Updated: Jun 3
We Stand Together’s Conference and Awards Dinner was held at the Manchester Communication Academy in Manchester on Monday 30th May with over 120 in attendance. Present were the mayors of Bury, Bolton, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan, community activists and charities from across Greater Manchester, local politicians, Queen Mother of Harlem, educators, University representatives and other supporters.
The event was introduced by Jonny Wineberg, Director of Operations for We Stand Together, who introduced how it became a registered non-profit in the aftermath of the Arena Attack and the high profile use of #WeStandTogether across social media. He thanked everyone for attending and applauded the cohesion work of the organisations attending.
Jonny said, “This is the culmination of 18 months of work funded through GMP and the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme where we have run over a dozen Difficult Dialogues; training for over 60 activists and sessions in over 30 schools, colleges, youth and community groups for over 5,000 people. The need for our cohesion work has never been greater and this event marked the start of even greater efforts to take our work into more neighbourhoods.”
Erinma Bell, Chair of Trustees, addressed the attendees and suggested that true cohesion goes beyond tolerance. Tolerance suggests grudging acceptance whereas actual communities can only be formed around love and understanding, so that is what we must do.
The keynote address for the event was delivered by Barbara Rosenthal – therapist and trainer for Cruse Bereavement Support. She recounted the lives of those lost in the Arena Attack and the grief that came into the lives of all who had known them. She spoke about how love and understanding is the only way to heal from this grief and that we must not act with hate if we are to emerge stronger from this tragedy.
The recipients of the #WeStandTogether Affiliate Awards were announced throughout the event. Award Winners shared their cohesion efforts in the communities of Manchester and presented how they are bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. Awards were given to:
£2500 #WeStandTogether Affilaite Award
Happy Smiles Training CIC
£1000 #WeStandTogether Affilaite Award
Bury Creative Case for Diversity Group
Socio Economic Regeneration CIC
Communities for All
£500 #WeStandTogether Affilaite Award
Be The Change Youth Project CIC
Feed My City
Feelgood Communities CIC
Non-Monetary Affiliate Award:
The event included two robust table-top workshops on how local #WeStandTogether Projects and Groups can improve community cohesion, and how local authorities, GMP and We Stand Together itself can aid community cohesion efforts.
Participants suggested that local groups will allow communities to network, share experiences, culture and skills around tackling social issues, help engage more people with #WeStandTogether and allow people spaces to actively challenge hateful and discriminatory views. It was voiced that diversity is present in all communities, and local #WeStandTogether groups will allow this diversity a platform to bring people together around cultural touchpoints.
It was voiced that there was an urgent need for GMCA resources to be made more accessible and for GMCA to be more actively involved in cohesion work. Participants suggested that emotional intelligence and anti-discriminatory attitude in service responders, such as GMP, is imperative in fighting hate and there needs to be better representation of diversity in the workforce of local authorities. It was voiced that the local authorities and GMP have the potential to help cohesion organisations access funding, promote awareness about local initiatives, nurture partnerships between local groups, and build bridges, and this potential must be tapped into if we are to bring communities together effectively.
Qaisra Shahraz, Co-Chair of the Steering Group, celebrated the diversity of backgrounds and opinions represented in that Group and spoke about the work being done to bring communities together. She welcomed all attendees to become a part of the steering group, irrespective of their faiths, sexuality, race, disability, class, gender and background and suggested the group would be richer for the diversity they bring to the table.
Rogers Govender, the Dean of Manchester and trustee of We Stand Together, also addressed the attendees. The Dean spoke about how humanity should underpin every human interaction and how he is often accused of having an ‘agenda’ of diversity. He spoke about how faiths and places of worship were shifting to become more inclusive for all and why that is a welcome shift. He suggested that each and every one of us should not shy away from having this ‘agenda’.
Participants enjoyed mocktails and a fabulous three course vegetarian meal catered by Crumpsall-based cohesion charity and foodbank Rainbow Surprise.
The closing address was delivered by Sir Peter Fahy, founder and former Chair of trustees of We Stand Together and former Chief Constable of GMP. Sir Peter congratulated the award winners and spoke about how their work is a testament to the people of Greater Manchester’s willingness to celebrate their differences and bring communities together. He suggested that it is not enough to be passively anti-discriminatory, but rather each of us need to actively take up the challenge and have difficult conversations that build respect and understanding.
For his outstanding leadership of #WeStandTogether, Sir Peter was awarded a commemorative plaque.