Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kensington Community Interest Company - what the papers say

Just spotted this update in the national Regeneration news about the work that Councillor Nick Small and I have been carrying out to mitigate the worst affects of the proposed succession strategy to Kensington Regeneration. You don't just have to take my word for it... (whatever Cllr Sidorczuk's muddled response to an earlier post might suggest).

Friday, November 27, 2009

I&DeA Assessment Centre - getting my head turned by the bright lights

I was in London earlier this week at an assessment centre (at their request) to find out whether I have what it takes to become a peer mentor with the I&DeA.

That would involve working with principally Labour council/lors across the country as needed to help them with areas of concern or difficulties they might have in terms of being effective and following best practice.

Imagine me, free to roam, in London! I had a lovely Italian meal with friends in a restaurant on Tavistock Place on Wednesday night and then an early night in the Holiday Express on Old Road.

I had no battery charge on my phone, had forgotten the charger and thus had no texts, calls and no alarm, what a strange evening! I had to set the alarm on the TV and the phone and then hope and pray they went off and woke me up, I was petrified of sleeping in and worried about missing important calls. Very strange times.

The assessment went reasonably well I think and it was interesting to spend time with some of the other would-be peers, including leaders of councils and leaders of groups and the elected mayor of Hartlepool. I think I may have been the only Labour councillor, although we didn't really talk about our political party representation, it didn't seem quite the done thing.

However, I did recognise Andrew Cooper, one of the Kirklees Greens, who I was sitting by, so we had a bit of a chat about the old days.

I now have to wait 10 days to find out whether I got through and can begin to give some support elsewhere.

I also enjoyed an hour in the British Museum, admiring some 19th and 20th century European jewellry and pots. Lovely, I was very desirous of some of the pieces I saw.

(Interestingly, when I got home last night and turned my dead phone onto charge, I watched in bemusement as it began to chirrup and light up with texts and unanswered phone calls, like a insatiable child, demanding to be fed. Friends keep encouraging me to buy an i-phone and a blackberry and all that nonsense, monstrous, surely! That you cannot be free even while you sleep.)

Chrysalis Dinner - and more twinkling toes

Last weekend I joined a host of West Derby Labour Party people (happily including some of my best friends) at a special dinner to congratulate Chrysalis on their 10th anniversary in Domestic Violence Support Services.

Hosted at the Devonshire House Hotel (yes, that wonderful place again - I may get shares), this glittering ball was attended by upwards of 500 people, mainly young woman survivors of domestic violence (and all dressed up beautifully, it being one of their social highlights of the year). It was hard to believe or imagine that their partners have found it acceptable to hit them, but uplifting that they were all out having a good time, confident, dancing, enjoying being in each other's company and beginning to heal.

Incidently, I did notice that there might be a role for a smoking cessation organisation to turn up with a stall next year - judging by the sheer numbers of women piling out of the front door for a smoke, between courses etc (don't ask me how I know).

Stephen Twigg, Chair of the Board of Trustees and I took to the dance floor several times in what is now becoming a new tradition, I am sure they only invited me to come along with him because of our Abba performance from 2007!

A very big well done to Jacqui Nasuh and all of her team for the wonderful work they continue to do for these vulnerable women and their children. You deserve every word of every plaudit you received, you are all truly awesome.

Happy 60th Birthday George McKane

Wendy, Martin Pinder from Kensington Regeneration, Tracy from LYS, and lots of other partners and organisations were among guests for a surprise party for George McKane from Yellow House to celebrate his 60th birthday.

It was held at the Cavern club, in the basement under Matthew Street (across the road from the original club where the Beatles played). I have never been there before and I really liked it. Just a few feet from the real thing, very atmospheric!

We had two bands, a Beatles tribute which were very good and a duo who did stuff from the 70s mainly, who George obviously knew. Lots of dancing ensued. There were lots of new and old Yellow House young people there and George clearly enjoyed all the reminiscing with his friends.

Happy Birthday George, we all salute you and thanks to the wonderful Ghosia for her hard work putting everything together.

Deputy Chair of Venture Housing Association

We had the AGM a week ago or so and I am now the Deputy Chair of Venture Housing Association. It is an honour and a privilege, I think they are a great little RSL, but I am not sure where the 220 hours a year I have committed to, will come from! Got to get that midnight oil burning a bit brighter I think.

We are well on our way to a good audit inspection, after the poor one I inherited when I came on the board. At least one star, with a possibility of two, if all the work we have put in actually means anything. Watch this space.

Jingle (bells)

We are hard at work planning our two radio shows for the next KVFM licence in December.

