Posted on Wednesday 9th November 2011
Around 70 people attended last week's 'Faith in the City: communities, regeneration and integration' event at the Green Lane Mosque in the Small Heath area of Birmingham. Organised as part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Science 2011, event organiser, IASS's Chris Allen, was overwhelmed by the response.
"In the diverse city that is today's Birmingham, faith is an important part for many people. It inspires and influences the way people live, work and act and this event sought to explore some of this".
As well as representatives from most of the city's different faith communities, the event attracted delegates from the local council, West Midlands Police and West Midlands Fire Service as well as academics and students from Birmingham City and Wolverhampton universities amongst others. As well as hearing presentations from Birmingham-based organisations with a faith heritage - including Islamic Relief, St Peter's Saltley Trust and Birmingham Citizens - researchers from the University of Birmingham spoke about how their research was helping to raise awareness of a number of critical issues relevant to modern faith communities. Of particular interest was CHASM's Ricky Joseph who spoke about the disparity between different faith groups in terms of wealth and assets.
There were two main highlights to the day however. The first was the keynote speech delivered by Birmingham-based graffiti artist, Mohammed Ali. Having recently won the ITV South Bank Show Award in recognition of the best in British art, Mohammed spoke about his identity as a Muslim and how this did not detract from the fact that he was also British. Recalling how as a child, his parents used to run a take-away in Birmingham, he joked that the best evidence of him being British was that "fish and chips flows in my blood" !
The second highlight of the day was the screening of the short film made by the University of Birmingham's Ideas Lab about the regeneration of the Grade II listed building that is today the Green Lane Mosque. Presented by Chris Allen, the film explored how the Muslim community in Small Heath have over the past decade or so saved the former Victorian public baths and library from demolition, restoring it to its former glory while converting it to a mosque and community centre. Followed by a presentation by local hostorian and member of the Green Lane mosque committee Tassaddaq Hussain, delegates were treated to a wonderful pictoral history of the building including images of how everything will look once the restoration is complete.
To ensure that the learning from the day is made widely available, a short brochure capturing the day's events will be published shortly as will a podcast and video of IASS's Chris Allen's closing presentation. All will be available from this website in the next few weeks.