Leicester’s inaugural Interfaith Cricket Festival, recently hosted by Leicester Caribbean Cricket Club after months of planning and preparation, was a huge success.
Organisers, volunteers, exhibitors and groundsmen arrived early to ensure that pitches were marked out, activities set up, PA system readied and the venue was made ready to welcome the members of the local community on Sunday, May 22.
As the sun warmed up participants from eight different community groups, representing all of the major faith groups arrived and were handed their clima-cool T20 playing shirts, kindly donated by PakFoods
Once this had been done it was time to get into the cricket which flowed right through into the afternoon. Eight teams competed on four pitches in two groups with the winners and runners up from each group taking part in a semi finals and final.
Excitement generated throughout the day and in the end it was Khidmah Organisation who were crowned champions with a score of 255, making Youth Memon Association the silver medallists.
Ultimately however it was the spirit of cricket which was the real winner on the day. For many this was their first time taking part playing competitive cricket and the first time playing together as a group of friends in a team.
Amna Rafiq, Community Engagement Officer at Leicestershire and Rutland Cricket said: “It was the first time we have done the Interfaith Festival & family fun day and the amount of people with smiles on their face was promising to see and we are looking to make this an annual event in our community sporting calendar.”
Wasim Khan MBE, Chief Executive at Leicestershire County Cricket Club, added:
“It was fantastic to see the Interfaith Festival being held, and it was pleasing to see so many people from the local community come out and enjoy themselves.
“We’d like to thank Leicester Caribbean Cricket Club for hosting the event, to all volunteers for their hard work in organising the day and to the large numbers of people who came out to support the day.”
As the junior competition finished an adults T20 game featuring Faith Leaders from the various faith and community groups present on the day took on a Leicester Community team, made up of local police, members of the RAF and other prominent community figures.
The game was progressing nicely when unfortunately heavy rain arrived. This didn’t however hamper either team’s enthusiasm who stuck admirably to the task at hand and a closely fought game was eventually won by the community team who defeated the faith leaders by 42 runs.
Cannon Richards, Vice Chair of Leicester Caribbean Cricket Club, said: “This initiative has the potential to be replicated nationally and thereby putting Leicester in the vanguard of creative community engagement.”
The day was about much more than cricket and saw local people and small businesses exhibiting a variety of stalls selling the likes of sweets, jewellery, cosmetics and plants.
Artists painted faces and created henna tattoos; information booths promoting healthy living were present and there were even ponies present which proved especially popular with the younger audience, and of course the good old ice cream van and a BBQ grilling spicy chicken thighs kept everyone fed and watered.
Local police and ambulance services were present and youngsters got the chance to sit in the police car and demonstrations on given CPR were provided by local paramedics.
Also present on the day were Leicestershire County Cricket Club community partners The Royal Air Force, who brought along their ‘reaction challenge’ which gives participants a chance to showcase some skills that are necessary both in the RAF and within cricket.
Royal Air Force Sergeant Craig James said: “Events like the Interfaith Fun Festival on Sunday provide our recruitment team with an invaluable opportunity to meet the public and potential new recruits, allowing them the opportunity to discuss in greater detail the defence of UK, NATO and commonwealth interests and worldwide humanitarian aid performed by the Royal Air Force.
“It is very important that we continue to reach out and interact with key audiences, to ensure we are not only attracting the right calibre of recruit, but that we maintain strong relations with the community within which we operate.”
Everyone had a wonderful surprise when Leicestershire County Cricket Club’s very own Atif Sheikh attended the day as our special guest, with Charlie Fox presenting medals to all the participants and a trophy to the winners. Fans of all ages were excited to be in his presence and crowded around for photos and autographs.
In total over 600 people walked through the gates on the day, undeniably, more than what was expected. There was a fantastic atmosphere at the ground throughout and perhaps most significantly there were a number of requests from the boys and girls that attended wanting to find out how they can continue playing cricket and get involved in the game.
Further images of the day can be found HERE