To run concurrently with RESPECT week in Kensington and Fairfield, the station will be transmitting from MaccieDs on Kensington as usual.

The three councillors are doing a show on Saturday 12th where we will be launching RESPECT week with local police, council officers and youth workers. And on 17th December, Wendy and I are doing a show with representatives from the YAG (Young People's Advisory Group) for City and North Liverpool District about what politics means (or does not mean) to young people. I have also enjoyed watching the lads from the Pagoda Youth Centre putting their scripts and jingles together for their YAG show about drugs ("it's a show about drugs Will, about drugs, not on drugs")

We have created our jingles and the scripts are coming along nicely. I am really looking forward to it...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Liverpool March Against Homophobia - Sunday 22nd November

We will be meeting at St George's Hall Plateau at 1pm and marching down Dale Street and along the Strand, past the Police Station ending up at the New Picket.

Meeting at 1pm

Do please come, we want lots of LGBT people and lots of supporters to turn up. We need to get the message out across the city that ordinary Liverpool people are not homophobic and do not support tacitly, or otherwise, violent attacks such as happened to PC James Parkes a few weeks ago, or the murder of Michael Causer.

Please can you join the Facebook Group and sign up to say you are coming along

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Q&A session with David Miliband

David Miliband - that is the Foreign Secretary to you - was in Liverpool this afternoon, at the Devonshire House Hotel on Edge Lane, to hold a Q&A with NW Labour Party members.

An intimate group of about 40 members sat with him - and Jane Kennedy MP, and heard a really good speech lasting about 20 minutes and then had a further half an hour or so to make points, ask questions and engage directly with him.

The members were from Liverpool, Wigan, Bolton, Warrington, Wirral, Knowsley and elsewhere. Someone from outside of the LP asked me later if we charged an entrance fee, and the answer is no. We didn't charge, it was a free event and you even got a cup of tea and a biscuit.

David was introduced to the meeting by Jane Kennedy, our retiring MP and former minister and was extremely warm about her when replying to her introduction. He told the meeting that he always says nice things about the local MP when he visits their constituency, as you would expect, but that he genuinely believes that Jane was personally responsible for helping to "save the Labour Party". He talked about the period in the 1980s when he said the Labour Party was at a crossroads, deciding whether to take itself into an idealogical oblivion (that is not the phrase he used, but I cannot bring it to mind just now, I think it may have been about moving "into the cold"), or whether to move forward as a truly Progressive party. (I think that deserved a capital letter).

He said this battle was fought most strongly in the "crucible" of Liverpool and that Jane was at the forefront of that fight - against Militant. Jane and I were sitting with David at the top table, and I could see and sense that she was genuinely touched by this significant praise. A thoughtful and well deserved epitaph for a fantastic Parliamentary career and all-round contribution of an active Labour Party member.

David gave a really interesting and stirring speech about the challenges facing the Labour Party. He said there were three main points we needed to consider as we enter the election period - to counter the myths that we don't have a record to be proud of, that there are no big issues to fight any more and that there is no difference between the Tories and Labour. I wont go into detail because this entry is already running above the length my readers generally prefer)

One of the benefits of being a card carrying member of the Labour Party, as opposed to a supporter or a voter, is that you are regularly invited to such events. Those members today were absolutely free to put their points and questions directly to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of Great Britain - and were free to raise any issues at all that were of concern.

I chaired the Q&A session, both as local councillor for the ward in which the hotel is located, and also as the Deputy Chair for the Region.

One member asked David about the new vacancies of European President and European Foreign Minister - he is backing Tony Blair but is less sure about the Foreign Minister post as he wanted someone from Sweden who has not been put up by that country. He was asked about alternative forms of energy and raised a laugh when he said we needed to concentrate on wind and water sources because we cannot really rely on the sun/solar energy in Britain. He was asked about the situation in Iran by an Iranian LP member and about the impact of China on Trade Aid. He answered questions about all-women shortlists from Wigan and Warrington members, and agreed with a Wigan member about the importance of Housing as a vital issue.

A particular round of applause went to a local Liverpool Labour Party member Louise (not me) who has set up a facebook group in support of sure start centres and already has 900 members - do join it if you have not done so already. Louise takes her two small children to her centre every morning and has been talking to other parents about the impact that closure would have, if the Tories win the next election and get their way over this. He also answered questions about Somaliland (I hope I have spelled that correctly) and was very knowledgeable, I think the questioner who was also very knowledgeable was very impressed, and asked a Bolton member who raised the issue of GB pilgrims to Mecca, to write to him privately about the matter.

