Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
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    January 5th, 2013jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, equal marriage, gay, homophobia

    As many people know, I’ve been pestering our local MP’s here in Reading about their stance on Equal Marriage for LGBT people and whether they would be supporting equality for their LGBT constituents.  For a year I’ve been tweeting Rob Wilson without response which I’m assured is nothing unusual and even through the Reading Pride twitter account we only received a letter TO Rob Wilson from Prime minister David Cameron confirming his commitment but still failed to give an indication as to how Rob would vote when he does with his conscience as all Torys will be doing when the time comes – dangerous considering how many people within the Tory’s hold what I would consider bigoted views.

    None of the other political parties are any better mind you.  Both Labour and the Lib Dems are no longer whipping their MP’s.  Labour’s shadow cabinet did a U-turn on 10th December on this matter allowing Labour MP’s to also vote with their conscience and according to Owen Jones in the Independent this U-turn was not proposed on a matter of principle but largely because 3 shadow ministers (including Stephen Timms and Gavin Shuker) had threatened to resign.  According to Owen, 3 Shadow Cabinet ministers – Angela Eagle, Stephen Twigg (both gay) and deputy leader Harriet Harman had argued passionately in favour of maintaining the line.  Suprising since Labour’s vote on the repeal of section 28 was a whipped vote.  The Lib Dems also followed suit offering their MP’s a free vote.  Nick Clegg criticised David Cameron for allowing a free vote but then announced that a whipped vote would not be very liberal.  I won’t waste my time even mentioning UKIP.  In my opinion, this decision by all party leaders was the wrong one.

    rob-wilson-response-equal-marriageBack in Reading, Rob Wilson finally responded – not to me – but to another tweeter.  I love the fact that he said everyone is getting the same response – sorry, Rob but you had failed to respond to me and Reading Pride.  As you can see from the short exchange to the left, Rob Wilson wants to hold local meetings about it!  Why Rob?  You either agree with Equality or you don’t.  It’s that simple!  Replace the word gay with words such as disabled or Asian and we would not behaving this conversation.  Then again, if we look at the public whip website, they record Rob Wilson as voting very strongly against equal gay rights.  Tim Harris once told me that this record is wrong or misunderstood and I have waited for an explanation.  Perhaps, Rob may change these statistics if he votes in support of equal marriage for LGBT people?  Then again….

    I also wrote a letter to MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma following comments he made in an interview to the Reading Chronicle.  I wanted clarity on how he intended to vote as his comments seemed to suggest that he places religion over equality.  I wrote the following on 17th December 2012:

    “…Dear Alok Sharma,

    I am writing to you following your recent quotes in the Reading Chronicle about Equal Marriage for people who identify themselves as LGBT.  For your reference, you are quoted as saying:

    “In many respects civil partnerships are recognised by the legal system in the same manner as civil marriage and the introduction of same-sex marriage would therefore not, in my view, amount to a revolution in the law.

    “However, I will never vote for legislation which forces religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages and I will seek guarantees on this point from the Government.”

    I was wondering if you can help clarify what you are saying? As you will recall, I have written to you twice with regards to equality for LGBT people with my last letter asking if you will be supporting the thousands of people in West Reading who are LGBT to obtain same-sex marriage and therefore equality – your previous letter did not confirm how you will be voting when you vote with your ‘conscience’ of offer any reassurances to I or other LGBT people  in West reading of your commitment to equality for all of our many diverse communities.  Please can you confirm that you are not going to ignore a number of constituents?

    Please note that Civil Partnerships are not recognised as civil marriage otherwise they would be called marriage, would they not? Could you also explain how you priorities equalities – ie Religious freedom over marriage equality?

    As you can appreciate, I can choose to follow a faith but I do not have a choice over my sexuality and I have found your quotes in the paper to be insensitive to people, like myself, who have persecuted by society.

    Imagine changing the word gay and replacing it with the word disabled or the colour of an individuals skin? Whilst this sort of discrimination was widespread many years ago, I am pleased to see it is no longer acceptable and I hope the discrimination that LGBT people continue to receive becomes no longer acceptable either.

    I will be watching this debate very closely and see how elected representatives such as yourself and Rob Wilson represent your LGBT constituents.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jamie Wake…”

    response-from-alok-sharma-equal-marriageUnlike Rob Wilson, Alok Sharma responds very quickly (I had to wait a number of months before Rob replied to my email about the OK2BGAY campaign – mind you, neither MP’s pledged their support for it) and I received a letter on 20th December.  You can read it in its entirety to the left.

