The Railway Children

Are the kids at a loose end this summer? Why not pop along to Brighton’s Open Air Theatre (BOAT) to see Mike Kenny’s adaptation of the Railway Children? It’s a heart-warming story of a middle-class family who strike hard times when father, who is the breadwinner, is suddenly taken away in the dead of night.

Joanna Ackroyd is convincing as hard-pressed mother who needs to keep the family running and the money coming in when father is taken away. However, the shining stars of the performance are the children. Sophie Davis is the eldest, Bobbie, Chris Church (whom we have seen in Blink and Anne Boleyn) is Peter and Chantelle Winder is excellent as the youngest child, Phyllis.

The children are on the stage for most of the play in two acts and Chantelle is building up the credits, having acted in A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer and in the Twits. Chantelle has great presence as Phyllis and generates at least half the humour in the play, rivalled only by her brother, Peter and Perks.

Chris Church excels at humorous characters and often steals the attention when on stage. He is a very versatile actor and works hard in the Brighton Little Company. Sophie Davies is the eldest child, Bobbie (short for Roberta.) Bobbie is the responsible eldest child who holds the key to finding her father. Acts of heroism distinguish her although she is a little too old to be cute like Phyllis.

The Railway Children

Bobbie’s character was acted by Jenny Agutter in the 1968 BBC production and 1970 film, (Agutter acts as Sister Julienne in Call the Midwife) and you can watch The Railway Children Return at the Odeon at the moment starring Agutter. However, you will miss the charm of Brighton’s outdoor theatre which is one of my summer delights and the intimacy that only the theatre brings.

Direction is excellent. Tess Gill and Steven Adams team up to co-direct the play and bring out the banter between the children beautifully. At the theatre, you really do put aside the day and enter into the lives of the characters, never more so than in the Railway Children. Tess is a seasoned director at Brighton Little Theatre as well as an actress.

Steven Adams makes a brief appearance on set in a critical role. Look out for him. This play has a cast of 13 and many of the actors double up to help with production when they are not on stage. Brighton Little Theatre company is a lean machine and is actively recruiting back stage helpers at the moment.

Leigh Ward deserves a mention as Perks, the train conductor. I saw him acting as Henry VIII in Anne Boleyn and he was commanding. In this play he is still in charge but in a comic role and his wife, played by Nettie Sheridan has a small and very funny role. They bring warmth to the play and straddle the class divide much more evident in society in 1906 when the book was written, than in modern times.

E S Nesbit wrote the book at the turn of the last century and it has been a classic family favourite ever since. Mike Kenny’s adaptation is excellent, sticking closely to Nesbitt’s plot while writing colourful dialogue throughout to add pace to the stage production.

Railway children audience

I think the Railway Children is charming and very close to the book. Adults will enjoy the play as much as children. At its heart, it’s a play about a family ripped apart and making the best of difficult circumstances: the children show great resilience, as kids always do. Chantelle stands out as the youngest actress and I think she is easily as good as the rest of the company.

On a summer’s evening, I can think of nothing better than to pop along to Brighton Open Air Theatre and put your feet up over a glass of wine. The play runs until 13 August at BOAT and then in the equally charming Brighton Little Theatre from 16 to 20 August.

Four stars ****

‘Invisible People’ at Worthing Museum

Worthing Museum has thrown open its doors to a very different type of exhibition. It’s called ‘Invisible People’ and features work by Guardian cartoonist, Henny Beaumont and young people with learning disabilities.

Lily the dog
‘Lily the Dog’ by Beth Beaumont

This is part of a larger campaign towards celebrating the successes of young artists with learning disabilities in collaboration with Superstar Arts and Rocket Artists. Henny’s daughter, Beth Beaumont, who has Downs Syndrome, learning disabilities and a fantastic sense of colour has contributed a painting, ‘Lily the dog.’

Henny said that only 5% of adults with learning disabilities in the general population are in paid employment. She said: “In Beth’s college 65% of students’ progress to paid employment, it shows what can be done with the right training.”

When talking about challenging perceptions about people with learning disabilities and autistic people, she said: “There is still huge ignorance. As a parent, you feel invisible and your children’s needs are invisible. The young artist who painted the Harry Styles painting came along to Worthing to see it displayed. It was wonderful to see how pleased she was – I can’t say it was validation for her – but that is my hope, that it helps people to feel validated and seen.”

Betsy King is a young woman with autism who came along to the exhibition with her Mum, Kathleen King. She is studying drama and was not diagnosed with autism until she was 16. This is not uncommon with girls. She said the assessments were “quite exposing” but she really benefits now from group therapy and the support network as well as access to 1:1 therapy.

Betsy’s favourite painting by Henny is of the court system, showing a judge surrounded by books that are toppling off a pile and crushing young people with learning disabilities underneath.

Trauma experienced by people with learning disabilities

Additional support for learners with learning disabilities can transform their time in education and greatly improve their chances of progression into employment. It is tragic that for many parents there is such a battle to access the support.

Henny was commissioned by Bild to explore the social care world – the barriers facing young people with learning disabilities and the system that sometimes makes it very difficult for families to get help.

Ben Higgins, Bild Chief Executive, said: “We have been privileged to have Henny Beaumont working with Bild and Respond on our recent trauma-focussed project and webinars. All the images have been co-produced through listening to professionals and people with lived experience. Henny has created incredibly impactful images, providing a powerful visual representation of people’s experiences of trauma.

Henny Beaumont with her art
Henny Beaumont with her art

“Far too many people with learning disabilities and autistic people have experienced complex trauma.

“This project and the accompanying images have helped deepen awareness of understanding of trauma across education, health and social care.”

A lot of Henny’s work emphasises the trauma experienced by young people with learning disabilities and the multiple barriers they face to inclusion.

Henny also teamed up with Brigit Connolly to produce the ceramics (plates and mugs) during workshops. They can be made to order for a limited time while the exhibition is underway.

Beth Beaumont

Henny has worked tirelessly in Stoke Newington with Kate Revere and Stoke Newington Business Association on ‘Invisible people N16,’ an exhibition in over 90 shops, where art work by people with learning disabilities, autistic people  and people from marginalised communities was displayed in shop windows.

Look out for Henny’s book; “Hole in the heart. Bringing up Beth.” Henny will be doing a book signing at the museum in the autumn.

‘Invisible People’ exhibition will run until 30 October at Worthing Museum.

 

 

Help rescue seagulls dying of bird flu

Justin King who heads up the Sussex Coast gull and bird voluntary network is at the end of his tether trying to rescue seagulls and pigeons, many of whom have contracted bird flu.

Mr King said the closure of Roger’s Wildlife Rescue in Woodingdean had come at the worst possible time and other wildlife rescue services and volunteers were having to pick up the pieces.

Brighton Council has issued guidance for how to report birds with symptoms of bird flu in public places and how to dispose of them safely if found in your garden. The risk of human beings contracting bird flu is low but the public are advised not to touch infected seagulls.

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue Ambulance Service (WRAS) and Seahaven Wildlife Rescue are also helping sick gulls, although their centres are no longer able to take them in to protect the animals already being cared for there.

Brighton seafront office

Mr King said: “I have rescue requests coming out of my ears, hardly anyone to help and I’m now running a makeshift hospital from my garden. All wildlife centres have turned their backs on gulls, the council (whose offices are still closed since Covid) are not helping.

“Gulls are being dumped everywhere imaginable, including the doorsteps of the seafront offices and DEFRA has done nothing to help other than to provide a phone number that offers nothing.”

Mr King said: “Volunteers are drowning with no support. We are beyond breaking point, with two hospitalizations of staff including myself. Some are losing their jobs.

“Wildlife sites are closed and volunteers have been abandoned to do all of the rescue work. Baby birds are now having to be quarantined by us if they have bird flu and sent to people’s houses and gardens to be raised until august.

“Apart from the council proposing to erect signs on the beaches which provide no helpful support, they have offered nothing.

“It is us who are doing all the work and we have done since May when the last wildlife site in Brighton shut its doors. There has been no mention of the mental impact it is having upon us and we are having to rely upon donations, NOT from the media, NOT from the council, NOT from Defra, but yet again, from the public.

“Now we are in flying ant season and these symptoms are further confusing things for us and being confused with bird flu.

“Furthermore the violence and neglect towards these birds has increased 100 fold. Things are getting worse for all of us.”

Seagull with bird flu

Mr King has therefore launched an urgent appeal. He needs volunteers, drivers and people to adopt birds as well as donations of crates, puppy pens, soap powder, cat and dog food and towels. The water and electricity costs are huge from all the washing they have to do.

The campaign has already raised £1,222 on the just giving website but more money is needed to save the seagulls. You can donate here.

Alternatively you can donate using go fund me which has a target of £5,000.

Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton

King Henry VIII steals Anne Boleyn’s heart, having seduced her sister, and then has to work out how to marry Anne. Expect intrigue as the politics of love unfolds in the royal court. Anne is feisty and different. She was sent to the French court when she was fifteen and is therefore more streetwise and less naive than your average courtly young lady. Thrown into the spotlight by Henry’s affection, rumours about Anne Boleyn abound. Thomas Cromwell knows them all, arch Machiavellian schemer that he is.

Kemi Greene acts as Anne Boleyn and has great presence although she is still relatively new to the Brighton Little Theatre Company. Whenever she is on stage she makes sure to capture the audience’s attention. Her characterisation in the script is very good and she delivers her lines with alacrity: she oozes complexity, dancing a dalliance with Henry and flirting zealously with William Tyndale.

The context of this love story is the English Reformation triggered by Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. William Tyndale, acted by Daniel Carr, wrote the first English Bible in the vernacular, previously they were all written in Latin and owned by monks, priests and scholars only – the elite.

