I am always eager to put my senior rail card to good use and last week I used it to travel to Oldham where I had accepted a voluntary role in helping out Richard Outram and Maria Ellis (from Peace Talks Oldham) in covering a wide range of events for Oldham Peace Week. The week (six days of peace related activities in fact but we won't quibble about a day!) commenced on the International Day of Peace the 21st September 2016.
For details of Day one see my previous blog post
Day 2 involved a short journey to another local town Bradford where Richard, Maria and I visited The Peace Museum in Bradford - the only museum of it's kind in the UK (so far). Oldham's Mayor Councillor Derek Heffernan and his wife Di Heffernan (the lady Mayor) were also invited but due to the museum's location being up six flights of stairs and their reliance on walking aids this was too much for them so we were to meet them later in Bradford's City Hall (more about that later.)
We were greeted and shown around the museum by Shannen Lang (pictured right) who gave us a good knowledgeable synopsis of most of the pieces currently on display. Shannen joined the museum team in April 2014 as Collections and Education intern, since then she has taken on the role Learning and Administration Officer. She also handles the day to day running of the museum including the volunteers. Shannen is also involved in the exhibitions and temporary exhibition programme. Shannen graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA Hons in International History and Politics in 2015.
We also met Rehana Minhas who represented two groups - one called Peacejam UK an International charity active in over 39 countries with it's headquarters situated in Denver, Colorado in the USA. The charity focuses on mentoring young leaders who are "committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world." . Who are there primary mentors you might ask? The answer - no less than THIRTEEN Nobel Prize Winners!
The other charity that Rehana was representing was Leeds Peace Poetry
"Leeds Peace Poetry was established in 2003 by a group of people connected with Together for Peace, Leeds City Council - Education Leeds (now Leeds Children's Services) and Arts at Trinity. Since then, many others have become involved. "
The charity focuses mainly on an annual poetry competition where entries are welcomed in three categories: primary school, secondary school and adult. Each year the competition has a theme - the theme for 2016 is Refugees. Those interested in taking part in the competition can find full instructions and an entry form from their website
There were varying degrees of "objection" from those who whilst not willing to fight and kill were willing to fulfil many other non combatant roles. The most extreme group though were what was termed "absolutists" - these were "conchies" that were total in their opposition to any form of war making and they all absolutely refused to take part in any activity at all that could be construed as helping the war effort. 16 of such "conchies" were imprisoned in Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire and became known as the Richmond 16. They all narrowly escaped being executed and the museum has a sculpture comprises 3 works done by the nephew (Malcolm Brockelsby) of one of the Richmond 16 John Hubert (Bert) Brockelsby entitled "Prisoner Of Conscience.
After completing the tour plus cups of tea and biscuits kindly served by their young museum assistant Sarah Bartey, we all set off to Bradford City Hall.
Sarah first joined the museum as a volunteer in August 2015 before accepting internship in October 2015. From May 2016 onwards she took on the role of Museum Assistant.
"Sarah assists with the running of the Museum, oversees the ‘Object of the Month’ blog on the website and aids with collections and exhibition care."
At Bradford City Hall we had been allocated a room to accommodate our party where we met up with Oldham's Mayor and his wife (Councillor Derek Heffernan and Di Heffernan). There was a purpose to all this as we were there to conduct another positive piece of business ie the signing of the Pledge To Peace by the Peace Museum, Peacejam UK and Leeds Peace poetry charities!
Shannen Lang signed for The Peace Museum and Rehana Minhas signed the pledge on behalf of Peacejam Uk and Leeds Peace Poetry where she is chair. (see photo).
Day 3 Main business of this day was the meeting of the Oldham Pledge To Peace Forum. The essential purpose of the Forum is to create a " 'culture of peace' within the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham and beyond."
This forum is an excellent way of coordinating Peace Pledge initiatives and local alliances especially where a local authority has already signed the Pledge To Peace.
