Friday, 26 October 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 602
  2. United Kingdom 530
  3. Russia 229
  4. Spain 150
  5. France 105
  6. India 71
  7. Poland 66
  8. Ukraine 49
  9. Germany 37
  10. China 33
This week's total: 1,871 (last week: 2,477). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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 that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Festival celebrating defeat of evil king draws crowds
Hundreds gathered to watch a villain from Hindu writings being burned as part of a religious celebration.
The Dashera festival, held at Cossington Road recreation ground, in Belgrave, Leicester, last night, marked the defeat of the evil King Ravana by Lord Rama, a form of the god Vishnu.
Each year, the spectacle of the towering effigy being set alight draws masses of people to the park.
The event also included fireworks, fairground rides, music and stage performances.
Mahul Visram, from Oadby, who was there with his daughter Esha and son Mahir, said: "It's been a bit cold this year but it was great fireworks.
"It's a religious celebration, with the burning of the big effigy, but it's also fun."
Esha, 10, said: "I like it because it's a celebration of what our God did to protect us."
Mahir, nine, said: "I really enjoyed it. It's a good celebration and I loved the fireworks."
Rashmi Meghani, from Belgrave, who was there with her husband and son, said: "We don't come every year but it's a nice event for the kids and everyone.
"They celebrate this everywhere in India and here and it's a nice chance to get together and enjoy the dancing, and nice for the dancing groups.
"It's cold but when the fireworks started everyone was really enjoying themselves."

The photo above is from a Dashera 2012 album posted on Facebook by Leicester Festivals & Events.

Friday, 19 October 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 1,070
  2. United Kingdom 710
  3. Russia 219
  4. France 185
  5. Ukraine 75
  6. India 71
  7. Germany 58
  8. Poland 38
  9. Hong Kong 26
  10. Sweden 25
This week's total: 2,477 (last week: 2,282). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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 that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

City nearly all set for festival of lights
Work to hang more than 6,500 festive lights along the Golden Mile is almost complete.
The Diwali light switch on will take place in Belgrave, Leicester, on Sunday, November 4, marking the start of celebrations.
Lighting engineers have been busy lining Belgrave Road with more than 1,000 metres of decorative lights and garlands.
Councillor Piara Singh Clair, chairman of the council's Diwali working party, said: "Leicester's Diwali switch-on is a wonderful celebration, which is enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year.
"I am sure this year's celebrations will be as spectacular as ever and I hope that even more people will come and join the festivities on Belgrave Road."
The switch-on celebrations will take place from 6pm until 9pm, with dancers and musicians performing classical Asian and Bollywood entertainment.
Celebrations then move to nearby Cossington Street Recreation Ground, where a firework and laser display will take place from 8pm.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


The steering group working on De Montfort University's forthcoming event, "Celebrating Diversity on Campus: Religion or Belief Showcase" meets this morning  at the Eric Wood Building.

This event (scheduled for Wednesday 28 November) is promising to be something rather special. A variety of interesting activities is being proposed - and some of them aren't the kind you'd normally expect to find at a faith-based event. I'm not giving anything away just yet; you'll have to watch this space.

One of the key aspects to making this a success will be the matching up of faith groups among DMU students and staff with their counterparts in the wider community, out in the city in general. This might prove to be a bit trickier than it sounds and may require some considerable effort. It will be a worthwhile thing to do though, which will hopefully yield positive developments not only for this event but also in  future; so we'd better apply ourselves.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Dozens enjoy pilgrimage round city visiting different faith communities
More than 40 people took part in an annual inter-faith walking pilgrimage in Clarendon Park, Leicester, at the weekend.
The event, which took six hours to complete, visited seven sites where pilgrims were welcomed by a different faith community.
The tour began at noon, at Guru Amar Das Gurdwara, before moving on to the Quaker Meeting House, then St John the Baptist Church, before being hosted by Baha'is in the Octagon Room, attached to St John's.
The walkers then visited the Neve Shalom Progressive Synagogue, The Art of Living Centre, in Toller Road, finishing at the Geeta Bhavan Hindu Temple and Community Centre, in Clarendon Park Road.
At each stage, the group was welcomed with a talk about the community hosting them and the place of worship. They also joined in a short devotional activity.
Barbara Butler of Christians Aware, which organised the event, said: "We spent a little time with Sikhs, Quakers, Anglicans, Baha'is, Jews and Hindus. We're grateful to those who played host to our group."