Expect some time travel (an artist’s licence) to the reign of James I who was also James VI of Scotland. He is a totally different character, irreverent with acerbic wit – I wouldn’t want to cross James I. I have seen Chris Church before in Blink. He is great fun and acts a range of quite different roles with the same passion, attention to detail and humour. Look out for Chris Church and Kemi Greene, they are both very talented.

I feel the best lines in the script are reserved by Howard Brenton for Cardinal Wolsey masterfully acted by Peter Jukes. In what felt like an effortless performance, Wolsey’s intellect (as well as his love of food) is evident for all to see. Some of his lines are poetic and all of them have substance. I really enjoyed the script and particularly the large number of actors in the cast, demonstrating theatre at its best. It’s good to see some new faces too.

I don’t have the space to mention every actor and direction is faultless. I did enjoy Kez Price’s performance as Thomas Cromwell whose eyes and ears are in every nook and cranny of the court. Like Kemi (as Anne Boelyn), Kez has great presence, submitting only to Cardinal Wolsey and manipulating Henry as craftily and poignantly as all his subjects. Kez is part of the fabric of Brighton Little Theatre and clearly a great asset to the company.

I enjoyed Leigh Ward’s sympathetic presentation of Henry VIII, it feels very natural. Howard Brenton is kind to Henry in his characterisation, arguably at Anne Boleyn’s expense. It is often thus, particularly and not exclusively in period dramas, where men are lifted up and women cast aside or denigrated.

Finally, I must mention Chloe McEwan who plays Lady Rochford. Among the women, Lady Rochford is all-powerful and yet is putty in Thomas Cromwell’s hands on more than one occasion. The politics and misogyny of the court are exposed by Lady Rochford’s plight and fatally Anne Boleyn’s, revealing the powerlessness of being a sixteenth century woman.

I thoroughly enjoyed this play and highly recommend it for its authenticity and humour. It’s not easy to bring to life sixteenth century court in the 21st century and Brighton Little Theatre has done it superbly well. I like the fact that as the audience we know who each character is and there is not too much hat-changing and doubling up. I like Neil Fitzgerald and look forward to seeing more of his work.

As a post-pandemic play, it could hardly have been better to bring the company together, including a significant number of new members. I look forward to seeing more of them in future.

***** Five stars

Prevent Ukraine becoming landlocked, protect Odesa

Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Defence Select Committee was interviewed about Ukraine by Cathy Newman on Channel Four News, 06 April 2022. I contacted Mr Ellwood for comment and this remains his position:

We need to protect Odesa and link it up with international waters to prevent Ukraine becoming landlocked and to protect the economy (and potentially find a humanitarian corridor. Moving Ukrainians into the middle of the country only puts civilians at more risk of extermination or starvation.)

Here’s a transcript of Mr Ellwood’s interview:

Cathy Newman: We’ve just witnessed yet more apparent evidence of appalling brutality, you know a body covered in human faeces for example, barbaric, I just wanted your reaction really.

Tobias Ellwood: “These are terrible scenes and you have to ask yourself what will it take for the West to really react and perhaps move up a couple of gears to support the Ukrainians in their hour of need. Britain has done well to support Ukraine prior to the war in providing weapons systems and indeed afterwards but we’re not doing enough to allow Ukraine to push Russia back, we’re not doing enough to stop this sort of brutality.

“In fact we’ve almost given a greenlight for this activity to take place through our hesitance, through our timidity which is being exploited by Putin. I make it really clear we are going to see more scenes like this as Kharkiv and other places like that are eventually exposed.

The Russians are pulling out of Kyiv, Pushing into the Donbas region.

“There’s every likelihood they will take the port of Odesa. If they take the port of Odesa, then Ukraine becomes landlocked, the economy is then destroyed and Putin then will continue his objectives way beyond Ukraine so this should be a massive wake up call for the West. 

Cathy Newman: … Originally you were asking for a no-fly zone. Nato reiterated it didn’t want to escalate things. Is that the right response or are you now saying well we’ve got to move from defensive weapons to offensive weaponry or something more when you talk about moving up a couple of notches?

“When I served in the armed forces I fired many of these weapons, there is nothing defensive about an anti-tank weapon, nothing defensive about a rifle. These are offensive weapons, I can’t believe we are still having semantic debates about this. We see Czech Republic wanting to give tanks, Poland wanted to move it’s mid 29s across.

“We could easily provide a humanitarian zone around the port linking the port to international waters. That would be a robust stance to take against Russia. It would be monitoring this from an escalatory perspective, which wouldn’t see everything suddenly ratcheting up to world war three or a nuclear war which is what we seem to be spooked about.

Cathy Newman: Are we already in this war?

“Yes, this is why I don’t understand why it’s taking so long to get where we’re going. Yes, we’re learning fast, we’re doing enough that Ukraine doesn’t lose but not enough to allow them to win. They are doing all the heavy lifting here.

“The MOD recognises this, it wants to do more. Britain needs to break away and form a coalition of the willing to support Ukraine in the way it is requesting.

“Not just Britain but other nations as well. They are running out of ammunition, running out of fuel, running out of lethal weapons that they are requesting, the large and small ones. Until they get these systems in we’ll see more scenes from Bucha and Mariupol take place as well. I stress there’s another chapter to this war, it’s far from over.

Cathy Newman: Isn’t Russia looking for an excuse to target beyond Ukraine?

Mr Ellwood: “You have seen how Russia twists the message, how they’re selling this as some form of patriotic war, the majority of Russians actually continue bizarrely to support Putin.

“We are finding excuses not to help Ukraine. This won’t stop with Ukraine. We are seeing Germany and Poland increase their defence budgets because they recognised we’ve entered a new era of insecurity.  This is not just about Ukraine, this is about European security and what we’re going to do about it… (Re war crimes) Ensure we collect evidence. It takes many, many years for these people to be brought to the Hague… Russia pulled out of the ICC… Putin is here to stay. There’ll be no purge, there’ll be no coup in Russia.

“This is very much a war that we need to develop the statecraft that we saw during the cold war to better build assessed risk and indeed take calculated risk.”

You can watch Mr Ellwood’s full interview and more about Ukraine on Channel Four News here.

Stop the war in Ukraine!

Stop the War Coalition organised a protest at Brighton’s Clock Tower in support of Ukraine yesterday, Sunday 06 March. One of the organisers, Paddy O’Keefe, said he was very concerned about the threat of a “nuclear holocaust.” He said: “The bombing of the nuclear plant, it’s the first time a nuclear installation has been exposed to battlefield conditions and been bombed. It is interesting, Stop the War has been criticised. It is hypocritical of UK politicians to complain about the protests. Keir Starmer said we were either ‘naïve’ or ‘facilitating Putin.’”

Nicky Brennan who is now an Independent Councillor for East Brighton hosted the event. She read out a statement from Stop the War Coalition saying the war in Ukraine was a disaster for the people of Ukraine. “We demand the withdrawal of all Russian troops.” She said the coalition also opposes NATO expansion and sanctions that will affect ordinary Russian people.

Jake Easby-Robinson from the Peace and Environment Centre spoke about the importance of community. He is a Peace volunteer and he said: “Communities are torn apart and pitted against each other. We see each other and communicate with each other. When communities lose their role models, it is difficult to rebuild them.”

He said Ukrainians do not want to fight each other but there are factions from previous conflicts. “Communities have to have role models.” He said there is millions of displaced people in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan etc. “Our government is not doing enough for refugees. We need to rebuild democracy. It’s not just what’s on our TV screens and our phones. We need to understand the root causes of the conflict.”

Ukraine
Jake Easby-Robinson from Brighton’s Peace Centre with Cllr Nicky Brennan

Ellen Graubart spoke of the racist element in the disproportionate media coverage of the war in Ukraine. She said: “These wars are being instigated and carried out by the imperialist agenda of the US and its little brother the UK to gain and retain control of natural resources and put in place puppet regimes around the world. The winners are the large corporations and the Military Industrial Complex, and the losers are always the ordinary people who just want a decent life and safety for their families.

“There is a huge racist element to these wars and conflicts, as countries where brown and black people live don’t rate the coverage that a white country like Ukraine is getting: note that brown and black workers and students trying to escape Ukraine are being stopped at the Polish border; apparently Eurostar is giving Ukrainian refugees free passage to the UK, while black refugees are left to drown in the Channel.

“The combination of the advance of NATO towards Russia’s borders, which the US and the West promised would not happen, against a cruel dictator with an enormous axe to grind, and who is hell-bent on defending himself against the threat to his position and as he sees it, an attack on his dignity – is bringing us nearer and nearer to midnight in terms of the possibility of a nuclear Third World War.

“There never has been a more urgent need for this insanity to stop.  There will be no winners if we descend into nuclear war.

“We are already facing one enormous threat to life on this planet with global warming. We need to stop the war more than any time in history.”

Ellen Graubart speaking in support of Ukraine
Ellen Graubart

Phil from the National Education Union (NEU) said: “We support the peace movement in Russia, the NEU solution is not more war.  The solution is diplomacy, negotiation and solidarity.  We see the missiles take off but we are not used to seeing the shells landing.  People now understand what it means to be a refugee from war.  We need to open the doors.  The invasion is an outrage.”

Andy Richards representing Unison at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “Putin is a fascist, imperialist Kleptocrat.  Unison sends solidarity to the Ukraine people and calls for Russia to withdraw its forces…

“I am proud that Unison members working at the Isle of Grain terminal refused to handle Russian ships this week as did the Unite members in New England (USA) and Orkney (Scotland).

