Come rain or shine, we will carry on

Ah the Gainsborough Community Fun Day, an event which was supposed to be plain sailing and fun for all. We had a budget, a date, willing volunteers and summer sun like I have never seen in my lifetime. What could possibly go wrong?

My task was to arrange a Tea Dance. Though I have never arranged a tea dance before, I was full of ideas and enthusiasm so I was confident it would all be fine. I have fantastic friends who loaned or donated china to go with some items I had purchased myself. I even roped in a friend to spend her evening making centerpieces with me so the dance can be truly special. Ipswich School of Dancing agreed to help out and offered great advice along the way.  The small planning team kept in touch on a regular basis and at the center of it was one superwoman I could only dream to be like. This was all set to be an amazing event…in theory.

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Well as you know the date was changed by the council, and then the volunteers reduced, and then once we thought we were in the clear the sun went away. On the morning of the event, high winds and heavy rain greeted the few remaining volunteers and on a personal level I felt a build up of tears forming. As I arrived at the scout hut, refusing to be defeated by the last remaining hurdle by the gods, superwoman, formally known as Mandy was already there with a plan of action. She clearly hadn’t slept and was only functioning because her focus was getting through this fun day. There will be no cancellation, no children in the community let down, the fun day will happen and it happened purely because of her. We decided to use the scout hut and a local church and put everything indoors. It worked a treat and all the stall holders who came seemed impressed by the plan.

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Sue from Ipswich School of Dancing, Sam Murray and Amanda from Ipswich School of Dancing

The tea dance went ahead with great success and the area was then used for 2 amazing performers, one of which was impressed by the acoustics of the scout hut. I managed to take a moment between the tea making and co-ordinating to look around and take it all in. There were kids (and some adults) with their faces painted making bug boxes with Councillor Harsant and the Friends of Hollywells Park.  Ipswich Museum engaging with young future historians and a local hedgehog group educating locals about how to look after their environment. We also had Councillors playing bubble football during a small break in the rain, and residents enjoying tea, cakes and a spot of dancing. It was a real mix and that was only in the scout hut.

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Cllr Liz Harsant and the Friends of Holywells Park – Photo Credit Lucy Taylor Photography  

 

We estimated approx 200 people attended the day in spite of the weather and last minute changes to the date. The hard work and stress was worth it and in a flash it was over and people were asking us when the next event will be…we were at the time too exhausted to comprehend organising anything else, but now the dust has settled I am more than willing to help out at a community event again…which by the looks of it will be the fun palaces on the 6th and 7th October 2018. 

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Photo Credit Lucy Taylor Photography Facebook @lucytaylorphotography

 

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Why the changes to the blue badge scheme is absolutely the right thing to do

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source ‘https://www.vocal.org.uk/news/blue-badge-scheme-extended-carers-relatives/’

On 29th July 2018 the government announced a huge change to Blue Badges, extending the criteria of who will be entitled to one from 2019. The scheme will now see people with invisible disabilities and those with mental illnesses being eligible for the blue badge. This is a change I welcome with open arms. I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome when I was 21. It’s classed as an invisible disability, it’s very difficult to prove you have due to the fact you can’t see the disability. Some days I am wheelchair bound but a lot of the times I can walk. I always find it difficult to get in and out of a car due to my restricted mobility in my hips, but to look me at me, most of the time you wouldn’t know I was disabled. I first applied for a Blue badge when I lived in Essex and I was not successful. However in Suffolk, I was able to have a blue badge which honestly changed my life. For me the badge doesn’t mean yay I can park right next to a supermarket entrance. It means the spaces are wide enough for me to climb out comfortably. I would park in one if they were on the other side of the car park if it meant I can just get out of the car. Though I already have a blue badge the changes will make me feel more at ease when I renew my badge and I won’t feel like maybe I was just lucky that one time as the criteria will be made clearer.

This announcement will also raise very much needed awareness of what disability actually is. I have had a couple of occasions where someone has seen my blue badge and they have shouted at me. The common assumption is I’m cheating the system somewhere and live off tax payers’ money adding no real benefit to society. It’s a horrible feeling to be shouted at by a stranger and told you are an awful human being because you have a disability they can’t see. I hope with these changes, more discussion will take place about what disability actually looks like.