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Enjoy celebrations in safety
Worshippers are being asked to follow simple safety tips to ensure a happy Diwali and Navratri.
Police, firefighters and the city council are teaming up to offer safety advice throughout the celebrations, with 10,000 greetings cards with safety messages being posted through letterboxes in the Belgrave, Latimer and Rushey Mead areas of the city.
Firefighters are urging Hindus and other devotees to take care when using candles and flames.
People attending celebrations and visiting friends are being asked to lock their homes and cover up expensive jewellery when out and about.
Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon said: "Each year, thousands of people take part in Diwali celebrations in Leicester.
"Our role is to ensure that they can enjoy this special time without fear of crime.
"Many people will be busy visiting friends and family in the coming weeks. We are urging them to take a few simple crime prevention measures – such as securing their windows and doors every time they leave their home, and being discreet with valuables, in particular expensive jewellery – when they are out and about.
"I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy Navratri and Diwali."
Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon launched the campaign with colleagues from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service yesterday.
Speaking at Belgrave Community Centre, in Rothley Street, police and fire officers advised people not to overfill oil lamps and to be vigilant when out during celebrations.
More than 35,000 people are expected to pack into the Golden Mile for the Diwali fireworks on Sunday, November 4.
Even more will take to the streets on Diwali day, on Tuesday, November 13, for one of the biggest celebrations of its kind outside India.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Steve Lunn said: "Leicestershire has a very diverse population.
" The Navratri and Diwali celebrations are a cornerstone of our Hindu community, so we want to make sure everyone remains safe to enjoy every aspect this period has to offer.
"While the number of fires caused by Diva candles have remained low in recent years, it is through education and awareness campaigns, such as this, that we will ensure this remains the case."
Leicester City Council asked people not to bring fireworks to public celebrations. Diwali is also celebrated by Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
Navratri is a nine-day Hindu festival dedicated to the worship of Hindu deity Shakti, which starts today.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


I've accepted an invitation to attend a reception at BBC Radio Leicester this evening, to celebrate the conclusion of their Uganda 40 season, that has been running for the past couple of months.

There are about 60 guests gathered in the foyer. I've not seen this used for such a purpose before, but its a very good setting for this kind of thing. For part of the reception, Kamlesh Purohit is broadcasting live from the foyer, interviewing some of the attendees. After all, this is taking place during his time slot.

Speakers include Jane Hill (Editor of BBC Radio Leicester), Rupal Rajani (BBC Radio Leicester presenter, who travelled to Uganda to record several programmes broadcast during this celebratory season) and Sir Peter Soulsby (City Mayor). Sir Peter offers a brief overview of the ways in which the arrival and settlement of Ugandan Asians has transformed the nature of Leicester in business, civic, commercial, culinary, cultural, demographic, economic, political, religious and social terms over the past four decades.

In the photo above, Jane Hill presents Rupal and her producer, Namrata Varia, with a gift expressing the station's thanks for the work they put into making the Uganda 40 season such a success.

As part of the entertainment this evening, Rishi Tavare plays tabla and there's a performance by Kesha Raithatha (photo above), from Leicester's Centre for Indian Classical Dance. There's an exhibition about the Centre on the first floor here, which I get an opportunity to look at (photo below).

It is announced this evening, to general acclaim, that the exhibition, "From Kampala to Leicester" which ran for three months at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery will be given a permanent home at Newarke Houses Museum. I've blogged a couple of times about that, particularly the closing reception (24 September) and about a lecture I heard there entitled, Ugandan Asians in Leicester: From Refugees to Citizens (7 August). I also took part in a live phone-in radio show, last in a week-long series with Jim Davis, entitled "Immigration and Integration: What is the Future for Leicester?"

