Equality campaigners share their views at University Diversity Festival

Posted on 22nd February 2018

The unrivalled success of the University of Chester’s annual Diversity Festival has helped attract a series of big-name speakers to this year’s event.

Kellie Maloney
Kellie Maloney

Retired boxing manager and promoter Kellie Maloney – who managed Lennox Lewis to the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World title – will open the Festival, a programme of events that actively promotes, challenges and develops understanding of equality, diversity and multiculturalism.

As Frank Maloney, Kellie was involved in professional boxing for almost three decades and in August 2014, announced she was undergoing gender realignment therapy. Kellie will launch the 2018 Diversity Festival on Monday, March 5, at the Churchill Building at the Queen’s Park Campus in Handbridge. 

Festival organiser Kathryn Leighton, the University’s Development and Diversity HR Manager, said: “We are very honoured that Kellie accepted our invitation to open the 2018 Diversity Festival. We hope she will speak candidly about her transition and the challenges she has faced.”

On March 8, world-famous American feminist, journalist and author Naomi Wolf will be in conversation with the University’s Professor of English and Institute of Gender Studies Director, Professor Emma Rees. The two will discuss Still She Persisted: Women in Power in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018.

Another motivational keynote speaker for this International Women’s Day event is Alison Johns, who last year was appointed CEO-designate of the proposed new sector agency to be formed from the merger between the Leadership Foundation, the Equality Challenge Unit and the Higher Education Academy.

Then, Raj Holness will tell her inspirational story of domestic abuse and forced marriage, how she managed to escape and the positive changes she has brought to thousands of people through her organisation, Breaking the Silence. 

The first Diversity Festival was held in 2006 and since then it has been a platform for many famous names, including prolific human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell; former Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion a Social Action, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi; Warrington peace campaigner Colin Parry OBE; playwright, novelist and broadcaster Bonnie Greer OBE; Falklands war veteran Simon Weston; Baroness Oona King; and Paralympian, Jade Jones.

With a full programme of events right through until March 15, the overall theme of the 2018 festival is ‘No Limits’. Kathryn explained: “The Festival aims to provide a focus for people to positively explore the barriers they face and how they can challenge perceptions, push boundaries and reach their potential.

“All the events are open to all students, staff and the public, and they offer many unique opportunities to learn and experience different cultures and perspectives.”

Illustrating the true diversity of the Chester Festival, other events include Looking at me: The Leprosy Mission (Tuesday, March 13), when Professor Elizabeth Mason-Whitehead delves into her fascinating research into the stigma and discrimination of leprosy encountered by millions of people worldwide.

The Stranger on the Bridge (Wednesday, March 14) sees award-winning mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn speak about their journey together after Neil talked Jonny out of taking his own life by jumping from the Waterloo Bridge in London. The pair lost touch, but in 2014, Jonny launched a campaign on Twitter to find and thank the man who had saved his life. #FindMike it became a global news campaign that reached 300 million people around the world and reunited the two men within a matter of weeks. 

And A Spot of Feminism (Monday, March 5) is a session delivered by three Applied Drama students, encompassing an evening of discussion, troubleshooting, fun and games revolving around activism within feminism.

A brand new and exciting event has also just been added. Holocaust survivor John Dobai will be speaking (Tuesday, March 13) as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). John’s testimony will be followed by a question and answer session to enable attendees to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth. The visit is part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available across the UK.

All events are free, but booking is essential. For details about the full programme of events is here (https://www.chester.ac.uk/about/diversity-and-equality/diversity-festival)

To book a place on any of the events, please click on the Eventbrite link next to the relevant event.