He left us to be interviewed by Channel 4 for a news programme and then onwards to two overseas engagements which he shared with us but which I will not share with you.

My closing remarks to the members was first to reiterate my point above about the access to Ministers that a Labour Party membership gives, and then to say that we should feel honoured and proud that a man who is as busy as he, having been to several meetings of world importance earlier in the day, and moving on to other vital meetings later today and tomorrow, has found the time to come and talk to interested LP members and hear their concerns and views in person.

And to the last question I know you will be asking, do I think he could be the next Labour leader? After today's performance I will say he was impressive, open, honest, frank, aware, alert, totally on top of his brief, funny, dynamic, questioning, thoughtful and very engaging. So, yes, it is a very real possibility, if it comes to a leadership challenge.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Liverpool Labour Party - new Website

I am pleased to recommend to you the new Liverpool Labour Party website.
I was not part of its formation so I cannot claim any credit, although I was pleased to have contributed a few photos which you may recognise, my eagle eyed readers!
I think it is an exciting and innovative site and I look forward to hearing from constituents in my ward who use the site to talk about issues in our ward.
Do bookmark it, I am also adding it to my links on the blog.

Rt Hon Jane Kennedy announces her retirement from Parliament

I was really sad but not perhaps surprised when Jane Kennedy, our wonderful MP in Liverpool Wavertree announced that she was standing down after what will have been 18 years in Parliament.

I confess I did not know Jane before I moved to Liverpool, although had heard her name mentioned in high places from time to time but we quickly became good friends when I became a member of Liverpool Wavertree constituency Labour Party.

Jane has had the most amazing political career - fighting off Militant in the 1980s, beating Terry Fields in the 1992 election and becoming a Minister in at least four Departments since 1997(I may have missed a few, but there was Northern Ireland, for which alone we owe her an enormous debt for her work, Health, Treasury and Defra (where the NFU still say she is the best they ever had)). She was also the Chair of Labour Friends for Israel and much else besides. I am not ever going to be her biographer because I have not known her long enough, others will know her achievements over the years better than I.

But what I can say with certainty, as a councillor in her constituency, and for my first year in office, the only one, she has backed me to the hilt in everything I have done. Where I needed her support, moral or practical, she has always been there. Where I needed her to have a word in a Ministerial ear, she never failed me, where I needed her to write letters, meet people, speak at meetings, help compose new policies, she has always been solid. When I needed her to campaign with me about local issues in Kensington or Fairfield, to get behind our plans, to suggest new tactics, she was always a wise head.

She has been out with me and other LP members, come rain or shine, knocking on doors and delivering leaflets, every Saturday since I moved here - and doubtless all those that preceded. If there is an MP in this country with less "side" to them, who is more prepared to do her bit, who is more ready to be an ordinary LP member, then I would enjoy meeting them. She has never missed her monthly General Committee meeting, never given less than a full and frank Parliamentary report, never shied from discussing subjects, never fed us any bull, never let us down.

I understand only too well her reasons for standing down and she has stated them herself so I don't need to repeat them here. But what I will say is this, the people of Liverpool Wavertree have lost a great ally and a great friend and she will be a very tough act to follow.

Liverpool Labour Party fundraising dinner

You wait for months for a fundraising dinner to come along, and then two arrive together!

On Friday night at least 200 guests were at the dinner at our favourite watering hole, the Devonshire House Hotel, for an evening of dining, speeches and music. NorthWest MP and Blue-nose, Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health addressed an audience made up of members, supporters, TUs and workers from the PCT, Alder Hey, the Burns Unit, the Royal and other hospitals and trusts in the area.

Andy congratulated Marie Rimmer, Labour leader of St Helens (who had joined us) and Jane Kennedy for their work in batting back clinicians plans for a Burns Super Unit in Manchester. He said that the NHS is Labour's greatest achievement and that only the day before the NHS 2009 Bill had received Royal Assent and was now an Act enshrining in law the right of all citizens to waiting lists of no longer than 18 weeks, and cancer patients no longer than 2 weeks.

We raised loads of money and I had the added pleasure of sitting next to Michael Shields over dinner, what a fine and decent young man he is. I wish him every luck and good fortune and he puts his life back together. He was telling me about a possible new job he might have secured, which gave me extra reason to be pleased.

There were of course lots of wannabe's at the dinner, as is to be expected, so we shall have all that to go through, I am becoming quite an old hand. But more of all this later.

I was pleased to sell tickets to ScouseBoy (hello ScouseBoy, hope you enjoyed yourself, it was great to see you), my mate Cath from Holmfirth and my mate Luciana from London, so I got rid of my four tickets, as per the leader's instructions, what a good obedient member I am!

