Guess how many countries have sent ambassadors to Colchester? And guess how many windows to different parts of the world are open in the very heart of our home town?

Ten, 20, 35, perhaps 50...

The actual answer is more than 100.

I personally know people from at least 20 countries living here.

As someone who writes about diversity, broadcasts its strengths, teaches and provides consultancy advice to all kinds of organisations, this, for me, is a unique strength of Colchester.

But, I do not see the town celebrating this diversity.

When the Gurkhas won their victory in the House of Commons, where were we?

Did we throw a party for the Gurkhas living here?

They have been in this town for more than 50 years, have fought for our country, and somehow, as a town, we do not celebrate their presence.

Every year, several thousand students from all over the world come to the university, leaving their homes and parents, coming to live here and study, and guess what, also pay their way through university, spending millions of pounds in Colchester. Yes, millions. Do we ever welcome them to the town?

What of our hospital workers, who come from places as far as the Phillipines, Kerala, in India, Jamaica – to do jobs which are often hard and demanding? Do we smile when we meet them?

They bring their lovely food, their arts, their children and their hospitality to Colchester, making our lives here so much better.

Pick a small town the size of Colchester in any other country in the world, and the chances are you will find very little diversity on this scale.

Professor Prem Sikka, at Essex University, one of the most famous professors in the world in the field of business studies, originally comes from Punjab, in India.

I was born in Kenya, and regularly broadcast on BBC Radio, and I founded a global magazine here in Colchester.

I firmly believe the livelihood of Colchester is hugely enriched by immigrants.

Local banks, estate agents, councillors, stores, health services, and employers of all kinds should take note of this diversity and ensure they do not discriminate in their recruitment and services.

They should understand the creativity that people from different cultures bring to the organisation and learn to take advantage of this and profit from it, for the benefit of everyone.

There are some examples of smart organisations changing to embrace the world and achieving huge success from it.

HSBC is calling itself the world’s local bank.

The Mercury Theatre here is becoming a champion of diversity. The Gazette regularly reports positive cultural stories.

But much more needs to done to change the attitudes of bosses in this town and to educate people about the power of difference.

All too often, foreigners encounter walls, rather than smiles and open doors. This is unhealthy for this town.

In future, I would like to see: l a black mayor l the council actively practising diversity from top down and not just ticking boxes l the Gazette having a regular column on the stories and achievements of people coming here from different parts of the world l an annual welcoming ceremony for students to the university, or new people arriving in Colchester l a truly diverse carnival which celebrates our huge variety and richness, instead of marginalising it.

Colchester as a town will become much more prosperous, artistically, materially, and our quality of life will be raised in every way.

Dr Atul K Shah is chief executive of, and author of Celebrating Diversity. He lives in Colchester with his wife and two children.