For the second day in a row, I'm in the studio of BBC Radio Leicester early in the morning - even earlier today, as I'm doing Thought for the Day on Ben Jackson's Breakfast Show. I've barely slept, having lain awake until 0100, with this morning's task rattling round my head, then wide awake with a bang again at 0315. Thought for the Day is, at most, 90 seconds long. I've written 90-minute talks in less time and with less anxiety than it's taken to prepare this. John Florance sent me guidelines for TFTD and I've done my best to follow them. Ben's producer, Giles, gives my piece the once-over, okays it, then ushers me into the studio with Ben. After he's gone through today's papers' coverage of Russell and Flavia's exit from Strictly this weekend, Ben introduces me and I have the mic. In the same seat yesterday morning, speaking live with John Florance, I didn't feel nervous in the slightest - but this time, sticking to my own script, reading off the printed page, I do! Subjectively, my mouth feels dry, my voice sounds tremulous to me - though at the end, Ben congratulates me on content and delivery and says he looks forward to me coming back and doing another one. Very kind of him - but as I rise from the desk, I make the comment that the station's newsreader's jobs are safe.
Thought for the Day is repeated an hour later. Makes me wonder why I need to come in and do the first one live then! Anyway, here's my 90-seconds' worth, faithful reader:
Ask someone to think of something good to say about Leicester, and more often than not they’ll describe a place where people of different beliefs, cultures, practices and traditions live and work side by side. We’ve developed a reputation for rubbing along happily enough, without ever really rubbing each other up the wrong way.
That’s the widely accepted image of Leicester today. But we shouldn’t take it for granted. Leicester got to be like this largely because a great many of its citizens have worked hard for decades now to overcome bigotry, intolerance and prejudice. It takes constant effort and vigilance today to keep it this way. A lot of that hard work has concentrated on building trust, understanding and cooperation between the city’s diverse faith and cultural communities. That sums up the mission of Leicester Council of Faiths, which is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.
This is the start of Inter Faith Week across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This national occasion offers us a chance to recognise and value what we do well locally. But it also helps us see how much work still has to be done. Inter Faith Week is a time for people of various religions or beliefs to come together to work for the common good. It gives us the chance to recognise and celebrate what Leicester does well – but it also reminds us that the work of building a united community never really ends and that we can all find our own part to play in this important collective effort of building a safer and happier future.