The document produced by Richard Outram and used in Oldham could form the basis of a useful template that could be adapted to serve in other regions. Richard has generously made these documents available and you can download them here if you wish. There are three documents available:-
1. Constitution of The Oldham Pledge to Peace Forum
2. Oldham Pledge To Peace Forum Annual Report
3. Oldham Pledge To Peace Plan 2016-2017
This annual meeting was held in one of the main meeting rooms in Oldham's Civic Centre with the Mayor of Oldham taking the chair. Contributions were also heard from Richard Outram (middle top) and Maria Ellis (top right) from Peace Talks Oldham, Sue Pascoe (bottom Left) from Peace Talks Manchester, Nicola Haslam (middle bottom) from Knowlsley Junior School and Nicola Malone (bottom right) from Burnley Brow Community School.
Day 4 was the busiest day of the peace week. All the events were hosted in Oldhams new(ish) Gallery and Library.
The first and major event of the day was the launch of a new Peace Book section within Oldham library. After an opening speech by the Mayor Councillor Derek Heffernan Richard Hall from Oldham Library expressed his approval of the new addition.
Maria Ellis talked about a new addition to the new section which was Splitting The Arrow by Prem Rawat. Readings from the book were made by Youth Peace Ambassadors, members of the Oldham Pledge To Peace Forum and the former Oldham Lady Mayor Jasmine Atiq with an endearing special reading by her daughter Serena when she read out a poem she had written herself in praise of the current Mayor (and Oldham's Mayor For Peace) Councillor Derek Heffernan.
Shortly after this there were events for children and "the young at heart" upstairs in the childrens library.
Activities and workshops included:
Roamer the Robot (with Founder Dave Caitlin leading the workshop)
Hack Oldham ( http://hackoldham.com/ ) Youth Activity club
Mahdlo Youth Activity Club ( http://mahdloyz.org/ )
Whilst downstairs adults were entertained with performances from:
Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir (below)
Sacred Sounds Choir prides itself on it's inclusiveness - it's members hail from a diversity of different faiths and cultures but are united in their love of music, harmony peace and tolerance. As it says on their website:
The Sacred Sounds Women’s Choir brings together women to explore and celebrate the many languages, cultures and religions which are represented across Greater Manchester.
We welcome women of all ages, faiths, cultures and backgrounds to join us in our journey to promote peace, compassion and understanding through song and silence.
We were then treated to classical music skilfully played by a Quartet from Oldham Symphony Orchestra (below)
At around 2.30pm an announcement was made to move to the Education Suite where we had three speakers:-
Graham Foulkes - Graham is a father of a young man that was tragically killed during the 7\7 bombing in London in 2005. He gave a very well informed talk about how young people especially young asians get radicalised and manipulated by groups like ISIS. He also talked about positive measures that can and has been taken to engage youth across conflicting groups in activities that help break down barriers and instill a sense of fair play and tolerance. He talked about how even a sport like football can be very helpful in this bridge building work.
Then we had a brief talk by Sean Morris from Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) talking about his peace work with various groups like CND, local authorities and the Mayors For Peace Initiative where Manchester City Council has been a member of the Executive Board as a Vice President City since 2001. Sean is also Principal Policy Officer (Nuclear Policy) for Manchester City Council.
Rounding off the talks we had Richard Outram - Oldham council policy officer and member of Peace Talks Oldham explaining to the audience what the Pledge to Peace initiative is all about. He also talked about the many local groups that had become inspired to get involved.
Finally the session in the education Suite finished with three short videos on the theme of personal peace.
At 3.30pm in the foyer we were then treated to a special contemporary performance based on Romeo and Juliet by the youth section of Oldham Theatre Workshop.
Events for the day concluded with thanks for all those who attended from the Mayor and Maria Ellis from Peace Talks Oldham. Finally it should be acknowledged what a fantastic job Richard Outram and Maria Ellis who together masterminded and organised most of the events and of course Oldham's Mayor for Peace Councillor Derek Heffernan and the Lady Mayor his wife Di Heffernan who gave unstinting support to every event during Peace Week.
A blog report on Days 5 and 6 to finish this series on Oldham Peace week will be published in the next few days.