Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 

Culture

Richard attends Hindu Society of Bedford's Holi Festival Celebrations at Bedford Cricket Club

Richard attends Hindu Society of Bedford’s Holi Festival Celebrations at Bedford Cricket Club

Over the last few weekends, Richard has joined a number of celebrations held by community groups in the town.

Richard took part in the Molisana Association of Bedfordshire’s carnival tradition of breaking the ‘pignata’; he celebrated the 60th anniversary of the independence of Ghana with the Bedford Ghana Union and joined the Ravidassia community for the 640th birth celebrations of Sat Guru Ravidass Maharaj Ji as well as attending the Hindu Society of Bedford’s Holi (festival of colours).

Richard said: “I thoroughly enjoy celebrating the diversity of Bedford and believe it enriches us all. Thank you to all the organisers for putting on such great events”.

This week, Richard welcomed members of the Ravidassia community from Bedford and Kempston to a seminar in Parliament to celebrate the teachings and 640th birth anniversary of Sat Guru Ravidass Maharaj Ji.

Richard said: “It was a great pleasure to host the community at the Palace of Westminster and I look forward to joining their celebrations this weekend at the Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha in Bedford.”

Richard opened the Diwali Festival of Light recently, welcoming a large crowd of people to Harpur Square in Bedford town centre. The event, which was organised by the Bedford Council of Faiths, celebrated the multicultural success of the town.

The day started with a procession through town and was followed by music and dance performances from the town’s cultural groups, as well as food tasting and a competition among local restaurants to find the best dish in town.

I am all for cost-saving measures by the Council, but the proposal to convert the Civic Theatre in to a “one stop shop” for council services is daft.  The Civic Theatre should remain in its role as a dignified part of our cultural community.  Has the Mayor no sense of the value of amateur productions  – of plays, of music, of other cultural events?  With vast swathes of the town’s retailing locations vacant, is there no other building available?  Why wreck the role of a key building when alternatives exist?

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Ben, Richard and Holly

Ben, Richard and Holly

With only 20 yards of bicycling experience in the last ten years, I was clearly looking for support from others for my “challenge” to cycle from Bedford to Oxford (a 66 mile route) on Saturday. 

I was blessed with support from many people.  First – and crucially – from the Mayor of Kempston, Cllr Steve Collins, who kindly loaned me his bicycle for the trip.  Thank you, Steve, and I promise to return the bike to you in roughly the same shape as you gave it to me. 

Second of all, thanks to the irrepressible Holly, from St Paul’s Church whose prayers for fine weather for the ride were answered in abundance. 

Thanks also to all of the riders who fulfilled the challenge – in part or in full – on behalf of the Beds and Herts Historic Churches Trust.  Please support this worthwhile cause by emailing them here

Finally, a personal word of thanks to Ben Waine who roped me in for this ride.  When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was full of dread at my lack of preparation. I knew I would be the “tortoise” in the race and Ben kindly encouraged me along.  At great surprise to myself and the people who sponsored me (thanks to them too) I made it.  So thanks, Ben, for the encouragement and support.  It turned out to be a great pleasure.

italian Festival

 Not a moment too soon, the people of Bedford had the opportunity to celebrate the unique and special contribution of the Italian community to our town. 

Growing up here, I remember vividly my family’s Saturday morning quests to various Italian stores for favourite breads, cheeses and other provisions.  I remember my first trip overseas – to Italy – as a child and my parents’ subsequent frequent trips back. 

Walking from the front of the Harpur Centre and around to the market square, it truly felt like you were in Italy.  There was dancing, great food, great drink and cars to impress! 

The new statue looks marvellous and will become a treasured addition to the town’s heritage.  The Borough Council deserves much credit for siting it in the heart of the town. 

Let us hope that we will have a second festival very soon.

Sunday, as the clouds cleared and the sun came out, I was happy to help open the first Bedford Mela organised by our Bangladeshi community.  An afternoon of music and family fun on the meadows near Longholme Way. Another example of how the diversity of our town enriches us all.  Well done to all the organisers and here’s to next year !