    Sadly, Alok didn’t confirm his support for his LGBT constituents in the same way that he confirmed his support faith-based organisations in Reading but says he is minded to support marriage equality if he receives a cast-iron guarantee that religious organisations aren’t discriminated against.    He won’t be making a final judgement until he has seen the detail of the legislation.  I wait patiently to see how he votes.

    Before any of my Tory friends jump on me, this blog piece is not about reinforcing the view that the Tory’s remain the nasty party – that’s a stigma you have to remove yourselves.  It’s also not an attack on any other party as I also don’t believe any political party has come out looking well in this whole debate.  My right to marriage should not be up for debate.  I beleive the church has come off even worse so – especially after the announcement of permitting Gay Bishops and not Female Bishops.  Many faith-based organsations do want to perform marriage for same-sex couples.

    Like anyone that campaigns for LGBT equality, I will be watching this debate very closely and am in the process of launching the We Vote Too Campaign which will monitor and challenge those elected MP’s that fail to represent their LGBT constituents.  With some elections being won on such small margins, wouldn’t it be funny if the LGBT community was mobilised in such a way to vote to prevent the homophobe winning an election?  “…Vote for anyone but xxxxx…”

    Well there you are, my first blog post of 2013 and yes I know, I haven’t blogged for a while!  I’ll try to rectify that this year!

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    March 5th, 2012jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, gay, hate crime, homophobia, lgbt

    This morning I was invited to speak on the Ann Diamond Show on BBC Radio Berkshire about the recent comments made by the Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien where he described equal marriage rights as “grotesque” and likened the proposed legislative changes of gay marriage to that of the legalisation of slavery.

    As many people know, I am currently planning my own civil partnership having been in a committed relationship for 10 years and to me it feels rather strange not to be able to refer to our own special day as a wedding.

    I believe in freedom of thought and speech and respect the Cardinal’s decision to write the letter to the Telegraph and defend his position today – after all aren’t we told to keep our friends close but our enemies closer?  Then again, perhaps he just protects too much?

    Having read the contents of the letter, it’s clear the views made are very traditional and cling to arguments that simply do not reflect the world in which we live in.  Marriage predates the church and they do not hold the monopoly on love.  Marriage is not about procreation – it’s about a commitment between two people in love.  That view is offensive to couples who are unable to have children.

    I don’t want Gay Marriage – after all I do not drive a gay car, live in a gay house and drink gay tea!  I simply want marriage equality.  I’ve always said that if as a modern country we believe in equality, a consultation is not required as there cannot be one single argument against marriage for LGBT people.

    I hate to say it but Cardinal Keith O’Brien appears to be a bigot that shields his homophobia behind religious freedom – he talks about shame being bought to the UK but does he not recall the abuse of all those children within the church?

    At what point do the content of his comments become a hate crime?  After all, if he had made comments about people of colour, disabled people or other religious people such as Jews he would have been shot down in flames!  There are so many other things wrong with this world and he chose to comment on gay marriage!

    Being gay is not hazardous to a healthy lifestyle but it seems that his choice is to carry a lot of hate and anger around with him!  So no thank you Keith, I think I’ll stay as a fairy thanks.

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    Reading Vigil Against Hate Crime

    Leading the Reading Vigil Against Hate Crime

    Last night, I had the privilege and pleasure of organising (and obviously attending!) Reading’s Vigil Against Hate Crime which was held in the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk.

    It was a great turn out and it began with a short speech from myself (Transcript below) followed by a candlelit walk, 2 minute silence and a balloon release. Balloons had to be released one by one to abide by Reading Borough Council Regulations (no string either!) but that added to what could only be described as a magical moment. As the balloons were released, they formed a spiral as they headed up into the sky and then formed a star. If that wasn’t magical enough, the precision timing of a huge flock of white birds flying above only added to the magic. It was a poignant moment that I don’t think you could create again if you tried.

    Here is the Transcript of my speech:

    Tonights vigil is the first in Reading and joins the many others taking place at this very moment in time.

    To remind you, tonight is about tackling the issue of hate together – taking a moment to stand with those who have lost loved ones and giving our support to those that need it. Our message is a simple one – it’s one of Hope, Remembrance and Positive Action.

    So why are we here? Because people are still being attacked on our streets and extremist propaganda encourages people like David Copeland to try and hurt so many in horrific attacks.

    Even this week, we have heard about the horrific murder of Stuart Walker and the hospitalisation of two men in Leicester.

