Wednesday, 31 July 2013


At Curve (Rehearsal Room 3, to be precise) this morning, attending Leicester UK Candidate City of Culture 2017 Bid Development Workshop.

The groups working on different aspects of the final bid are well represented here today, sharing ideas, strengthening team spirit, consolidating our unity of purpose. The meeting is opened by City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and led by members of the team responsible for writing the final bid.

There's an impressive level of commitment, creativity and inventiveness among all those present, reflecting a palpable sense of engagement, enthusiasm and interest among an increasing number of people from all walks of life in the city and county.

In one of the breaks I speak briefly with the Mayor about the article in the Independent on Sunday's New Review, which included a few comments from him. He was happy with it - and particularly pleased to see Leicester described as "the most diverse city on the planet"! Several other people mention the article, all of them saying that as well as being a good thing in its own right, it will surely boost our UK City of Culture 2017 bid.


At Phoenix this morning, for the regular fortnightly meeting of Creative Coffee Leicester. I've been unable to attend the last three sessions (since 5 June) so am glad to be here today - although I can only stay for the first hour.

I'm pleasantly surprised to see Julie-Ann and Barry Heath here. I'd be pleased to see them here any time, of course, but it's especially the case since I'd been with them at Cathedral AM hardly an hour-and-a-half before. Julie-Ann is in her civvies, here to follow up on a recent exhibition of her art at LCB Depot.

I meet, for the first time, Hannah Patterson, presenter and voiceover artist fort TV, radio and the web. Hannah used to work at BBC Radio Leicester. I mention about occasionally having been on the station, doing things like Thought for the Day from time to time. Hardly do I say this when my iphone rings. It's John Florance, from BBC Radio Leicester, asking me to come in to the studio and record a Thought for the Day!

That's Hannah on the right in the photo above, with Michael Tedstone, composer and musician, one of the regulars at Creative Coffee Leicester.

Just before 1100 I dash round to Curve, for a workshop for members of all those working on Leicester's bid to be declared UK City of Culture 2017.


David Monteith, Dean of Leicester (centre)
Cathedral AM is an early morning networking event held at Leicester Cathedral, gathering together people from different parts of city and county, with a special mission to share news and experience on aspects of life in the the city centre. The meetings are hosted by Urban Canon Barry Naylor and Julie Ann Heath, Chaplain to the Cathedral. Breakfast is served from 0730 then there's a speaker from 0800.

This morning's speaker is David Monteith, Dean of Leicester. David speaks about his own background, the steps he has taken which have led him to this post. He's only been Dean of Leicester for a couple of months, taking on the role at one of the most challenging and exciting times in the life of Leicester Cathedral, with the imminent development of the Cathedral Gardens and the unfolding story around Richard III and plans being laid for the internal renovation of the Cathedral itself.

There's a buzz around the tables about the article in the Independent on Sunday's New Review, which everyone seems positive about - even a few folk who were interviewed and hoped to be mentioned in the article, but didn't feature in the published version. 

I walk out at the end with John Florance of BBC Radio Leicester. As well as giving me his informed opinion on Pacific Rim (which I intend to see this weekend), he asks if I'd be amenable to recording another Thought for the Day soon. Of course I would!

Monday, 29 July 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Faiths come together for Syria appeal
A toy collection is being held for children affected by the conflict in Syria.
Sharen Ravat, chaplaincy service manager at Leicester College, will be holding a drop-in session for members of the public to hand over unwanted or unused toys on Sunday, August 4, from 1pm to 5pm at St Philip's Church in Evington Road, Leicester.
Many different faith communities have already pledged support, including Leicester Islamic Centre, Leicester Cathedral, Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara and the Sikh Cultural and Welfare Society.
The toys will be given to the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria, which will then distribute them at hospitals in the war-torn country.
Sharen said: "I decided to organise the campaign after being touched by the plight of children in Syria, many of whom have lost their loved ones, been injured, made homeless or just lost hope.
"The UN has already said that the Syrian refugee crisis is the worst since Rwanda with an average of 6,000 people fleeing every day.
"I am hoping that by offering toys to children, it puts an immediate smile on their faces."
For more information, call Sharen on 07919 290 313.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Vinod Popat celebrates with Shraddha Seth, 10, and Shiv Aunarkat, 10
Hindus pray for prince's happy future
Hindus have prayed for a happy future for Prince George at a celebration of the royal baby's birth.
Dozens of members of the Hindu community were joined by the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Jennifer, Lady Gretton, who is the Queen's representative in the county.
It is traditional for prayers to be said on the sixth day of a new baby's life.
Vinod Popat, who organised the event in Belgrave, Leicester, on Saturday, said: "According to the Hindu teachings, the Lord of Destiny comes to bless the child on the sixth day.
"We were celebrating the birth of the prince with singing and drummers, and praying for the Lord of Destiny to write a beautiful destiny for the future king."
Lady Gretton said: "The Hindu community here has come together to celebrate and I think it's wonderful how everyone has joined in."
Among those enjoying the entertainment was 14-year-old Krishna Savadia.
She said: "We've been celebrating the birth of the new prince because we've been so excited about it and we've had so much fun."

