A week-long virtual festival dedicated to helping foster kindness within the community. Yes, that is the city of Leeds’ newest initiative and one that took place last September 6-12. The Leeds Festival of Kindness aimed to give rise to “tolerance, belongingness, and wellbeing both in Yorkshire and in communities far beyond.”
The idea came about in 2018 with the Brexit negotiations. With much uncertainty in the air, a group of individuals living around the Jamyang Buddhist Centre gathered together to try and find a way to promote kindness. What came out of that meeting was a series of events that explored various ideas around kindness. And now, it’s finally come true thanks to funding from Leeds Community Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund.
Of course, the original idea was to have actual on-ground events, but thanks (or no thanks) to Covid-19, the conferences and talks have been moved online, which subsequently opened it to a broader global audience.
The various conventions (which are absolutely free!) revolved around various aspects of kindness: kinder to self, kinder relationship, kinder business, kinder communities, kinder spaces, and kinder to our planet. Although notably, there was a big emphasis on mental health during the festival, with NHS co-founder Angela Green hosting an event on the fifth day, September 10, which happens to also be Suicide Prevention Day.
Anyone with an internet connection was given the chance to participate in the said event via Zoom.
Guest speakers were authorities from different fields who are all residents of Leeds or nearby areas, including musician, songwriter and mental health campaigner, Gloria Kimberley and urban gardener Jamie Westcott. The event was opened by the Leader of Leeds City Council, Judith Black and featured performances, dance lessons, kindness exchange, and Covid-19 bereavement support. There was even a talk by “The Peace Pilgrim” Satish Kumar who is a Jain monk, environmental activist, ecologist, and a co-founder of the Schumacher College and the Network of Wellbeing.
One of the festival’s founders, Joshua Malkin, said that the diverse lineup that they had reflected the Kindness Festival’s spirit of openness. “The space that we’re in is a space of respect for everybody and trying to make sure nobody gets left behind. We are putting a flag in the ground for people who want to see the values of kindness, compassion and wellbeing as the prosperity we should be investing in.”
In the festival’s website, it says, “Most of us can be at our best, creative, generous, courageous and productive selves when we feel we belong, feel safe and secure. Kindness, compassion and wellbeing build individual and organisational capability and care-ability by creating a supportive environment for a good life that everyone can and should be part of. Kindness & Compassion are the ground in which wellbeing can flourish.”