As well as making the lives of people like me who have a physical disability which fluctuates and cant be seen, this is also extended to those with disabilities such as Autism or mental health issues. The National Autism society have spoken out about the positive impact this will have, and I truly believe it will. Since my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the world of Autism has been opened up to me and I have interactions and friendships with fellow parents with children with Autism. Some dread leaving the house and even when we are at the stage where leaving the house isn’t the issue, it’s the fear of the unknown. Change of routines and everywhere being a lot busier on weekends and holidays especially makes for a difficult life for a person with Autism. With all the preparation in the world a family day out can be almost impossible. But with a Blue badge for some this will make their lives easier. Imagine opening a door to a child who has shut down emotionally because they are fearing the unknown. You may not even be able to touch that child and somehow you have to unbuckle their belt, allow them to get out of the car and make sure they are safe when they are climbing out of the car and into a car park. It’s a no brainer that a parking space with extra room either side will make this task easier.

As we develop as a society and we have further understanding of various illnesses our laws and schemes such as this must also develop and change to be fit for purpose. Life can be impacted by a disability even if you aren’t a wheel chair users. Mental health issues can cause physical limitations on a body. Anxiety for example can be debilitating for some. If there is a scheme which makes lives easier for people to get out of their home and live their lives it can only be a good thing and should be encouraged.

The Conservative government’s announcement of these changes is proof that they truly are acting on their promises. They promised they will look into mental health and disability and this is another example of how they are delivering on that promise. To some this is a small change, I mean we are talking about parking here, but to those whose lives this will effect, it will have a huge impact on making a difficult life that little bit easier and for that I am encouraged that this is a small step in the right direction. I also wait with hope of the future changes this government will make to better the lives of those with disabilities.

The show must go on

Further to my previous blog, I felt it necessary to write a follow up blog regarding the Gainsborough Community Fun Day. Some of you in the area will know that this fun day has now been rescheduled to 29th July and we hope to see many people attend and enjoy the day. Its been a hard slog for us organisers of the day, at times I’ve doubted if we could even pull this off. Suppliers haven’t been able to attend and many volunteers were no longer available due to the change of date. However through all of this, there have been one or two amazing and determined people who never gave up.

The focus has remained the same, provide a low cost fun day for families in the area. We wanted something for everyone and when we went through what we are providing for the day, we believe we have achieved this. There will be a tea dance at the scout hut, local singers for entertainment, free inflatables, messy play, sports activities. You name it and some how we have managed to get it. Ipswich Borough Council have also come along board and helped us fill the gaps that were left with the change of date and we are thankful for that. They have helped us in the latter stages and we may not have been able to keep going had they not have stepped up.

Now all we can do is pray for sunshine and a good turn out. I hope on the day to take a step back and be able to observe the event and take it all in. To some this is a small fun day but to me this is about a group of people truly understanding where they live and getting together to do something positive for their community. The people I have been working along side have been inspirational and have come from that strong place of positivity. On a personal level my friends have been great, some very new friends and life long friends have supported this because they saw how much it mattered to me and to receive that support has been fantastic. So what began as me volunteering to maybe help putting out some tables and just be an extra helper, has developed into much more and something extremely rewarding. To everyone who has helped so far, I thank you.

For anyone who wants to attend the day, the tea dance is being held at the scout hut at 12 until 2 and the rest of the fun day is being held on Landseer Park 1 until 4 on 29th July. Please come along and have a great day!

We need help to mend this fractured community.