Cath and I were both driving so we left reasonably early and went home for a glass of wine and a chat about the political scene in the Colne Valley before bed. I am glad I am here, and not there, when I think about all those hills and steps and villages, I am so pleased I have mainly terraced houses to deal with these days. Happy sigh...

Deane Road Jewish Cemetery project moves a step closer to securing its HLF bid

Last week was a very busy one with my Deane Road Jewish Cemetery hat on. Having issued a brief a few weeks ago or so, last week we short-listed and then interviewed several organisations who had submitted tenders to work with us as consultants for the next stage.

We have appointed a partnership of Cass Associates and Heritage Works and believe that together we can ensure the project submits a bit that meets the high standards HLF aspire to.

I am really looking forward to the consultation beginning and to getting to grips with the business plan and the activity plan.

This is one of the best and most important projects I have spent time on since being elected, surely it is not just an important facility for Kensington, but for Liverpool and for the country.

Kensington Community Interest Company update

We have had a major victory in our campaign against the waste of tax payers' money by the proposals for the succession strategy for Kensington Regeneration.

We have passed a resolution at the recent City and North Liverpool District Committee insisting that the new CIC company must

1. Increase its standard membership considerably - 70 out of 14500 residents is not enough

2. Break even within 3 years - so the expensive new manager must excel at fundraising otherwise the arrangement may well be called in

3. The directors must receive no remuneration - I think it might have been a LibDem who proposed this

The legal eagles at LCC will now incorporate these into the legal agreement with the New Deal partnership.

So, although the waste will go on, hopefuly it will be curtailed by our actions.

Thanks must go to Nick Small, Louise Ellman MP, Jane Kennedy MP, John Denham, Minister of State and the entire membership of the district committee for getting behind our campaign to ensure that as much money as possible should be spent on local priorities and not on needless bureacracies.

Liverpool Riverside CLP - and Eleanor Rathbone

The Women's Forum at Southport on Saturday set me up nicely for a dinner the following evening at the Red Fort on Lark Lane with Liverpool Riverside CLP

A fundraising dinner to help raise lots of money for the local and general election campaign next year, it celebrated the 100th anniversary of the election of Eleanor Rathbone to Liverpool City Council.

Although Eleanor was an Independent, she fought for the rights of women and families and was instrumental in the creation of family allowance.

We heard from Jenny Rathbone, her great-niece, who is a Labour PPC and also from Professor Dave Robertson who had really done his homework and was full of the most fascinating facts about Eleanor's life.

I really enjoyed it - and we raised lots of money for the party too, that is my kind of evening! Thanks to Laura and Hilary for all their hard work.

Labour Party North West Regional Conference Southport 2009

Unlike last year when I found the money to stay in the Vincent Hotel (and met Marc Almond coming out as I went in), this year I drove up to Southport for the Saturday and Sunday sessions of conference.

We heard from the General Secretary of the Labour Party, Ray Collins with a presentation about the General Election strategy. Harriet Harman spoke about the battle lines for 2010 - all that the Tories would destroy if they win the next election contrasted with Labour's plans for more schools and hospitals. Ed Balls talked about his plans for Children, Schools and Families.

At lunch time on Saturday I chaired a fringe about Climate Change which was transmitted simultaneously on Twitter in a ground-breaking "Tworum" (silly name, interesting concept). It was held by our MEPs and we had some good speakers - as well as Arlene we heard from Richard Scott of Baywind co-operative windfarms (he was really good) and Councillor Richard Cowell, Executive Member for the Environment in Manchester who has recently been promoted from AEM and spoke very well about the ongoing work there in terms of waste management etc.

In the afternoon we had workshops and I chaired a session about Local Government with Minister, Rosie Winterton MP, an old friend from South Yorkshire, now at the
Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Regional Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber. She was a Minister for Local Government until last month.

We went back into the hall for a thought provoking speech and Q&A from Phil Woolas, our own new Regional Minister. He told the conference that it was the proudest moment of his adult life, when he was appointed our Minister, as he is North West to his core. Certainly the cheers rang out in Regional Office as he has been a close friend to us all since he was first elected to Parliament.

At the close of conference on Saturday I went to the Women's fringe event (there were about 100 other delegates upstairs in the Young Labour fringe, they held their conference simultaneously with ours again this year). It was chaired by Barbara Keeley who I had not met before. I was very impressed with all the information she had dug out about political and active women of the 20th century - and it reminded me that my great grandfather was so keen on suffrage that he named his daughter Christabel in 1912.