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Peter Popham's article about Leicester is published today in the Independent on Sunday's New Review magazine. His piece is entitled "We're all in this together: How Leicester became a model of multiculturalism (even if that was never the plan)". You can go straight to it and read the whole piece for yourself (and comments by readers) by clicking on the title of the article above.

The Independent on Sunday is not the easiest newspaper to find in Wigston. After trying out quite a few shops, I get my hands on the last two copies in the Co-Op Food Store in Bell Street. But when I get them home, there's no New Review with either of them! I take them back for a refund and start searching again, rather late in the day. Thankfully, there are two more copies in the Tesco filling station. *Phew!*

The article is illustrated with photos of Surinder Pal Rhai (President of the Leicestershire Council of Gurdwaras), Cllr Manjula Sood (Assistant City Mayor and Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths) and Jawaahir Daahir (Chair of Somali Development Services). The one of Manjula is particularly good, standing magisterially in the Council Chamber.

I'm a bit surprised that none of the people to whom I introduced Peter on his first visit to Leicester don't appear in the article. But he has included many good interview subjects with good quotes from all of them. On reflection, I think that Peter probably treated that first visit as an initial reccie and got down to business when he returned (with a photographer) a few days later.

I'm happy with this - and look forward with anticipation to how it's received by other people in the city.

Saturday, 27 July 2013


This afternoon I'm on BBC Radio Leicester as a guest of Ed Stagg. Ed (photo above) hosts a weekly panel show, broadcast live from 1200-1400, discussing what he describes as “the Big Questions, from the scientific to the silly.” Ed hopes "to create the atmosphere of a relaxed and fun 'coffee-table' chat" on air.

The two other guests are Gordon Cooper (Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester) and Elaine Pantling (comedienne, actress and writer who performs as the one-woman Laurie Lorry Theatre Company).

I know Elaine (indeed the last time I did this show she was on the panel too) but not Gordon. I’m surprised Elaine and I are back together so soon, as they normally mix the guests up a bit more. But Ed tells us that we worked together so well last time, that they thought they should have us back together.

In the studio: Elaine Pantling, Gordon Cooper, Ed Stagg
I've been on Radio Leicester's Saturday afternoon show three times before, when the show was hosted by Damien St John (see blog entries for 14 July 2012 and 3 November 2012) and once with Ed as host (see blog entry for 26 January 2013).

A couple of days before the show we each receive an email and phone call from Ed, briefing us on the forthcoming show. We each have a question to which he'd like us to respond, then encourage us all to discuss - and for listeners to email, text or tweet about
. Our questions are as follows:
  • "What’s a garden for?" (for Gordon)
  • "Are we funny?" (for Elaine)
  • "How do I keep the faith?" (for me)
  • "What’s in a name?" (for everyone)

Elaine has us indulge in a quarter of an hour of improvised comedy, which had to be heard to be believed. We were each issued with props for sound effects ( yes, the mind boggles, faithful reader!)

Gordon, Elaine & Ed - with props!
Each of us gets to choose a song. Ed asks us to keep it "radio-friendly" and preferably something that relates to our specialism, our question or something that fits the week. Mine is King for a Day by XTC for what I hope are obvious reasons.

Oh, and while I was writing this blog post, I made an unexpected find: XTC performing King for a Day on Late Night with David Letterman, 30 June 1989. Enjoy this lovely piece of serendipity, my friends.