    These vigils have been organised for the 17-24-30 campaign. Their name represents the days that the 3 London nail bombs were planted:

    17th April – Brixton Market

    24th April – Brick Lane

    30th April – The Admiral Duncan, Soho

    3 people were killed and more than 130 injured during Copelands 3 bomb attacks including a 23 month old baby with a nail in his head.

    Please follow me on a candlelit walk to remember those we have lost to hate crime, to put our differences to one side and work together in unity to give Reading a voice to say No to Hate Crime.

    Although a symbolic event, I see Reading’s vigil growing each year and perhaps next year we can organise a choir and some speakers to address the crowd. Sadly, only the LGBT Community came to the event including representatives from Reading Pride and SupportU. It was also great to see members of Reading’s Political Parties in attendance including Cllr Daisy Benson, Group Leader of the Reading Lib Dems, Cllr Tim Harris from Reading Conservatives and Richard Wood, LGBT Officer for Reading Labour. Everyone sharing a common cause. I had invited the Reading Council Racial Equality but I don’t think they were able to attend so hopefully next year they’ll be able to attend.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those that did attend.

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    October 22nd, 2011jamiewakerdgcommunity, discrimination, event, gay, hate crime, homophobia, jamie wake, lgbt, local

    I am privileged to be coordinating this event:

    On Friday 28th October 2011, people in Reading are invited to gather at the Oscar Wilde Memorial Walk to say NO TO HATE CRIME. At 7.45pm, a candlelit walk will take place ending with a 2 minute silence at 8pm to coincide with other vigils taking place in the UK and abroad. This will be followed by a release of balloons to remember those who have been affected by Hate Crime.

    This year we are looking at Homophobia, Transphobia, Rasicsm and Disability Hate Crime and addressing the issue of bullying in our schools, workplaces and our communities.

    So what is it all about?

    It is about tackling the issue of hate crime together, taking a moment to stand with those who have lost their loved ones and giving our support to those who need it. Our message is Hope, Remembrance and Positive action.

    At the last two national vigils those who attended said that the event gave them a sense of community, that they felt that they were part of something and that is what we are trying to do. Help people connect with each other but also to ensure that those who have been attacked know that they are not alone. That we are there for them.

    It is also about inspiring people especially young people to get involved. Images from the Vigils have been circulated around the world and have been used in various projects. We want to encourage all people to do something positive.

    Why?

    Because people are still being randomly attacked on the streets of London and other places.

    Then there is the organised hate crime, the gay-free zone stickers that have gone up in various places. The recent attempts by EDL to recruit LGBT activists to their cause and organise a gay march through Tower Hamlets. The links that exist between extremist propaganda that helps create some of the tensions between our communities, and encourages people like David Copeland and Anders Behring Breivk to carry out their horrific attacks. We need to be aware of and deter those who seek to stir up these tensions for their own ends.

    Conflicting reports say that hate crime is rising again and there is this big debate over whether or not this is because some people are more confident reporting, or whether the problem is actually getting worse. Regardless of this debate, we believe more positive action is required.

    So what do you want people to do?

    We want people to be calmly vigilant, to be safe, to be aware of the dangers and to make sure that they flag things up when they see things that cause concern. This could be directly to the police using the new non-emergency number 101, or via the various other organisations that exist to help like Stop Hate Uk 0800-138-1625.

    We also want people to be aware that these services need our backing, especially in the current financial climate. There is so much we can do to help signpost and support them and at the same time strengthen our own communities.

    And we want to encourage people to talk, to connect with each other and build more positive relationships so we can accept or set aside our differences and work together to resolve some of the issues that lead to tensions between us.

    How can people find out more?

    People can take a look at our website www.17-24-30.com for more information. This year we have set up two WordPress sites 172430notohatecrime and hatecrimevigils and it is also possible to follow us on Facebook 17-24-30 and Twitter #HateCrimeVigils.

      Note to Editors

    The Hate Vigil in Reading is being coordinated by community campaigner, Jamie Wake, for 17-24-30.

    17-24-30 represents the dates that the three London nail bombs were planted, 17th April – Brixton Market, Brixton, 24th April – Brick Lane and the 30th April – the Admiral Duncan, Soho.

    In April 1999 David Copeland set out to attack the Black, Asian and Gay communities of Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho hoping that it would create a climate of fear which would eventually lead to the election of the BNP. Over the course of three weeks he planted three nail bombs which killed three people and injured many more.

    Luckily he was caught and his plan failed, but his acts of hatred remind us that there will always be those out there who seek to attack and harm us so we need to remain vigilant and work together to protect and strengthen our communities.