On Sunday we had only a short conference session, which I chaired because Dave Quayle was at the Southport Cenotaph.

We took the NEC report from Peter Wheeler and then moved into a period of reflection and commemoration. I talked briefly about the outbreak of WWII - on my father's first birthday, and then about Grandfather's work as an ARP warden in blitz hit Coventry, followed by his service in the navy, culminating in his being awarded the Oak Leaf for bravery on board HMS Scylla, the flagship of the Eastern Task Force at the D-Day Landings. I showed conference his medals too. Then we had a short 1 minute film, with the Last Post and some footage from the war cemeteries, followed by the 2 minute silence.

We moved into workshops where I sat in a session about the importance of door-knocking, and then we had our final session where our Regional Secretary Anna Hutchinson, paid tribute to the retiring MPs and to our retiring Chair - Dave Quayle, who has done a great job for the last 13 years.

Another great conference, well attended, and everyone up for the fight against the Tories next year.

Halloween at Venture House

Wendy and I had a lovely afternoon at Venture House on Boaler Street, Kensington, joining children and parents for a fun filled time, with party games, face painting, dressing up, biscuit decorating, arts and crafts and competitions. Well done to Louise Powell and her colleagues and to all our RSLs for putting together such a great day.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves!

Homotopia not Homphobia - Arts Festival

I have been really enjoying this year's Homotopia Arts Festival.

I was at the launch in the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre which is a fabulous building, well worth a visit. Warren Bradley spoke, along with an array of senior Police and Fire officers, at the beginning of the festival.

While there I had a look round an amazing art collection, particularly some very fine works from an American, Laurie Lipton who I had not heard of before. Entitled "Extraordinary Drawings" it was a series of highly detailed charcoal and graphite drawings which gave much pause for thought. My favourite was a tryptich, with wings that closed, and further drawings on the outside folded edges. It showed a high rise block, with a scene in every window, showing people going about their lives, each with a TV, every room furnished and decorated according to the individual's taste. Every occupant, where present, shown engrossed in aspects of their lives. While outside, a woman was being stabbed by a violent man, and nobody was taken the slightest bit of notice.

It is on until 29th November, do go and have a look for yourself.

The following night I went to the Unity Theatre to see two films - Yankel Feather, a short documentary about one of the participants of the Our Story exhibition that I wrote about in May when it was featured in the Town Hall on IDAHO day and again in Kensington Library. I was also hoping to see the film about the Project Triangle visit to Poland but alas I had to leave to go to Edge Hill Youth Club before it came on, so I am hoping to be able to see a copy of it later.

The Friday before last I went to FACT to see Sarah Waters in conversation, a great author, I have read the first four of her five books and have asked for the fifth for Christmas. She came across as a very sound, shrewd and interesting woman with an impish sense of humour, I really liked her.

Last Tuesday we showed Paragraph 175 in St Francis of Assisi Academy, as part of our Diversity film series for Kensington Remembers, which dovetailed well into the programme, and then last Thursday I was back in the Unity Theatre to see three stand-up comediennes - the Lavender Girls.

I would like to thank and congratulate Gary Everett, Bev Ayre, Lou Muddle and Toby Coffey for bringing the festival to Liverpool for a 6th time. Marvellous!

Scrutiny with the Liverpool Guild of Students

I have begun doing some scrutiny work with the Liverpool Guild of Students which is very interesting. I was contacted by someone at the Guild, looking for an external scrutiny panel member, someone not associated with the Guild, and someone who understands scrutiny. We had our first session last week, we are scrutinising the Guild's Communication and Marketing policy and strategy, it is fascinating. I was struck by the similarities between the discussions they were having as representatives of the students and how they can and should communicate with them, and my role as a local government representative, thinking about the same issues. Were posters better than flyers, emails better than letters, was face-to-face better than posters. Who should communicate and how often...

We shall be meeting quarterly - in the gorgeous Art Deco building opposite the Victoria Gallery and Museum, even if I had not enjoyed the first session, seeing the architecture and the interior detail was worth every moment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good news about the burns unit

News Release from NHS

Burns Care

NHS North West Strategic Health Authority has the responsibility to ensure that the quality and outcomes of NHS services across the region, and in the case of burns services, across the North of England, are as high as they possibly could be. In this regard, the Authority has received proposals from the Northern Burns Care Network which the Network believe would improve the outcomes from our current services.