“We offer our solidarity to the Ukranian people, to Russians courageously opposing the war, to workers taking action against the war.  We demand the UK Government open doors to Ukrainian refugees.”

Andy Robinson with protestors
Andy Robinson with Stop the War protestors

Tom Hickey from the University of Brighton UCU Union said: “We stand with the Russians who have lost their jobs and the 10,000 Russians arrested in dozens of cities for opposing the war.  Every country is entitled to fight for self-determination.

“We cannot stand for imperial power – the tiny minority that wants to justify and excuse the invasion.  There is no excuse and no justification.  We must not ourselves be silenced because an explanation is not justification.  There is a war of propaganda by politicians in this country.  We need to successfully support the Ukrainians.

“The Government says it stands for humanity in the face of Putin’s brutality.”  He reminded us that Priti Patel, the UK Home Secretary said she would not take refugees from Ukraine. Mr Hickey said: “Our borders should be open for refugees from war and we should be welcoming them.”

“There is no excuse for Putin and no excuse for our leaders either. Stop the War Coalition will stop the war and the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people will stop the war.

“Notice some people still escape sanctions: Abramovich is selling his football toys.  Generalised sanctions to attack Russia will affect ordinary people in Russia.  The Tory Defence Secretary said we will go to war for weeks and months.  There is Western Imperialism by Nato as well.

“Putin said the problem in Ukraine is created by the Bolsheviks – Putin blames Lenin.  The affinity between nations recognises self-determination.  Ukraine needs to be supported.  Putin and his gang of thugs need to go.”

Tom Hickey from the University of Brighton speaking in support of Ukraine
Tom Hickey from the University of Brighton

Jeremy Weinstein from the campaign group Stand up to Racism, said his grandparents were chased out of Ukraine by the Tsar. He said: “My son is living in Slovakia.  He has just taken in a refugee. His daughter’s best friend is living in the metro sheltering from Putin’s bombs.  He said he listened to Thought for the Day on Radio Four today.  They were talking about refugees with blue eyes and blonde hair.  Back in the seventies they welcomed Eritreans, Afghans and Syrians.  We say: ‘They are welcome here.’ Let them in because they are welcome here.

“There is a Stand up to Racism March in London on Saturday March 19. Protestors will leave Brighton Station at 10.15am. There is a public meeting on Wednesday. They are welcome here.”

Jeremy Weinstein from Stand up for racism supporting Ukraine
Jeremy Weinstein from Stand Up for Racism

I spoke to a couple, one of whom was Polish. Her partner said: “She has real concerns. Where will it stop?” She addressed the crowd and said: “I am so proud of the Polish people. We don’t like refugees. You fight with France, we fight with Russia. The Ukrainian people fight now. I want to support the average person without big politics. I came here to stand with the people of Ukraine now.”

Nadia from Care for Calais gave a broader speech about the plight of refugees.  She said: “We are refugees.  Since World War Two five million Palestinians are under UN protection, there are eight million refugees from Afghanistan and Syria.  In Ukraine 10% of the population could become refugees.

“Refugees don’t start wars.  Stand up for refugees… we are slow to welcome refugees.  We turned back refugees in Calais.  Families are living in a hostel in Calais while they wait to come to the UK.  Some people from Sudan live in scraps of plastic as a home for years.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister said: “Europeans are not refugees.  They are educated with blonde hair and blue eyes.  BAME refugees are unable to cross to Poland.  Much more needs to be done.  There is a stark difference between the main stream narrative today and refugees from earlier years.

“There are new laws to criminalise people claiming asylum.  If you arrive by Eurostar you can claim asylum in the UK.  We say all refugees are welcome here.  We want a free, safe passage from Ukraine and all other parts of the world torn apart by war.”

Polish couple speaking in support of Ukraine
Polish Couple

Jim said: “We will be leaving on the 14 March from Newhaven with a small convoy to the Hungarian border.  We will take medicine for kids and nappies.  I am so proud.  Europe is getting together to help Ukraine. We will need documentation to take kids nappies out of the country. I have never felt like a rat in a cage as much as I feel right now in the UK.”

I spoke to Emma Fairall, Estelle Barton and Andrea from Slovakia.  Andrea said: “Originally I was angry that this had been allowed to happen. We are here showing people that we care. In 1968 Russia invaded E Europe. I can’t believe it’s happening again. There was lot of disinformation in 1968, history is repeating itself.

“Putin’s advisors are lying to him because they don’t dare to tell him the truth about the resistance. He tricked young people into going to war by telling them they were doing military exercises.”

Estelle said we care about the people of Ukraine. “Peaceful protest is a good start.”

Emma Fairall, Estelle Barton and Andrea from Slovakia
Emma Fairall, Estelle Barton and Andrea from Slovakia

Archbishop of Canterbury talks to Brighton business community about leadership

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbur,y is visiting Brighton this weekend. He had breakfast with the business community and gave his reflections on leadership in our times and the challenges we face today, 05 March, at St Peter’s Church.

In a speech that was both witty and self-deprecating, Mr Welby said the average member of the Church of England was a woman in her thirties who had a 50:50 chance of living in a war torn part of the world.

He said the world had changed as a result of the pandemic. He volunteered as a chaplain in a London hospital during the pandemic and said: “It’s easy to forget the fear and apprehension of two years ago.” He reminded us the NHS didn’t know anything about the virus at the beginning nor how many people would die.  He paid tribute to the NHS staff and acknowledged their courage walking into hospitals every day. He said: “We are beginning a lengthy period of change and disruption.”

Mr Welby said that scientific developments brought hope – decoding of the human genome meant that a vaccine was developed in 15 months by decoding DNA which would previously have taken ten years.

He spoke throughout his speech about the war between Russia and Ukraine – another disrupter. He said we have not faced war on European pavements since 1939 and he said it was an unprovoked war and a “war of choice”, “a deeply wicked act” and a top-down war.

Mr Welby spoke to a military strategist about ethics and how Artificial Intelligence was affecting the military. They discussed the difficulty of programming machines to have compassion and said armies need to be willing to take prisoners rather than kill the enemy. According to the UN, there are 49 conflicts in the world at the moment.

He said there will be more refugees with more refugees from Ukraine in Eastern Europe and millions more displaced because of climate change. By 2050, it is estimated there will be between 800 million to 1.2 billion refugees with many areas of habitation incapable of supporting human life when the temperature rises to 43 degrees and above.

He said there is a link between climate change and conflict: Different people will “bump into each other” more often and they will fight because they are fighting for their lives. Again, he said, hold onto technology – malaria, AIDs and the coronavirus are under control because of scientific developments.

Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

On Radio Four at the moment, Mr Welby is interviewing interesting people in a series of programmes. He met Tony Blair who said the difference between countries that prosper and those that don’t is governance and leadership, not natural resources.

He contrasted the leadership of Russia with Ukraine and said President Zelensky is very honest, like Churchill, about the depth of the threat there is. Leaders need to be courageous and take personal risks. Mr Welby said in the Christian tradition there is an acknowledgement of failure and sinfulness which should lead to transparency.

He mentioned John F Kennedy’s humiliation at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba as a lesson for the president not to surround himself with ‘yes men.’ He said: “Cuba instilled challenge, candid debate, diversity and courage.”

As a leader himself, Mr Welby starts by recognising: “I am a sinner and since I am a sinner, I am going to get it wrong.” Tony Blair once said to Alistair Campbell: “The papers say I am surrounded by ‘yes men’, where are they?” The Archbishop said he looks for people who are cleverer than him. He said: “Leadership must involve acknowledgement of one’s weakness, challenge, courage, risk-taking and imagination… A safe pair of hands becomes elegant management of decline. Surround yourself with people who challenge you.”

He invited the business leaders to look at the pattern of Jesus. “Jesus did not sin. He offers freedom from guilt.” He said God brings this pure, true gift of his son to humanity: “The Lord is God who knows every part of us. It is the measure of Jesus that he engaged with people whom he loved and served. It was servant leadership. It’s a pattern of sacrifice. President Zelensky is prepared to put his life on the line.”

Recently, Mr Welby visited Pakistan where a peace centre was blown up killing 60 children and 90 adults. The residents are building a reconciliation centre there. He said: “This is God… don’t be impatient, be curious. I am insatiably curious.”

He encouraged us to reimagine the context where there is difference and disagreement without hatred and conflict. Is Russia a separate country from Ukraine? “The wickedness is the armed force instead of discussion and dialogue. Leadership is the greatest challenge we face in the next generation.”

Ukraine

Questions and Answers

When asked what was the biggest risk, facing the Church, he said: “The Church needs to risk her money. We are not a poor Church. The risk is to live as if Jesus lives… loving one another. Strength and resilience come from Jesus Christ… We must serve those we disagree with.”

Andy Winter who is the Chief Executive of Brighton Housing Trust, a homeless charity in Brighton and Hove said: “My thanks to everyone who has prepared this lovely spread. But I couldn’t help but notice as I arrived that homeless people were being served breakfast from a kiosk in the car park. What does the church need to do to ensure that those in the car park are more comfortable in the four walls of a church than those of us enjoying this breakfast?”

Mr Welby said: “The Church needs to go out to them and listen, not trying to make them, who the Church wants them to be. He said there was a homeless man in Crawley who the Church was trying to help and they told the Archbishop they got it “totally wrong” at first. They tried to get the man off the streets before he was ready. He said: “Start with respect and listen, set the tone… God offers us choice and free will. I come from a family of alcoholics… My father died of alcohol, my Mum has been teetotal for 50 years. It’s your choice. I can’t stop you drinking. I can help you but you have to stop.”

