Monday, 5 November 2012


This report of my activities as Equality and Diversity Officer for Leicester Council of Faiths covers the period 1 October 2011 to 30 September 2012. Many of these were done in fulfilment of our obligations to Leicester City Council. Activities for which I was responsible and/or events in which I was principally involved are listed alphabetically below. I have, of course, also supported activities and events such as Holocaust Memorial Day, our two Open Meetings and the Peace Visit. I have included only those activities and events which led to definite discernible outcomes for Leicester Council of Faiths during the period under consideration. Several others, which came to nought or have yet to attain any clear result, have been omitted, for sake of space.

Wrote and submitted bid to Heritage Lottery Fund "All Our Stories” funding stream for support to create “Faith in Leicester”, a mixed set of resources (book, exhibition and website) to record and celebrate first 25 years of Leicester Council of Faiths (30 Jul).

The Psalms 12-week course at Christchurch, Clarendon Park – involved in planning as well as delivery (Sep-Dec)

Mindfulness and Wisdom 8-week course at Christchurch, Clarendon Park – involved in planning as well as delivery, in association with Leicester Serene Reflection Zen Meditation Group (Jan-Apr)

Ongoing attendance at and involvement with SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education)

Participated in Challenging RE: SACRE’s Religious Education conference for gifted and more able RE students, years 8-11 from 11 city schools, at Holy Trinity Church, Regent Road.

Continuing membership of and support for Global Education LeicesterShire (GELS)

Bushloe High School, Wigston. Ran session on “diversity” for student Community Club (23 May).

St Paul’s Catholic School, Evington. “Philosophy Panel” with Year 9 students. This was the second time I’d been asked to obtain speakers for this event. This year’s panel consisted of a Bahá'í, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Secular Humanist and a Sikh – and me, speaking from a multi-faith perspective (7 Oct).

South Leicestershire Learning Forum, “Time to Shine” Pupil community cohesion conference. Exhibited full display of pop-up banners, ran three workshops on diversity (Oadby Racecourse, 25 May)

Weaver’s Close C of E Primary, Earl Shilton. Participated in Planet Leicester week-long project organised by Leicester Education Business Company (28 Jun).

Supported opening of Faith and Reflection Room at Royal National Institute for the Blind College, Loughborough (16 Dec). Also helped write their visitors’ booklet for the room.

Invited to participate in Faith and Belief in Further Education (FBFE) East Midlands Regional Forum (South Leicestershire College, Wigston, 22 May).

De Montfort University
Invited to participate in DMU Community Fair Street Market (DMU Student Union, 27 Sep).

Derby University
Invited to participate in Practitioner Knowledge Exchange Workshop for Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality: A Decade of Change? project (19 Sep).

Leicester University
Invited to participate in Hope and Resilience for Refugees and Asylum Seekers conference (Fielding Johnson Building, 19 Jun).

invited to participate in strategy meeting Leicestershire Observatory / Information Portal (24 Jul).

Supported 20th anniversary of International Chaplaincy by providing exhibition material (Oct 2011).

Mapping Faith and Place Project. Attended launch (New Walk Museum 7 0ct); participated in second seminar (St Phillip’s Church, 16 Jan), third seminar (Leicester Uni, 25 Apr), closing conference (St Martins House, 26 Jul).

Participated in meetings of World Faiths Advisory Group (Gatehouse, Leicester Uni International Chaplaincy Centre, 14 Mar; 15 May)

Invited to participate in conference: Building Shared Heritages: cultural Diversity in Leicester (Fielding Johnson Building, 16 Jun).

Displayed full exhibition at International Students Services Fair (O2 Academy, 25 Sep)

I was invited to participate in meetings with City Mayor, Leicestershire Police and representatives of other Voluntary and Community Sector organisations in advance of second visit to Leicester by English Defence League in February 2012 (19 Jan). Participated in similar meeting hosted by Federation of Muslim Organisations in Highfields Centre (24 Jan).

Presented hour-long programme on how the other member communities on Leicester Council of Faiths approach fasting (13 Aug).

Exhibited for World Day Against Homophobia at marketplace event ( Phoenix Square, 17 May).

