Knowing each other

02 November 2006

IT WAS a 93-year-old woman parishioner who inspired the Revd Jay MacLeod, the American-born Vicar of All Saints’, Queens Park, in the centre of Bedford ( St Albans diocese) by the detailed account she gave him of her early life, of war, poverty, and heartbreak.

Sadly, she died before he could record it, but he had the idea of recruiting a number of people, from his congregation and elsewhere, to become adult learners attached to Barnfield College, and to develop their writing and IT skills while recording the histories of some of the very diverse Queens Park residents.

With help from the Lottery’s Local Heritage Initiative and other sponsors, the result has been a professionally produced magazine that is fascinating to read. The 11 students have concentrated on five people: the long-term local publican; a Jamaican woman who arrived in England in 1957; an Italian shoemaker; a Sikh who came at the age of seven, eventually graduated in biochemistry, but now runs his own grocer’s shop; and a Pakistani Muslim, now a lorry driver, who says he has never experienced any race problems in Queens Park.

All have talked freely about their lives, and would not live anywhere else. Not all of them have integrated with other communities, but seem happy to be British. The magazine was launched at a gathering of 200 people, and has been distributed free in the community with a “fantastic reaction”, says Mr MacLeod. It has certainly brought people together in skills and understanding, and another such magazine is being planned.


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