Newcastle upon Tyne businessman Shaban Suleman has opened a members-only club in Heaton to help encourage racial harmony in the region. Solomons Lounge at 404, Chillingham Road has been setup to facilitate cross cultural understanding in Tyne & Wear by encouraging individuals and organisations with an ethnic agenda to engage with each other and with its members.
Shaban Suleman says:
"We believe that to achieve a society in which people are defined by who they are, rather than where they originated, it is essential that we all understand each other. Solomons Lounge will serve food and soft drinks because when people sit down to eat, they listen to each other. When people listen, they understand, so we hope by bringing people together in a warm atmosphere we will generate greater understanding and therefore greater tolerance. So far as we are aware, this approach to the issue of racial harmony has never been attempted in the UK".
Early in 2010 Solomons Lounge will develop an outreach programme offering schools in the region an insight into other cultures. OFSTED has identified promotion of community cohesion within school as an issue in a number of North East schools. This programme will be developed with the assistance of supportive teachers and education professionals.
Shaban Suleman says:
"Our children are our future and we feel the earlier we can make them aware of other cultures the more chance we will have of complete integration. We have had generous offers from many cultures to take their time going into schools and talking about their beliefs, customs and culture. We ran a pilot at Ponteland Middle School earlier this year. Feedback from teachers and pupils was excellent so we are very encouraged"
Solomons Lounge cannot achieve cultural integration over night, but we believe we can make a start. We can offer a relaxed atmosphere with good food and conversation. We can offer the chance to learn about other cultures, to talk about our differences and similarities and in that way, find some common ground and build upon it for the future. We have received letters of support from community leaders and feel we are off to a good start.
Solomons Lounge as a community resource open to anyone over the age of eighteen and membership is free. Soft drinks are available and Chefs from the Solomons restaurant group will prepare Kashmiri and Punjabi food. There are plans to invite other ethnic groups to host special events with their own foods, and the chance to demonstrate their culture and lifestyle.