The third annual celebration of Inter Faith Week in England, Wales and (for the first time) Northern Ireland was held from Sunday 19 to Saturday 26 November 2011. As this week coincided with the very date, 25 years ago, on which the first meeting of a Council of Faiths in Leicester was held, special efforts were made to link Inter Faith Week with our silver anniversary. We had 10,000 copies of leaflet printed and distributed around the city, especially to places of worship and faith-based community centres. The flier contained a QR Code, which, when scanned using a smartphone, led the viewer directly to a webpage which was frequently updated with activities and events in and around Leicester for Inter Faith Week. Given the auspicious and significant nature of this week in 2011, I’ve devoted considerable attention to it below.

BBC Radio Leicester
John Florance interviewed me about Inter Faith Week and the Council of Faiths’ 25th anniversary on his Sunday morning show (Sun 19 Nov).

I was asked to contribute a 90-second “Thought for the Day” (about Inter Faith Week and the Council of Faiths’ 25th anniversary) on Ben Jackson’s breakfast show (Mon 20 Nov).

Ben Jackson covered Inter Faith Week once more, with interviews recorded at our exhibition (Tue 22 Nov).

Becca Bryers, BBC Radio Leicester producer, recorded an interview with Jo Tallack (Highcross General Manager) and me about the Faith Room (Fri 25 Nov).

Communities of Faith or Belief in Leicester
A series of ten one-hour introductory talks on our eight member communities (plus one on Paganism and one on Secular Humanism) were presented at Leicester Adult Education College. These were held daily (in alphabetical order) at 12 noon and 4 o’clock, two a day, Monday to Friday. This helped consolidate positive working relations with Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service (LASALS) and were held in the Adult Education college at their request.

Faith Film Festival
A series of feature films was shown at Phoenix Square during Inter Faith Week. The programme was the result of extensive consultation, with individuals from our member communities and staff at Phoenix Square. The films shown were as follows: Little Buddha (Sun 20 Nov); A Serious Man (Mon 21 Nov); Life in a Day (Thu 24 Nov); My Name is Khan (Fri 25 Nov); Lourdes (Sat 26 Nov).

Each of these showings was preceded by a specially-made “slate” on screen with the logo of Leicester Council of Faiths, linking that particular film to Inter Faith Week and the Council of Faiths’ 25th anniversary.

The Faith Film Festival was promoted via Phoenix Square’s website (a still from each of the films had the Council of Faiths logo in the bottom right corner) and in their printed monthly programme for November, 30,000 copies of which were published and widely distributed throughout the city, county and beyond.

Faith Room at Highcross
Following several months of assistance, consultation and cooperation (drawing on professional specialist advice from Council of Faiths member Rosemarie Fitton) Highcross dedicated its “Faith Room” at the end of Inter Faith Week. The Faith Room features, on its door, a large laminated version of Leicester Council of Faiths’ logo. Enhanced signage introduced throughout Highcross in 2012, featuring directions to the Faith Room, has demonstrated long-term commitment to this facility for customers, staff and visitors. The Faith Room has proven very popular with users and has attracted virtually no negative reaction from the public. The success of the Faith Room has led Hammerson (the owner and administrator of Highcross) to make it their policy to include such a facility within the plans of any new-build premises and to begin converting rooms in its existing sites.

Favourite Faiths Photo Exhibition
An exhibition of 16 photographs, two for each of our member faith communities, was put on at the recently opened Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery in Belvoir Street (what was previously the Central Lending Library). Due to a technical error at the digital printers, we ended up with two almost complete sets of these prints; consequently we were able to display a second set of the pictures as part of our exhibition at Highcross. This exhibition stayed on display at Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery for nine months, until August 2012.

Highcross exhibition
For the third year running, Highcross offered us space to display our exhibition during Inter Faith Week. This was in an area of the mall different from the one given to us in 2009 and 2010: a much more prominent and popular one, at the foot of the escalators, near the rest rooms. We were able to put more material on show (including two pop-up banners provided by Leicester University’s Mapping Faith and Place project). Once again, Highcross management assured us that footfall for the exhibition in this busy week during the Christmas shopping period, was over 250,000.

