The origins of the Culture Bazaar can be traced to November 2005 when 150 people attended the first ever event that coincided with Eid (the end of the month of fasting called Ramadan in the Muslim Calendar). The event was aimed at bringing people together to share their culture and was organised by Saj Ghafoor, owner of HDM Spice Shop, on Brook Street in Carlisle. Many of her customers were coming in and asking if she knew people from thier backgrounds. Saj got a red book & started listed people's names, telephone numbers & the country of origin. She would then connect people up for friendship.
Saj & Abdul (her husband) understood exactly what it means to be treated differently, as she knew how lonely it can feel to be isolated from the rest of society. She established the successful HDM Spice Shop in Brook Street with her husband Abdul. She knows the importance of the smile that says you are accepted…an ethos that is the root to Culture Bazaar & seen so clearly through the medium of food, music, dance, drama and art. They can all be enjoyed without any language barrier. We share the cultures of the many and celebrate our diversity.
The next request from her customers was to have get togethers to celebrate cultures with family & friends. In November 2005, Saj & Abdul wanted to celebrate thier Islamic festival of Eid. This year they hired the local Community Centre on Close Street in Carlisle, & invited friends & customers to join then. There was an earthquake in Northern Pakistan, and the Ghafoor's wanted to do thier bit to raise money for the Asian eartquake appeal, raising nearly £900, by selling food & donations. The foundations had been laid. Carlisle would never be quite the same again! Life was never going to be the same for Saj & Abdul either. HDM Spcie Shop became a hub for information for, ethnic minorities as well as local people, teachers & community organisations.
Saj recognised that what was needed was a unified approach, for all cultures, no matter what nationality, faith or background. It was necessary to share our similarities & celebrate our identity for the sake of ourselves & the future generation. To be proud of one's identity & heritage, to have self confidence, & to learn to be tolerant & respectful to others.
After a 2nd Eid Milan event in October 2006, Saj set up Asian Womens Group Carlisle, applied for funding, and organised the first Culture Bazaar in July 2007 at Greystone Community Centre where 200 visitors attended.
Culture Bazaar grass roots success demanded more activities & more space. Saj approached Trinity School & it was keen to be involved. Remaining in the heart of the community was an essential ingredient.Culture Bazaar 2008's visitors soared to over 1,000 & was a great success. Saj had organised, promoted, linked into community & designed every aspect of the Culture Bazaar. It had been a huge challenge. Unfortunatly, while the other memebers of the group were enthusiastic, they struggled with skills, time & committment required to move it forward. So Saj made the decision to set up a new group, with individuals who had key skills to take the Culture Bazaar forward.
The success of the Culture Bazaar is due to the overwhelming support of the community. They want change & the opportunity to to learn about cultures through a social & fun way. While we are all different, we a the same in many ways. We all have a responsibility to make Carlisle a peacful & friendly city. It should be looked upon as an extension to one's home.