Friday, 26 July 2013


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United States 943
  2. Indonesia 791
  3. United Kingdom 433
  4. Saudi Arabia 291
  5. Poland 204
  6. China 179
  7. Russia 143
  8. France 113
  9. Venezuela 112
  10. Germany 84

This week's total: 3,293 (last week: 3,016). 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 July 2013


A pleasant occasion at Beaumanor Hall, venue for the traditional Summer Evening reception hosted by the Chairman of Leicestershire County Council. It's a nice event, with polite conversation, an abundant finger buffet and live music inside and out. Harpist Soraya Vermeulen offered a lovely performance within the Hall.

Soraya Vermeulen
I've visited Beaumanor Hall several times, either delivering or receiving training here, but never for a social occasion. I take advantage of the opportunity for a nice stroll on my own through the gardens.

I'm here as the guest of Tony Nelson, Treasurer of Leicester Council of Faiths (my Line Manager there) and representative of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation on that body. We agree to stay for dessert, but leave before there's any dancing.

David Hurwich (left) & Tony Nelson, both of Leicester Hebrew Congregation


Habib Akram (on right in photo below) has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

Break down barriers facing our community
Habib Akram says Ahmadi Muslims are committed to peace and the UK but face prejudice from many people
Today is an historic milestone for my community - marking 100 years since our establishment in the UK. We have much to celebrate. We are committed to Britain and its prosperity. Our ethos Love for All, Hatred for None underpins our belief and is manifest in a nationwide peace campaign. In addition:
We have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for UK charities.
  • We support the annual Poppy Appeal and organise drives to join the Armed Forces as well as blood donation drives throughout Britain.
  • We have engaged in widespread interfaith events and celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at each of our mosques across the country.
  • We constructed the first purpose-built mosque in London, which opened in 1924, and was used as a bomb shelter during the war.
  • We run western Europe's biggest mosque, in Surrey, with capacity for 10,000 worshippers.
  • We have translated the Holy Koran into more than 70 languages, including braille. 
Britain has provided a home for thousands of Ahmadi Muslims over the past century. Our duty as Muslims is to be grateful to God and to give thanks to Queen and country for allowing us to practice [sic] our faith freely.
Islam teaches us to be loyal citizens and we believe it is our duty to serve the country, contribute to society and promote peace for all. When we say Islam means peace, we practice [sic] that.
Today will be a day of thanksgiving for us - the day falls during the blessed month of Ramadan.
However, the occasion also serves as a reminder of the acts of terror committed by extremists on my community.
Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan, where we are not allowed to practice [sic] Islam, and we continue to be persecuted in Indonesia and other countries where an extremist clergy is able to wield influence.
Even in Britain, there have been attempts to foment hatred against us through satellite Asian news channels or by firebrand clerics.
The result of this is that my community remains isolated from other Muslim communities, even in Leicester, and despite speeches and opinion pieces in this paper about the need for community cohesion, no attempt is made to reach out to us.
Invitations for other Muslims to join us at our interfaith events are ignored by all but a few.
So the need to build bridges and remove the barriers of prejudice is greater than ever. If the words that appear in this paper about building communities are not to be mere platitudes, real action needs to be taken now to break down the barriers of ignorance and prejudice.
As loyal citizens, we enter our second century here in the UK with much optimism. We hope to build on our achievements and, God willing, be of even greater benefit to this country.
Dr Habib Akram is president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Leicester

Monday, 22 July 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth to join Ramadan fast
by Dan Martin
Leicester South MP Jon Asworth is to join Muslims marking Ramadan by fasting for a day.
Mr Ashworth will go without food, from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday, with worshippers at the Masjid Umar Mosque in Evington Drive.
The Labour politician is repeating a fast he took part in last yearHe said: “Last year I fasted during Ramadan because I wanted to have a deeper and more spiritual understanding of Islam.
“It was such a rewarding experience, and that’s why I want to fast again this year.”
“Ramadan is such an important time for so many families across Leicester.
“I want to show my support to the local community, but more than that, I want to experience Ramadan for myself again.”
The MP will start the day with an early meal, called sehri, at the home of Gulam Husain, the secretary general of the mosque.
He will not eat until breaking his fast with dates and water at Masjid Al Falah on Keythorpe Street on Wednesday night.
He added: “I’ll be fasting for the whole day, but like many Muslims I’ll go about my day as usual and will be working from my constituency office.”
“Even though I’ll only be fasting for one day, I’m still glad that I can take part in Ramadan in my own small way.
“I know it’ll be tough, and I wrote a blog about it all last year, but I know this year’s fast will reinforce everything that I took away from the experience last year.”

