“There were problems in the sixth form when I was there,” she says. She has not long left and is training to be a primary school teacher, giving swimming lessons part-time. “The place self-segregated into different factions. It sometimes got unpleasant.”Seems pretty clear to me. So, how are these problems to be addressed?
It is when other communities are seen as favoured that the resentment begins. “I taught in an all-boys school,” says the oldest of the group. “ By the time I left there were only four white pupils. It was a state school but the timetable had been altered to accommodate Ramadan – which I didn’t object to – but the council told us we couldn’t have a Christmas tree – which I did find offensive. What you do for one you should do for everyone. That’s a real issue.”
Well, errrr, ummm....
It’s the issue that Paul Anderson, whose ethnicity is Western African and Estonian, sees his Winter Wonderland parade as addressing. “Christmas is a really important part of the year but we don’t stress Christmas because that goes against what we are trying to do,” he says. “Luton is a community of communities – we need to break that up and create an opportunity for them to share”.Ah. Right. This is the new definition of addressing a problem - ignoring it in the hopes it'll go away.
So, just who is Paul Anderson, anyway?
By ‘we’ he means the UK Centre for Carnival Arts. The organisation now works nationally and internationally, to promote the carnival as an art form...Artists! Is there nothing they can't do?
Well, it seems they can't 'do' addressing the problem.
Because here's the solution.
Are you ready for this?I'm not even religious (far from it) but that kind of muddled thinking is enough to make me weep for the future we'll have if the likes of Paul Anderson ever gain power....
Paul Anderson stands in front of a range of extravagant costumes from the parade – a Chinese dragon, Ghanaian drums, a giant flower from the local Samaritans and an image of Shiva from the Gujarati community which is fighting to preserve the Bengali tongue. “If we went for the usual connotations of Christmas, Santa and elves and all the rest, many people would say: ‘That’s not for me but for some other group’. We’d relegate the centre in the minds of the many. We wanted something that connects more,” he says.
“When you get the different Muslim groups wanting floats, it all ends up with people shouting and waving rival national flags and sometimes with violence. We want to avoid religion and getting into fights with mullahs and priests about how we have represented Jesus and all that. We look for ideas that can bring people together. Anyone can see the importance of the Robin.”