Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Faith and Belief Network, SAVS and Southend Museums are organising the first ever virtual Faith and Belief Festival to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Borough.
Co-produced in collaboration with a diverse range of communities, the Faith and Belief Festival runs from Monday 17 May with an online exhibition and welcomes those who want to showcase their faith or belief and encourages us all as a community to get to know each other a little bit better.
With the festival launching on the same day the country enters Step 3 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the festival is also asking contributors to share their experiences of previous national lockdowns and how their faith and belief has helped them.
The coronavirus pandemic saw our connections with the people and support systems we usually rely on become fractured by lockdowns and social distancing. Coronavirus restrictions have forced places of worship to stop or limit services, with many moving to online worship. Weddings and funerals have been curtailed.
Kelly Marks, Community Partnership Officer at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, has been instrumental in bringing the various faith communities together and is encouraging residents to get involved with the festival.
Kelly said: “We encourage people of all faiths and beliefs to share their stories of how their faith and belief has helped them throughout lockdown and how they practiced their faith during this time. Working with our partners in Museums, these stories will be captured and documented as part of a unique time in our history and as a representation of all of our diverse community groups.”
The virtual exhibition hosted on the One Southend website will showcase pre-recorded videos presented by local faith and belief leaders about their role, the faith they represent and their community work during the pandemic.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the Council, said: “Southend’s Faith and Belief groups have been a great example of how we have all overcome challenges to support those in need throughout the pandemic. The council is always looking for new ways to engage with the community and this festival is a fantastic opportunity to achieve this and help showcase our diverse community groups.”
The festival will also explore the objects that helped faith communities to express their faiths at home during multiple national lockdowns. Contributors are being asked to share photographs of objects of importance and anything significant to their faith or belief.
Frances Neil, Advisor to SACRE at Southend on Sea Borough Council, added: “The Faith and Belief Festival is an online event to celebrate how faith, belief and belonging to a community have sustained people during these hardest of times through the pandemic. We hope there are lots of stories shared and that visitors to the exhibition also enjoy viewing them.”