By Anna Brosnan
Published on Thursday 9 September 2010 10:27 in Chronicle E Echo

THERE must have been a time in the history of Northampton – as well as many other UK towns – when the Hindu celebration of Diwali would have seemed just a distant concept to many residents.

But as Asian communities have grown up in the town, many would say there is now a much greater understanding of the religion and what it stands for.

Nowadays, Hindus young and old celebrate Diwali – a religious festival also observed by Jains and Sikhs – with public parades and entertainments in Northampton’s centre; events which are open to the whole community.

It is believed there are now about 500 Hindu families living in Northampton, but there was a time when the community was much smaller and people moving to the town struggled to find local places in which they would express their faith.

This story of how Hinduism has grown in the town and how those who practice the faith feel about living in Northampton today will be among the subjects touched on in a special exhibition to be held this weekend as part of the 2010 Heritage Open Days.

The national Heritage Open Days starts today and Northampton is just one of the places where many historic buildings will open their doors to the public to give them a chance to enjoy learning a little more about local history.

The exhibition at the Guildhall will be among the attractions at this year’s heritage event and will offer the public an opportunity to hear about the first hand experiences of Hindus living in Northampton.

There will also be a chance to watch short films taken from last year’s Diwali celebrations in Northampton as well as displays of traditional drums and dance.

Philip Kiberd, of the Jewish heritage project JTrails, was asked to work with the Northampton Youth Forum in carrying out some of the interviews with the Indian Hindu Welfare Organisation.

He said: “The background to the exhibition is that Lindsey Ambrose from Northampton Borough Council asked us (JTrails) if we could do some interviews with the Hindu community following our work in Northampton interviewing the Jewish community in 2008-09.”

“The aim has been to capture a broad swathe of experiences from young to old, of the Hindu community in the town and their interaction with the wider community through festivals.”

“These have been recorded and transcribed as a display to feature alongside and complement the Jewish memories as part of the council’s diversity work.”

“It is about sharing memories, experiences and thoughts about Northampton and our common heritage within and between the various communities that make up the local population. . .exploring commonalities through understanding difference.”

Lindsey Ambrose, one of the organisers from the council, explained: “Lots of people of all ages said they really like the JTrails exhibition about the Jewish heritage of Northampton which was shown first as part of the Anne Frank Festival in 2009 and other communities asked if there could be something similar for them too. So this exhibition follows up on that interest.”

“It’s been put together by members of the community, young and older, being interviewed and sharing photos taken at Northampton Gujarati School, Diwali 2009 and community events.”

The exhibition is being shown on Saturday from 10am to 4pm and on Sunday between 1pm and 5pm.

Northampton sites opening for this year’s Heritage Open Days:

  • Sikh Gurdwara, St George’s Avenue (Sun 1.30pm-3:30pm)
  • Holy Sepulchre Church, Sheep Street (Thur-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun midday-4pm)
  • Northampton Heritage Fair, Holy Sepulchre Church Rooms, Sheep Street (Sat 11am-4pm)
  • Jesus Centre, Abington Square (Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2pm-4pm)
  • Friends’ Meeting House, Wellington Street (Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 1pm-4pm)
  • Central Library, Abington Street (tours Thur 10am, Fri 2pm)
  • St Giles Church, St Giles Terrace (Sat 10am-4pm)
  • 78 Derngate (Fri 1.30pm-3pm)
  • English Heritage, 44 Derngate (Fri 10.30am and 2.30pm)
  • Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Guildhall Road (Thu, Fri and Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 2pm-5pm)
  • The Guildhall, St Giles Square (Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 1pm-5pm)
  • Northamptonshire Black History Association – exhibition at the Guildhall (Sat and Sun)
  • Hindu exhibition – at the Guildhall (Sat and Sun)
  • Sessions House, George Row (Sat and Sun 10.30am – 3.30pm)
  • All Saints Church, town centre (Thur-Fri 9am-6pm, Sun 7.45am-7.30pm) NB: church services will continue as usual.
  • Antiques Market, Market Square (Sat)
  • Fishmarket Art Gallery, Bradshaw Street (Thur-Sat, 10am-6pm)
  • New Testament Church of God, College Street (Sat 10am-3pm)
  • Hazelrigg House, Marefair (Sun 1pm-5pm)
  • St Peter’s Church, Marefair (Thur-Sat 10.45-4pm, Sun 11.45am-4pm)
  • The Church Restaurant, St John’s, Bridge Street (Thur 10am-4pm)
  • Church of St John the Baptist, Kingsthorpe (Fri-Sun 2pm-5pm)
  • Thornton Park, Kingsthorpe (Sun 2.30pm-4.30pm)
  • Church of Holy Trinity with St Paul, Balmoral Road (Sat 10am-6pm)
  • The University of Northampton School of the Arts, St George’s Ave (Fri 11am-2pm)
  • St Matthew’s Church, Kettering Road (From midday-2pm, Sat 10am-4.30pm, Sun midday-4.30pm)
  • The Playhouse Theatre, Clare Street (Sat 10am-4pm)
  • Christ Church, Christchurch Road (Sat 10am-4pm)
  • Church of St Peter and St Paul, Abington (Thur 11am-4pm, Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun midday-5pm)
  • Church of St Mary Blessed Virgin, Great Houghton (Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 2pm-5pm)
  • Delapre Abbey, London Road (Fri-Sun, 10am-2.30pm, to be confirmed)
  • St Edmund’s Church, Hardingstone (Sun, midday-5pm)
  • Church of St George the Martyr, Wootton (Sat 1pm-4pm)
  • Northants Ironstone Railway, Hunsbury Hill Park (Sat-Sun 10am-4pm)
  • Upton Hall (Quinton House School) (Sun 11am-4pm)
  • St Luke’s Church, Duston (Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 2pm-4pm)
  • Irchester Country Park and Chester Farm, Little Irchester (Sun 10am-4pm)

For the latest Northampton Heritage Open Days information visit 
or call the conservation team on 837837.