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Aylestone 2012 - July 2012.
Aylestone 2012 was a great success! The day began at 8.30am for the set-up team down at Aylestone Hall Gardens . As gazebos went up and a sound system was installed, Radio Leicester turned up and the day was usefully advertised on Tony Wadsworth’s ‘Clueless’ Sunday morning show. All was ready in time for our morning service at 10.45am wio which about 150 people came to worship together, led by singers and musicians from both St. Andrew’s and ABC. We used the torch as our theme – how we are the torch bearers of the good news of Jesus, and we learnt about the work of Hope Academy that uses faith and football to change lives among juvenile offenders in South Africa .

        

At the end of the service, our torch relay began. Our torch was amazing! Made by A-Form Tooling and with a finishing touch by Draycotts florists, it fooled many into thinking it was the real thing. But unlike the real torch, with which only a chosen few could run, our torch could be carried by anyone. We kept it moving for four hours round a short course. There was a constant queue of people wanting to run with it. Whilst the relay got under way, 55 fit and not-so-fit folk entered our fun run; 120 young people and children turned up for a football tournament; some ambled over to Banks Road to watch a cricket match run by the RusheyMead Foundation; and the crowds in the Gardens started to swell. There was live jazz to listen to; a dance display; Zumba; tennis; bowls; bouncy castles; free burgers and hot dogs; a treasure Hunt round the Meadows; sack races and a donkey derby; and; and face painting.

The Mercury came, the mayor and deputy mayor visited, but more importantly, in excess of 700 local people turned up to enjoy the day. Everywhere it was acknowledged that this was an event put on by the churches, and people were delighted that it was all free. Comments include the following: “I’ve lived in Aylestone for 30 years and we’ve never had a day as good as this one,” and, “I live in Blaby and I think I’ll move to Aylestone because the community is really good here!”
 
So who needs the Olympics as an excuse? Aylestone 2013 anyone?

The Matt Hampson Foundation and Hope Academy were our chosen charities for the day.


Fairtrade fortnight - March 2012

 

Once again, Spirit of Aylestone supported the Co-op's Fairtrade promotion as part of Fairtrade Fortnight. Chocolate and orange juice were free to taste alongside a full display of their other Fairtrade products. We had many good conversations with customers who had differing levels of understanding about Fairtrade - we hope a few were inspired to buy Fairtrade from now on.


Carols in the Park and Pub - December 2011
Well done to all those who endured the rain for Carols in the Park! The hardy folk of Aylestone didn’t let a little – or even a lot – of rain dampen their spirits! Despite plenty of the wet stuff falling on Aylestone Gardens, almost 200 gathered to sing carols, hear the Christmas story, and watch the children act out their nativity play. Though the weather was appalling, the crowds came – families, young folk and old – as they do every year. Our thanks to Aylestone Hall Bowling Club for the refreshments and Southfield Brass Band for their music.

 

A drier and warmer experience was enjoyed by those who came to Carols in the Pub. There was no way those that came could have fitted in the pub itself, so our thanks to Alan and Sarah for setting up the marquee in the pub garden where there was space for singers and band alike. The Junior Section of the Wigston Enterpise Band were superb and once again the benefit of a community singing together, and worshipping together, was very evident.


Aylestone Hall Garden Party - July 2011
Thank you to all those who stopped by to talk to us or enjoy our crafts and treasure hunt at the Aylestone Hall Garden Party. Beautiful weather enocuraged a good crowd who came meet one another, tour the stalls and listen to a jazz band and gospel choir. Our thanks to the City Council Parks Department who made it all happen.


Good Friday round the streets - April 2011

We marked the Easter season in Aylestone with a march of witness. 80 joined us as we followed an eight-foot high cross to various story-telling stations around the community, with the climax of the crucifixion being told in Aylestone Hall Gardens. As we walked, we gave out hot cross buns to the surprise and delight of passers-by, as well as palm crosses. If you missed it, we hope you will join us next year.


Pancakes in the Park - March 2011
Fifty or so children and adults helped to mark FairTrade Fortnight with a series of pancake races in Aylestone Hall Gardens.

Free pancakes with Fairtrade fillings and Fairtrade tea and coffee were on hand to keep us warm; the Co-op gave out sample bags from their Fairtrade range; and children were encouraged to decorate bunting made with Fairtrade cotton. The bunting will be sent to the Fairtrade Foundation who are attempting a bunting world record! Information on buying local produce was also available, as was a leaflet explaining the story of pancakes and their relationship to Lent and Easter.  


Election Question-Time - April 2010
Candidates from the three main parties and the Greens took questions from the public in our hustings event eight days before the general election. Sandra Hebert chaired the hour and a half meeting that focussed on local concerns about the Meadows as well as broader issues such as greed in politics and business, international aid, and Trident. 65 local people turned up to hear the candidates speak and a number responded positively at the end to the question of whether the evening had helped them decide between the parties.


Praying for businesses - March 2010
Having visited most of the businesses in Aylestone in the first few months of the year, Aylestone Baptist Church and St. Andrews dedicated their services on Sunday 7th March to pray for and celebrate local businesses. We shared stories of the 83 businesses in Aylestone, and encouraged those who live in Aylestone to support the businesses.


