disruption to the minimum.
But, most particularly, I would like to thank all of you who have spoken out in support for our city – people from all communities, the business and voluntary sectors, our sporting clubs, neighbouring councils and our MPs.
Our city council will continue to work very closely with the police and other agencies to ensure that people can go about their business as usual.
I am always impressed by the way Leicester people pull together in times of need.
I know you will all share my determination that the behaviour of a very small minority of people should not have a lasting impact on our city, and that we will all continue with our efforts to make Leicester an even better place in which to live and work.
Peter Soulsby

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Pouring oil on troubled waters

Visits have been made today by members of Leicester Council of Faiths and St Philip’s Centre for Study and Engagement in a Multi-Faith Society to city centre businesses and shops, to reassure them that the faith communities are united in our condemnation of the anti-social behaviour that was seen on our streets last night.

Members making these visits included Councillor Manjula Sood (Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths), High Sherrif of Leicestershire Resham Singh Sandhu, Suleman Nagdi, Marcus Solanki and Minou Cortazzi, among others.

Councillor Sood said today, "Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected and few events cannot be allowed to define the Leicester we know and love. Many of us have worked in this community for many years and we will continue to work with our neighbours and friends for One Leicester."

REDP meets with One East Midlands

This morning some of us from REDP meet with Rachel Quinn and Leann Leverton from One East Midlands. It's not anything formal, no set agenda; but we've been trying to find the time to get together and mull over a few things where our interests intersect.

We meet in Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL): Round the table are Iris Lightfoote from The Race Equality Centre (TREC) and Chair of REDP; Dee Martin of LCIL; Laura Horton, REDP Project Manager - and me.

We talk about the new Transforming Local Infrastructure programme from The Big Lottery; the Localism Bill currently going through Parliament; the White Papers on Open Public Services and on Giving. These all have major implications for equalities.

REDP had been intending to hold a regional event on the Localism Bill in October. Public consultation on the Bill ends in September and it's going to be published in November, which makes October too late to be a consultation event and too early for an information event. We're planning three other regional events at two-month intervals, so we've decided to swap Localism's place in the schedule for one of the others. We'll make arrangements for a special meeting of REDP's Core Reference Group in time to get their views on the Bill so we can compile them into a collective response.

This is of special interest to me, since I'm leading on the Localism regional event.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Civil Contingencies Act 2004

This is a link to an article of clear interest to all those concerned with issues related to equality and human rights in the current climate. This comes from "liberty central", the Guardian's Comment is free civil liberties and human rights site

A-Z of legislation: Civil Contingencies Act 2004 | Comment is free |

Monday, 8 August 2011


This afternoon I attend a meeting convened by Ash Sakula Architects, presenting their Adaptable Futures project for Frog Island. The meeting is being held at the Marmara café, Northgate Street. Despite having the full address and postcode of the venue, having looked it up on and (or perhaps despite) having it on Google Maps on my iPhone, it takes me ages to find it. I walk up and down Northgate Street twice - on both sides of the road - before I finally see where it is. Marmara is on the forecourt of a former petrol station, which is now being used as the site of a car-cleaning and valet service. The building which is now the café is converted form the forecourt shop - as you'll see from the photo above.

I met three members of staff from Ash Sakula at the last CreativeCoffee Club and expressed interest in this project then. I'm glad to have been invited along to this meeting, among what is rather distinguished company. Chief among today's guests are Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester and Ted Cassidy, Assistant Mayor and Cabinet portfolio for Economic Development, Culture and Tourism. Sir Peter spoke briefly and positively about the importance of this part of Leicester since the beginning of the city's recorded history and offered some ideas about its potential future.

Frog Island is one of the most neglected areas of Leicester and is clearly in need of renewal. Until recently, the expectation was that large parts of Frog Island would be razed and subject to comprehensive development from the ground up. This isn't going to happen now, given the current climate, and the much-needed regeneration will have to come from within what is already there. Although this sounds like it's going to be hard work and everyone's wondering where the money will come from, still it's a relief to many. Frog Island has some of the best industrial architecture in Leicester and is testament to some of the city's most prominent former glories. It would have been a shame to see those sites vanish. I used to stay not far from here and the area is a great one for walking. Its proximity to some of the most heavily featured new developments in Highcross. Indeed, it's Highcross Street that joins the upmarket shopping precincts with the run-down downbeat Frog Island.

This project, under the aegis of Ash Sakula and Loughborough University, will complement De Montfort University's Square Mile project, which is also at work in this area of the city.

The following organisations, each with its own stake in this project, are represented here today:
  • Blueprint
  • Business Base
  • De Montfort University
  • Dominoes
  • East Midlands Economic Network
  • Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire
  • Homes and Communities Agency
  • Igloo Regeneration
  • Inland Waterways Association
  • Jubilee Worship Centre
  • Ken Mafham Associates
  • LCB Depot
  • Leicester City Council
  • Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership
  • Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce
  • Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
  • Loughborough University
  • Transition Leicester
  • University of Leicester

From a particular Council of Faiths perspective, Frog Island has a notable absence of the diversity of places of worship and faith-based community centres that typify other parts of Leicester. Leicester Christian Fellowship, which meets at the All Nations Centre is arguably the most prominent faith community presence in  Frog Island. Here today, I'm pleased to meet Bernard and Washington from the Jubilee Worship Centre in Soar Lane. We manage to have a brief word  and make tentative arrangements to get together again in the near future.

Leicester Waterside has a Facebook page, which includes a number of photos taken at this event today.