    17-24-30 believes that it is important to bring people together.

    The gatherings are important to those of us who have been affected by the attacks, they bring our local communities together, and provide us, our families and friends – with the support and opportunity to gather and remember our loved ones. They also enable us to engage with old friends and newcomers as well, drawing comfort from each other and being able to exchange our experiences, thoughts and feelings.

    They also provide an opportunity for our communities to raise awareness and reflect upon what has happened, so we can educate the next generation and ensure that we reduce the chances of this happening again.

    17-24-30 believes that it is important to remember those we’ve lost, and those still with us.

    Three people were killed and more than 130 injured during Copeland’s three bomb attacks, however the impact of these horrific events rippled across our communities affecting many people who lived, worked or socialised in these areas, those who were connected to those caught up in the attacks, and those who saw the aftermath of these events in the media.

    At least 48 people were injured when the first device exploded in the crowded Brixton Market. Among those taken to hospital was a 23-month-old baby with a nail in his head.

    A week later, 13 people were injured when the second bomb exploded in Brick Lane.

    The most serious attack took place in Soho. A pipe bomb containing 1,500 nails exploded in the crowded Admiral Duncan pub. Three friends Andrea Dykes 27, John Light 32 and Nick Moore, 31 died in the blast and more than 70 were injured.

    Please help us publicise this event so Reading can add its voice to the campaign and say NO TO HATE CRIME.

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    Yesterday I learnt that Lorna McArdle, chair of the Reading Pride charity, is to present a petition to Reading Borough Council that reads:

    We the undersigned believe that the residents of Reading would significantly benefit from a LGBT support centre in the town centre open at accessible times to provide health, relationship, employment and legal advice and offer counselling and other services.

    We call on Reading Borough Council to acknowledge this need and offer genuine assistance to establish and maintain an LGBT centre within Reading.

    There is currently a paper petition and an e-petition which can be found at http://www.supportu.net/survey/index.php?sid=15698.

    A motion is also tabled by Cllr Tim Harris that reads as follows:

    SUPPORT CENTRE FOR LGBT COMMUNITY

    Councillor Harris to move:

    “This council believes that the residents of Reading would significantly benefit from a support centre in the town centre open at accessible times to provide specialist services such as health, relationship, employment and legal advice and to offer counselling and other services to the LGBT community.

    This Council undertakes to provide genuine assistance with accommodation and £10k in start up costs for “Support U” to establish such a centre which once instigated should be self-financing and run by local LGBT community members.

    Both the petition and motion are to be presented at a council meeting on Tuesday 18th October 2011.

    I’m pledging my support for this centre for a number of reasons. I make no secret of my sexuality or the way it has been used against me in the past. It was the recent homophobia that I encountered that encouraged me to launch the OK 2B GAY campaign in Reading. The SupportU centre will provide a central base for Reading LGBT groups and organisations and most have received little or no funding from Reading Borough Council who have historically allocated higher funding to organisations that represent religious or racial groups rather than those discriminated against because of sexuality. Some organisations have even had funding decisions reversed by the new administration and there is speculation that this happened after a particular organisation was seen supporting a political group canvassing in the Redlands Ward of Reading!

    That aside, Reading Borough Council does not do very much for the LGBT community. There are committees that represent Ethnic Minorities and religious groups and yet there are none established for the LGBT Community. I have raised this with Reading Borough Council but have never received a reply as to why.

    SupportU aims to provide the following services:

    Family help groups
    Drop in days and nights for the family unit to discuss issues arising from children and/or grandchildren being in same sex relationships.

    Gay parents advice, people needing advice regarding access to their children due to their sexuality and conflicts within the family unit.

    Transvestite Groups and Transsexual Groups
    A relaxed meeting place for those seeking advice for changing sex or cross-dressing. This will be run by people already going through the process or considering it with guests from the NHS or private hospitals. With the inclusion of a hairdresser on the premises it will not just give TS and TV’s a safe place to feel welcome to get their hair done, it would also alleviate the fear of discrimination and intimidation.

    20-25 group
    A social club for the over 19′s so they can meet others in a safe place. This will also be in association with local LGBT venues.

    Educational Services
    Classes in the arts, literature writing, dance, theatre and other recreational activities.

    3rd Party reporting
    Support U have had confirmation that Thames Valley Police would use the facilities as a 3rd party reporting centre.

    They also wish to house the following services within the centre:

    BeYou – Helpline – They would be looking at supporting and improving the service as they have seen a 40% increase of calls in the past year.

