Belfast City of Sanctuary Great Refugee Picnic with Amnesty International - with the Deputy Lord Mayor, Peter McReynolds
It all started early yesterday morning with an empty tent as we had expected rain at some stage. The rain stayed away and so did the forecasted breeze, though there wasn't much sun.
Then at 1pm, the crowds started to come! Queues started to form, people were mingling and getting into the picnic mode. We reckon that had as many as a thousand attending as we ran out of some food. Our food was from all over the world.
There's so much to report on, that it's difficult to extract highlights. Where to start.
The Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Peter McReynolds, arrived and spent much time socialising with those attending. The young ones wanted to be photoed wearing his chain of office and parental consent was duly forthcoming. Our esteemed Chair, Israel Eguaogie escorted Peter around and had worked hard with our Secretary John O'Neill to make this a sensational success.
Mexican dancing and Chinese dance organised by Nisha Tandon and ArtsEkta, our wonderful DJ, Prince, Wilson Magwere and his band and impromptu dancing by a group of exuberant young Syrian men.
The fire brigade came and were popular with the children, face-painting had a steady queue and wanting to be face-painted young children and the bouncy castle was in 'full bounce!'
4pm, the end time of the picnic came and went, the dancing continued, the people continued to mingle and chat. Once the music stopped, people started to leave and our volunteers started to clear up. The tent came down, the bouncy castle got deflated and the tables and chairs were returned to Ballynafeigh Community Centre who are always so kind and obliging.
Over the past year, we have been building our base of supporters. We've always had Amnesty International as close partners as well as the unions and great support from Belfast City Council. Over the coming year, I'm sure we will build further on this support.
We wish to acknowledge with thanks the generous grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, without which as a young organisation we might have struggled to put on this scale of picnic.
Thanks also to Belfast Harbour Commissioners for support and the ever engaged unions FBU, NIPSA, UNISON, UNITE and USDAW.
A footnote. One Sudanese lady came over to me and said "Now for Picnic 2020!" Wow, what an endorsement!
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