I first met Will last month, at a Knowledge Exchange Seminar in the Multifaith Centre at the University of Derby on the topic of Islam and Higher Education. We've been looking for the chance to get together for this conversation since then.
I'm grateful to Will for clearing a couple of hours so close to the international conference that he's organising at De Montfort University this Saturday. "Virtual Voices, Real Lives" will consider the realities of radicalisation and the role of social media in Islamophobia, extremism and social change. As you can imagine, faithful reader, I'm excited at the prospect of social media being taken seriously in this context and am looking forward to taking part in the conference myself.
Will was appointed Prevent Coordinator for Leicester in October last year. He talks me through how Prevent has changed, what it means now and how it relates to the distinctive circumstances of our city. I, in turn, walk him through the structure, function and relevance of Leicester Council of Faiths. We map out areas of overlap between Prevent and the Council of Faiths, complementary aspects of his work and mine, particularly regarding social cohesion. It would make sense for him to meet the Board of Leicester Council of Faiths to brief them on Prevent. I hope we can make that happen soon. I also offer to help him make contact with other appropriate organisations and agencies, such as Network for Change and Leicester SACRE.
The appointment of a Prevent Coordinator at S Philip's Centre was funded by the Home Office and is designed to co-ordinate the preventative strand of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST in Leicester. The aim of Prevent is to help communities develop the resilience to counter the national threat in all its forms, and to empower the community itself with the support of partner agencies to address these difficult challenges.
As we're wrapping up our two-hour meeting, we discover a shared interest in comics. Will favours Marvel (particularly Daredevil, the Man Without Fear), while I'm more firmly DC. Those who get such things may see what that might tell us about Will - and about how he and I could work together.
Follow Will's Twitter feed, @Leics_SafeSPACE: challenging religious and political extremism and providing the space for Leicester's communities to debate the issues online.
Follow Leicester SafeSpace on Facebook: An online forum to discuss and debate issues of political or religious extremism, share ideas on making our communities more resilient to extremist voices and publicise local and national events of interest.