Islam in British Stone is an idea developed by Asian Youth Alliance (AYA) as a response to our work with young British Muslims. Through working with these young people it emerged that there was a gap in knowledge in regards to British Islamic history and that this may be a factor in the disenfranchisement of British Muslim youth.
Working with young British Muslims, we have found that there is a profound lack of belonging and a sense of alienation. This project aims to tackle these issues by highlighting the historic relationship between Islam and Britain in a positive manner. The idea of setting up a website to promote British Islamic heritage transpired. Young people are interested in learning about their heritage, however, they can find the traditional methods of learning dull and boring.
We chose to concentrate on the built environment as sites and places can be visited, seen, touched and physically experienced (they are there; rooted to the ground and very hard to erase.) However, how to create this type of experience in a practical and economic way was an issue. Young people again came up with the solution and said that computer games and 3D animation can give the affect of being in an environment and this could hopefully encourage them to go and visit the site(s) for themselves. So a project was developed – a young person led project that used computer gaming technology, 3d animation, film, photography and the Web to help tell the tale of how Britain has been influenced by Islamic design and how Muslims first established their religious spaces.
It is envisaged that by using the media of computer gaming, animation, film and photography, more young people will be engaged in taking an interest in history, art & design and architecture.
We would like to acknowledge Awards for All for providing the first initial funding to see if this project could actually be delivered. We knew that Britain had sites, buildings and places that were significant to its Muslim community that were older than 25 years - and therefore can be classed as Heritage. In our initial research we discovered the first mosques in Britain and this pilot concentrates on one significant heritage site, the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, known to be the first purpose built mosque in Britain, built 1889 and is still one of the most striking. It is a Grade II* listed building.
The funding enabled us to work with young people to produce an interactive 3D environment and gallery of this historically significant British Islamic building and make it available for the wider public through the internet and from download. The pilot helped the participants to develop skills in photography, film, 3d design, architectural design, animation, gaming, historic research, web design and project planning and management.
Facilitators and professionals worked with young people to research the building, document it thoroughly by measuring, drawing, photographing and filming and were then shown how this can be drawn together to produce an animation sequence, 3d environment and subsequently an online resource.
This pilot was used to see if these technologies and techniques could be used in this manner and the proof is what you see here today. Go3D! (after a short download) enables users to virtually tour the building and experience it in a realistic manner. The Gallery allows the general public to be a part of and add to the project by uploading photographs of their own onto the site. We hope this site does indeed help engage a wider audience to appreciate British Islamic heritage, and the way ‘Oriental’ and Islamic design has influenced British design and architecture and finally, help young Muslims to discover British Islamic history and its roots.
Future: This pilot project is now complete and we hope now we can attract funding for the larger project to research, document and provide more resources of British Islamic buildings and those inspired by Islamic design on the site. In the future, we hope to extend this work to include more research to find and document the first places of worship for the Muslim community in the UK, more Photographs and more interactive 3d environments for young people and users to experience – particular sites of interest are: 2 Glyn Rhondda Street, Cardiff, 8 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, Regent’s Park Mosque, East London Mosque, Birmingham Central Mosque. We also hope that we can bring back to life some spaces that no longer exist through the means of our Go3D! technology.
With more research we are sure many other sites and places will undoubtedly arise and it will be our pleasure to place these into the public domain. We hope that this site will rightfully become an invaluable online resource which can be used for both educational purposes and to preserve and promote an important part of British history.
Benefits of a project like this