The Review’s proposals suggest the creation of a new supra regional centre to complement the existing regional specialist services at Alder Hey, Whiston and South Manchester. The Network propose that this new service could be provided without any detriment to existing services, indeed they contend that by managing the care of people with minor or moderate burns with more support from the regional specialist services, overall outcomes i.e., reducing pain, long term health problems, and survival rates, would improve.

NHS North West, the SHA, considered these proposals for the North of England in July 2009 and concluded that there was no compelling evidence to demonstrate that the new supra regional service would improve on existing outcomes for those patients with the most severe burns.

NHS North West has agreed that, if evidence should emerge in the future that demonstrates people with severe burns in the North West and across the North of England have significantly lower survival rates than in other regions, then the Authority will re-examine the proposals. To fail to consider such evidence, should it emerge, would be grossly irresponsible.

However, NHS North West has also made it clear that, should such evidence of improved survival rates emerge, then it would need to be assured that improvement in outcomes for those patients with the most severe burns were not at the expense of the outcomes for all burns patients. In other words, that a new supra regional service dealing with the most severe cases would not undermine the ability of existing regional centres to deliver care to all patients with burns.

If, and only if, this could be established would the proposals then be passed for consideration to individual PCT Boards and their Specialised Commissioning Groups who, if minded to see this as a priority for expenditure, would be required to consult fully with the local population on the new service proposals.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Paragraph 175 - film and discussion in Liverpool on 10th November 2009

Part of our Kensington Remembers series of fortnightly Diversity Films

Free entrance - film and dicussion afterwards

Tuesday, 10th November 2009: “Paragraph 175” film. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, 2000.

Chair: Tommy McIlravey, Manager, Sahir House & Chair, LGBT Network.
Commentators: Gary Everett, Festival Director, Homotopia; Paul Amann, Trustee to Outsiders Film Festival, & Chair , Mersey Marauders FC

Entrance free by invitation only - conditional on advance reservation
by ringing (0151) 233 61 36 or emailing

Academy of St. Francis of Assisi, Gardners Drive, Liverpool L6 7UR
(Main Assembly Hall, enter by main Reception front door. 6.30pm doors
open, free Polish buffet by Merseyside Polonia. 7.00pm film starts.

By the 1920’s, Berlin had become known as a homosexual eden, where gay men and lesbians lived relatively open lives amidst an exciting subculture of artists and intellectuals. With the coming to power of the Nazis, all this changed. Between 1933 and 1945 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality under Paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code dating back to 1871. Some were imprisoned, others were sent to concentration camps. Of the latter, only about 4,000 survived. Today, fewer than ten of these men are known to be living. Five of them have now come forward to tell their stories for the first time in this powerful new film.

The Nazi persecution of homosexuals may be the last untold story of the Third Reich. Paragraph 175 fills a crucial gap in the historical record, and reveals the lasting consequences of this hidden chapter of 20th century history, as told through personal stories of men and women who lived through it: the half Jewish gay resistance fighter who spent the war helping refugees in Berlin; the Jewish lesbian who escaped to England with the help of a woman she had a crush on; the German Christian photographer who was arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality, then joined the army on his release because he “wanted to be with men”; the French Alsatian teenager who watched as his lover was tortured and murdered in the camps. These are stories of survivors -- sometimes bitter, but just as often filled with irony and humor; tortured by their memories, yet infused with a powerful will to endure. Their moving testimonies, rendered with evocative images of their lives and times, tell a haunting, compelling story of human resilience in the face of unspeakable cruelty. Intimate in its portrayals, sweeping in its implications, Paragraph 175 raises provocative questions about memory, history, and identity.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An evening at Edge Hill Youth Centre - with cake!

Last week I won a "spider cake" from Sayers, in a Twitter competition. They were inviting Halloween tweets and I sent them some Halloween jokes, like "How do you know when a vampire has been in the bakery? All of the jam has been sucked out of the doughnuts". I went to collect the cake today, expecting a small 8" sponge with some spidering icing, and was amazed to see a great big party cake, of a fabulous black spider, with licourice legs. What on earth was I going to do with such a magnificent creature?

I had been invited to join the Edge Hill Youth Centre's youth council this evening, to discuss their issues and concerns, so it seemed like the answer to my cake dilemma. After we had a good chat at the youth council, I joined all the children of the junior club and the youth council members in the kitchen, where the cake was received with great enthusiasm.

Alas the photo which was taken on my mobile phone, with a view to sending it to Sayers, is blurred, and there was another camera in evidence so the kids were all looking in the wrong direction, but you can see how closely they were all guarding the spider, making sure nobody was going to take it off them again!

It lasted about 5 minutes I think, never has any cake been so appreciated. A big thank you to Sayers bakery!

