'Community spirit and togetherness' - Diwali exhibition unites St Albans faiths

St Albans Museum + Gallery was lit up in different colours to mark the festival of lights.

St Albans Museum + Gallery was lit up in different colours to mark the festival of lights. - Credit: Stephanie Belton

The festival of Diwali was celebrated in style by a major art collaboration between schools, a local artist and St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Photography of families in the St Albans district celebrating Diwali were showcased alongside the artwork from Garden Fields, Aboyne Lodge, Skyswood, Wheatfield Infants, Alban City, How Wood Primary and Bernards Heath schools. 

Local resident Champa Lathia displaying her saris as a background at the museum.

Local resident Champa Lathia displaying her saris as a background at the museum. - Credit: Stephanie Belton

The project was the brainchild of Preet Cox, the founder of lockdown initiative St Albans Rainbow Trail, who said: "I'm thrilled to see that the Diwali initiative and workshop was enjoyed by so many local residents and families here in the district of St Albans as well as those from neighbouring areas. It was a pleasure to put this together.

Photos of local families from across the district celebrating Diwali exhibited at the event

Photos of local families from across the district celebrating Diwali exhibited at the event - Credit: Stephanie Belton

"The feedback for the event from schools, residents and families has been heart-warming and allowed the community of all faiths to celebrate Diwali through art for the first time at St Albans Museum and Gallery. 

James and son Theo Cox creating Diwali decorations

James and son Theo Cox creating Diwali decorations - Credit: Stephanie Belton

"A very big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen, the St Albans Rainbow Trail community for all your lovely Diwali photos, Champa Lathia who displayed all of her gorgeous saris, families who took part in our Diwali trail, the students and staff from the seven schools who created their Rangoli artwork and Skyswood School for their beautiful clay Diwali lamps which were also exhibited.

"A special mention and thank you to artists Suman Kaur Johal and Shreena Patel whose artwork was exhibited, Lee Wood from Ember Designs who helped with our posters and a big thanks to Sarah Keeling and Cat Newley for making the event happen.

Preet Cox and Cat Newley

Preet Cox and Cat Newley - Credit: Stephanie Belton

"The event has allowed the community to come together, to become creative and feel inspired which is what I aim to do with the initiatives I create and I feel we all created something very special with this Diwali."

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Local resident Saroja Sehjal said: "It was just so beautiful to see all the wonderful work at the museum. Absolutely incredible

"This has been the second Zoom Diwali for me and my son and it can somewhat feel lonely not to be with the family, but we always make it special.

"And then I walked into the museum and was just completely overwhelmed.  The Rangoli just shouted out ‘community spirit and togetherness’ of all cultures coming together as one - it was incredible to see the gorgeous displays.

The Diwali Trail installation created by Preet Cox and seven local schools.

The Diwali Trail installation created by Preet Cox and seven local schools. - Credit: Stephanie Belton

"Seeing my photos on the display left me quite speechless. I walked around the exhibition with the most humongous smile on my face thinking this is just magical - is this really happening? The event has allowed me to share the beauties of what Diwali means to me with the St Albans community.  

"I feel so proud not only to belong to the community of St Albans but to be able to share my culture , my tradition and my celebrations with everyone - it’s just phenomenal."

Davinder Youngs, also from St Albans, said: "‘It made me feel privileged and proud to share our stories of celebrating Diwali (Hindu) and Bandi Chhor Divas (Sikh) in the inaugural exhibition. It's a fabulous display and lovely to see so much colour and fun in this wonderful city. Representation matters and we are, as Sikhi says, all one."

Punam Parmar added: "It was an absolute pleasure to share my family's personal Diwali photos with the city of St Albans. Many thanks to the team who put such a beautiful showcase together. For our family, it’s the Hindu New Year's Eve, I use Diwali as a time to reflect

"Following on from the challenges of the past few years, being a part of this exhibition fills me with pride and I am pleased that the museum is moving us all towards a more inclusive society.

"My four year old son Veer was also very excited to see his photos on display at the museum! In the longer term, hopefully this will nurture in him the want to be proactively and positively engaged with his local community in the future."


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