MORE THAN one hundred community groups, voluntary organisations, societies and clubs converged on Leicester Market on Sunday September 11 for the very first Our Leicester Day. They stood side by side in a unified display of community spirit to celebrate the diversity and social awareness that thrives in Leicestershire.
The five hour community event also felt like a fitting tribute to those slain by the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on this day ten years ago.
Community leaders, project workers and volunteers from the city and county set out their stalls across the market from 11am until 4pm. They came to engage with members of the public face to face and raise awareness of their causes.
Our Leicester organiser Richard Brucciani said he had gathered together the various groups with the help of Voluntary Action Leicestershire and with a ‘catalyst fund’ from social change charity the RSA.
He said: “Leicester is diverse and we have lots of different communities around the city but there are very few events that actively mix people up.”
“The idea of today was to target community groups, voluntary organisations, clubs, societies and charities and let them set up their own stalls.”
One such group was the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group from St Philip’s Centre in Stoughton Drive, Leicester. They came to raise awareness of their monthly Christian-Muslim forum and a new Question Time event that takes place on September 13.
Daud Sameja, a Muslim spokesman from St Philip’s, was busy promoting inter-faith dialogue during Our Leicester Day.
He said: “When it comes to society we can all be one. We all have different theologies but that doesn’t mean we can’t interact together.”
St Philip’s Centre had issued a joint statement to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It read in part: “True dialogue begins when people meet people, and people do not have to agree with each other to respect each other’s beliefs.”
The Saffron Acres Project had set up its stall nearby. This eco-initiative, based at the Coppinger Road Allotments in Leicester, raises some of its funds by supplying produce to the award-winning restaurant Maiyango, in St Nicholas Place.
Volunteer gardener Peter Willetts introduced me to the various organic vegetables he had harvested. Most interesting were his shark fin melons, which he said were an ethical alternative to real sharks fins used to make soup in the Far East.
He said: “Our Leicester has been fantastic. We’re having a laugh meeting people and I’m losing my voice getting the word out about what we do.”
Amateur dramatics was represented by The Little Theatre and the Herrick Theatre Drama Group, who were signing up actors for their Christmas production at The Guildhall.
Sue Shore from Herrick Theatre said Our Leicester coincided perfectly with preparations for their upcoming Christmas show, because finding new actors was “quite a difficult thing unless people have an opportunity to see us.”
Children scaled a free climbing wall thanks to the Leicestershire Scouts group, while everyone enjoyed poetry readings in Corn Exchange Square and watched dancing from the cast of ‘Taj’ (which runs at Curve from September 15 to 17).
Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicester, said the inaugural Our Leicester Day had been physical evidence of the One Passion-One Leicester concept that had existed for several years.
He said: “It’s non political and for no economic gain. It’s about raising awareness and showing people what voluntary work is about and we are inviting people to see the joy of working with each other to put something back.
“This is Mr Cameron’s Big Society already operating.”