I had a really good time, most of the children and young people live in Kensington, and indeed in Fairfield, although the club itself is just outside of the ward, and we have met together many times recently. I really feel I am beginning to get know them each personally now.

A couple of weeks ago Wendy and I presented certificates to many of the senior club, for achieving a 6 week first aid course with Redeemer Aid - they came to Central Youth club with young people from other clubs in the district to celebrate their achievements.

Then Liam and I met them again in Liverpool Town Hall at the Youth Democracy event where the young people of City and North Liverpool came together in a workshop with some local councillors and youth workers, and neighbourhood services, to talk over the things that matter to them. (Each district met separately throughout the building, after attending a Q&A in the council chamber)

Last week I was a community event for young people in St Francis of Assisi Academy where the young chair of the Youth Council approached me and asked me to come to tonight's meeting, and finally on Monday night I spent three hours at the YAG (City and North Liverpool Youth Advisory Group) with 15 young people from across the district, including at least 5 members of the Edge Hill youth council. We had a political education session where they made decorative models (mobiles) of the City and North district, and held an election, with manifestos and a secret ballot, for a new Chair and ViceChair of the YAG.

Tonight I gave the youth council members my councillor's business card and told them to contact me whenever they had questions to ask or points to make. I was bowled over when they requested that I formally become a champion of the club and I suggested they might want to set up a Friends of Edge Hill Youth Centre, perhaps on FB, and encourage other supporters to join.

People are always moaning about young people, I am tired of hearing them all described as "feral" and "like animals", when as with all things, it is the behaviour of a few that ruin the reputation of the many. These young people are really special, they engage with all sorts of projects, indeed only last week they put on a show about the racism affecting our local shopkeepers - and they deserve the fullest support from us all.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Birthday Paul Brant - 007 all the way

What a great time we had at Paul Brant's 40th birthday party on a Mersey Ferry last week. With a James Bond theme, it was a fabulous night and the weather and the winds were very kind to us, we sailed up and down the Mersey, and settled mid-river for a lovely time, with dancing, eating, drinking, roulette, singing and all round great times.

Here a few photos of some of the guests before we boarded and one or two from the moored vessel.

Happy birthday darling, you don't look a day over 39, when are you going to insist that the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo stop using that photo of you when you were 15 in all those news releases?

Ade Devers, winner of the Liverpool City Council Breakthrough Champion Award 2009

Readers may recall that when Ade Devers, winner of the Liverpool City Council Breakthrough Champion Award was awarded his trophy in St George's Hall earlier this year, he was on holiday. His award was collected by his colleague Dave Rae.

I was in the City and North Liverpool team offices recently when I espied Ade's awards on his desk. Given that he was not photographed with his award, I took a couple of (not very good) photos on my camera phone and hope to persuade the city magazine to publish them.

Although I write my blog as an individual, I know full well that on this occasion I can speak with one of my "official" hats on, when I say, on behalf of all the 18 councillors in our district, well done Ade, you were a worthy winner, and our residents benefit from your work on a daily basis. All strength to your elbow (and thanks for your special knowledge in our quiz earlier this week, fancy you knowing which football team John Kelly supports!)

Trees being destroyed in our city's parks

I have been doing some work with the police and city watch about ongoing crime and ASB issues in the south end of Newsham Park - near the bandstand. I went up to the bandstand on September 17th with an officer from City Space to assess the ongoing ASB issues and our combined efforts to secure a CCTV camera for the bandstand area. More on this on another day, when I hope to have some good news.

I was horrified to see the destruction of the trees around the bandstand and took copious photographs, although these two are the ones that show the devastation most clearly.

This damage has been caused by thoughtless owners of dogs, mainly so called "trophy dogs" which are those who are kept because they are a status symbol rather than through any love of dogs - they tend to be bulldogs and mastifs. We have all seen them, walked by aggressive looking young men who threaten when challenged. The owners encourage the dogs to tear at the bark on trees in the hope it will strengthen their teeth, jaws and throat muscles, although actually what happens is that the dogs get splinters in their mouths and hurt themselves. And the other thing that happens is that the trees suffer and die.

The other favourite activity is to hold a branch down, towards the ground, encourage the dog to latch on and then let the branch go, so it swings in the air, taking the dog up with it, again with the misguided hope of strengthening the dog's fighting abilities.

I was saddened to see that the latest Kensington Regeneration magazine for young people actually contained a story from a young contributor who herself encourages her dog to do this. No blame should be attached to her for copying what she sees around her, but I do hope that the organisers of the magazine, who I know read this blog, will talk to her and the other young people about the negative aspects of this behaviour and will not repeat this in future issues.