Martha is an Associate Vicar in Eastfield. She said: “Representation of ethnic minorities is not great. How can we recruit more people who are minority ethnic?”

Mr Welby said: “I recognise that the Church has had opportunities and missed them. We analyse the problems well and know that we need to be more inclusive of BAME people, people with disabilities and physical disabilities and women. We recognise we have gone wrong.

We need to engage alternative selection panels where clergy have BAME backgrounds. We need people to be willing to ask questions. We should encourage applications from BAME people and understand that the application forms will look very different, they will have a profound respect for the panel …” He then asked the question why BAME applicants were getting on shortlists and not being appointed? He mentioned Colossians where, “all are one in Christ. When we are not recognising diversity, it’s about sin. We are sinning when we do not appoint people from ethnic backgrounds.”

Justin Welby with Business leaders

Mr Welby was then asked a question by a young person facing adversity with few Christian friends: What should she do?

He said: “We should train missionaries in our own faith to know they are infinitely valued by God” and their identity is secure. He mentioned Michael Ramsay who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1960s. He was once heard banging his head on his desk in Lambeth Palace. When a Chaplain went to see if he was OK, he said: ‘I hate the Church of England.’

First we need to train young people as missionaries of today, not the future, young people need to know they are loved by Jesus Christ. Otherwise it’s the ‘Book of Laws’, who wants another one of them?”

Elizabeth James who is a GP asked about how to deal with conflict in the workplace. The Archbishop said: “We are working on the ‘Together Project’ with Brendan Cox, husband of the (late) Jo Cox. We have a working group to help address fracture and incapacity in the workplace to deal with difference.

I interviewed Clare Moriarty, who was the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU. She took over early in 2019. On the same day as her mother, she was diagnosed with cancer and then made redundant early in 2020. She is now running the CAB.

She is a Christian and in her workplace everyone would sit in small groups and recognise the ‘spitting ball of fury’ for thirty minutes every week. They would then think of next steps for thirty minutes and move forward, while recognising conflict. She was very calm, measured and very, very clear… In the military, you need sacrifice by the leader, listening undefended, good communication of why an objective matters to build ownership and the least bad use of resources.

Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Alan Robins, said he has an ambassadorial role in Brighton and Hove and he’s like a salesman. He said: “People don’t always remember what you say, they remember the way you make them feel.”

Mr Welby said his role was similar: “I came to Lambeth Palace nine years ago and the place was full of levers of power but they weren’t really connected to anything. Good leaders enable decisions to come. The character of leadership is the most important. There is a need for vulnerability and transparency. Do not pretend to be other than you are. People often forget what I said but they often remember when I say sorry.

General Slim in 1945 was involved in the Burma Campaign. His number two in command who was a field marshal, lost his leg because Slim advanced too quickly. General Slim regretted this deeply. He should have been more restrained. But he was open about his failure. I remember that story more than any other story in the book.”

Archbishop Welby will be visiting a series of community groups including refugees across Brighton and Hove during his visit this weekend.

This article was first published on Brighton and Hove News website.

Associate Director, Dr Lyfar-Cissé, takes on NHS Trust in a battle over unfair dismissal

Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé is a warrior in the fight for racial justice within the NHS. She leads the national BME network and until September 2017, she was Associate Director of Transformation at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust and chair of its BME network. She worked her way up within the trust over 34 years, first as a biochemist before becoming Associate Director in 2014.

She is now locked in a legal battle with her boss, Marianne Griffiths, who will be retiring from the trust, now called University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust (UH Sussex), this summer. A reconsideration hearing of the Employment Tribunal was held last Tuesday and Wednesday, 22 and 23 February.

At the centre of this dispute is the question of whether, as the newly appointed Chief Executive from 01 April 2017, Ms Griffiths, had the legal right to revisit a disciplinary procedure that had already concluded in 2016 in order to increase the sanction of a final written warning (which was accepted by the BSUH Board) to dismiss Dr Lyfar-Cissé.

Ms Griffiths told the Employment Tribunal that her decision flowed” from Ms Cashman’s disciplinary investigation outcome, following another investigation by The Honourable Mrs Justice Hill and Mr. Abbi Alemoru. She cited Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR) to justify her dismissal decision on the basis that the charge of discrimination, harassment and victimisation by the doctor, was incompatible with her role and also meant she failed the fit and proper person test (Regulation Five) as a senior manager.

Dr Lyfar-Cissé argued that Ms Cashman had considered her role as a senior manager in deciding her sanction of a final written warning. Therefore, Dr Lyfar-Cissé said there was no lawful process by which Ms Griffiths could increase the sanction to dismissal, because she did not agree with the outcome of a due process.

Dr Lyfar-Cissé also argued that the true reason for her dismissal, and all the actions short of dismissal, including the application of Regulation Five; was because of her previous employment tribunal claims, which were protected acts. She believes her dismissal was premeditated.

Earlier Tribunals had upheld two of the doctor’s claims of racism and victimisation against the trust and the trust had also settled a third claim ‘out of court’ whilst accepting liability for racial discrimination and victimisation of the doctor.

In March 2019 the Employment Tribunal found that Dr Lyfar-Cissé’s dismissal was fair. Her appeal against the Judgment was stayed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) to first allow the reconsideration hearing to take place.

Dr Lyfar-Cissé

Last Tuesday at the reconsideration hearing, the employment tribunal heard that new evidence had emerged. Ms Griffiths said, at a roundtable meeting of the Health Service Journal (HSJ) on 08 July 2019, that previous employment tribunals against the Trust had contributed to a “toxic”, “extremist, anti-organisational” BME structure at UH Sussex that had to be challenged.

HSJminute of the meeting states that Ms Griffiths said upon arrival in her post as CEO in 2017: “There was also a need to lead from the front: the trust had to do some ‘brave things’ which led to employment tribunals but was a signal to the organisation that they were taking the issues seriously.”

In 2019 Ms Caroline Browne, on behalf of the members of the BME network, brought a separate claim of victimisation against Ms. Griffiths’ because of her comments in the HSJ article above. Ms Griffiths’ Counsel, Mr Kibling, stated in his written submissions that her: ‘reference to the Employment Tribunal cases in the HSJ published minute were specifically in relation to Dr Lyfar-Cissé’s claims’ and not anything that Ms. Browne had done. A fact that Dr Lyfar-Cissé argued supports her claim of victimisation against Ms. Griffiths, that the real reason for her dismissal were her employment tribunal claims.

At the reconsideration hearing, Employment Judge Balogun dismissed the case. She found that Dr Lyfar-Cissé had inferred that Ms Griffiths’ reference to employment tribunals was a reference to her in the Health Service Journal minute of the meeting. She disliked the fact that the minute was not a verbatim account and was not written by Ms Griffiths.

However, she said that Mr Kibling’s written submission in the Caroline Browne case was not factual evidence, rather it was an argument put forward by the trust when defending the claim and she did not allow this evidence. The judge said there was no new evidence and no prospect that the original judgment would be overturned.

Judge Balogun said: “In light of the above, we find that there is no reasonable prospect of the original decision being overturned. The application for reconsideration is therefore dismissed.”

Dr Lyfar-Cissé said: “I have submitted an application to the Tribunal for a reconsideration of the Judgment given paragraph 11 is incorrect.  It should be amended to correctly show that Mr Kibling’s two written submissions before the Tribunal, explains it is Ms Griffiths’ reference to Employment Tribunal cases in the HSJ article, that is a reference to my Employment Tribunal claims. I intend to appeal.”

UH Sussex was approached and said: “The Trust is aware of the judgment of 23 February but has no further comment.”

Dr Lyfar-Cissé’s full appeal hearing before the EAT will commence after the reconsideration process has concluded. The appeal will decide whether Ms Griffiths had the legal right to revisit the concluded disciplinary process in order to dismiss her and whether Regulation Five did indeed apply to her role. It was BSUH’s policy that it did not apply to Dr Lyfar-Cissé’s role.

A review of Regulation Five by Tom Quark QC in 2018 ruled that whilst, directors at Board level are clearly covered by the regulation, the reference to others performing similar functions was ambiguous. He said this ambiguity could lead to NHS trusts using the test as a ‘last resort dismissal.’

Mr Quark wrote that Regulation Five was used: “as a vehicle for Trusts to have another bite of the disciplinary cherry by using the FPP (fit and proper person) test as an add-on measure to remove individuals on the ground that they were not FPP compliant, after disciplinary proceedings had been concluded with only a warning or suspension.”

Blink by Phil Porter

Blink is a very touching tale of two quirky young people who find themselves unexpectedly alone in the world. Jonah acted by Chris Church comes from a repressive religious community in the country and is a bit of a geek. He comes to London upon the advice of his mother and is befriended by Sophie, Kez Price, who lives downstairs.

Their friendship begins in an unusual way by sharing space through a screen. The couple eventually go on dates without speaking. They do not speak for a long time. They get to know each other in other ways. Surveillance does not feel menacing in Blink because there is consent, unlike the mendacious witch hunt I have experienced at the hands of the media. I did not consent.

When disaster engulfs Sophie, Jonah is there by her side. Over attentive at times, faithful and loyal. As with many friendships, there are highs and lows. Characterisation is excellent and charming. Jonah’s character is more eccentric and therefore easier to define – there are stereotypes of people who live in the country and of strict religious communities. Sophie is a Londoner: we all know Londoners and perhaps we don’t notice their eccentricities.  She is no less credible, just more normal if such a phenomenon exists.

Blink’s central question could be: How do introverts meet and how do they interact? Sophie is told at work that she “lacks visibility” and this statement haunts her. She is criticised because she did not go drinking in the pub after work, which is probably the only issue; but as introverts do, she worries that she is actually becoming invisible. Words hurt and people do not forget how criticisms make them feel, long after the words themselves and details have been erased from memory.