Friday, 19 July 2013


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United States 1544
  2. Russia 433
  3. United Kingdom 354
  4. Germany 183
  5. Poland 137
  6. France 135
  7. India 84
  8. Ukraine 70
  9. Venezuela 39
  10. Sweden 35

This week's total: 3,016 (last week: 2,436). 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.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United States 1290
  2. United Kingdom 391
  3. Russia 222
  4. Germany 195
  5. France 135
  6. Ukraine 70
  7. India 48
  8. China 38
  9. Poland 28
  10. Australia 19

This week's total: 2,436 (last week: 1,909). 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:
Our culture city rivals are "crap"
by Peter Warzynski
Leicester's three City of Culture rivals have been included in a national list of the UK's "crap towns''.
Hull, Dundee and Swansea all appear on the Crap Towns longlist – a collection of the 100 worst towns and cities in Great Britain.
However, Leicester – the home of Richard III, National Space Centre, Curve theatre and the Attenboroughs – is nowhere to be seen on the roster of rubbish places to live.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby welcomed the news, but said the real test would come in November when the 2017 UK City of Culture winner is revealed.
"Well, I already knew Leicester wasn't crap," he said.
"But I rather suspect that this list is a bit tongue in cheek because I know the three other City of Culture contenders have a lot to offer.
"So let's wait until November and we can prove once and for all we are the best city."
The 100 nominees will be whittled down to 50 via an online vote and included in a book of the UK's worst places to live.
Also making it on to the longlist is York – whose supporters are locked in a bitter battle with the University of Leicester over where the remains of Richard III should be laid to rest.
Despite Leicester's exclusion from the list, one county town made it into the top 100.
Loughborough can be found nestled comfortably between London and Louth, in Lincolnshire, on the alphabetical census of crapness.
Hearing the news yesterday, Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan said: "How deeply unfair. This has clearly been put together by someone who has never been to Loughborough.
"I know it's all a bit of fun, and tongue in cheek, but nobody wants to hear their home has been nominated as a 'crap town'.
"Oh well... I just hope people get voting and make sure that Loughborough doesn't make it any further than the top 100.
"We have a great town here, with a fantastic community spirit, wonderful tourist attractions and a top-class university."
David Cameron's constituency, Chipping Norton, is also on the longlist.
The quaint Oxfordshire market town – home to Jeremy Clarkson – is a surprise addition, but Crap Towns Returns editor Sam Jordison said it was not all about appearance.
He said: "Crap comes in many forms. Very often, the kind of towns that estate agents would describe as 'desirable' are the most stultifying, the most ugly and the most unpleasant to live in.
"They also tend to be full of the most ridiculous people. Our correspondents don't like Mayfair any more than they like deprivation and squalor.
"In fact, they often finger the affluent places as the cause of all the trouble in the first place. Or at least for failing to do anything about it and for having terrible, terrible pubs."

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury (though without a photo - I nipped over to Highfields and took this one myself):

New lights help mark Ramadan
New Ramadan lights have been installed in three streets.
The lights were switched on in Nedham Street, Melbourne Road and St Peter's Road, in Highfields, Leicester, last night to mark the start of a month of fasting by Muslims.
New signs declaring "Ramadan Mubarak" (greetings) have also been put up.
They will change to "Eid Mubarak" to celebrate the festival at the end of Ramadan.
Yahya Thada, of Muslim Khatri Association, said: "The improved festive lighting will enhance the celebrations and allow the wider community to be part of them.
"Leicester will have the largest lighting in Europe."

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens with Max Harlow, 10, Maya Topping, 5, Jack Chapman, 5, & Lauren Henry, 11 
Pupils' ideas turned into prayer trail
A sculpture prayer trail inspired by pupils has been created at a primary school.
The art was unveiled at Gilmorton Chandler CofE School in a ceremony attended by Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, and diocesan director of education, Canon Mary Lawson.
It features seven artworks based on a verse from Galatians interpreting goodness and gentleness, joy, love, patience and faithfulness, kindness and self-control.
There is also a pebble cross where children leaving the school will each place a stone.
Children came up with ideas for the trail, which were realised by Ruth Cutler, Dean Williams, Ian Tuck, Andy Moyes, Liam Hadjipetrou, John Tozer and Kerr Doig.
Head teacher Marie Sandford said: "We encourage all children to become independent, creative learners who also respect and care for others and for the environment."
Team vicar the Rev Emma Davies said: 'This project has been a wonderful way of helping the children think about some core Christian values."

