A pro-multiculturalism network in Sheffield has dismissed UKIP’s recent by-election success as a “one-off”, otherwise it would be “sad for the country”, they have claimed.
Abdool Gooljar, the vice chair for One Sheffield Many Cultures (OSMC), said people were “fed up” with the government’s failure to address burgeoning immigration in the country and voted for the UK Independence Party to “send a message” to Parliament.
“What is happening is the major political parties have created a fear of immigration and the public are divided on the issue,” he said.
“I believe UKIP has capitalised on this, but my hope is that it is opportunistic voting otherwise it is going to be sad for the country.”
Gooljar made the comments after appearing as a speaker at the OSMC’s third annual festival on Saturday, which aims to promote multi-culturalism and tolerance in Sheffield. It comes after UKIP gained 144 seats in local elections across the country on Thursday: 136 more than when the same seats were contested in 2009.
But the party did not extend their success to Sheffield. The Liberal Democrats retained their seat in Fulwood which saw Cllr Cliff Woodcraft win by a margin of 48% of the total vote, replacing Cllr Janice Sidebottom who died in March.
Representing the Sheffield Faith Leaders group at the festival, Reverend Louise Collins (pictured, top) said people should be concerned about right-wing groups’ growing “threat” to local communities.
Speaking backstage, the vicar for Fir Vale’s St Cuthbert’s church said: “They seem to be getting support from all over the place.
“In Yorkshire, we are represented in Europe by a member of the British Democratic Party (BDP), so there is an issue with how people are voting and we shouldn’t be complacent.”
Andrew Brons was elected as a British National Party MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber in 2009 before switching to the BDP in 2012.
OSMC was setup two years ago in response to the growing popularity of far-right movements, including the English Defence League. It represents a network of trade unions, ethnic societies and religious organisations.
The festival at Barkers Pool hosted performers from nine schools in Sheffield, including a ukulele band, Roma dance troupe and circus act. The event also featured an inflatable football pitch alongside information stands and food stalls.
More than a dozen organizations supported the festival, including the University of Sheffield and Unison, a national trade union.
Paul Scarrott, an OSMC committee member and History teacher at Yewlands Technology College, Grenoside, said the event was a celebration of diversity in the city.
“It is a multi-cultural city and that’s to the benefit of everyone,” he said.
“That diversity and those links to the rest of the world put Sheffield on the map.
“Our goal is to celebrate the city and to challenge anyone who tries to divide us, like mainstream politicians and sections of the media.
“As a history teacher, my knowledge of history is that when racists are able to whip up racial hatred and scapegoat communities, everybody loses, and the only way to defeat those people is to speak out because society cannot defend itself.”
See below for pictures of the One Sheffield Many Cultures Festival. Photography by Sally Nicholls.