The following post was written by Jodie, Alex, Becky, Leonie and Harris, History students at the University of Gloucestershire.
The aim of our research is to gain a greater understanding of how the various religious communities surrounding the Lower High Street have evolved as a result of multiculturalism in Cheltenham. We decided to investigate the impact of multiculturalism on the Lower High Street after noticing that there is a Catholic Church, a Synagogue, a Mosque and a Hindu Community Centre all in close proximity to each other. This led us to wonder about the history of these buildings and communities, and we decided that we wanted to research when they were established and the main reasons why they are located in the area surrounding the Lower High Street. Following this, we decided that we also wanted to investigate whether multiculturalism and the migration of ethnic groups have had any significant impact on religion in the area (for example, on the membership levels of these religious communities). We are interested to investigate how membership has changed over time, and how far people travel to get to these places of worship.
The Lower High Street is home to St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, the Masjid al-Madina Mosque, the Hindu Community Centre and the Cheltenham Synagogue. Through discussion with the religious leaders and representatives of these institutions, and those members of the Lower High Street micro-community who associate themselves with a particular faith, we hope to grasp how the dynamics of religious belief has changed in this area of Cheltenham in correlation with the movement of different ethnic communities over time.
So far, we have formed the foundation of the project. We have explored the Lower High Street itself and noticed the diversity in places of worship. We have conducted preliminary research into the history of each location to gain a better knowledge of these places before taking our project further. Currently, we are in the early stages of contacting representatives of each location to organise meetings for the purpose of interviewing those with a lead role within the places of worship.
With regard to the interviews, producing a consent form has been a priority for us as we want to ensure those we interview are fully aware of the aims and purpose of our project, and that they have full confidence that we will deal with the information they share appropriately. When entering a place of worship to conduct the interview, we will have to be aware of proper etiquette for that faith, for example if necessary removing footwear and dressing appropriately, only visiting at certain times, and not interrupting prayers or services.
We aim to present the project in three ways: firstly, as a visual presentation through displaying historical photographs of the area. In addition, we hope to gain the consent of the interviewees to display their photographs as a well as images of the inside of the buildings. Secondly, we plan to present recorded and edited sound clips of the interviews that demonstrate the religious leaders discussing their opinions of religion in the community. Thirdly, a pamphlet explaining each faith and its place in the Lower High Street community will be produced. Through the combination of these three methods of presenting we hope to provide a well-rounded view of the religious communities and their historical place on Cheltenham’s Lower High Street.