Preston City Council has offered its support to a global book festival that aims to combat racial discrimination.Advertisement
The council has joined other organisations around Lancashire, including the Harris Museum and the University of Central Lancashire, to support The Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival, which will include contributions from local schoolchildren.
The online festival is the first of its kind run by Heartstone, an organisation working to tackle racial discrimination and raise awareness of prejudice, intolerance and hate crimes through the power of literature.
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The festival, which is launching next year, will share The Heartstone Odyessy. It is a tale of adventure, magic, mystery and suspense spanning hundreds of years that deals with issues including prejudice.
Councillor Nweeda Khan, Cabinet Member for Communities and Social Justice at Preston City Council, said: “We are proud to support the Heartstone project in Preston. It is an opportunity to increase the awareness of and education around racism, bigotry and discrimination.
“I believe that learning through storytelling is a powerful tool. It can play a role in tackling some of the most divisive issues by building our understanding.
“I look forward to attending the book festival and watching how it supports a new understanding of racial discrimination from our past, present and future.”
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The festival will include local contributors, such as Mario Kkounnous, UCLan’s lead digital animator and his prizewinning students, who have produced artworks to connect with the book.
The Harris Museum curator James Arnold worked with Heartstone to identify objects at the museum that connect with the characters of The Heartstone Odyssey when they arrived in Preston in the early 1800s, offering a local connection with the story.
Sitakumari, Director of Heartstone, said: “We are delighted to receive the support of Preston City Council towards the first UK Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival.
“The book deals with bigotry and hate through a captivating tale that changes hearts and minds to see people, not prejudice. The book festival and programme will ensure the book can reach an even greater number of children over several years, bringing a powerful sense of hope at a time when we all need it!”
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Community-based Story Circle will prepare for the festival over the summer holidays, and it is expected to arrive at the Gujerat Centre in August.
The organisers are looking for contributions of artwork, poetry and other creative projects from children in all the schools in Preston and Burnley.
Heartstone Odyssey is funded by the Stephen Street Foundation and other sponsors thanks to the assistance of the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Lord Shuttleworth.
Heartstone said it will be a unique event and an opportunity for Preston and Lancashire to lead on an initiative tackling bigotry and hate by building a more inclusive and accepting view for everyone.
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They said it will reach children in their formative years, using a book that inspires change, delivering the pleasure, excitement and fun of reading.
Sir Mark Hendrick, Member of Parliament for Preston, said: “I am delighted to offer my support to the Heartstone project and am looking forward to the Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival planned for the beginning of 2022.
“Captivating storytelling is key to passing on ideas from generation to generation and gives a sense of place and identity to children whilst exploring difficult themes such as discrimination and prejudice in an age-appropriate setting.
“I am delighted that this project will explore identity and culture and provide positive role models to the diverse children’s community of Preston. We have seen a lot of online negativity recently in relation to racism and hate speech, and it is events like this book festival that help to challenge discriminatory behaviour and prevent division.
“If we teach our children to get along and reject hatred towards people that are dissimilar to them, then we have a real chance of raising a fair society with individuals that are open-minded and accepting of others.
“I wish the organisers all the best with this innovative project and hope that participants enjoy the online event.”
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