I want to welcome you all tonight: the young people from Leicester, Nottingham, Northampton and beyond, the young people who have participated in The Mighty Creatives’ Act4Change projects which are designed to challenge you to change your communities through the power of art and culture.
People say to me that there’s no such thing as the East Midlands. That the region is a figment of some politicians’ imaginations, cooked up in the back streets of Westminster back in the day when politicians carved up several regional and national boundaries, along with their breakfast bacon and eggs, not only here but across the world.
Many of you will know that Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent have all been on the receiving end of British politicians who have tended to cause disruption, distress and dismay with their arbitrary carving up of regions and communities so that people are left confused and bewildered about where they live, who their neighbours are and who they belong to.
A few years ago I was riding a train one day back from the Taj Mahal to Delhi in India and found myself completely baffled about what was it that bound the people of India: a country with over 1.3 billion people, more than 2000 ethnic groups and with representatives from every major religion, who between them, utter all four major families of the world’s languages across its vast land mass.
What binds you? I asked of a fellow traveller who was sat next to me on that rickety rackety train which stumbled along at an average speed of no more than 10mph. What connects the man or woman in the south of this huge country to the man or woman in its north? His answer was swift, decisive and simple: cricket.
For him, cricket provided the solution to the challenges posed by geography, language and faith. Cricket bound his people to a common cause and in doing so, allowed the country to celebrate the achievements of its communities throughout the ages.
And that’s what we’re doing here tonight, albeit in a more modest way. With all of you who’ve travelled the journeys you have – and I don’t just mean the physical travel up or down the regional motorways or train lines – but the emotional and psychological challenges you will have faced during the time you worked with on your Act4Change project – all of you are here because you’ve been bound by the power of art and culture.
In your work on your Act4Change projects, you’ve demonstrated the power of story telling, of radio, of photography, drama, music, art, fashion and literature. It’s these things which have brought you together tonight and bind you to a greater cause.
The power in your art means that not only have you achieved great things for you and your communities, but you are now empowered to make even greater social and cultural changes in your lives to come across the region which you are creating as a result of your inspiration and commitment.
We’re delighted to be celebrating those journeys with you and to celebrate the power of your achievements and your artistic ambition, endeavour and insights.
Tonight is about recognising that the power of the East Midlands – its identity and place in the world – is being made by you, its children and young people.
Congratulations and on behalf of the Board and staff of The Mighty Creatives, we hope you have a fantastic evening and look forward to hearing all about your recent work, your journeys and your plans for the future.