    BOLGaF – Berkshire Older Lesbian, Gay Forum
    A social group for the older generation to meet up and support

    Reading Pride – An organisation that provides an annual festival to celebrate acceptance

    Broken Rainbow – Domestic Violence help for same sex couples

    Kenric – A social group for lesbians

    Gay Berkshire – This group is made of a network of governing and voluntary organisations regarding Housing issues, Police advice, NHS advice and support, and voluntary help organisations.

    NHS – advice and support

    TVPS – An informal HIV advice provider for the Berkshire area.

    LGBT Disability Network – A social network for the disabled that are LGBT

    Albert Kennedy Trust – working with 16-25 year old lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people who are homeless or live in a hostile environment

    Plus:
    Support U would provide a referral service to other local businesses to assist the community with enquiries relating to services that the charity doesn’t provide directly. Some of the examples of these are:

    Council – Benefits and social housing advice.
    Solicitors and Lawyers – Offering a business opportunity for solicitors to advise on Civil Partnerships, Wills, and Gay Fathers or Mothers Advice, people needing access to their children due to sexuality.
    Job Agencies – Offering advice on CV writing and how to approach looking for a job.
    TVPS – HIV testing and advice
    Unions – offering union representation and advice
    Doctors
    IVF Clinics
    Fostering Services
    Faith provisions

    As you can see, these are very much needed services that are needed by the LGBT community that also compliments services that are being cut and I hope you will show your support by signing the petition above and coming to the Civic Centre in Reading on Tuesday.

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    September 6th, 2011jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, gay, homophobia, it gets better, lgbt, lib dems

    20110906-155748.jpgAs a member of Reading Lib Dems, I was proud to join them on the Reading Pride parade this saturday to demonstrate the parties commitment to equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Every main political party in Reading was represented on the parade and all exhibited on site at Kings Meadow Park.

    I was extremely pleased to have the opportunity to launch the OK 2B GAY campaign which is a campaign to support Reading’s youth so they know it’s ok to be gay. Video messages of support were recorded and can be found at www.ok2bgay.co.uk.

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    Jamie Wake Pledging Support to Lorna McArdle from Reading Pride - eliminating discrimination

    Jamie Wake pledging support to Reading Pride

    I was privileged to attend the Reading Pride Burlesque Fundraiser last night which took place at the Granby.  The club transformed itself for the night allowing the Reading Pride organisers to literally take the club over for an evening!  Even though I got outfit suggestions on Facebook and Twitter, the heat finally prevented me dressing up in a tail coat and I opted for the garish trousers I could find and yet I still seemed under-dressed!

    For me, whenever I think of Reading Pride, I can’t help but reminisce over the years I spent on it’s committee.  Not many people know that I one of the founders of the festival with Lorna, Selwyn and Laurence.  I guess that’s because as the face of Reading Pride for the first two years, my alter ego’s name was used to promote the festival throughout the town.  With that history, you can’t help but feel that their is an invisible attachment that keeps you attached!  Even now, I can still recall walking out on to the main stage to host it for the whole day on September 4th 2004 where I was gobsmacked by the number of people including families with children there to greet me and the acts we had booked.  It’s a WOW feeling that I don’t think will ever go.  Running a pride festival is not about receiving an award (although all but one of the founders have – wink wink lol) it’s about seeing the way people attending are relaxing and being able to be themselves.

    One of the things any Pride goer is normally asked is ‘why do we still need pride festivals?’ I’m sorry to say that homophobia, like many other forms of discrimination, is still not eliminated from society.  Events such as the Reading Pride Festival work towards educating the general public and what is great to see, is the number of heterosexual people that come to Reading Pride that want to see an end to discrimination too.  Even now, many people would not feel comfortable holding their partners hand in the street and I see it regularly in social care where older people worry about being disciminated against for not being a husband or wife. 

    Last night I pledged my support to Reading Pride to stamp out discrimination and chatted to the chair of pride, Lorna McArdle, about ways in which I can support.  We taked about discrimination in all it’s forms and I’m reminded that only recently, I have faced discrimination myself.

    Homophobia is a hate crime and should be reported to the police and Thames Valley Police is committed to tacking homophobia and Sexual Orientation is one of their ‘six strands of diversity’.  In our ‘Six to Fix’ in Reading we’re working on cutting crime in Reading

    • We will work with local Police teams, Neighbourhood Action Groups and residents to keep cutting crime in our neighbourhoods.
    • We will invest in the voluntary and community sector to build capable communities.