Inter Faith Network for UK
Our activities for Inter Faith Week in Leicester were listed on various platforms hosted and promoted by the Inter Faith Network for the UK, including an online Google Map and the Twitter account dedicated to the week (#IFWeek). This would have brought our activities to the attention of a greatly expanded national audience. Photographs from our Highcross exhibition were included in the Inter Faith Network for the UK’s report on Inter Faith Week, published online as a PDF.

Jon Ashworth MP
Jon’s office informed me that he wanted to visit the exhibition in Highcross and asked me to organise an hour-long meeting with representatives of our member faith communities. This was arranged for the afternoon of Friday 25 November, when Jon was able to meet with Bahá'í, Christian, and Sikh members of the Board of Directors. The week after this meeting, Jon was able to mention Leicester Council of Faiths and Inter Faith Week during a speech in the chamber of the House of Commons.

Kohinoor Radio
I was interviewed by Inderjit Gugnani (Secretary, Leicester Council of Faiths) on Kohinoor Radio about Inter Faith Week and Leicester Council of Faiths’ 25th anniversary. The feature was conducted mostly in Punjabi – with Inderjit translating, of course. (18 Nov).

Leicester City Council
Our activities for Inter Faith Week (and our 25th anniversary) were publicised on the news website of Leicester City Council.

Handwritten invitations (on our “We have faith in Leicester” greetings cards) were given in at Town Hall for the City Mayor and all members of the Cabinet to visit our exhibition in Highcross. Cllr Ted Cassidy took up the invitation (Fri 25 Nov). Cllrs Sundip Meghani and Barbara Potter also visited the exhibition in Highcross (Fri 25 Nov).

Leicester Mercury
The Leicester Mercury reported on Inter Faith Week and the Council of Faiths’ 25th anniversary in a brief article entitled, “Celebrating diversity of religions” in both printed version and on the paper’s website (Tue 21 Nov).

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust
Launch of NHS Multifaith Staff Resource in three lunchtime meetings on consecutive days in the Brandon Unit, Glenfield Hospital. (Tue 22 Nov), Mansion House, Glenfield Hospital (Wed 23 Nov) and at Leicester General (Thu 24 Nov).

Pukkar News
At the start of Inter Faith Week, we were contacted by Pukaar News, who wanted to do a feature about the council of Faiths’ 25th anniversary. I was asked to set up relevant interviews at appropriate venues. Interviews were conducted with Manjula Sood (Chair, Leicester Council of Faiths) at Town Hall, Fayyaz Suleman (Vice-Chair, Leicester Council of Faiths) and me at the Highcross exhibition Thursday 24 November. They also filmed contributions with members of the public and with former member of the Council of Faiths, Manzoor Mogal. The resulting feature was posted online (Sat 26 Nov). It could best be described as a mixed bag. There was some brief discussion about whether there should be an official response to the content and tone of the article, but it was decided to let it lie. After all, in the words of Oscar Wilde,“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

This short activity for young journalism students took place at our Highcross exhibition (Thu 24 Nov). This was a follow-up to the event at Phoenix Square for the same group of young people that took place during Leicester Speaks a month or so before.

Together at Beauchamp College
I was involved in the planning of this event, which took place on the first day of Inter Faith Week (Sun 19 Nov) but due to problems with the volunteer rota at the Highcross exhibition, was able to do little more than deliver our exhibition material to the college then head back to Highcross to cover for some volunteers who had failed to turn up.

International Day Against Hate Crime
Exhibited at marketplace event (Phoenix Square, 28 Oct).

I joined the Holi Yatra Walk, visiting all 17 Hindu Mandirs in Leicester on foot in one day (I gave up at number 10 though!)

For the second year running, I was asked to be Co-chair of Leicester Speaks (aka Local Democracy Week) along with John Coster, Editor of Citizens’ eye Community News Agency. . This mainly involved co-compering the Big Launch, a major all-day public event in Humberstone Gate (10 Oct). Leicester Council of Faiths was directly involved in only one activity for Leicester Speaks this year: a “Speedfaithing” event for young citizen journalists at Phoenix Square.