This is a very congenial occasion which says good things about our city. I'm privileged to have been invited and glad to have attended.

Of the six photos included here, the first, second and fourth are courtesy of Dimple Patel, producer at BBC Radio Leicster. There's also a nice gallery of photos from this evening's event on the website of Pukaar News.

Friday, 12 October 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 791
  2. United States 700
  3. Russia 266
  4. France 247
  5. Germany 60
  6. India 59
  7. Ukraine 59
  8. Ireland 36
  9. Poland 33
  10. Canada 31
This week's total: 2,282 (last week: 2,311). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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 that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This afternoon I'm at the Welcome Centre with Tony Nelson (representative of the Leicester HebrewCongregation on the Board of Leicester Council of Faiths, its Treasurer and my Line Manager). We're meeting Stevie-Jade Hardy, Research Associate at the University of Leicester Department of Criminology.

The Department of Criminology is home to the Leicester Hate Crime Project, a two-year funded project exploring the experiences of victims of hate crime – people who have been victimised simply because of who they are. The |Leicester Hate Crime Project wants to hear from anyone who has suffered from hate crime, including those who have been singled out because of their identity or because they were seen as especially vulnerable or somehow "different’" in the eyes of the person who targeted them. Throughout the duration of the project, the team will be working closely with criminal justice agencies and other service providers collectively to challenge hate and prejudice in Leicester.

In discussing how the Council of Faiths might assist the project, we offer the possibility of one of our Open Meetings early next year taking Hate Crime as its theme. This has definite potential but will need to be refined to make it workable. I'm sure we have not heard the last of this topic - or seen the last of Stevie-Jade!


This morning I'm at BBC Radio Leicester, to take part in a live radio phone-in with Jim Davis. This is part of BBC Radio Leicester's Uganda 40 season, that has been running for the past couple of months. Jim has held a phone-in each morning this final week of the season. The topic for today's final programme is "Immigration and Integration: What is the Future for Leicester?"

Given the number of times I've appeared on BBC Radio Leicester, you might be surprised to learn, faithful reader, that this is my first live phone-in. I'm one member of a panel, the others being Richard Bonney (former Professor of Modern History at the University of Leicester) and Surinder Sharma (Chair of The Race Equality Centre). That's the panel in the photo below.

Those who call in during our hour on air offer their own reflections on the impact and significance of the influx of Ugandan Asians 40 years ago, as well as soliciting our comments.
  • Jean (in Leicester) says she admires the drive to succeed in Asian communities, especially how parents want their children to make the most of their lives;
  • John (in Birstall) asks for our responses to Ted Cantle who said in a recent talk at Secular Hall that multiculturalism is past its sell-by date;
  • Bhupinder (in Rushey Mead) reminds us that those Asians who came from Uganda in 1972 weren't the first to come here. She says that her husband arrived in Leicester in 1959 (the year I was born!). In a nice analogy about immigration, she says that people tend not to mind a light drizzle or sun shower - perhaps they won't even put their umbrellas. But when there's a sudden downpour ... and we British do love to complain about the weather!
  • Jean (in Oadby) says that she organised an English Teaching Scheme for new arrivals, which began in 1974 and ran to the mid-1990s;
  • Lee (in Braunstone) is the only caller who takes a contrary position to the general tone of the show, and has to be cut off by Jim, mid-flow.

Whatever multiculturalism means, it is under attack as never before. Those who appreciate, celebrate, understand and value it are idealists and optimists in outlook and beliefs, pragmatic and practical in our work.

Certainly, a lively interest and involvement in multiculturalism, with its attendant topics of immigration and integration which we have discussed here today, require the challenging of stereotypes. Every ethnic, national and racial group suffers from stereotyping, my own included. In the end, I'm a member of the human race, a citizen of the world. I'm not a rabid Scot; I don't eat haggis or drink whisky (though I do drink Irn Bru). I never went on the march with Ally's Army nor can I condone the pointless resentful bashing of sassenachs. I lived the first half of my life in and around Glasgow, the second half in and around Leicester. I'd like to think I do my best to combine good elements from north and south of the border. Leicester is my home. I love the place and couldn't imagine living anywhere else now. I'll do whatever I can, in my life and work, to help make Leicester a better place for everyone who lives here.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


This evening I'm attending Leicestershire & Rutland Probation Trust's annual Diversity Reception, which is being held in Harvest City Church, St Margaret's Business Centre.