I am a strong believer in community spirit and that a community can overcome most obstacles with the right determination and members of the community stepping up and working together.  In recent months and even more so in recent weeks the area I live in and where my children go to school in has been subjected to tragedy. As a community we feel pained by events of violence, one of which tragically resulted in the loss of a teenager’s life. However, the community have responded with a want and a drive to come together and repair some of the fractures.  We have had public meetings with a community pleading for help and support to do more in the area. We need direction, a hub and support from the local authorities. Yet since then, I have asked Ipswich Borough Council if members of the public can use our community centre, only to still be fobbed off in the same manner that I have experienced in the past 3 years. This issue of a community centre not actually open to it’s community was also raised at the most recent South East Area Committee Meeting with no clear answers being provided.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I have also been on the planning committee for the up and coming Landseer Park Fun Day. An event that we had for a moment wondered if we should proceed with but were in agreement that this is what this community needs right now. A fun day won’t bring back a life, it won’t stop gangs and drugs and all the other issues that we have at the moment here, but it will be a welcome break from current affairs. A place where local families can get together at low cost and have some fun. However, yesterday Ipswich Borough Council have decided this cannot go ahead. The official line is “The safety concerns and resource constraints remain the overriding concern and the view of the senior officers remains that unfortunately the fun-day cannot go ahead. “

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore welcomes the community stepping up, but it feels to me that a message being sent loud and clear by the borough council is that we will never be given a chance to step up when obstacles are continuously being put in our way. I am going to attend the Principles of Youth Work training that has been offered to the IP3 residents, but I know that to put this training into practice will be a continuous and unnecessary battle. Ipswich Borough Council and other authorities needs to also step up and give us the direction and support needed to improve this hurt and fractured community.

The World Cup, a celebration for some but tragically a living hell for others.

The world cup is now upon us and our surroundings are covered in flags. Many are excited, apprehensive and in good spirits about the world cup. However sadly along with cheers and patriotism, there will be a large spike in the numbers of people subjected to domestic violence. The numbers will vary depending on the result of the match. Lancaster University found that during the 2014 World cup, domestic abuse increased in Lancashire by a staggering 38% when England lost. When England won or drew they rose by 26%. The day after England played there was again an increase by 11% compared to days when England were not playing.

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(Image: Northumbria Police)

 

In 2010 it was reported that in Kent there was a 25% increase in the number of domestic violence related incidents which prompted a campaign ad to be launched by The National Centre for Domestic Violence. This advert shows a woman making a cup of tea in her kitchen, listening nervously the commentary coming from the living room, then the match finishes and the TV is turned off. the 25% increase stats are shown.

Since 2010 there have been a number of campaigns to raise public awareness. Police across the country release campaigns in preparation, yet we still see this tragic increase.

On 14th June 2018 the Suffolk Constabulary released the following :

https://www.suffolk.police.uk/news/latest-news/14-06-2018/football-fans-urged-have-safe-and-enjoyable-world-cup

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Image: Suffolk Police

Spreading awareness is a very important tool but so its looking out for one another. Together we can say no to domestic abuse.

If you have concerns or worries about your relationship or that of a friend or family member, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk.

 

Lychee and Dog Meat festival in Yulin – The Horrific festival in the Chinese calendar that needs to stop

Thursday 21st June will be the first day in a horrific 9 day festival where approximately 3,000 dogs will be tortured and killed in a barbaric and stomach churning festival. This annual festival began in 2009 and despite global outcry and condemnation it is still going ahead.

For those who haven’t heard of this festival, this is where thousands of dogs, most of which have lived as pets until they have been stolen in preparation for this so called celebration, are kept in terrible conditions before tortured and killed. These helpless creatures are kept in cramped cages covered with the blood of other dogs whilst waiting for their tragic fate.  It is believed by those who attend and host this event, that the meat of the dog tastes it’s best when it the dog has experienced an extreme level of adrenaline. So to improve the taste of the meat these barbarians torture the animals to unimaginable levels before they die. Some are boiled alive, others skinned alive or are beaten to death. It is also believed by these people, that the tortured meat could fend off illness and improve men’s sexual performance.

The official stance by Chinese authorities is that these dogs are from dog farms and are not stolen pets…because that makes this oh so much better to stomach. Dogs farms in China are not regulated and the animals live in terrible conditions. Those dogs from the farms that are murdered during the Yulin festival are transported in small wire cages full of many dogs in one cage for approx 1,000 miles. They cant move or stretch and will undoubtedly be uncomfortable and in pain. It is understood though that in reality a large number of these dogs are household pets who have been stolen and have therefore formed an attachment to humans.

