West Midlands Mayor Andy Street reflects on Diwali 2020 going virtual

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street reflects on Diwali 2020 going virtual

Andy Street is the dynamic Mayor of the West Midlands. He grew up and went to school in Birmingham, before going on to study PPE at the University of Oxford. Before his election as Mayor in May 2017, he combined a career at retailer John Lewis with high-profile economic development roles.

In this exclusive column for ‘iGlobal’, he reflects on the key themes of hope and victory of light over darkness as the region’s annual Diwali celebrations go virtual in partnership with DiwaliFest 2020.

Diwali – a time of colour, vibrancy and family. These are just some of the many characteristics that I have come to associate with the festival.

I was delighted to be invited to contribute this column, as I have celebrated the festival for the past three years during my time as Mayor of the West Midlands and it is something that I always look forward to. I look back fondly and think of all of the events that I have taken part in, from the Diwali Basket Brigade to the Diwali Mela in Handsworth and the Diwali on the Square festival – a fantastic all-day event held in Victoria Square, right in the heart of Birmingham.

The presiding memory that I have from all of these moments is of smiling faces as family and friends come together.

Light over darkness

Evidently, this year will not be the same. We all face unprecedented challenges as we battle to overcome the coronavirus. However, I would like to reflect on what Diwali symbolises and why the message of Diwali is particularly pertinent now, perhaps more so than ever. The themes of hope and the victory of light over darkness is what I have learnt from Diwali, and this has never been more the case than today, as I know we will overcome this difficult situation.

For me, the diversity of the West Midlands is part of what makes the region the fantastic place that it is today. The combination of different cultures has created a wonderfully vibrant and energetic community. And the contribution of the British Indian community has been phenomenal in our region.

I am very proud therefore to have played a hand in the formation of the West Midlands India Partnership. This new initiative aims to enhance UK-India relations by boosting trade and investment, connectivity and partnerships between the West Midlands and India. Specifically, the Partnership will support the region’s long-term economic growth plans by developing stronger links and opportunities for collaboration as part of a five-year programme of activity with the Indian market.

Virtual celebrations

I am pleased to say that despite the current circumstances we are still celebrating Diwali with our virtual cultural programme co-created with the Consulate General of India in Birmingham. In addition, Soho Road Bid will be hosting a virtual shopping experience and the annual Diwali Basket Brigade will be working with charities and langar services in the region, to hand out 1,800 baskets of food to the most vulnerable.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, I am delighted to be working so closely with ‘iGlobal’, who will be sharing all the celebrations taking place across the West Midlands.

by Andy Street

*Register for the #InspireTogether DiwaliFest 2020, here

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