Masterfully directed by Nettie Sheridan, Blink is making her debut at Brighton Little Theatre and I very much hope they will invite her back. Kez Price and Chris Church work hard – they are on stage together throughout the play for one hour and fifteen minutes. Kez Price was part of the BLT production of The Mill on the Floss which won the Minack Trophy Award in 2019. Like Nettie Sheridan, Chris Church is making his debut at BLT after five years with Seaford’s Synergy theatre. Phil Porter, who wrote the script, has written adaptations of Shakespeare, Opera and libretti for children demonstrating his considerable range as a playwright. Blink was first performed at the Soho Theatre in London.

Blink is thought-provoking and needed in our time. How many of us have been hidden away during the pandemic? Isolated and alone, some of us have found new ways to connect. Above all, the play is about friendship and love between two people of the same age. If you would like to find out how their friendship develops, you must go and see the play.

**** Four Stars

Brighton Little Theatre has a policy of wearing masks throughout the production at the moment and only allows drinks in the bar which is ventilated. They are taking the pandemic more seriously than many institutions including churches and should be commended for it. The theatre seats 75 and it felt like a safe and thoroughly enjoyable night out.

The 39 Steps by John Buchan adapted by Patrick Barlow

The 39 Steps is a timeless spy story written by John Buchan in 1915: it’s the forerunner to the “man on the run” genre that is with us to this day. Alfred Hitchcock turned the 39 steps into a famous film in 1935 and the BBC last broadcast it in 2008.

Slightly at a loose end, Richard Hannay, our protagonist, aged 37 with, I am told, a very fetching moustache, finds himself at the theatre.  He is inadvertently drawn into a web of spies by a member of the audience who seeks shelter in his flat. He becomes a target for the Germans because they think he holds sensitive information about the Luftwaffe.

Philip Keane offers us a stirling and very natural performance as he sprints through a Scottish moor, seduces a woman on a train to hide from the Police and addresses a political rally. He is always falling in love and always on the run.

His love interest in three different guises is Lou Humphries. From the original spy to a young woman trapped with a bad tempered man in a Scottish croft, many of the characters are humorous caricatures.

Patrick Barlow is responsible for this tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the adventure story that may otherwise, appear quite dated. I laughed through every scene of this play.

Special mention must be given to Suzanne Heritage who among other roles, plays the arch villain, Professor Jordan. After a fair amount of hype and a reputation which precedes her, we eventually meet the Professor in a remote part of Scotland. Like all good spies, she has embedded herself in her community.

It’s up to Richard Hannay to prove her villainous intent and his innocence. The odds are stacked against him. His photograph is on the front page of every paper and his love interest, Pamela Edwards proves a prickly target.

You can see why Hitchcock needed a big cast for the 39 steps. There are three clowns who between them portray 30 different characters from paper boys to mock detectives and actors. The play is action packed with 33 scenes masterfully captured by a cast of five.

Direction was excellent and complex. The actors brought the props on and off themselves and rearranged a sparse set scene by scene – remember there were 33 of them.

For a small theatre company, I think this play is a triumph. It’s very funny, makes great use of irony, flashing blue lights to symbolise the Police and a digital screen acting as the main set. The production was innovative and fresh.

If you can get to the Brighton Little Theatre this week, go. It’s a small theatre of 75, ventilated where possible, with a charming bar. You won’t regret seeing this very humorous adaptation of the 39 steps.

***** Five stars

Jarel Robinson-Brown, a Black, Gay, British, Christian cleric calls for disestablishment of CofE to return to grace

Jarel Robinson-Brown is fighting for his life, his very identity, which he says is under attack because he is a black, gay Anglican priest. His voice matters in the Church of England which often refuses to recognise the right of gay people to have sexual relationships and silences black people, taking their zeal and commitment for granted. He currently serves as Assistant Curate at St Botolph-without-Aldgate, in the City of London.

He’s written a compelling narrative in the tradition of black, liberation theology about the double barriers of being black and gay in the church which is often white and stubbornly heterosexual. He

has written a book: ‘Black Gay, British, Christian, Queer – The Church and the Famine of Grace.’

In conversation with Sekai Makoni, he said at his book launch on Saturday, 09 October: “It’s hard to know the route back to our ‘original place’ if we are Black and British – we are, no matter what we might imagine, and as many, it seems, are keen to remind us – far from home. To be in this thing that some refer to as the African Diaspora is to be filled with a searching, a yearning…for some place, somewhere…where we are free, and whole.”

His grandmother was born in Cuba to Jamaican parents. Both grandparents came to the UK in the 1960’s with the Windrush generation. Mr Robinson-Brown was born British and claimed Jamaican Citizenship in adulthood by descent through his grandfather.

During his opening remarks, he poignantly recounted all the passages in the Old Testament and in Paul’s letters that condemn gay Christians. In his book he argues that Jesus did not condemn homosexuals or transgender people whose identities are always under attack.

Jarel Robinson-Brown
Jarel Robinson-Brown at his book launch.

Mr Robinson-Brown writes that if grace is not for all, then it’s for no one: ‘I am not interested in a church or a gospel that offers the love of God with a page full of terms and conditions. Either all people are made in God’s image or they are not. Either Christ came, died and rose again for all or for none. Either the church exists for every soul or for not a single soul.’

God created every human being in his own image including those who are homosexual, lesbian bisexual, transgender and intersex. It’s the Church, he writes, that has rejected many LGBTQ+ Christians and these people still say their prayers to Jesus privately at home.

In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, he knows her and he does not shame or humiliate her. She then tells everyone about her meeting. He writes: ‘This is what happens when Jesus, the joy of God, meets us where we are. When his wounds touch our shadow places, when his tenderness meets us in the closets of our lives, when his love enfolds the parts of us we hide, we come to know the joy that Jesus brings.’

He suggests the Church is dying because it excludes people who are black and LGBTQ+: ‘There is a death-ness in the Church today of which those of us who have been pushed towards the door know and have diagnosed for some time. It is a diagnosis rooted in both the cowardice of the Church as an institution and its crisis of identity.’

As Christians, he writes, there is a ‘call to a simplicity in the practice of love (which) is no small task for the people of God who call themselves Christian. It asks the Church to see the world as the place where God in Christ is already at work, and to follow that God in all the places Jesus would go.’

Mr Robinson-Brown is a radical priest and a free thinker advocating that inter faith peers should be appointed to the House of Lords. He said: “I want a church that is weaker, that hasn’t got privilege, a servant church. We have too much power and look what we do with it. When we don’t have power, we’ll do church better. For the church to change, I will lose out. I am willing to lose some of that privilege.

“The House of Lords should be an interfaith space. It should not be dominated by one denomination of one Church. My Christianity is not threatened by other people of other faiths in the House of Lords. I don’t know why we are so scared about losing some power.”

The law has recognised the criminalisation of gay relationships as the abomination that it is and embraced LGBTQ+ relationships in the Civil Partnerships Act. Yet, the Church, particularly evangelicals, continue to reject and exclude gay Christians who are not celibate.

He digs deep into black LGBTQ+ culture, citing James Cone, James Baldwin, Professor Pamela Lightsey, Toni Morrison and many others who write about how their very identity is under threat in the UK, Europe and America because of white, heterosexual supremacy.

Mr Robinson-Brown has written a robust, theological challenge to the church to live as Jesus lived. That is, to understand that every human being is made in God’s image, to be inclusive, to care for the poor, those in exile and to embrace people whose sexual orientation or gender is not ‘heteronormative.’

He writes that the Gospel is both personal and social: ‘Those who dismiss what they call the ‘Social Gospel’ in favour of a Gospel of personal salvation are making a division where none exists, nor can exist. There are not two Gospels, but one.’

Mr Robinson-Brown has a prophetic voice, desperately needed in our time. He said: “So I write, and exist – as someone walking the line between despair and resurrection light – it’s a wounded, crucified, entombed kind of hope if it is hope at all – and I write as one who has diagnosed a famine at the heart of the Church which can only be remedied when we become honest about what being in our bodies really means.”

Absent Friends (a tea party) by Alan Ayckbourn

Set in a cosy 70’s living room, Absent Friends centres around a tea party at Paul and Diana’s house. It’s a domestic comedy that Ayckbourn is known for, where secrets unfold and relationships hang in the balance. Ayckbourn invites the audience into the lives of six individuals and their two absent friends. There are moments of dramatic tension leading up to disclosures, defused by comedy throughout.

Direction by Ann Atkins is good with symmetry between the actors enhancing the comedy at times. Diana is played by Frankie Night who is a born communicator and sits at the centre of the drama. She is a Brighton Little Theatre veteran: this production is her eleventh with the theatre company. She is very witty and her tea party falls apart when she withdraws.

Paul Morley who plays Paul is married to Diana. He is the ‘bad boy’, frustrated and stifled in his marriage. He injects a fair amount of humour into proceedings and generates quite a lot of sympathy along the way.

Holly Everett is Evelyn and her facial expressions from the moment she arrives on stage are priceless. She is a disinterested young Mum who according to her partner, John, never laughs.

Ciaran O’Connor acts as John and has been a member of BLT since 2004. He is generally happy-go-lucky but watch out for his phobias – they’ll have you in stitches.

Marge played by Kate McGann, is very down-to-earth and quite frankly, a godsend at a dysfunctional tea party. The odd faux pas aside, she looks after people, including Diana and tries to bring secrets into the open.

