In Autumn every year, the ‘Festival of Lights’ is held at the Sydni Centre in Sydenham. Held between Guy Fawkes’ Night and the Hindu and Sikh celebration of Diwali, this festival brings together the residents in a unified celebration of culture and community.
Year on year, the festival attracts greater numbers, with around 700 people expected to attend the 2014 celebrations. The event includes entertainment highlights such as Bollywood dancers, the Bob Barker fair for the children, the fireworks display and a range of food from different cultures.
In addition to the entertainment and celebration of the evening, there are also a host of stalls and information points from local community groups and businesses.
Kate Cliffe, the : ‘It’s a really vibrant festival, the atmosphere is so warm and welcoming; everyone has a great time. It’s wonderful to blend the two celebrations so that everyone feels part of the community and shares in the celebration.’
Set in the centre of the Syndenham Estate in Leamington, the Syndenham Neighbourhood Initiatives (Sydni) was set up by local residents as a place to bring people together to offer support and different community opportunities. The population of around 5000 people is made up of a rich mix of cultural backgrounds including Asian, Polish and Portuguese; a community of which the residents are very proud and the centre is committed to providing a supportive community space free from prejudice where everyone can feel welcome and valued.
Since opening, the centre has become a hub of social activity and community work. The centre offers IT drop-in sessions for those wanting to work on CVs or job applications, ESOL lessons for those who want to improve their English speaking skills along with a host of other information, recreation, leisure and sporting opportunities and facilities. Richard, a long-serving volunteer at the Sydni Centre, said: ‘The range of facilities on offer really are fantastic. I got involved because I wanted to help my sons set up a football team, and it all just snowballed from there. I’m involved in virtually everything now!’
International Women’s Day saw ladies from across the county having an afternoon of music food and culture at the centre, and shortly the Syndi will hold another annual event, the ‘May Festival’ which, like the Festival of Lights, boasts an exciting programme of events such as live entertainment, food, table-top sales and stalls from local companies. The local Fire Brigade attend every year, bringing with them information leaflets in the different languages of the community and the local council’s recycling department provide information and activities. For more details, visit the Sydni centre website and Facebook page.