I came here as a very young child, living in the Avenham area, and going to Frenchwood school.
We moved away, but love and work brought me back here when I was in my early 20s. I've been living here ever since, first in Avenham, then in Broadgate.
One of the great things about Preston has always been it's diverse communities. Lots of different people have come here ever since the Industrial Revolution and it's made the city a real melting pot of cultures and identities.
I live on a very short street, but we have many religions, ethnicities, cultures and lifestyles all as neighbours, and all getting on pretty well.
And I'm fascinated (even as an atheist myself) that the area where I live has so many spiritual identities. We have a truly beautiful Hindu Temple with carvings that people should come from miles to see, a couple of fine churches, at least one mosque, the Vajravarahi Buddhist Centre, it's only a short walk to where the world's first Mormon Baptisms took place in the River Ribble, and even our river itself was worshipped in ancient times as the embodiment of the Celtic Goddess Reigh Belisama.
So when I saw the news that the English Defence League, a badly organised rag tag of soccer hooligans, loners and right wing racists are planning to come here to Preston to demonstrate, with the intention to stir up trouble against my Moslem neighbours, I was quite upset.
The EDL claim Preston is facing 'Creeping Sharia', that Deepdale is a 'no go' area for non-moslems (as mentioned by Donald Trump) and object to a new mosque in Grafton Street.
I see not a shred of evidence of 'Creeping Sharia'. I do know that my next door neighbour is a moslem, and he is a good neighbour who brought round some delicious food (iftar) to us during Eid.
I live near Grafton St and see no good reason why my neighbour should not be able to worship in a modern clean comfortable space.
I really would not like to live in the unimaginative kind of Preston the EDL advocate. A monoculture where anything foreign is banned, where thought is regulated through one narrow grey channel, and where the thuggish boot crushes any dissent. A town where neighbour is suspicious of neighbour, where idle pieces of gossip become reasons to intimidate and assault.
Last time the EDL demonstrated here they had a pitiful turnout. They were met by a well organised disciplined demonstration of local people led by the local Preston Trades Council. Despite this the EDL behaved appallingly and got away with throwing coins and other missiles at the counter demonstration. A friend of mine was there, she said " when the EDL demo was in Preston last time I was in town in the morning, the atmosphere was not nice to say the least. It was very scary and intimidating. Police all over and other groups too. It was a dark day for Preston". Lets hope the police and council don't allow the EDL the freedom to break the law like this again.
|friendship between people of different religions is nothing new!|
This time I hope the demo against the EDL is even bigger. Here's an invitation from local trades unionists:
"Preston Anti-Fascist Rally
Preston and South Ribble Trades Union Council, in conjunction with Unite Against Fascism, are calling on all affiliated trade unions, community and faith groups to come together and oppose the planned “English Defence League demo” on Saturday, 20th February, 2016.
More details will follow, once the situation on the ground becomes clearer.
Yours in solidarity
Yours in solidarity
If I were well enough I would attend. But I think as a community or set of communities we need to do other things as well. We need to start making more conscious efforts to make links across cultural and ethnic divisions - to meet and get to know each other as individuals and organisations. Lets find ways to share the best of our cultures and build new friendships, so that when the next set of neo-fascists come along trying to spark off racial and religious tensions, they have no leverage to prise apart our different communities and set us against each other.
Let's make sure Preston continues to be a great place to live and work, for people of every background, for us and for our children.