New community links in Sheffield

Press Release: 16 April 2012

The “Madina Masjid” may not trip easily off the tongue of many Sheffielders. However, there will not be many people who are not aware of the prominent mosque. Located on Wolseley Road, its construction generated considerable interest and debate within Sheffield when it was built in 2006 with a BBC article noting “A new landmark rises above the terraced houses of the Sharrow area of Sheffield. With its distinctive green domes and tall minarets, the city’s biggest purpose-built mosque and Islamic Centre can’t fail to grab the attention of locals and passing motorists.”

The mosque has been fully operational for five years now and runs a very popular programme of visits for the public. Individuals, groups and research students from all walks of life are welcomed and every visit includes a tour of the facilities, some background to Islamic belief and the activities carried out in the centre; as well as an open question and answer session. As Waheed Akhtar, Committee Secretary at the Mosque, explained “Visits are conducted in a relaxed, informal and easily understandable manner with the intention of improving understanding and dialogue with all our Sheffield communities, as well as being an interesting outing  into another’s culture”.

It was this open engagement and outreach into the community that led Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus to approach Waheed when they were planning a performance of Karl Jenkins’ highly popular The Armed Man.  “Classical music still appears to be quite narrow in its appeal to non-European music-lovers in Sheffield and we would love this collaboration to be a start of  a new interest in the genre for many local people” says  Peter Quarrell, who has been liaising with Waheed for the Chorus.

Following hot on the heels of leading the Alight Cultural Olympiad festival in Sheffield on 3rd March, the Chorus were keen that this concert again reached as wide an audience as possible  within  the  city.  “We approached Waheed at the mosque, since the Jenkins piece has a wide range of text. There are excerpts of war poetry, imagery written by Togi Sankichi who was in Hiroshima when the A-bomb was dropped, and an Islamic Call To Prayer”  explained Julie Smethurst, Chair of the Chorus. “We were keen to ensure that whoever performed the Call to Prayer was an authentic Muezzin who really understood and had a genuine feeling for what they were singing about.” Qamar Zaman, 35, from  Sharrow,   will be performing on the night. Brought up in rural Pakistan he attended the local village mosque with his father from an early age and has followed in his footsteps as a Muezzin. Now living in Sheffield with his wife and two children, Qamar attends the Wolseley Road mosque every day between his work in the catering industry. “I am thrilled we have been able to bring this music to the City Hall for the first time, continued Julie, especially in this Olympic year when our links to other cultures and communities seem all the more tangible”.

Performing the work with the now usual images that reflect the mood and texts of the piece, audience members shouldn’t expect an opportunity to nod off. The combined visuals of war, hatred, bigotry and violence juxtaposed with human life and faith will undoubtedly tug at the emotions. Indeed the Chorus has purposely added to the imagery with scenes from the Sheffield Blitz bringing the evening full circle to represent the community and local spirit of those war torn years back in the 1940s.

The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace will be performed along with the Black Dyke Band and the Halifax Choral Society in the City Hall on Saturday 28 April at 7pm. Tickets are available from the box office on 0114 2789789.