Daniel Carr acts as the enigmatic Colin – the guest of honour at this tea party. Recently bereaved, he is in much better shape than may be expected. He dominates the audience’s attention, oblivious to the undercurrents and tensions that unfold.

A lot of the actors have acted in A Midsummer Night’s Dream showing their skills and versatility.

Absent Friends by Alan Ayckbourn is quite simply feel good fun – a production that invites a lot of laughter. Characterisation is very good, the set is excellent and the intimacy of Brighton Little Theatre enhances the audience’s involvement in the tea party.

Four stars ****

Brighton residents gather on the beach welcoming refugees

Brighton has a proud history of welcoming refugees and has become a City of Sanctuary.

People of Brighton & Hove turned out in force yesterday, 17 October 2021, to ‘show they’re all heart’ in support of refugees.  More than 200 people from across the city joined together to form a huge, human, orange heart on Brighton beach – the symbol of welcome to refugees.

The event, organised by Sanctuary on Sea and University of Sussex Student Action for Refugees took place as part of the Together With Refugees week of action, which is taking place between Monday 18 to Sunday 24 October 2021.  Thousands of people across the country are joining forces during the week of action to protest against the Nationality and Borders Bill and to call for a kinder, fairer and more effective approach to how the UK is supporting and welcoming refugees.

welcoming refugees

Paul Hutchings from Refugee Support Europe organised the crowd to form a large human heart which has become a symbol of refuge with Maozya, a student from the University of Sussex who runs ‘Student Action for Refugees’, (STAR) on Brighton beach. The orange heart is a symbol of welcoming refugees. It uses the colours of the refugee nation flag created by refugee Yara Said, for the first ever refugee team in the Olympics in 2016. The colours were inspired by a lifebelt representing hope. The heart was developed in 2021 in consultation with refugee organisations and people with lived experience.

The event was a protest against the Borders and Nationality Bill that has already had its second reading and is in the committee stage of its passage through the House of Commons before going to the Lords.

Mr Hutchings said: “The Bill complies with illegal immigration and does not solve the broken refugee crisis as it is. It proposes to assess people who arrive in the country based on how they arrived not on the basis of need.

“For many refugees, the only way to arrive, is irregularly. Lots of asylum seekers are taken to large processing centres like Napier Barracks where there is a history of mistreatment. There is a provision in the Bill to send people to a third country which resulted in abuses and a legal challenge when they did this in Australia. It’s contrary to international law. I do not want to live in a country that doesn’t respect international law.”

“Today is a sticking plaster. There are no fair, safe routes to seek asylum in the UK anymore. This assumes refugees are not deserving. All the refugees I know have two things in mind: To get somewhere safe to live and to build a better life for their families. Offshore detention centres are a breach of human rights. The UK should be welcoming refugees and compassionate.”

Maozya Murray, President of STAR and co-organiser of the event, said: “It was great to see so many people gather today in solidarity with the refugees, asylum seekers and members of our community who are being violently attacked by Home Office policy.

“This Bill passing through parliament is cruel, inhumane, and a flagrant breach of international law. The existence of the Bill, and the support it has received, is yet another example of the hostile environment policies that seek to dehumanise and oppress people. This country should be welcoming and celebrating difference. We stand with the thousands of people across the country calling for a compassionate, effective and moral approach to this bill. It is clear to me that this could only mean voting against it.”

“So many people oppose this violent act as an abuse of humanity. We are on the beach to show that we welcome people onto our shore. We call for compassion and welcoming refugees onto our streets. The Bill is cruel and inhumane and seeks to criminalise and endanger those of us seeking safety and refuge in the UK.”

Brighton beach

The week comes as MPs return to Parliament to consider the Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through the House of Commons.  According to the coalition, the new legislation would mean that most people who would be accepted as refugees under the current rules – meaning those confirmed to have fled war or persecution following rigorous official checks – would no longer have their rights recognised in the UK due to their method of arrival. Half of these would be women and children and includes those left behind in Afghanistan.

The new rules would mean that all those who claim asylum after arriving in the UK through an irregular route would face removal to a third country, with their asylum claim only progressing if removal is not possible.

People who arrive irregularly who go on to be granted refugee status would only receive temporary protection with reduced rights and entitlements.  The vast majority of people who claim asylum, ​are unable to access ‘regular’ routes (entering the UK with a valid visa and/or passport) with their only option being to enter irregularly (by boat or in the back of a lorry).

The Refugee Convention makes it clear that people should not be penalised for entering a country irregularly for the purposes of claiming asylum.

Mel Hughes said; “People don’t want to see this ‘all for nothing’ bill where only people who are deemed worthy, are able to stay. The Government is getting rid of the illegal trade in refugees. The Bill is not stopping the criminal aspect. It’s making people unwelcome and not addressing the problem at source. Britain already has a pretty poor record (about immigration) on a European level.”

Oskar from Denmark said: “The Bill is a violation of human and European rights. It’s just another step in the wrong direction, it has all been anti-refugee, anti-immigration rhetoric in the last few years. It’s a disgrace really in the UK, Europe, humanity really, criminalising refugees and their right to seek asylum which is their human right. The UK has just left the European Union and suddenly it’s OK to breach the EU code on human rights.

Russell and Maria were driving up to Heathrow Airport. They said for them, travel is relatively easy: “We saw a line of young men taken from the back of a truck. They looked very frightened right in front of us, on the motorway. The young men were about our son’s age.”

Anthony from Kenya wanted to show support to refugees. He said: “Often what they’re doing, there’s a lot of stigma in the papers for them to address. People can show support. These are the small wins that we can be proud of.”

Nicola Jackson said: “I have befriended Syrians, given them holidays and campaigned for Freedom from Torture. I have been to Afghanistan in the 1970s. I am against the bill in Parliament. The government treats refugees as if they will be a drain on resources. They are taking away legal routes to get here. People should be able to find new homes where they like and not pushed offshore to claim legal rights to seek asylum.”

Together With Refugees is a growing coalition of more than 300 national and local organisations who believe in showing compassion and welcoming refugees fleeing war and persecution. It was founded by Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture, Refugee Action, Refugee Council and Scottish Refugee Council.

The coalition is calling for a more effective, fair and humane approach to the UK’s refugee system that: 1) allows people to have a fair and efficient hearing for their claim for protection, including those who endured traumas and struggle to get here; 2) ensures people can live in dignity in communities while they wait to find out if they will be granted protection; 3) enables refugees to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to their communities; 4) and where the UK works with other countries to do its part to help people forced to flee their homes.

To find out more visit www.togetherwithrefugees.org.uk

Brighton opens a new, black, Afrori bookshop

Just a year after opening online, Afrori Bookshop will be opening its actual doors on Tuesday 26th October 2021 in Kensington St, North Laine.

The crowdfunding campaign aimed to raise £10,000 to fit out the premises at Lighthouse’s charity in the Laines. In just 4 weeks (a week ahead of schedule) the team met the target and the campaign closed on 8th October, having raised a total of £12,460. The charity said: “We can’t think of a better way to occupy the Lighthouse space, than for it to become a home to the only Black-owned bookshop for Black authors in Brighton.”

Carolynn Bain, founder said: “I am completely blown away by the love the public has shown to our dream of making Brighton an anti-racist city. The night we hit the target I sobbed: I was so overwhelmed.”

Afrori Bookshop
Carolynn Bain

The crowdfund attracted a lot of attention from the public and the media. The crowd funding video was shared hundreds of times across social media and was featured on ITV, BBC and multiple other press outlets. They even took over a key social media account for publishing giant Penguin. Afrori was named bookshop of the month by Brighton based Damian Barr literary salon and a top ten start up to watch identified by Business Live.

Afrori bookshop aims to be a community space drawing in authors and young creatives from across Sussex and nationwide. They have plans for creative writing evenings, a book club, children’s story times, training to help teachers integrate diverse books into classrooms and much more.

Ms Bain and her team are also committed to employing ‘the unemployable’ on a fair wage and are seeking staff from marginalised groups who have found it difficult to find employment.

For the next few weeks, it is all go with the shop fitting and stocking taking place at the moment. Team member, Ysabel, said: “This is the best kind of busy.”

Afrori’s mission statement is: ‘Support black authors. Create diverse bookshelves. Be a voice against injustice.’

Carolynn said: “Changing the way people read is fundamental to affecting their outlook and reading habits for life, and it is through reading that we can have the greatest impact on attitudes to racism in the future. Afrori Books is changing the world, one book at a time.”

Afrori bookshop opens in Kensington Street, North Laine on Tuesday 26 October.

Rape and Murder of Sarah Everard

A British Police officer, PC Wayne Couzens, has been convicted of kidnapping and raping Sarah Everard, a 33 year old marketing executive this week. She went missing while walking home from a friend’s house at around 9pm near Clapham Common. A week later her body was recovered in a bag in woodland in Kent, following a massive Police search.

Unofficial vigils were held for Sarah across the UK and the Police were criticised for manhandling peaceful mourners, mainly women. Police were accused of arresting women and pinning them to the ground. Broadcast media suggested the Police used disproportionate force during peaceful vigils. An inquiry requested by the government said the Police had used considerable restraint.

Sarah Everard’s murder resonated with many women who believe they have every right to walk home unaccompanied at 9pm, we may call this freedom of movement. The grief and outrage was partly because a Police Officer attacked and raped Sarah which is a clear abuse of power. Women expect to be able to turn to the Police if they are in trouble.

PC Couzens was a highly trained and screened fire arms officer working in the Westminster-based Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, which protects VIPs and guards national sites. Couzens was nicknamed “the rapist” while serving in Kent for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. He was not on the sexual offenders register in spite of successive incidents of indecent exposure.