Friday, 5 July 2013


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United States 485
  2. United Kingdom 339
  3. Russia 275
  4. Germany 266
  5. Slovenia 120
  6. France 80
  7. China 105
  8. Ukraine 85
  9. India 60
  10. Netherland 55

This week's total: 1,909 (last week: 1,894). 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 morning I'm in the studio at BBC Radio Leicester, to record a Thought for the Day with John Florance. This one's for broadcast on Jonathan Lampon's breakfast show, Monday 8 July - and here's how it sounded on the day:
JL: It's time for Thought for the Day, which comes today from George Ballentyne, a local Bahá'í.
GMB: Good morning
If you were to make a list of things that religious people do, fasting would be one of the first that comes to mind.
Fasting has always been one of the central practices of people who have religious beliefs – and this remains so in the modern world. Fasting is taken seriously by people of faith everywhere. 
Of the eight member religions represented on Leicester Council of Faiths, for example, seven have distinctive periods and methods of fasting at some time during their own calendar year.
On any given day, a sizeable number of people in Leicester and beyond will be fasting for religious reasons. Others will be fasting for different purposes: under medical instruction, as an aid to losing weight, or so that they can detox. And, sad to say in this day and age, more and more people find themselves going without food against their will, because of difficult personal or social circumstances.
Muslims everywhere will begin fasting tomorrow for the month of Ramadan – more than 60,000 people in Leicester, almost one in five of our city’s population.
For Muslim listeners, I hope you have a good fasting period, that the experience helps affirm and strengthen your faith identity for this month and the rest of the year.

For those of us who aren’t Muslim ourselves, but have Muslim friends, colleagues, co-workers or neighbours, why not ask them why they fast during Ramadan? Hopefully that should help us see fasting as part of a shared life experience – and that may come as a pleasant surprise.
JL: Thought for the Day there, which came from George Ballentyne, a local Bahá'í

I thought (without checking on it) that I was doing this with my Council of Faiths hat on. If I'd known I was going out on air as "a local Bahá'í" I'd have spoken about the commemoration of the Martyrdom of the Báb, that takes place on Tuesday 9 July. Still, it's perfectly in keeping with the Leicester way to have a Bahá'í comment on Ramadan - and have no one remark on it!


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

City welcoming rest of the world
by David Owen
Nearly a quarter of all people living in the East Midlands who were born abroad reside in Leicester, according to new study.
Not only do 24.7 per cent of the region's foreign-born residents live in the city, but Leicester also has the highest number – 100,843.
The city also saw the largest numerical growth in the migrant population – 46,283 additional non-UK born residents – in a 10-year period.
It follows a study of the migrant population in England and Wales by Oxford University's Migration Observatory, based on its analysis of 2011 Census figures compared with the previous Census in 2001.
The research is the most comprehensive carried out on the city's migrant population.
It reveals that Leicester's migrant population has increased by 71.7 per cent – from 64,560 to 110,843 in 10 years.
The data reveals that of the 329,839 people living in Leicester – the East Midlands' largest city – in 2011, 33.6 per cent were not born in the UK, the highest proportion of any place in the region.
Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva, the senior researcher leading the Census project, said: "Reports produced by the Office for National Statistics often only provide information about broad immigration trends in the country.
"The purpose of our study was to give people a clearer idea of what is happening as far as immigration is concerned where they live."
Residents born in India represent the most numerous non-UK-born group in Leicester (37,224 residents, 34 per cent of Leicester's foreign-born), followed by residents born in Kenya (7,118; 3.3 per cent); Poland (6,417; 2.9 per cent); Pakistan (3,534; 1.6 per cent), and Zimbabwe (3,377; 1.5 per cent).
Of the proportional change in foreign-born residents since 2001, Poland represents the biggest increase (1,111 per cent; 530 to 6,417), followed by China (728 per cent; 290 to 2,401); Iran (508 per cent; 111 to 675); Zimbabwe (270 per cent; 913 to 3,377, and Nigeria (269 per cent; 307 to 1,133).
Dr Vargas-Silva said: "Leicester is interesting in many ways. We expected it to be an important destination for immigrants to the country, but what we found is it is also much more diverse than most other areas. People come to Leicester from all over the world."
He said the type of immigration was also interesting.
"You have networking migration, which is people who have family, friends and relatives already living in an area, and also areas with high student populations and people looking for work. But while some places like Vauxhall, in London, have high migrant populations due to students, and Boston, Lincolnshire, with a large migrant workforce, Leicester scores high on all counts."


