Extract from ‘Dear Birmingham’ by Karamat Iqbal
After a year’s break, I decided to have another go at stewarding at the Moseley Folk festival. Where else can you be useful to your community, meet friends and neighbours and experience some excellent music as a part of the bargain? And all this for free when you are a steward. Not bad at all!
By Sunday, I had done my two shifts of duty so I could just enjoy the programme. But then, I remembered that I had wanted to go to the Eid Mela taking place the same afternoon. So, I decided to take a detour and first pop down to Canon Hill Park with thousands of other local people. I then managed to get to Moseley Park just in time for one of my favourites from two years ago, Scott Matthews.
Although, the two events were taking place in different parts of our lovely community, they seemed to be worlds apart.
Having spent many years locally, I have become used to feeling at home in a multiracial environment. So, what struck me above all was that the crowd at the mela were almost wholly Asian, possibly Pakistani. There was a complete lack of any white faces with the exception of a few women who had married out of their community and, of course, some of the people who were staffing the display from organisations such as HSBC, Ford and Aston Villa Football Club who were there as a part of their outreach programme. And then later, at the folk festival, the crowd was slightly more multi-racial, predominantly white, with the occasional black or Asian face.
It reminded me of the phrase ‘parallel lives’ coined after the 90s riots in a number of Northern towns. At the time, it appeared to imply that it was the Pakistani community which was the guilty party, now I wasn’t sure who was to blame or indeed whether there was anything wrong with communities participating in distinct cultural events.
Surely, the main point is that people are free to choose what they want to do, on their Sunday afternoon. It could be having a pint of Mad Goose and listening to some up and coming folk artist with their friends and family or, a couple of hundred yards down the road, listening to Pakistani music also with friends and family but without the ale.
I did wonder, however, whether we will come to a time when we will stop having separate cultural events; perhaps a better option would be for both the events, and others like them, to have a more diverse audience.