Stand Up For Diversity Harlow

Thursday 8 Jun 2023 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Stand Up For Diversity

June 2023
Gibberd Gallery, Harlow

Stand Up For Diversity is a series of events taking place across Essex, which brings together those wanting to champion diversity in arts and heritage.

For this SU4D, the Gibberd Gallery in Harlow hosted an evening of three-minute mini-talks and soap-box shout-outs that put a spotlight on diversity. We had a great line up of guest speakers from Harlow and Essex, including writers, poets, artists, community advocates and a Paralympian, who shared their thoughts on why diversity matters and talk about their own work.

For this event Essex Cultural Diversity Project and Essex Book Festival teamed up with the Harlow Arts Trust in their 70th anniversary year, to bring people together and champion diversity on the theme of Our Community, Our Environment.

Here are a selection of photos from the night:

Stand Up For Diversity


Seema Anand (compere), Writer and storyteller
Anne Wafula Strike MBE,
 Paralympian, author, and disability rights activist
Bethany Davey, Harlow Ethnic Minority Umbrella
Efua Sey, storyteller, musician, and founder of the Efua Sey Cultural Academy
Gibson Zucca da Silva, member of MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurals Sem Terra) the Landless Workers Movement
Lora Aziz,
British-Egyptian artist, author and wildcrafter
Michael Banjoko, architect and pastor
Nila Hibbert, Harlow Ethnic Minority Umbrella
Nishall Garala, award-winning community advocate, and founder of #BigUpHarlow
Suman Gujral, poet and artist
Sumana Begum, writer and poet, and Chair of Integration Support Services (ISS)

A special thanks to Herty from Community Embrace for providing incredible food and refreshments.

We also had shout-outs at the end of the mini-talks from Dave Hobbs, and artist Anita Agarwal.


Anne Wafula Strike MBE

As an athlete, author, and sporting ambassador, Anne provides a personal example of courage, commitment and determination that challenge misconceptions about disability. Born in Mihu, Kenya, Anne was a fit and healthy child before polio struck when she was two years old. She was given the middle name of Olympia at birth, a title of prophetic significance for the future and prescient of hurdles she would face in forthcoming years. After completing A-levels and graduating from Moi University with a Bachelor of Education degree, Anne taught at Machakos Technical College in Kenya before meeting the man she would marry – which lead her to Britain, motherhood, wheelchair racing, disability advocacy and charity work.

2004 marked the beginning of an Olympic career when Anne became the first wheelchair racer from Sub-Sahara Africa to compete at the Paralympics in Athens. In 2007 she was officially recognised by the Queen at a Buckingham Palace reception for her work as a disabled athlete and for involvement in charity work for people with disabilities. Anne is also Founder and Manager of the Olympia-Wafula Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to providing healthy living solutions for disabled and disadvantaged people. |

Efua Sey

The aim of the Efua Sey Cultural Academy is to promote cultural diversity and community integration through education, social care, events, befriending, arts and culture to reduce social exclusion and isolation of disadvantaged members of our local community. Their mission is to empower disadvantaged members of our local community and encourage a culturally diverse community in which every member feels that they belong and so can contribute towards the development of the local area.

Efua Sey Academy performing at Village Green in Southend

Gibson Zucca da Silva

The topic of Gibson Zucca da Silva’s mini-talk is on the art of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST). The MST is a mass social movement, formed by rural workers and all those who want to fight for land reform, and against injustice and social inequality in rural areas. Gibson is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia, co-author of two books on sustainability, and academic researcher of critical citizenship and knowledge generated in social movements to decolonize Brazilian society and education.

Lora Aziz

Lora Aziz is a British-Egyptian artist, author and wildcrafter living in Essex. Lora is co-founder of Wyrd Flora which works to build ways of connecting, thinking and learning that promote, develop and protect traditional plant knowledge and environmental and cultural equality in creative ways. Lora has worked with and for various cultural and environmental programmes, organisations and grassroots initiatives across Essex since 2014.

Photo of Lora Aziz

Michael Banjoko

I have been in the private practice of architecture for the past 25 years in the UK and abroad with a passion for sustainability, especially at neighbourhood scale. I have also just completed a doctoral program at Cranfield University with a masters in Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing. In my work as a local pastor, I’ve also had the privilege of engaging with diverse peoples and communities in Harlow. From such vantage points of ministry and service, you cannot but only see shades of grace.

Nila Hibbert

Nila is from Sri Lanka, and moved to the UK in 1969 with her parents. Her father was a GP, and she herself studied in college then decided to become a nurse. She worked at Princess Alexandra Hospital as a nurse from 1976 until she retired just over 10 years ago. She currently coordinates and runs Harlow Ethnic Minority Umbrella, working with 29 faith and cultural community groups in the town, looking to their needs, supporting them and giving them guidance when they have issues, and when they need it. They also encourage arts, culture and dancing through community workshops, encouraging children to express themselves. Both Nila and Harlow Ethnic Minority Umbrella have received a civic award, and Nila has received a high sheriff award for the diversity and community work she does in the town. Nila believes that Harlow is amazing town with such wonderful people who help one another.

Nishall Garala

An award-winning community advocate, Nishall has been working to improve the lives of people in his town for many years. Beginning as a Youth Councillor for Harlow Youth Council in 2009, Nishall has worked hard to provide opportunities and be the voice of his peers. Nishall was the East Regional Winner and National Finalist for ‘Bringing Communities Together’ for vInspired’s 2014 awards. Nishall was awarded Young Volunteer of the Year by Harlow Council in 2011 and won second-place in Essex’s Young Person of the Year 2015. He has also been honoured the British Citizen Award and the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award for his services to the community. In 2018, it was announced that Nishall was the 77th most “powerful and influential” individual in Essex. Nishall is the founder of #BigUpHarlow, an ongoing drive to improve the public image of Harlow through the use of social media and to champion the achievements of the people that live there. Nishall also holds several other voluntary roles that benefit the community of Harlow and surrounding areas.

Suman Gujral

Suman is an artist and poet based at Pardon Mills Studio in Harlow. Underlying her work is in an interest in the interplay of light and shadow in our lives. In her words: “Light creates shadows and shadows help us to appreciate the light”. At the centre of her practice is the exploration of Indian history, in particular Partition when India was divided and many communities displaced; she explores the effect this had on her own family, and more broadly on India itself. She is interested in how the cycle of displacement and division of families is still happening today in places all around the world.

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