The Parks Department have explained to me that they cannot treat trees that have been attacked in this way and that having tried to use sleeves and fencing off in other parks (Stanley Park for instance) where this is also a big problem, nothing works. These trees will die. In fact since I took my photos 6 weeks ago, a tree in the bandstand has been cut down with a chainsaw, or similar by someone other than the official gardeners. If we are not careful, if we do not act, if we do not educate, then there will no trees left around the bandstand and indeed the general tree-stock will fall.

It is great that the city is planting thousands of trees in honour of the capital of culture (they took the number of trees they should plant from the size of the turnout at the event that launched the Capital of Culture, so with my three visitors, we are good for 4 trees), but they weren't planning on planting them in Newsham Park or Phythian Park.

I asked the head of Parks, at our regular monthly meeting in September, just after I took the photos, to encourage LCC to undertake a massive education campaign, ideally through the auspices of the local press. He promised to talk to Councillor Turner about this, although had not been able to do so as of last week.

We are killing our trees, and in a city with a massive number of terraced houses with no gardens, we can ill afford this threat to trees, given the amount of carbon dioxide in the air in city centres.

It is hard to challenge scary men with scary dogs when you see them killing trees, so I don't suggest you do that, but if you could note what details you can about what you see, and pass them to me, I will see that CitySafe adds this to the considerable database they have already been building for me, over recent months.

And finally can I also pay tribute to Michael Ryan, a concerned resident in the area of Newsham Park, who independently identified this problem in October and was good enough to share his thoughts with me and others. We work best when we work together.

Kensington Market

Labour in Fairfield and Kensington has launched a brand new campaign to tackle Kensington Market. It is well over 3 years since I first launched a campaign to get something done about this derelict site. You may remember the story in the newspapers, from before I was elected, where I was photographed with local Fairfield residents in front of the market, and a guy who worked there, I think in security, wandered out to see what was going on as we posed for the Echo photographer, and ended up in the shot himself!

The site has changed hands since then and various plans have come and gone, but I think we are on a solid path now. I went to meet Alan, the new owner of the front part of the site, at his office and we talked over his hopes for the market.

He wants to prepare a planning application for a supermarket on the site, and then if he is successful with the council, he will be able to offer the site, plus a bit more to the rear that he is offering in conjunction with his neighbour, to supermarkets as an "oven ready" project.

I have been to hundreds of residents meetings over the last 4 years and I knew this would be immensely popular with the good people of the area. We have now begun a big campaign, right across the ward, collecting signatures in support of a planning application for a supermarket on the site, in readiness for when the owner submits it. We have had several 100s back already - and only one against - and we have only delivered them to a portion of the area so far. TRAs are also asking to go door to door with petitions. It is great news all round. Let's hope Alan can finally pull this off with the support of local people.

(Photo: February 2006 looking terribly serious and cross)

Labour Party Annual Conference in Brighton

I had a flying visit into Brighton, I didn't have the funds nor the holiday entitlement to stay all week so I went for a long weekend instead. I went down with Kevin on the train and we were very pleased with our lovely B&B in the village - called The Kelvin Guest House (I recommend it, very highly).

We met up with the early arrived Merseyside contingency and had a drink and a meal on the Friday night in a Greek Taverna next door to the Metropole. On Saturday we had a lazy day, visiting the Pavillion and having a look round an excellent museum and art gallery in the grounds. We popped into an internet cafe at lunchtime to update our FBs and I got bitten by some horrible insects. By Saturday night when we went into the Labour LGBT party in the village, I was covered in bites and blisters, it was not pretty!

On Sunday we went to a session with John Prescot about using social networking, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter for campaigning purposes. He came over for a chat and I engaged him in a dicussion about Kensington, given that he has been up four times in the last 6 months or so, mainly filming for his various TV programmes.

I also had the chance to sit in the conference hall and watch as my dear old friend Viv Nicholson from Sheffield was given the Merit Award for her many years of service to the party. She was the rock upon which we built the Sheffield victories in 2000/1, I could not have done anything without her support.

And I cheered from the balcony as the Labour LGBT group won a best practice award for all their campaigning work - some of which you will recall they carried out in Liverpool in the run up to the European Elections. They marched on to the stage in their red "Never Kissed a Tory, Never Will" t-shirts and were front-page news the following day, brilliant.

I did love being back at conference, and when you are a visitor you can stay in bed as long as you like and nobody expects any great speeches from you or the rigours of chairing conference debates, it was a blast!