The theme of this year's event is "Young Men & Women: Making the Transition from Offender to Responsible Citizen".

After the chance to eat and drink from the buffet provided by Green's Delicatessen and Outside Catering Service, from Loughborough (nice range of vegetarian food, all clearly marked) while enjoying live music from guitar and keyboard duo, The Untouchables, we take our seats for the welcome and introduction by Helen West LRPT's Chief Executive. We're given an overview of the Trust's 2012 diversity programme that looks at issues affecting the under-25 age group, as well as a brief review of the Trust's progress through last year's diversity programme, working with individuals with hidden disabilities, such as Autism and Asberger's Syndrome.

There are short, informative presentations from a panel of ten staff members, broken down into general topics relevant to this evening's theme: Relationships and Lifestyles; Education, Training and Employment; and Accommodation. As an introduction to each of these themes, we hear three dramatised monologues, based on real-life experiences of service users, delivered by members of Off the Fence Theatre Company.

I've been to several of the Trust's Diversity Receptions during my five years in post and I have to hand it to them: they really know how to mix it up and present something fresh each year.

At the end of the Q&A, I get a few minutes to plug the forthcoming Choice Unlimited event, since both that occasion and this reception focus on the same age group.

Despite the fact that the Leicestershire & Rutland Probation Trust is one of the most effective organisations at putting diversity close to the top of its agenda, there has never been any meaningful working relationship between it and Leicester Council of Faiths. I hope that can be rectified in the near future.

I'm also glad of the opportunity to do some positive networking with some of the other guests - particularly Cllr Sarah Russell, who is standing as the Labour Party candidate for the new post of elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We have an interesting chat about religiously motivated Hate Crime in the city and county and the relationship (such as it is) between Leicester Council of Faiths and agencies like the Safer Leicester Partnership.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Helpers get handy as part of Sewa Day
Dozens of volunteers from Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities teamed up for a day of service to the community.
The came together with the St Philip's Centre in Evington, Leicester, to mark Sewa Day and helped clean up Fludes Lane, in Oadby, on Sunday.
The 40 volunteers cleared the area – a walk-through from the A6 to a group of houses – of litter and planted flower bulbs to spruce it up.
Rupa Kanabar, from Oadby, said: "Material things and money alone cannot bring groups together, so our project, as well as caring for the environemnt, aims to create inter faith understanding and friendships."
Riaz Ravat, deputy director at St Philip's Centre, said: "Sewa Day is a special time of the year when Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities work collectively for the good of all.
"These communities have a rich tradition of carrying out Sewa every day of the year, but Sewa Day is an event which co-ordinates charity efforts across the globe.
"We are delighted to be involved yet again in this important initiative."
Oadby and Wigston Borough Council provided jackets and equipment for the clean-up.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Music, mantras and meditation for worshippers
Hundreds of people have enjoyed a weekend of music, mantras and meditation.
They were taking part in the Kirtan Fest, a two-day festival at the new Hare Krishna Centre in Granby Street, Leicester, which was the finale of 10 days of celebrations for worshippers.
The event involved chanting ancient Sanskrit mantras, accompanied by Eastern and Western instruments, said to uplift the soul and relax the mind.
Pradyumna Das, president of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness Leicester, (Iskcon) said: "This is the easiest form of meditation, because people like music, people like singing and people like dancing, and you can do all of this in mantra meditation."
Nimai Devi Dasi, of Iskcon, said: "It was a really nice event, we've had some lovely feedback.
"People were coming in off the streets to take part and we cooked for 500 on each of the two days.
"It's the first one we've done. It followed eight evenings chanting at venues in Leicester and this was the grand finale. It was good fun."