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Head Sally Hughes with, from left, Diya Mistry, Myleen Mander, Neha Kancherla, Malwina Fudala & Abhay Keshwala 
Leicester "free school" praised
by Fiona Dryden, Education Correspondent
The first of the Government's "free" schools to open in the city has been given a good Ofsted report.
The visit was the first by inspectors from the education watchdog to Krishna Avanti Primary, in Evington, which opened two years ago.
Inspectors said pupils made good progress from their starting points, teaching was good and Krishna Avanti had a warm and caring environment which made good provision to support pupils' strong spiritual development.
Interim head teacher Sally Hughes, who took over from outgoing principal Christopher Spall when he left just before Easter, said: "It's fantastic news. The inspection was rigorous, but the outcome was just as we expected, showing that we know exactly what level we're operating at and what we need to do to become outstanding. It's well within reach."
Free schools can be started by charities, parents or teachers. They are outside local authority control, but are paid for by the state.
The report said pupils' behaviour was outstanding and they were "highly motivated learners who were kind, considerate, and caring" towards one another.
They said that staff used innovative IT to bring learning to life and this supported children well.
In addition, they praised the quality of teaching in the Early Years Foundation stage for being "outstanding".
They said that classrooms and their displays were vibrant and learning was "well-organised".
Mrs Hughes was also praised for settling in so quickly and rapidly winning the confidence of parents and staff.
They said she had an "accurate overview" of the school's performance.
She said: "The report is a true reflection of what we're doing here and highlights many of our strengths.
"I think the school's ethos of tolerance and respect shone through during the inspection. It's evident in our pupils' eagerness to learn and enthusiasm to be here.
"We have some outstanding teachers and have employed two more, along with four extra teaching assistants who start in September to accommodate our growing numbers."
The school will have 165 pupils in the new academic year and will be at planned capacity.
Mrs Hughes said: "We're a school that embraces all cultures and that was highlighted in the report through our pupils' spiritual, moral, and cultural development."
Pradip Gajjar, chair of governors, said: "We've done exceptionally well in our first report and we know what we need to do to be even better. The school is oversubscribed for September and that speaks volumes for the confidence of parents in what we're doing.
"We feel very proud of what's already been achieved."
To improve even further, inspectors said that teachers should be more confident to adapt activities.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Allan Hayes has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

Diversity has enriched city and I'm proud to live here
Allan Hayes on the different religions in Leicester and why education is so important
It's time to tell people that we in Leicester, religious and non-religious, are one in humanity and that we are enriched by our diversity. We are fortunate in being able to say this from experience, from living together, from walking around, from travelling on the bus – we know what we are talking about.
I vividly remember arriving back from the United States to be greeted at Leicester station by a tall turbaned Sikh taxi driver with a "hello my friend, how do you like my new taxi?" and suddenly thinking, "I'm home".
A great deal is going into building this feeling of belonging.
Others will be able to add much more, but let me look back a little.
An Imam telling a group of us what Islam means to him and expressing his concern that Muslims should not isolate themselves; the launch of a book by a Jewish Quaker, proud of his Jewish heritage, and at the same time critical of Israeli policy towards Palestinians and seeking a just peace; a talk on the influence of Indian thoughts on Western thinking; an inside line, via my wife, to a campaign to stop the deportation of an asylum seeker mounted by Leicester City of Sanctuary (a great example of cooperation); an e-mail from a Sikh friend telling me that the Pope had said atheists like me might earn salvation through good works.
At the top of my concerns, however, is education: it can do so much to bring us together but it can also promote division.
Please, let us bring up our children together, let us bring them up knowing one another; learning to appreciate the long journey that we humans have taken together and that the human family includes us all: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, humanist, atheist, whatever.
There is increasing realisation of the importance of this issue.
I have been pursuing it for a long time, recently at meetings in London and in Birmingham and on the web.
It will be taking up a lot of my time and effort in the coming year.
Recently, I told a humanist group in rural Dorset about how we do things in Leicester – I spoke with pride.
Allan Hayes is a board member of Leicester Secular Society