NHS Staff Multifaith Resource
Following a year and more of consultation among the eight members of Leicester Council of Faiths and a variety of other communities of religion or belief (Humanist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon, Pagan, Rastafarian, Spiritualist), Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust published a Staff Multifaith Resource. This pack provides the following information in the same order, for each of the communities of religion or belief included: Introduction and local information; Mode of greeting; Birth; Examination of patient; Particular sensitivities; Washing, ablutions and personal hygiene; Modesty and dress; Special dietary requirements; Fasting; Family planning; Abortion; Care in serious (or final stages of) illness; Blood transfusion / transplants; Organ donation; Spiritual advisor / counsellor; Death; Religious symbols; Post mortem; Burial / cremation; General considerations for community nurses visiting patients at home. Shortly before the end of 2011, a programme of induction began for ward staff in the city, county and Rutland and for Community Teams in the same areas and for the Trust’s Spiritual and Pastoral Care Team. This induction programme was delivered alongside Abida Hussain, the Trust’s Equalities and Human Rights Officer.

Faith Community Health Ambassadors
Around 30 short video interviews have been conducted with individuals from a variety of backgrounds of religion or belief for use in training of staff with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. In these videos, subjects answer questions about how their religion or belief impact on their health and how they access healthcare services.

I was also asked to participate in grading the Trust’s Equality Delivery System (Peepul Centre, 27 Feb) and in coordinating the Council of Faiths’ response to an Impact Briefing regarding the proposed closure of the children’s heart unit at Glenfield Hospital (Lakeside, Grove Park, 28 May).

I was asked to help organise a meeting at which representatives of faith communities could meet to discuss setting the Force’s Religion or Belief Equality Objectives (Centre Project, Alfred Place, 18 Apr).

We exhibited at the second Our Leicester Day event (Leicester Market, 9 Sep).

Arranged visit for (and accompanied) party on coach trip from Peterborough to three faith sites in Leicester (23 Sep).

Since April 2009, the Regional Equality and Diversity Partnership (REDP) had funded virtually half my post (and for a year before that, about the same level of funding came from its predecessor EDP). I worked for Leicester Council of Faiths among three other Leicester-based Voluntary and community Sector organisations, representing different protected Characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010: Leicester Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LLGBT) Centre; Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL); and The Race Equality Centre (TREC). Together, our four organisations constituted the Core Partners of REDP. There was a further Core Reference Group, bringing together up to 25 VCS organisations from across the East Midlands. Funding for REDP ended in June 2012 (despite assurances from funders that it would continue for at least another year) and also despite our efforts to obtain alternative sources of funding. This has had a baleful impact on the sustainability of my post as well as the avenues in which I’ve been able to work for Leicester Council of Faiths when it comes to issues of equality and diversity.

I represented REDP at an HIV support event in Mansfield organised by Disability Nottinghamshire (Mansfield, 13 Oct) and at regional meeting of West Lindsey VCS Forum (Gainsborough, 29 Jun).

I helped organise and run regional conference on personalisation at King Power Stadium, Leicester (6 Dec); on the proposed UK Bill of Rights in Derby (22 Mar); and Choice Unlimited (Leicester Tigers, 5 Apr).

I co-presented seminars on “Equality Act 2010 and Human Rights” at Loughborough (18 Jan); Oakham (31 Jan); Mansfield (1 Feb); Boston (8 Feb); Derby (14 Feb); Hartshorne, South Derbyshire (17 Apr).

I represented REDP at national conferences: “Big Society and Equality” (Women’s Resource Centre, London, 30 Jan); “Big Society: the Good, the Bad and the Unequal” (Just West Yorkshire, Bradford, 29 Feb).

Invited to participate in first national conference on Sikh Mental Health and Wellbeing (Birmingham, 14 Sep).

An active presence has been maintained across a variety of social media platforms:

Equality and Diversity Officer blog has received 175,000 pageviews, and is currently sitting at no. 36 in ebuzzing’s Top Blogs world ranking for blogs on the topic of religion and belief

Facebook page has 210 “likes”

Twitter account @counciloffaiths currently has 975 followers

Participated in “ME: My Environment” regional conference (Birmingham, 18 Jul).

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