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Faith focus on mental health
More than 40 people were expected at a meeting of faith leaders today to mark World Mental Health Day.
The event, being hosted by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, was due to consider the role faith communities play in promoting mental well-being.
It was due to be held at the Bradgate Mental Health Unit, on the Glenfield Hospital site, starting at 6.45pm.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

A divine insight into church
Internet users around the world can now tour Leicester Cathedral's Gothic interior with the simple click of a mouse.
The historic building is one of the first cathedrals to be featured on Google Maps and visitors to the website can see most of the church's grade II*-listed stonework, alter and vibrant stained glass windows, as well as neighbouring St Martin's House.
Web users can even stand on the cathedral's altar for a vicar's-eye-view of the pews, and explore the building's numerous vestibules.
The panoramic images on Google Maps were taken by Leicestershire photographer Chris Jones.
Chris, who captures many photographs of Leicestershire for Google, said: "I think it's a really interesting building to document – especially with the Richard III connection."
He could take images from 30 specific points, or "steps", inside the church, and those are the points from which the Google Maps visitor can view the cathedral's interior.
Chris, who runs LeicesterPhoto Design, in Littlethorpe, used a digital camera with a panoramic head, taking three shots every 90 degrees.
He then "stitched" the images together with software supplied by Google to give a realistic impression of the building's interior.
In August, he uploaded his first church to Google Maps when he visited St Mary de Castro, in Castle View, Leicester.
He said: "It's up to me what buildings I choose to include in the map and, at the minute, I'm concentrating on heritage sites.
"There's so much history in Leicester it's not hard to think of places which would be of interest to a great many people.
"I think this is a great way of opening up places of interest."
Chris has also added Launde Abbey to Google Maps, which goes live today, as well as churches in Bottesford and Lutterworth.
A spokeswoman for Leicester Cathedral said: "This is a fabulous way to publicise your church and to show those who are nervous about coming over the threshold what it looks like inside."
Stuart Bailey, chairman of Leicester Civic Society, said the new Leicester additions to Google Maps was "marvellous".
He said: "The more we can do to promote our city's heritage the better.
"If someone in Colorado can go on the internet and take a tour of Leicester Cathedral then that's fantastic – and if it encourages them to come to Leicester, that's even better."
To view the cathedral, visit Google Maps and click on the doors of the building.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Reception as exhibition ends
A reception has been held to mark the end of an exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of Asians from Uganda.
The show, From Kampala to Leicester, began at New Walk Museum in July.
It told the story of Leicester's Ugandan Asian community from1972 to the present day and how the 10,000-strong community which settled in the city has influenced its development.
The exhibition, which was extended by a week because of its popularity, featured films, personal testimonies and rare artefacts borrowed from Leicester's Ugandan Asian community.
Belgrave Business Association hosted a reception at the museum on Friday for 60 guests, including Leicester East MP Keith Vaz and city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
The association's chairman, Dharmesh Lakhani, said: "The influx of the Asian community has played a major part in Leicester as we see it today.
"It was important to recognise the part the community has played in Leicester's history, reflected in the exhibition put on by the museum."


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

"Peace walk" protest at factory
Peace campaigners staged a demonstration yesterday outside a factory which makes parts for unmanned military drones.
The protest, by people on a 90-mile "peace walk", took place outside the Thales factory, in Scudamore Road, Braunstone Frith, Leicester.
Participant Penny Walker, of Leicester CND, said: "The walk is to mark the Drones Week of Action, to campaign against the use of unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"The Leicester Thales factory makes electronics for the Watchkeeper drone, and that is why we held a demonstration outside."
The walkers, who come from around the country, were met by the Red Leicester Choir outside the factory yesterday afternoon.
They were due to set off again this morning from the Gandhi statue, in Belgrave Road, Leicester.
The 90-mile walk started near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, on Saturday, and passed through Hinckley on the way to Leicester yesterday.
It will continue towards RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, where the march will finish on Saturday.
Another participant, Maya Evans, of Hastings, said: "During a visit to Afghanistan last December, I met a 19-year-old whose brother-in-law – a trainee police officer with a wife and one-year-old son – was killed in a drone strike."
She said the idea of the march was to get people talking about drones in the places which the walkers pass through.
Ms Evans added: "We are walking in solidarity with those killed or harmed by drones."The walk coincided with a 20,000-strong protest in Pakistan, led by former cricket international and politician Imran Khan.
Drones are unmanned aircraft equipped with weapons and cameras.No-one from Thales was available for comment yesterday.

