Thousands of people – Muslims and non Muslims – congregated at Burgess Park earlier this month to celebrate one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar, Eid ul-Adha.
Southwark Eid once again drew in the crowds from Southwark and beyond on September 1 and 2. Now in its ninth year, the annual event was even bigger this year as it was a two-day event – catering for even more people than usual.
Visitors of all ages and ethnicities were seen enjoying the many rides and stalls selling food from all over the world, as well as great Eid souvenirs and gifts.
It was the largest celebration of its kind in London. Families flocked to the popular festival with picnic baskets, friends and neighbours to share festive food and fun times.
Among the guests were Southwark dignitaries including councillors, MPs and the Mayor of Southwark Charlie Smith.
Eileen Conn, from Southwark Multi Faith Forum, and newly-elected chairman of Southwark Muslim Forum Mr MA Quddus were among those who attended.
Neil Coyle MP and Councillor Maria Linforth-Hall were also invited guests.
Starting off with the communal Eid prayer at 10am, visitors made a day of it to enjoy the sports and craft activities. The henna and face painting was a big hit for everyone.
Firefighters from Peckham and Old Kent Road fire stations gave excited younger visitors the opportunity to explore the fire engine and also joined officers from the Metropolitan Police to create awareness about the great work they do to keep everyone safe.
The glorious weather ensured local trader Onur and his ice cream van were in action all day long.
He said: “This is definitely one of my favourite events. Everyone is so cheerful and friendly and there always seems to be a warm and happy community vibe.”
The community spirit was highlighted further by the fact that all the organisers and helpers were volunteers and donated their services to ensure Southwark Eid was a success.
There were also volunteers as young as seven lending a hand and showing off their entrepreneurial skills by running a pre-loved toy stall.
Cllr Barrie Hargrove, Labour councillor for Peckham Ward and Southwark Cabinet Member for Communities and Safety, joined political leaders from other parties and addressed festival-goers warmly at the Eid prayers. He wished everyone a heartfelt Eid Mubarak and joined in with the festivities.
Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, leader of Southwark Liberal Democrats, was also in attendance and described the festival as having a “a wonderful atmosphere”.
She said: “It was a real chance to celebrate the amazing diverse communities we have here in Southwark.”
Another VIP guest to receive a warm welcome was the President of Southwark Chamber of Commerce Sir Simon Hughes. He previously served the community for more than 30 years as MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark and proved popular with the locals.
He said: “This year’s festival was another great success. Blessed by great weather, it was a great pleasure to join the very large crowds of all backgrounds and ages together who started the first day at the prayers and Khutbah.
“The sermon gave the clearest call to Muslims to love and care for their non-Muslim sisters and brothers, and for other communities to love and care for our London Muslim neighbours likewise.
“The multi-faith forum joined political and other leaders in welcoming all to this great celebration. There was warmth and openness to the many Muslims and people of other faiths and none who visited during the two days.”
Mayor of Southwark Charlie Smith created an air of excitement for festival visitors when he arrived dressed in his full mayoral regalia.
Visitors both young and older formed an orderly queue to get a selfie with the friendly mayor.
He responded with warmth and grace and even gave out badges to the delighted younger volunteers from Heber School in East Dulwich.
He expressed his appreciation of the festival to the organising team.
He said: “As Mayor of Southwark it was a privilege to be asked to attend Eid in Burgess Park on the Friday. The sun shone throughout the day and many people came, not just from Southwark but from all over London and beyond. This event has become increasingly popular among the Muslim community with many thousands attending morning prayers. I visited the many stalls selling food and other goods such as perfumes and clothing made and sold by young entrepreneurs.
“The funfair was in full swing with many youngsters having a good time on the rides. I spoke to many people, not just from the Muslim community, who had come to Burgess Park to have a good time and enjoy the convivial atmosphere. I will be back next year.”
Festival organiser Musharraf Chaudhury said he was pleased the event was so well received by Muslims and also visitors from other faiths and no faiths.
He said: “It was heart-warming to see such a diverse mix of visitors all coming together and enjoying the event. It gives me immense pleasure to see that the hard work put in by all the volunteers of the Southwark Eid team has paid off.
“Seeing youngsters shrieking with delight as they go on the funfair rides with their grandparents truly encapsulated what Eid is about.
“I am grateful to everyone who helped to make the festival a continuing success story.”
The festival organisers have promised an even bigger and better event next year when Southwark Eid celebrates its 10th anniversary.