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Hounslow Youth Training Event Wins Praise From Ministers

Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2001

While riots were raging in Oldham and Burnley this month, young people were meeting in Hounslow, West London, for a training event focusing on better understanding of each other’s cultures and religions.

The evening’s programme was based on the great festivals of the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh religions, Eid, Diwali and Vaisakhi. The aim was to provide not only information, but also a forum where varying points of view could be aired and explored through workshops, drama, dance, music and displays.

Hounslow MP Ann Keen was unable to attend, as she had been called to a special meeting of MPs that evening by Ministers John Denham and Angela Eagle. Its purpose was to discuss the problems being experienced in the northern towns and possible ways forward, and Mrs Keen was able to cite the Hounslow project as an example of best practice.

The initiative was led by the Woodcraft Folk and the AWAAZ Project (Asian Youth Work in Hounslow), working in partnership with the local Racial Equality Council, police, youth service, and West Thames College. Extra funding was provided by the National Lottery Awards for All programme and the Co-operative Society.

Janet Kay of the Woodcraft Folk explained: “In a multi-cultural area like Hounslow, these festivals are seen to be going on, but people don’t necessarily appreciate what is being celebrated by their neighbours.

“There are also problems of understanding and acceptance within the faiths, particularly between old and young, and with authority figures. To the religious leaders, the festivals are seen as an occasion for spiritual contemplation and grateful celebration, while to many young people they are an opportunity (or excuse) for loud music, showy clothes and blaring car horns,” she said.

“The police meanwhile, have to deal with problems like crowd and noise control without appearing to discriminate against any particular group.”

About 120 people, mostly from the age group 14 to 25, attended the free event at West Thames College, on July 4. Each workshop was led by a religious/cultural leader and a representative of the police, and featured either a dance, drama or video presented by young people who had spent several weeks preparing for the project.

A full report of the training event is being prepared and will be available from Janet Kay on 01932 786801.

ENDS

Any further information is available from Janet Kay, as above.

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