Monday, 8 October 2012


A meeting this evening, long in the planning, at Diversity Hub, Churchgate, on the topic, "Men and Mental Health".

This follows on from a number of "Men as Leaders" workshops (which kicked off with a first meeting in the bowels of Leicester Adult Education College on International Women's Day, 8 March 2012 - see blog post for that day). Some of the men who were at that meeting are here for this one.

Like the meeting in March, this one is keyed to an international commemorative event: this is World Mental Health Week.

Men tend not to be very at addressing their health needs - mental health being no different.

Professionally, I'm often involved in activities, projects and schemes associated with taboos of one sort or another among the faith and cultural communities: domestic violence, forced marriage, organ donation - you name it. So it's surprising (even refreshing and stimulating) to realise that this evening I'm a member of a community - white British males of a certain age - for whom, by and large, their mental health is a taboo subject.

And accordingly, it took me blooming ages to do this blog post; writing and rewriting it until all it appears as is this cut down version of something that had pretensions to be more insightful.

Friday, 5 October 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 938
  2. United Kingdom 675
  3. Russia 285
  4. France 135
  5. Spain 75
  6. Ukraine 60
  7. India 50
  8. Germany 43
  9. Latvia 29
  10. Poland 21
This week's total: 2,311 (last week: 2,362). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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 that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Subsidised jabs for pilgrims
A city pharmacist has joined a scheme to give pilgrims travelling to Mecca subsidised meningitis jabs.
Everyone going to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages has to have the injection and a certificate to prove it has been given at least 10 days before arriving and within the past three years.
Hundreds of people from Leicestershire make the pilgrimages each year.
Altaf Vaiya, who runs the Alpharm chemist in Belgrave, is offering jabs for £30 – less than half the price charged by some GP surgeries – because they are subsided by the Muslim Council of Britain.
Mr Vaiya said: "It is a mandatory visa requirement for all those travelling to the Hajj to have a meningococcal vaccination.
"The visitor density, crowded conditions and the low humidity of the dry season puts pilgrims at particular risk of meningococcal infection.
"As a registered partner clinic of the Muslim Council of Britain, we are offering the vaccine as well as a certificate for a subsidised price of £30.
"We will also be giving advice on staying healthy during the Hajj."
Hajj is a major pilgrimage which is considered compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
Zuffar Haq, a spokesman for the Leicester Mercury Patients' Panel, said: "People should know that they can shop around for these travel vaccinations which are needed for many countries, particularly in these financial times, and that GPs no longer have a monopoly on this issue."
City GP Professor Azhar Farooqi, chairman of the Leicester City clinical commissioning group, which will take on responsibility for running city health services in April, said: "Prices do a vary a lot between GP practices.
"In my own, East Leicester Medical Practice, we used to charge £70 but have recently reduced this to £30. A lot of our patients wanted the vaccinations and we wanted to make sure they didn't go without."
Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and chairman of its health and food standards committee, has welcomed the move.
He said: "Several years ago, our survey showed a wide variation in the cost that Hajj and Umrah pilgrims incurred in obtaining the meningitis vaccine.
"The advent of the Department of Health preferred vaccine provided an opportunity to negotiate on behalf of the community an all-inclusive, cost-effective vaccination programme with the manufacturers.
"More than 1,250 pharmacists and GP practices across the country have chosen to participate in this programme."

Thursday, 4 October 2012


A meeting this morning at De Montfort University (Eric Wood Building, The Gateway), planning for an inter faith event to be held on campus later this year.

This is the second meeting of this steering group. The first (19 September) was attended by Rosemarie Fitton, Senior Lecturer in Interior Design at DMU and nominated member of Leicester Council of Faiths.