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
Is culture limited to just one area?
Any place that designates one small area as a Cultural Quarter does not deserve the title City of Culture, since it implies that culture does not exist anywhere else.
John Cotton, Leicester

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Federation backs abuse prison terms
The Leicestershire Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) has welcomed lengthy sentences imposed on seven men for their part in the sexual exploitation of children in Oxford.
FMO Spokesperson Suleman Nagdi said: "This is a truly awful and appalling case and it is a relief that the perpetrators of this heinous crime have been brought to justice."
He said: "The physical, mental and psychological abuse of children is totally abhorrent and must be condemned whenever and wherever it occurs.
"All communities, irrespective of faith, hold dear the value of children as a great blessing, which must always be protected and cherished.
"Any individual, or group, which commits any act of abuse against children must be condemned and brought to justice."
He said an important part of the FMO's work was Madrassah Safeguarding Project, run with the local authority, police and the NSPCC, to safeguard children in supplementary schools.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Premier boost for culture bid
by Alan Thompson
The UK premiere of a film shot in Belgrave will take place in the city in September – giving a boost to Leicester's City of Culture bid.
Jadoo, which was filmed on the Golden Mile in March last year, was given its international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.
Now, the colourful comedy, which tells the story of two brothers who open competing restaurants in Belgrave Road after they each inherit half of their mother's recipes, is coming to the city.
Its director, Amit Gupta, was born above the Chaat House restaurant, in Belgrave Road.
Still owned by his family, it appeared in the film, along with Exotica, a restaurant further up the street.
People and businesses who were filmed – including Leicester East MP Keith Vaz – will get the chance to see themselves on the big screen at an as yet unnamed, cinema in the city – unless they've hit the cut ting room floor! Rajesh Pabari, owner of Shiva Shakri Foods, in MacDonald Road, off Belgrave Road, whose shop was used for a scene, said: "They spent about half a day filming a scene about the brothers buying ingredients.It will be interesting to see it, I'm looking forward to it."
Mr Vaz, who plays himself judging which of the brothers cooked the best food, said: "I actually haven't seen it yet but I am very much looking forward to it coming out.
"It was great fun filming and I hope people will go to see it and enjoy Leicester on the big screen."
Mr Vaz has been invited to a private screening of the film when it comes out in September. City assistant mayor and Belgrave ward councillor Manjula Sood said:"I think this will be a great boost for Leicester's city of culture bid.
"It will raise Leicester's profile and put the city on the map"I've known Amit, who directed the film, since he was a little boy, born and brought up in Leicester, so I'm very proud.
"The producers have asked me if it would be possible to banners up across Belgrave Road and I am going to speak to the council's festivals and events team. Jadoo's Associate producer, Farhana Bula, said: "We wanted to be able to tie in the UK premiere with Leicester's bid to become City of Culture.
"The exact date and venue are to be finalized."


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Deevani Jina, Mansi Vithlani and Prianka Lakhani
Sun shines on An Indian Summer to entice crowd of 8,000
ABOUT 8,000 people visited a cultural festival of dance, cooking, entertainment and everything Indian in the city centre.
An Indian Summer Festival was held in Leicester's Cultural Quarter at the weekend.
There were stalls selling everything from food to clothing and jewellery, as well as dancing and tuk-tuk rides.
Visitor Pushpa Solanki, 54, of Evington, Leicester, said: "I only got to see half of it, but it was fantastic. It was very well organised.
"I liked the involvement of everybody from different communities. The tuk-tuk brought back memories of when I go to India – it's a form of transport I enjoy."
Festival director Bipin Anand said: "It was an absolutely awesome weekend! People were commenting on what a fantastic vibe there was and many said that the festival was so different from anything they had ever experienced in Leicester.
"When we started An Indian Summer more than two years ago we had a vision in mind on what we wanted the festival to be like, this year is the closest we have come to achieving that vision.
"Next year's festival will be bigger, better and take us even closer to achieving our initial vision."
The estimated 8,000 festival visitors over the weekend was well up on last year's 3,500.