THE man behind Southport’s International Festival has spoken about the driving force that inspires him to continue building the event that helps to unite nationalities across Southport.
Having started the festival in 2009, Reverend Malcolm Hathaway, senior pastor at the Elim Lakeside Christian Centre, is currently in the process of organising the event’s fifth production in September.
Proving to be a popular event within the town, the festival is a celebration extending to all different nationalities in Southport, with the aim of promoting integration among its residents.
After moving to the town in 2007, Malcolm quickly became aware of the large variety of ethnic groups living within the area, and the potential for community events to bring people together.
Speaking of his inspiration for the festival, Malcolm said: “I just felt ‘what are we doing to help these people? What are we doing to reach them, to extend our welcome and make sure they’re integrating well in to society?’.”
Aided by former colleague Robin Essex, Malcolm’s first step was to set up a school of English within the Lakeside centre, to help deal with the language barrier.
“What we found was some of them were feeling isolated.
“Some were finding it difficult to connect with services, partly because of their English and partly because of prejudice. We felt it was important to offer them help with their English and to help them with advocacy which is what we’ve been doing now for around six years.”
Malcolm then decided to extend his work with the international community.
He arranged a parade of 25 international flags at his church, with the aim of bringing people from different cultures together.
The procession proved to be a big hit, prompting Malcolm to consider the event on a larger scale.
“We just felt, wouldn’t it be great if we could get a message out in to the town, that people who come from different countries are welcome here. A message of social inclusion that would celebrate the international diversity of Southport.”
The event’s expansion was well-timed as various members of the church had heard news of attacks on some migrant communities, targeted because they were of a different faith or nationality.
This led to the development of the Southport International Festival as we know it today.
This now includes a procession of flags down Lord Street, a collection of stalls set up in the town hall gardens selling various items of differing cultures, entertainment, music and dance.
Malcolm said: “Originally we did it as a one-off event, but it went so well that people were asking us to do it again the following year.”
When asked why he thought the festival was a continuing success, Malcolm replied: “The message is still a relevant one, to really celebrate our diversity and to promote a positive message we need to accept and welcome people, wherever they’re from.”
As a Reverend it is also clear that Malcolm’s Christian faith has had an impact on the development of Southport International Festival.
“It’s at the heart of our Christian faith that God created everyone in his image and that every individual matters, whatever their background, education or nationality.”
Asked to sum up the aims of the Southport International Festival and what it hopes to promote in one simple sentence, Malcolm replied: “To celebrate the international diversity of Southport.”
This year’s Southport International Festival takes place on Sunday, September 1, with a variety of acts making an appearance, including Latin-American salsa dancing, performances from In Another Place drama group, and a collection of music from a variety of choirs. All ages are welcome to join the parade and as the last few weeks of preparation commence, there is still the chance to acquire a stall in the town hall gardens.
For more information on renting a stall, or the parade, contact Reverend Malcolm Hathaway at email@example.com.