This event was originally scheduled for Wednesday 21 November, during Inter Faith Week. That's proving to be a popular day, with a number of activities planned:
  • Highcross exhibition (0930-2000);
  • Choice Unlimited II at Leicester Tigers (1000-1800);
  • Brooksby Melton College's Interfaith Events Day (0930-1415);
  • Leicester University World Faiths Advisory Group lecture (1230-1400).

It might have been difficult to fit in another commitment! Thankfully, it's already been decided before this meeting to move the event back a week to Wednesday 28 November - an auspicious date for me as that's my birthday.

I'm given a few minutes to introduce myself and say what the Council of Faiths can bring to the table. We should be able to make available our full exhibition and drum up support from all our member faith communities.

I'm glad to be able to do one thing which I consider an improvement. The group has (it appears to me) tied itself up in knots, trying to cover all the bases, not offend  anyone or leave anyone out, entitling the event "Belief, Faith, Religion And No Faith or Religion Awareness Day". I persuade the steering group to drop this in favour of something simpler, such as "Religion or Belief Awareness Day". I like that "religion or belief" formula and it is what's used in the Equality Act 2010 after all, for good reason.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Evidence points to existence of Jesus
I really appreciate the platform that Mercury Mailbox offers for the discussion of various matters and, as a new contributor, I also appreciate the comments that others have made regarding the information that I have presented so far.
The interchange of experience and information can only be good.However, in commenting on my letter about the historicity of Christ, I am sure that most readers will realise that letters are edited by the Mailbox team, and for good reason.
With this in mind I would like to say that only about half of my letter was printed and I really feel that the material left out would be beneficial to the ongoing discussion.
The two first century historians I mentioned, Josephus and Tacitus, are not the only non-Christian writers who have referred to Jesus in their writings.
Pliny the Younger and Seutonius also accepted that Jesus was a real person.
Referring to early non-Christian historical references to Jesus, The New Encyclopedia Britannica states: "These independent accounts prove that in ancient times, even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus."
The historian HG Wells is reported to have said that a man's greatness can be measured by "what he leaves to grow and whether he started others to think along fresh lines with a vigour that persisted after him."
Wells, although not claiming to be a Christian, acknowledged: "By this test, Jesus stands first."
We could also ask, is it reasonable to believe that a man who never lived could have affected human history so remarkably?
Just think about it, even calendars today are based on the year that Jesus was thought to have been born.
I fully accept that the Roman historians never actually met Jesus, but they, by their writings, show that they accepted that he lived. So they must have trusted their sources and, as respected historians, their word has value.
When I consider all of the available information – the harmony of the Holy Bible, the historical writings, the opinions of those of greater intellect than me and the effect he had on Mankind, I am absolutely convinced of the existence of Jesus Christ as a truly historical person. But what is he doing now?
Keith Coleman, Worthington

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


On the first Wednesday evening of every month, Leicester PIPs (Philosophy in Pubs) meets upstairs in the Crumblin' Cookie on the High Street. Our stimulus is the two-part question, "What is honour? And does it matter?" Clare facilitates this evening at what proves to be one of the most lively enquiries we've had for ages, carrying on well beyond the final thoughts that close the formal part of the proceedings.

Visit Leicester PIPs page on Facebook (and check out The Crumblin' Cookie too, while you're there).

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


At Leicester's medieval Guildhall this evening, for the Annual General Meeting of Network for Change.

Network for Change is a local Voluntary Sector organisation providing Supported Housing, Community Outreach and Resource Centre activities designed to meet the needs of adults whose mental health problems have impacted significantly on their quality of life. Network’s values and working practices focus on the Recovery Model and person-centred approaches to enable wellbeing and potential.

I used to teach at Network for Change: basic literacy, communication skills, study skills and (most significantly for me) Creative Writing. I ran the Creative Writing group on Friday afternoons for five years. I loved that and was sorry that I had to give it up. I still try to give whatever support I can to Network for Change at every opportunity that might present itself.

The highlight of the evening is the presentation given by participants in the recent Plan W peer mentoring project. The "W" stands for Wellness.

