The Leeds Festival of Kindness, a week-long virtual event that aims to engender tolerance, belongingness, and wellbeing both in Yorkshire and in communities far beyond, will take place from the 6th September 2020.

The conferences and talks will now be taking place online as a result of the covid pandemic. This allows for the event to broaden its reach and become accessible to a global audience.

The free convention will be hosted via Zoom, and the itinerary will follow a designated daily theme, from self-care and interpersonal relationships, to workplace wellness and sustainable living.

Guest speakers from a variety of professional fields will feature, including the environmental activist, pacifist, and ecology magazine editor, Satish Kumar.

Leeds Festival of Kindness Embraces a Vision of Society Built Upon Compassion
Former Jain monk Satish Kumar is chairman of the Network of Wellbeing. Photo: The Resurgence Trust.

Co-founder of the initiative, Joshua Malkin, stressed the importance of inclusion in creating a fairer system in which equal opportunities and participation from all identity groups are the superstructural foundations of an integrated society.

Malkin stated that the primary goal of the festival is to put a stake in the ground for those who wish to see the values of kindness, including altruism, goodwill and understanding as the prosperity that we must invest in both individually and collectively.

The impetus for the Festival of Kindness stems from the findings of a 2015 study conducted by the independent think tank Centre for Cities, which ranked Leeds as the city with the third highest levels of inequality in the UK.

Even within the metropolis, there is a marked disparity between areas that are thriving financial service hotspots and manufacturing hubs of the vehicle and food production industries, contrasted with comparatively deprived regions such as Holbeck, where over 15% of residents are on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Leeds City Council, one of the partners of the Festival of Kindness, have extended their social responsibility agenda in recent years, through the organisation of annual ceremonies, namely, the Leeds Compassionate City Awards. 

The local authority has also established action plans such as the Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy, which sets out a series of steps to be taken to ensure the private, public and third sector work cooperatively to stimulate socioeconomic progress that benefits every stratum of the body politic.

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on 10 September, therefore, in honour of the occasion, the Festival of Kindness have reserved the fifth day for a programme of webinars and panel discussions delivered by support group leaders, including representatives from The West Leeds Men’s Network and Cruse Bereavement Care.

The objective is to open up a dialogue surrounding the topic of mental health with a view to fostering safe spaces and robust support systems for members of a diverse community with complex and individual needs.

Leeds’ mission to cultivate an increasingly socially-conscious city is a wholly achievable model of society, if crucial determinants such as equity of development and meritocracy are addressed by local and national governments. 

The process of attitudinal change may be gradual, but an environment in which individuals are more public-spirited is perhaps the social glue necessary to give rise to a kindlier world, in which mutual respect for the rights, differences and dignity of others becomes standard practice.

Click here to discover more about the Leeds Festival of Kindness and register your interest.

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About Author

Zayna is a student of Comparative Literature at UCL and an avid reader who hopes to cast light upon the ripple effect of small acts of kindness that lead to great waves of change.

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