Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
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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 19th, 2011jamiewakerdggay, lgbt, reading pride, supportu

    Last night saw a full council meeting of Reading Borough Council where Director of SupportU, Lorna Mcardle, delivered a petition for a LGBT support centre in Reading.

    I helped Lorna prepare her speech which was as follows:

    As you’ll know, I am Lorna McArdle and I have been the Chair of the Reading Pride Charity for 6 years, an organisation that celebrates diversity in our town and aims to educate and eliminate discrimination against LGBT people in Reading. Pride has paved the way for LGBT acceptance in Reading and it was identified that whilst Reading is starting to accept that it is ok to be gay, there is little support for those who identify themselves as LGBT and the few services that do exist are difficult to find or have very little resource to be able to provide a service to all the people that need them. This is why we need a support centre in Reading.

    Im sure many of you will be wondering why we need one.

    I do not need to tell you about the inequality faced by LGBT people.

    I also do not need to tell you about the prejudice that still exists.

    And I also do not need to remind you of the lack of representation and advocacy for the LGBT community of Reading.

    Even with the power of the Internet, vulnerable members of Readings’ LGBT community have nowhere to turn in times of crisis or need. This must change.

    Let me share with you some of the experiences that members of the LGBT community have shared with us when we assessed the need for a centre in Reading.

    Let me tell you about Sally. A school pupil that is being physically bullied at school just because her mum is a lesbian. Schools can only help the pupil. A support Centre can provide a safe environment for loving families like Sally’s to meet other People in similar circumstances.

    Then there’s Bill. A vulnerable older person who happens to be gay that has housing issues brought on by depression. Embarrassed to ask for help because of his sexuality. Older people don’t all feel comfortable going to gay bars to be socially included and Day centres can often make them feel even more isolated. We can Support them and others by providing social activities for people like Bill who do not have children or family to help them.

    The last experience that I will share with you is a phone call that I recieved from a couple in sheltered accomodation who are being intimidated by other residents because of their sexuality. SupportU, with it’s Open Door Policy could work with wardens and housing officers to ensure the wellbeing of this couple.

    This support centre will provide a home for all of the LGBT services in Reading to ensure that those people that need to access them, can.

    As the current chair of Reading Pride, I am privileged every year to escort Reading’ Mayor around the festival and introduce them to the different groups and organisations exhibiting on site. This year I had the great pleasure of showing Debbie Edwards around the site who even recorded a video message for the OK 2B GAY Campaign. Wouldn’t it be great if all if those groups and organisations were together and accessible by the Reading LGBT community when they needed them?

    So which groups would benefit from SupportU?

    There’s BeYou which is a very successful helpline for LGBT issues but they only have a cupboard to use once a week to work from. This could be expanded for them with more resources for no extra cost.

    You all know Reading Pride – probably one of the most successful community festivals thats held in Reading. Unlike other council funded equality charites, it’s run by unpaid volunteers. Like other LGBT groups it could do with a home to have somewhere for simple things like recieve post.

    It’s time to accept there is a need and always has been, to help the LGBT community here in Reading and show that this town, NO, THIS CITY, does actually mean it when we say when it we are diverse. I therefore ask Council to consider this petition and support us at SupportU to support the LGBT members of our community

    Lorna received a round of applause for her speech and a reply given by Bette Tickner confirming Reading Borough Councils commitment to LGBT equality and reminding the council that similar projects have been supported by RBC.

    The motion presented by Cllr Tim Harris was brought forward and support was received by all parties in attendance. Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Daisy Benson said:

    “ I would like to thank Lorna Mcardle Chair of Reading Pride for the work she and others including have done behind the scenes on taking these ideas forward
    “We in Reading value our diversity. It is therefore important that we value diversity in all its forms and make everyone feel they are welcome in Reading.”

    As a LGBT campaigner, I feel passionate about equality and I was where pleased to see unanimous support for the SupportU project. I look forward to seeing this centres progress.

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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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