There's a lovely-looking buffet, including some very nice homemade cakes; but after having fallen foul of some dodgy tidbits at a reception last week, I'm not feeling brave enough to indulge myself.


At Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living this morning, for a meeting of the four Core Partners of the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership. The Core Partners, all Leicester-based Voluntary and Community Sector organisations, are: 

We used to meet on the first Tuesday morning of the month, but haven't done so since the funding for this project ended, in June this year.

It soon becomes apparent that there's life in the old dog yet, though. We spend the first half-hour or so catching up on what our particular organisations have been doing since last we met, where we are now, and what our futures might hold.

Our attention is focused on the forthcoming Choice Unlimited event, to be held at Leicester Tigers Stadium, Wednesday 21 November (1000-1800). The first Choice Unlimited, held in April this year, presented information, ideas, innovation, services, products for disabled people. It was an unexpectedly successful occasion, exceeding all our expectations in terms of interest and support. The November event will focus on the same sort of things, but for young people in what's called the "transition period" (14-25 years of age).

Since Choice Unlimited is taking place in the middle of Inter Faith Week (18-26 November) I'd assumed that the Council of Faiths (and, more specifically, I) wouldn't be able to take part in it, but I'm glad to say that we've come up with a plan for having a celebration of Inter Faith Week inside Choice Unlimited itself. Since I have to make sure that our exhibition in Highcross is kept going all that day, I'm not quite sure how we'll go about this, but where there's a will ...

I'll play as active a role as I can in promoting the next Choice Unlimited, through our various outlets - beginning with taking a clutch of fliers and posters to the AGM of Network for Change at the Guildhall this evening.

Monday, 1 October 2012


After more than five years working for Leicester Council of Faiths in a full-time capacity, my job goes part time from today. I'll be contracted to work 20 hours per week, based at the Welcome Centre (our HQ in Pilgrim House, Bishop Street, Town Hall Squarte) on Tuesdays (1330-1730), Wednesdays (0900-1730) and Thursdays (0900-1730). These contracted hours can be worked flexitime on other days, at other times or at other venues in pursuit of these tasks and duties, but they should not exceed 80 hours in a four-week period.

This is the only way to sustain the post in this period when our funding (like so many other VCS organisations) has flatlined. As it is, we have no guarantee of any funding at all beyond the end of 2012. What can I say? We hope for the best but plan for the worst.

This present position is the result of lengthy, detailed and rigorous consultation with the Board of Leicester Council of Faiths and particularly with my Line Manager, Tony Nelson. I'm grateful to everyone who has taken part in the consultations that have brought us to this state.

Below is a description of my duties in the new post. If you've been paying attention, faithful reader (and I trust that you have) you'll see that they're not all that different from my duties in the old one; but for the moment I'll have to do less of them and get paid less for doing so. This is a general outline of course, the specific ways in which these tasks and duties are met are largely up to me, in agreement with my Line Manager, the Personnel Management Group (consisting of three current members of the Board of Directors) and above them, the Board itself.

Apologies to Sir Paul McCartney for the title of this blog entry.


  1. Promote accurate knowledge of the diverse communities of religion or belief in Leicester and environs. 
  1. Help members of Leicester Council of Faiths (communities and individuals) to consult and co-operate on matters of common concern. 
  1. Strengthen links between Leicester Council of Faiths and relevant service providers and VCS organisations in Leicester and environs. 
  1. Bring together members of the diverse communities of religion or belief in Leicester and environs to participate in relevant activities. 
  1. Contribute fully to SACRE by participating in its meetings and assisting with relevant tasks outside meetings. 
  1. Organise and assist members of Leicester Council of Faiths (communities and individuals) to participate in inter-faith activities for the benefit of the people of Leicester and environs. 
  1. Collaborate with Leicester City Council to ensure that the views of the city’s communities of religion or belief may be taken into account in the planning, delivery and monitoring of services and that City Council’s policies, practices and procedures reduce discrimination. 
  1. Seek appropriate funding to sustain this post and obtain income for Leicester Council of Faiths.