Countdown to Copenhagen - October 2009
Churches Together joined Christian Aid in their Countdown to Copenhagen campaign. Shoppers and passers-by were encouraged to sign cards to send to the Prime Minister, urging him to commit to significant carbon reduction target at December's global climate summit in Copenhagen. 150 cards were collected and handed to Sir Peter Soulsby, our MP who joined us for the morning.

 


HOPE HITS HOME - July 2008
As part of the national HOPE '08 initiative, Spirit of Aylestone took to the streets of Aylestone in their HOPE HITS HOME initiative on Saturday 5th July. Many residents came out of houses or stopped as they walked by to encourage the 'Clean Up' team, made up of twenty young people and adults from the churches who spent the day picking up 10 big bags worth of litter and painting over graffiti on 30 green roadside boxes. The Spinney behind Montrose Road received particular attention with an old car wheel and a burnt out mattress being cleared along with the crisp packets and plastic bottles. Meanwhile, donations of old tools, phones, bicycles and pairs of glasses steadily built up throughout the day at the two collection points at St. Andrew's Parish Church and Aylestone Baptist Church as the community responded generously to the appeal to 'Clean Out' items that could be passed to charities for re-cycling. The final tally included 25 sewing machines and a huge variety of tools which will find new homes in the developing world thanks to the refurbishment and distribution work of the charity Tools With A Mission and 30 bicycles to be re-cycled by Leicester based Bikes 4 All. And while all this went on, a steady stream of visitors attended the 'Green Up' Eco-Fair at the Baptist Church to discover ways of responding to the environmental challenges facing us as individuals and as a city. 

 

 
It was a delight to be able to serve the community in this way. It made a real difference to environment we live in and, through the tool collection, the lives of others in much greater need. In particular, it was great to see some of our young people getting satisfaction from clearing up some of our streets.


Easter Restored - March 2008
Following the success of December’s Carols in the Park event (see below), Spirit of Aylestone decided to restore the place of Easter in our community. Often neglected, it remains the primary Christian Festival, and we marked it with a range of services and events. St. Andrews Church choir performed beautifully the classic 19th century choral work, Stainer's 'Crucifixion', conducted by choirmaster, Will Welsford. Aylestone Baptist Church invited the community to two performances of 'Taste and See', a dinner play that related the Easter Story set around a three-course meal. The audience played a full part, some of them being gently coerced into taking the role of Jesus' disciples. Both performances drew a full house.

The churches joined together for 'Walk the Story', a Good Friday service on the move, in which readings and hymns were shared at various stations around Aylestone to which we walked carrying an eight-foot cross. Seventy joined the procession and many more stopped to watch and listen.

 

 

Easter Restored culminated in a joint Songs of Praise service at St. Andrews, where we imagined ourselves part of the events of Easter Day using stories, readings and hymns old and new.

We hope to build on this initiative in future years to put Easter truly on the map.

Clergy in a cage - March 2007
To mark the 200th anniversary of the slave trade in March 2007, Spirit of Aylestone campaigned locally in support of STOP THE TRAFFIK, a global coalition that aims to raise awareness of human traffiking today.


Alan Race and Tim Fergusson are joined by local MP, Peter Soulsby

Rev Alan Race and Rev Tim Fergusson took turns to occupy a cage situated at the Aylestone shops, whilst passers by were asked to sign the "Global Declaration for Freedom." Meanwhile, up at the Baptist Church, young people washed cars to raise money for the cause whilst tea and coffee were served inside the church to encourage people to look at the campaign displays.

 
Collecting signatures at the shops and informing people at the Baptist Church

We were reminded of our history: 250 years ago, Great Britain led the world in the international slave trade. In the so-called triangular trade, ships left British ports for the west coast of Africa, laden with arms and alcohol. These were traded for African slaves who were herded onto the ships for a nightmare voyage of four to eight weeks to the Americas and the Caribbean. The slaves were in turn traded for sugar and ginger and other luxuries, which were brought home to England. The demand for sweet tea, cakes and pastries ensured a very profitable return for the traders. On the ships and in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean colonies, slaves were treated with mind-boggling cruelty and neglect. Many died on the journey, and life expectancy on arrival was only a few years. In fact, the supply of slaves was so plentiful that it was cheaper to mistreat slaves and buy new ones when they died than it was to look after them properly.

Christian campaigners, under the leadership of William Wilberforce put an end to this trade, but now, 200 years later, we are faced with a new form of slavery - human trafficking. Our aim in campaigning was to educate people and call for action from government to stand against this human trade.

Over 300 signatures were collected and the clergy cage was featured on local television, radio and in the newspapers - successfully bringing the issue to light in Leicester.


Gareth Davies-Jones: songs of faith and justice - May 2007
We were delighted to welcome acoustic singer/songwriter Gareth Davies-Jones for a gig at Aylestone Baptist Church in May, as part of Christian Aid week 2007. Gareth's songs reflect his concern for global justice and were beautifully performed in a cafe-style environment in the church sanctuary. If you want to hear Gareth's music or find out more about tour dates, go to his myspace page, or to his website. He is a great performer and we had a highly entertaining and challenging evening.