Champion of multiculturalism

Owen Thompson, centre, with the award
Owen Thompson, centre, with the award

A man who has helped promote harmony between the different cultures in town has received the Order of 1066 award.

Owen Thompson, who was instrumental in setting up Hastings Intercultural Organisation (HIO), was presented with the accolade last Friday (October 17).

He moved to Hastings in 1966 and first started volunteering for St Michael’s Hospice in the 1980s, offering his skills as an antique specialist and donating valuable items to be sold in its charity shops and at auctions. Mr Thompson later became a volunteer advisor at Hastings Citizen Advice Bureau and acted as the volunteer representative on its board. He volunteered for eight years and during this time started to make links with other voluntary organisations. Through these links he became interested in the representation of the black and minority ethnic (BME) community in Hastings.

Mayor Bruce Dowling, who presented the award, said: “Mr Thompson felt there was a significant gap in ensuring that the BME voice was heard in town and there was virtually nowhere where the BME community could raise issues and make their views known to local decision-makers. So he started talking to Hastings Borough Council and Hastings Voluntary Action to help set up the first ever Hastings BME forum.

“Mr Thompson was aware that racism and discrimination were suffered by those from different races, cultures and faiths. He was keen to see support offered to those affected and help set up the town’s service for reporting racial incidents, ensuring that service providers received training and support in meeting the needs of the local community. In 2004 he volunteered to help the newly formed Hastings and St Leonards Seniors Forum. Throughout his time working with older people he continued his voluntary work with the BME community, and in 2005 he was instrumental in setting up the Hastings Intercultural Organisation (HIO).

“With the support of Mr Thompson HIO also established a football tournament in memory of Mohammad Al Majid, the student who was tragically murdered in Hastings in 2008.

“Through HIO he also supported Women’s Voice to put on the first International Women’s Day celebrations, another new event to the town and another annual event now.”

Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “Mr Thompson’s work with multiculturalism in town has been astounding, and has helped to build the tolerant and diverse communities we see around our town. This award symbolises the very best in Hastings.”