In what looks – from the outside – like another effort to burn a bit of time and cash, the Birmingham Mail has announced today that Sandwell Council and Sandwell Multi-Faith Network are to launch a much needed (ahem!) ‘faith trail’ around the borough tomorrow.
Looking at the PDF of the (15-page) leaflet for this venture, available online at www.visitwestbrom.com, Sandwell seem keen to showboat their 11 religious buildings which, although markedly more impressive than THE pUBLIC, are largely similar to the temples and churches around many other metropolitan areas (most obviously nearby Birmingham).
Aside from that, we are also warned that the trail is completely impossible to walk, that it’s best to ring ahead if you plan on actually seeing inside one of the places of worship, and that “careful planning of journeys will be necessary” - whatever that means.
Oh, and you’re not to go in if you’re drunk, drugged or smoking. By listing these no-nos Sandwell Council clearly don’t think that this is implicit. Presumably fancy dress is fine…
If you want to find out more about the trail or the Sandwell Mulit-Faith Network you’re invited at the outset to visit www.sandwellmultifaith.org which is a hostile password protected website that looks although it limits access to it’s own ‘inner circle’ and school children – who are, incidentally, the only demographic that might actually benefit from this trail. But let’s face it, local schools will already have well-established contact with these religious institutions, so it’s actually unclear who the enterprise is facilitating.
After all, who goes on a religious pilgrimage to Sandwell?
And not just a pilgrimage to one specific mosque, or church or temple, but potentially an actual road trip – and with 11 sites to see spread across the borough, it’d surely last a weekend – around Sandwell visiting religious buildings of various different denominations? The concept is, quite simply, bizarre.
We can be positive that an abundance of information about these buildings is already available via the internet, Sandwell Council, local community and faith groups, and tourist information, causing no problems for anyone who wanted to pay any or all of them a visit. So the decision to collate them all in one place is undoubtedly an unnecessary one, with Sandwell going out of their way to invest in a neglected audience that reason tells us don't exist.
Almost tragically, the map inside the leaflet shows directions on how to get to Sandwell from Bristol, Manchester, Nottingham and London – as though this glossy flyer and the temptation of the 11-stop ‘faith trail’ would entice inhabitants of some of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country to pack their bags for a holiday in the Black Country.
This project is billed as the ‘first of its kind in the West Midlands’ which doesn’t come as much of a shock as Sandwell generally has a more well-oiled crackpot ideas machine than its neighbouring areas, and in other predictable news, the scheme also received money from the European Union.
This might be the sort of thing that keeps the tourism officers at Sandwell Council from twiddling their thumbs, but it costs money to run off 15-page full-colour leaflets, not to mention the staff time in concocting this thing in the first place. No doubt this will be lauded of a great success, no matter what the uptake is, but one thing is for sure – for the poor taxpayers of Sandwell, this is just another money-sucking dead-end.