Couzens was not vetted again after these offences before he was armed with a gun and authorised to protect embassies in London and the Palace of Westminster for the Metropolitan Police. He was nicknamed “the rapist” but no one questioned whether he was a fit and proper person to carry out his job.

In court, Couzens pleaded guilty to kidnapping Ms Everard “unlawfully and by force or fraud” and raping her. In March he did not enter a plea for her killing but he has now accepted responsibility for her death.

At the heart of this investigation is how Police officers could think it is acceptable to call a colleague a rapist and continue to send him out onto the streets to protect women. This is not one rogue Police officer but a culture of misogyny at the heart of British policing.

According to the Guardian, 81 women in the UK have been killed since March and 109 this year, 2021. Before the pandemic in 2019 there was a 10% increase in women killed with the annual figure jumping from 220 to 241. According to the ONS three women are killed every fortnight by their partner or ex-partner. Seven months after Sarah Everard’s death, the body of schoolteacher Sabina Nessa was found in Cator Park, south-east London and a man from Eastbourne, East Sussex is facing charges.

Government response to sexual offences

In June 2021 an Observer analysis of thousands of convictions showed that between 2013 and 2020, almost one in three adults were given suspended or community sentences.

Government has been battling to withstand criticism following a sharp decline in convictions under her watch, including where the victims are under 13 years old. Police cuts driven by ten years of austerity and a loss of expertise go some way to explaining the fall in convictions. Government has promised the figures will be kept under six monthly review.

Prosecutions in 2016/17 fell 60% in four years to 2,102 in 2019/20, even as the number of reports to police increased, raising concerns about the decriminalisation of rape. These concerns make therapeutic relationships even more important.

According to the Guardian in 2018 victims were routinely required to give access to highly personal data including mobile phone messages and social media content to the Police. These can be retained for up to 100 years for a case to proceed which enhances the sense of personal violation already experienced by victims.

Sophie Wilkinson argued powerfully in Vogue in March that the Police fail because they are not looking for patterns of sexually inappropriate behaviour. They treat each case of rape, including Sarah Everard’s case, as an isolated incident.

Ms Wilkinson said the Police should have immediately investigated the indecent exposure by PC Couzens days earlier and while in Kent. They should be documenting the many signs of harassment, often in public, that precede rape and other sex attacks to identify the pattern of sexual offending early and prevent crime.

Sexualised trauma

Sexualised trauma includes trauma caused by someone close to you like a partner and encompasses many aspects of domestic violence. Most of the time sexualised trauma is caused by people known to the victim. Often there are no convictions in these cases. Rape sentencing tends to assume the attackers are strangers in parks, like PC Wayne Couzens.

This is often not the case. Most sexualised trauma takes place within the home, most child abuse is carried out by someone known to the child.

According to the Crime Survey for England in the year ending March 2020 7.1% of women aged 16 to 74 had experienced sexual assault or rape by penetration (including attempts) and only 0.5% of men.

“For the years ending March 2017 and March 2020 combined, victims who experienced sexual assault by rape or penetration since the age of 16 years were most likely to be victimised by their partner or ex-partner (44%). This was closely followed by someone who was known to them other than a partner or family member (37%), which includes friends (12%) and dates (10%) (Appendix Table 1). More than one in seven women (15%) reported being assaulted by a stranger, whereas this was true for almost half of male victims (43%) (Figure 2).”

I have talked mainly about women throughout this article because sexualised trauma is different for men and women. Men are more often attacked by strangers. Transgender people often suffer a disproportionate amount of discrimination and harassment, including from feminists. Attacks on men and transgender attacks will be addressed separately elsewhere.

Rape is not the only form of sexualised trauma – there is a whole menu of being cat-called, stared at or wolf-whistled to touching, up skirting, groping and grooming as well as taking and circulating sexual photographs, forced viewing of pornography etc. Violence is not always part of the attack.

Harassment is necessarily subjective and occurs when the individual is made to feel unsafe, humiliated, or intimidated. Rape during sleep is common among partners. Harassment and rape among pupils in boarding schools has hit the headlines this summer.

#Metoo campaign went viral following allegations against Harvey Weinstein and called out celebrities for widespread harassment in the media and film industry in October 2017. It sparked a national conversation and an increase in reporting of sexual harassment in the UK and abroad.

It is clear that sexualised trauma is a widespread phenomenon that deserves much more attention from society as well as the Police.

Harassment is particularly prevalent among young women. Research published in March this year from the All Party Parliamentary Group on UN Women in the United Kingdom showed 97 percent of British women aged between 18 and 24 have experienced sexual harassment in public.

Sexual harassment online is booming due to the pandemic. According to the Revenge Porn Helpline, they found calls about explicit imagery being shared without consent rose by 87% between April and August 2020 versus the previous year.

When understanding if sexualised trauma has taken place, a therapist or teacher will have to consider issues of consent and be mindful of any misuse of power, particularly if a young person is involved. Sex can become a powerful weapon in the wrong hands.

The impact of sexualised trauma and how therapy can help

In 2010, the Equality Act defined sexualised trauma as: “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

Humiliation is a key aspect of identifying sexualised trauma. Victims commonly feel dirty, they may suffer guilt, shame or even self-blame. In the aftermath clients may be more stressed, more anxious, suffer from panic attacks and feel generally less safe, as well as avoid sexual intimacy or in some cases feel de-valued and become more promiscuous.

If not addressed quickly after an attack or at the end of an abusive relationship, memories of sexualised trauma can ripple under the surface causing negative effects for years to come.

Some of the reactions are physiological causing changes to the chemicals in the brain resulting in unconscious or unintended behaviours such as aggression, fight or flight, depression, anxiety, panic attacks etc.

Early therapy helps address the roots of the trauma before the neurological pathways change irreparably in negative ways. Anti-depressants may also help to stabilise a traumatised client in the short-term but should not be taken for more than six months and should be monitored by a GP.

To address the root cause of the trauma, therapy provides a confidential space that a client pays for which is safe and non-judgemental. It’s a place for clients to unpack the cocktail of emotions outlined above. Therapists may find that recent experiences of sexualised trauma trigger childhood trauma or deficits in client’s attachment too, although most therapy is now person-centred.

Clients can talk freely about their fears, shame, self-blame and any flashbacks, insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks. They will address the root causes by calmly and safely re-living the attack, accompanied, not alone, in a therapeutic setting.

The aim is to look at the facts of the attack and make them conscious to prevent the unconscious from anticipating threats that are not there and imagining false scenarios which hold the client captive in dark places.

A skilled therapist will conclude every session to make sure the client does not dwell on the attack after the session and to reduce the likelihood of unsupervised flashbacks.

Ultimately in every therapeutic relationship you want to reach the point, after months, often years of tears, transference and/or in the film aggression, summed up in Good Will Hunting: When the therapist, (Robin Williams) embraces Matt Damon (his client) and simply says: “It’s not your fault.”

STEAM by Ella Turk-Thompson

If you have missed theatre during the pandemic, you will find STEAM is worth the wait.

Steam opens with a silent tug of war between mother and daughter. The play is an intimate portrayal of family life, enhanced by the setting at Brighton Little Theatre (BLT) which oozes familiarity, charm and sophistication.

Ray, shortened for Rachel, is a qualified nurse and carer to her terminally ill mother. Kate Purnell acts as Ray in a BLT debut, offering the audience a masterful range of emotions that make us both laugh and cry in turn. Her sister, Sylvia, performed by Ellie Mason, plays a musician, arrives from a glittering career in Paris to disturb the peace. Ray asks herself whether her sister’s visit is motivated by duty or is it an act of love?

Suffused with emotion from the outset, age old family dynamics play out between the absent daughter and the one who never left home in this intimate family drama. Indifference, not anger, is the opposite of love and this play overflows with feeling – rage, bitterness, resentment and compassion. It’s about belonging or not belonging, family, life, loss, grief and the pain of letting go.

As the family gather around the dinner table, Anya who is ‘mother’, acted by Abigail Smith, offers us moments of self-deprecating humour. In spite of her illness, she is fully herself.

There is a fourth character in Ella Turk-Thompson’s masterly play – Callum acted by Joseph Bentley, a slightly diffident, yet loyal, Englishman. Both loved and hated, he supports Ray through the storm and effortlessly introduces sexual tension and humour to the drama.

STEAM is a story of love and loss, resilience, endings and the struggle to carry on.  Each daughter has to battle grief and triumph over it. Ms Turk-Thompson said: “It’s about family and when you can’t hold onto them.”

Physical theatre recurs throughout, offering the audience the chance to reflect. For a moment, Ray stops being a nurse and becomes a REAL woman again. In this moment the audience can empathise with her situation of being the sacrificial carer. All three of the women, experience moments of heightened emotion and they portray this effectively through dance. Dialogue throughout the play is excellent, as is casting, the script, direction and choreography.

Within minutes, we are immersed in the lives of Ray and Sylvia, observing first-hand the way only siblings really can push you to your limits.

STEAM had me totally absorbed from the start, I identified with the emotions and it caused me to reflect on my own family relationships. The play is both provocative and soothing, broaching several difficult subjects head on with humility.

I thoroughly recommend STEAM and will look out for further work by Ella Turk-Thompson.

**** Four Stars

You can read the lowdown from Fringe Review here but beware, there are spoilers.

16 and 17 year olds urged to take up a Covid vaccine before new term starts

More than half of all 16 and 17 year olds in Sussex have now received their COVID-19 vaccination. Anyone who has not yet had the vaccine should come forward when they are invited – or attend a walk in NHS service if they are able.

