Crowds turn out to support first DMU peace festival

Inspirational words attributed to Mahatma Gandhi provided the fitting ending to a day-long celebration of peace held at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

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His saying, “be the change you want to see in the world”, closed the packed 12-hour event, which included dancing, drama, poetry, sports, singing and an electrifying live art performance from a DMU alumnus.

Students and staff were joined by members of the public, faith groups and schoolchildren throughout the day. In the morning Bharti Acharya, of the Shree Sanatan Mandir, in Leicester, Hilary Sturridge, DMU Chaplin and DMU Imam Mohammed Laher took part in talks and debates on how people find peace in a hectic world.

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The afternoon saw an under-16s cricket match at the Leicester Electricity Sports Cricket Club before three hours of evening entertainment with Bollywood dancing, Dhol drumming, belly dancing, traditional Chinese music, the DMU Gospel Choir and artist Marcus Dove.

Marcus – whose work is shortly to appear in the prestigious Saatchi Gallery in London – drew gasps from the crowd as he created an artwork of a tiger, the animal symbol of India, using his unique pyrotechnic painting technique.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard launched the event and introduced the guest of honour, Padmashri SP Varma, vice-president of the Gandhi Global Family (GGF).

The GGF is a non-profit organisation affiliated with the United Nations. It works to share the message of Gandhi around the world. The festival was conceived by Professor Shellard and organised by DMU Square Mile, which works to share the skills of students and staff with the community.

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Mr Varma said: “We’re proud to be in England’s most multi-cultural city, Leicester. Festivals have always played a vital role in uniting society. Such festivals act as bridges to communities, continents and making world a single family.

“I am happy that DMU has given the chance to the student community to put on this event. It has made me realise that Mahatma Gandhi still lives within us. As he said we must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

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During the day people were invited to contribute their ideas about what brought them peace and how to effect social change.

Jane Burnsall of the Red Leicester Choir, said: “We sang as part of the opening ceremony held at De Montfort Hall when the statue of Gandhi was brought to Leicester so we are very pleased to support this event. Gandhi’s messages resonate with us today.”

Vikesh Mistry, Business Entrepreneurship and Innovation student, said: “I didn’t know too much about the Gandhi Global Family but what it represents and what it stands for is pretty cool. Today’s been insightful and I’m enjoying hearing what people are discussing.”

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Chris Hamer came along after hearing about it on the radio. He said: “I am so glad I came, this has been absolutely fantastic. The music, singing and especially seeing the artist was superb, all credit to DMU.”

Paramjit Kaur was attending graduations but stayed to see the Dhol Drummers performing. “This is brilliant,” she said.