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Photo Credit : Google Images

Eating dog meat itself is not illegal in China, and I guess though I have a dog myself who I love like as a member of my family, I cannot criticise the consumption of dog meat, as I myself am a meat eater (not dog meat i’d like to point out). This would purely make me a hypocrite. But I completely condemn the cruelty and vulgar practices being carried out.

In 2017 there were allegedly mild attempts by the Chinese government to end this festival, though I personally doubt this wasn’t anything more than a media stunt, where they announced a temporary ban of the sales of dog meat over the period of the festival. This ban was then allegedly rescinded in fear of a riot by the traders of the festival. The Yulin government has said that as it does not officially organise the festival it cannot prohibit it. But they are uncomfortable with the global condemnation and being in the spotlight for negative reasons. In retaliation to the outcry the Chinese government suggested westerners look at their own practices such as Spanish Bullfighting before they criticise China and accused this outcry as simply a way of attacking Chinese culture. They dont seem to appreciate that public opinion in China itself is also changing and there is an increase of strong disapproval of this animal cruelty.

There is hope though, there are many organisations who visit china saving some of these dogs from their fate, The Vanderpump Dog Foundation being one of them. Celebrities such as Ricky Gervais are also spreading public awareness.  In 2015, over 100 dogs, puppies and even cats were saved by animal rights activists. In 2017, that number increased to 1,300. Evidence of the horrendous conditions were not only visible when the activists were there but 40% of those rescued in 2017 were carrying an infectious disease which had to be treated. It is also reported that year by year the number of attendees and dogs being killed are decreasing but at an unfortunately slow rate.

It is important to be aware of this festival and condemn it at any given opportunity and that is why i’m writing this blog. Public opinion is shifting and so the more pressure any of us can do will help end this horrible and unnecessary festival.

Where are the Father’s Day Assemblies?

The Friday before Mothering Sunday is normally where schools put on some type of celebration assembly or concert dedicated to the mothering figures in their lives. As a mother it’s a lovely experience to see my children do something a little special with their class friends to show appreciation for the women in their lives who help raise them. Today is the Friday before Father’s day and it unfortunately for us is just another normal day. The men in my children’s life aren’t celebrated in the same way as the women. There is no assembly or concert. With all that is going on in society I feel it’s important to have true equality and not just a shift from one inequality to another and this begins with the messages we send our children.

I wonder if we are unwittingly sending a message that fathers still aren’t as important as mothers. These young boys at school who are being sent this message will soon become young men who may grow up to believe that their presence isn’t actually required and so we continue to have absent fathers. I’m not suggesting for a minute that the lack of father’s day celebrations are a reason we still have absent fathers but it does feed into the idea that a mothers role is more important which is completely the wrong message we should be sending.

Often the argument for not having these types of celebrations is either it’s unfair on the children who don’t have dads, or dads are unlikely to attend such celebration. Both of these arguments are flawed. Mothers day can be painful for some who don’t have mothers. A school friend of mine went through the painful day every year as her own mother was tragically murdered. It didn’t stop the school we attended celebrating it and those children without mothers were told, it’s not just about mums but can be older sisters, aunties and nans too. So I argue, that why can’t the same be said for Father’s day, these children who don’t have a father could have a grandad, uncle or older brother? The idea also that fathers wouldn’t attend is also an unfair judgement. There is still a higher number of men who work full time then women, but I see many mothers having to book time off work to attend a mothering Sunday assembly so why not give the dads a chance too?

We cannot treat fathers as less than and then expect them to step up and do their equal share. A father figure is as important as a mother figure in a child’s life and should be celebrated. We also have single dads and households with 2 dads. Why must they attend a mothering assembly when they have their own day? So today I feel disappointed that my husband and the amazing dads, uncles and grandads I know, won’t have that wonderful experience I had this year of having songs sung from the heart in a touching school assembly. To my children their father is their hero and once a year they deserve the opportunity to treat him like one.

To those dads out there, cheers from me and my hope is by next year we will grow even more as a society and you get the celebration assembly you deserve.

 

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