In Brighton, the Moderna vaccine is available at the former Top Shop, Churchill Square, BN1 2RG, daily from 8.30am to 7.00pm or you can get Pfizer at Brighton Racecourse.

Teenagers aged 16 and 17 year are now eligible for one dose of the COVID vaccine, as part of the continued roll out of the vaccination programme.

Local vaccination services have been contacting 16 and 17 year olds who are registered with GP practices to invite them for appointments over the last two weeks. GPs are inviting them to attend vaccination clinics near where they live.

These sessions will continue over the coming weeks – and people are urged to attend when invited.

NHS vaccine

Please note the invite for a teenager’s vaccination may go to parents if that is the registered phone number on your GP record and will probably be issued by text message if there is a mobile number on record.

Walk in clinics are taking place to make it as easy as possible for teenagers to receive their vaccination if they are able to get to one of these sites.

These may be further afield for some communities but no appointment is needed and you can attend with friends and family.

Free transport is also available to anyone in Sussex who needs it to get to a walk-in vaccination site by calling, Tel: 01444 275 008.

If you would prefer an appointment, you can book one at Brighton Racecourse if you are 16 or 17, Tel: 0300 303 8060.

With schools and colleges re-opening next week after the summer, the NHS wants as many 16 and 17 year olds to be protected before term starts. NHS staff encourage anyone who is in this age group and who hasn’t had it yet come forward to attend a drop-in session at their local vaccination service.

While the rate of coronavirus cases has dropped to 270 cases for every 100,000 people in line with the national average, it remains high and schools are about to go back. There were 787 new covid-19 cases in the seven days to Monday (30 August), down from 1,184 in the previous week in Brighton and Hove.

It is essential that all eligible young people get vaccinated to protect themselves and elderly or clinically vulnerable young people.

You can read what happened to Mike, who has learning difficulties, when he went to Brighton Racecourse to have his jab here.

All eligible teenagers will be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination.

Walk in sessions for 16 and 17 year olds are available in Chichester and Eastbourne as well as Brighton. You do not need an appointment if you are 16 or 17 year’s old:

Every day

  • Brighton, former Top Shop store, Churchill Square, BN1 2RG, daily 8.30am to 7.00pm, Moderna
  • Chichester, Westgate Vaccination Centre, Via Ravenna, PO19 1RJ, daily 8.30am to 7.00pm
  • Eastbourne, former Mothercare shop, Hampden Retail Park, Lottbridge Drove, BN22 9PD , daily 8.30am to 3.00pm

Tuesday 7 September 2021

  • 08.30-19.00 – former Top Shop store, Churchill Square, Brighton, BN1 2RG
    For all adults, 1st and 2nd doses (2nd dose after 8 weeks), Moderna
  • 10.30-14.30 – St Mary Magdalene Church, Coldean, Brighton BN1 9EL
    For all adults, 1st and 23nd doses (2nd dose after 8 weeks), Pfizer

More walk in sessions for 16-17 year olds are being confirmed and will be added to this website.

If you have a question about the Sussex COVID-19 vaccination programme please take a look at the NHS frequently asked questions.

Alternatively, you can contact the Vaccination Enquiries Team by email: vaccineenquiries@nhs.net, or phone them, Tel: 0800 433 4545 between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

An edited version of this article was published today by Brighton and Hove News.

Sussex Defend the NHS joins UNITE’s protest against 3 per cent pay rise

Sussex Defend the NHS will be out on the streets supporting NHS workers in their campaign for a decent pay rise once again. Tomorrow, Wednesday 25th August, they will be outside the Royal Sussex County Hospital from 12 until 2pm supporting the UNITE Union’s Day of Action.

Clare Jones, a local NHS nurse and UNITE staff rep. said: “A below-inflation pay offer is an insult for NHS workers and I fully support my Union’s recommendation to reject it. I am pleased that the unions are working together and saying ‘Not good enough’ to the Government.”

UNITE’s protest follows an NHS protest about pay last week organised by GMB Union.

The government has still only offered a 3 per cent pay rise which all of the major health unions say is totally inadequate. GMB calculated that, when the inflation rate was taken into account, it amounted to a pay rise of less than 0.6 per cent.

For the lowest paid workers in the NHS, it will mean less than the Real Living Wage (£9.50ph) and it’s less than the rise in the cost of housing, food and travel to work. It will widen the pay gap within the workforce, and low pay will make it more difficult for the NHS to recruit and retain staff.

Louise, a local mental health nurse in UNISON, said: “I am voting to reject the offer and I’m prepared to strike. I’m encouraging my colleagues to do the same.”

pay rise
Kelly Robbins

Kelly, a registered nurse from Brighton and GMB activist, explained why she and her union are campaigning for a 15 per cent pay rise. She said: “We have faced a decade of austerity so another real terms pay cut is just rubbing salt into the wound for staff.

“This year it’s actually less than a 1 per cent pay rise in real terms after 4 per cent predicted inflation, and we’ve already seen a 20 per cent pay cut since 2010.

“Also the NHS is chronically understaffed and this 3 per cent offer isn’t enough to persuade overworked current staff to stay, let alone recruit the new workers we desperately need.”

Sussex Defend the NHS sees this offer as part of the government’s efforts to undermine and privatise the NHS. They argue the government has used the pandemic as an excuse to speed up the process, wasting huge amounts of public money keeping private hospitals afloat, and funding an unworkable Track and Trace system. Instead, it should be fully funding the NHS including a 15% wage increase for its staff.

This article was also published in Brighton and Hove News.

Health Partnership seeks community ambassadors from ethnic backgrounds

NHS chiefs are looking to recruit 10 volunteers to be “community ambassadors for diverse ethnic communities” and help change future health and social care services.

The Sussex Health and Care Partnership, made up of councils and NHS trusts, said: “People from diverse ethnic communities experience some of the biggest health inequalities, even more since the start of the pandemic.

“It is really important to hear directly from people in those communities so that we can fully understand the challenges communities are facing and work together to create solutions.

Community Ambassadors

“Community ambassadors are part of an exciting new way of helping the Sussex Health and Care Partnership to understand what is important to your community and make sure local health and care services are what your community needs.

“We are looking for 10 members of the public from diverse ethnic communities to become community ambassadors.

“The role of a community ambassador might include engaging with your community, trying to make contact with people to talk to them about health and care services in the area and to find out their views (and) doing office-based work, giving advice and support to NHS programmes across Sussex, and helping to make decisions about health and care services.”

The partnership said: “We currently have 15 community ambassadors across Sussex and since our volunteers joined in October 2020, they have helped to influence services locally.

“Community Ambassadors have been active participants in eight interview panels for staff within the Sussex NHS Commissioners, providing an independent perspective on the panels.

“(They have) undertaken research on the views of the BAME communities on the flu vaccine and identified solutions to support the flu vaccination campaign and covid-19 immunisation programme, worked in partnership to develop a questionnaire for the pre-consultation engagement for the cardiology and ophthalmology services in East Sussex – over 200 questionnaires were completed by patients (and) worked collaboratively to design two questionnaires as part of the engagement with service users and practitioners for the Brighton and Hove mental health accommodation tendering process.”

The partnership added that they had “supported the development of the materials for the pre-consultation engagement for stroke (services) redesign in West Sussex, including the narrative, communications and engagement plan, patient survey questions”.

It also said: “Community ambassadors receive expenses and, in some situations, recognition payments are offered.”

The deadline for applications is Thursday 12 August.

Click here for more information about the role and how to apply.

This article was also published by Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton and Hove could become HIV testing pilot after joint action by MPs

 Brighton and Hove’s three MPs have welcomed the news that the city could be a pilot for a new HIV testing regime which would normalise HIV testing in the community with the aim of reaching zero new transmissions by 2030.

Jo Churchill, the health minister, has replied to a letter proposing Brighton and Hove as a pilot city, which was signed by the city’s three MPs, Caroline Lucas, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Kyle, alongside the leader of Brighton Council, Phelim MacCafferty.

Health minister said she had asked Department of Health officials to look at the offer and was keen to work with areas like Brighton and Hove to learn from the city’s pioneering approach to prevention, testing and reducing late diagnosis of HIV.  Next, the MPs plan to invite her to the city to see what is being done locally to combat HIV infections.

Brighton’s three MPs and Cllr MacCafferty believe Brighton and Hove is the perfect place for a pilot because it was the first city in the UK to have ‘HIV Fast Track City’ status, and has some of the best online testing services in the country.  The city also pioneered HIV test vending machines and has supported a number of community testing initiatives, including National HIV Testing Week.

Currently, the plan is to roll out HIV testing even further, to make it available when people attend A&E, register for a new GP and in local pharmacies.

Caroline Lucas MP said: “Our city is a national leader in driving down HIV infections, not least because MPs, the council and local public health teams have worked together on this.  We want to share our experiences with others, and we’re also ready to do more.  I’m glad the minister seems prepared to work with us towards ending new cases of HIV by 2030 in England.”

HIV testing
Caroline Lucas MP

Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, leader of Brighton & Hove City Council said: “Outstanding progress has already been made in the city to increase testing and fight HIV-related stigma. This is typified by the recent installation of a vending machine with free STI tests in the Jubilee Library.

“Normalising HIV testing across health services is the next step. We are eager to get this pilot underway as we know Brighton & Hove is well placed to be one of the first cities to make it happen.”

“That’s because in addition to strong, continued commitment to support people living with HIV, we are proud to be the host of some of the best HIV support, treatment, and prevention services and community organisations in the country.  They’ve been running for many years and working in strong collaboration with our communities and public health teams.

“An important next step in supporting our communities is to achieve our shared aims for zero HIV infections, zero HIV stigma and zero HIV related deaths.”

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