The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me, I’ll start with a little about myself.

Just over three years ago, I started my first ever journey up to what was to be my home for the course of my UG Degree — sunny Manchester.

This pic was taken on the one day out of the year that it didn’t rain.

In the months running up to the start of the Philosophy course, I did what any pre-undergrad student does: obsesses over the thought of having to make a whole new group of friends, the challenges of living alone, and frantically learnt how to cook a few decent meals. I was only just 18-years-old and had fears of leaving my awesome family and friends at home, but was optimistic for what opportunities the next few years would bring.

Like most new students, leaving the comfort of home and the structure of sixth form, I was petrified. So much so, that when my parents left me in that tiny prison-cell-looking accommodation, I felt so sick I had to take a very long nap. The weeks that followed were a big confusing mess of parties, meeting amazing people and burning a lot of food. The three years that followed weren’t much different. I’ve met people from all over the world, and spent late nights into early mornings participating in odd political debates more times than I care to recall. I rinsed the student Dominoes £1 pizza deal nearly every day. Midnight trips to McDonalds (almost every night). And it wouldn’t have been Manchester if I hadn’t spent half my time there in Warehouse Project, and the other half watching The Chase. Oh, and my house got burgled — only the once.

It was about the third week of my course that I realised: Philosophy would not take me anywhere career-wise. The call for Philosophers ended about a century ago. But I’d already missed the cut-off to change course and I liked the ambiguity of it, so I stuck it out.

The last year was tough, not only was it the final year of a ridiculously abstract degree, but the death of a close friend from home also threw a spanner in the works. There were some days I wanted to sack Uni off and move back home, but if nothing else, it showed me how much we can achieve even in the hardest of times. Nearly a year on, we’re all smashing life on behalf of our mate.

Anyway, three years, a 2:1 Honours degree and a whole lot of life experience later, I can confirm that yes, a chair is just a chair.

Manchester, you were great, but the days of completing assignments the day of the deadline are behind me, and I’m ready to do some real career-driven learning. Writing has always been a passion of mine, ever since I can remember — I blame my parents for making me spell “M-A-I-N-T-A-I-N” repeatedly when I was in Reception.

So now I’m a freelance journalist with a Philosophy Bachelors Degree, and I am currently reading for a Master of Arts in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism.  I’ve been writing on and off for a few years, throughout my undergraduate studies up to the present day, writing on a range of topics with a vested interest in reporting on responses to social challenges.

I briefly considered a role in politics, but writing has always been a love of mine.  I am passionate about solutions journalism for a number of reasons, but the most compelling being that I believe there is something lacking in the way we conduct and consume mainstream journalism.  I think reporting on responses to problems, rather than just the issues themselves, is a different and more useful way of tackling an existing story.  It’s also a branch of reporting that boasts positivity in a time when all we seem to hear is bad news.  It gives a voice to those who are actively trying to reshape broken or forgotten communities, lift social barriers and achieve equity for all.  On this blog you will find a mix of articles and blog posts, I hope what you read inspires you to think about the current state of the world in a different way.

I currently write for Birmingham Eastside, an online newspaper for people living and working in Parkside and Millennium Point.  This blog is a strange mixture of already-published articles, as well as some blog posts, essays… it’s just all of my work in one place, really.  Enjoy.

Birminghameastside.com

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Stories of Palestine

Told by Emily Lowes

(Stories of Palestine was originally posted to Medium.com, which you can view in its original form here.  It was posted as a submission of assessed journalistic work for the completion of the Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism MA)

What started off as a voluntary trip to the Middle East turned into an almost-decade-long mission to help the oppressed peoples of Palestine.

Nine years ago, Angela went over to help run a summer school for Palestinians in the West Bank, and ended up doing so much more.

Angela in front of some of the work she displayed by the children

The year of Angela’s retirement from teaching was the start of nearly a decade of volunteer work within the Israeli-occupied West Bank wall. Pax Christi, an international Catholic movement for peace, were looking for someone to run art lessons in the summer school in Bethlehem.

In April 2009, Angela boarded her first 9-hour flight to Israel.

She was instructed that she should travel to Israel on a tourist visa — and stating that she was on a pilgrimage to holy places — rather than applying for a volunteers visa. The common perception was that those who travelled on a volunteer permit may likely be refused access beyond the separation barrier into Palestine. With that information in mind, she embarked on her pilgrimage to the holy places within the West Bank.

Israelis often cannot cross the separation barrier into Palestine; signs above the checkpoints read, “Israelis who cross here are in danger of losing their lives.” So, the hour-long taxi journey to Bethlehem ended in West Jerusalem, where Angela crossed into Palestine alone.


A history of Israeli-Palestinian tensions

The term “Zionism” was first coined in 1885.

Calls for a Jewish state date back as early as 1896, when Theodor Herzl published Der Judenstaat, and just a year later, the first Zionist congress was held in Switzerland, founding the first Zionist organisation.

In 1917 the Balfour declaration was created, whereby Britain promises a “national Jewish home” on Arab land, in Palestine. This was approved by the League of Nations in 1922.

1929 saw Al-Buraq — the first uprising against increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, and these protests continued through to 1933.

In 1937, the first recommendation for the partition of Palestine comes from the Peel Commission, along with the recommendation that Palestinians be displaced from the land which had been declared a Jewish state.

Zionist group, Irgun, launched a series of attacks on the Palestinian people in 1938. And in 1946, they bombed the King David hotel in Jersusalem, killing 91 people.

In 1947, United Nations adopted the Resolution 181 to partition Palestine, which the Palestinians rejected.

Over the year of 1948, Zionist forces such as Haganah, Stern gang and Irgun attacked and killed many Palestinians by bombing hotels, and massacring villages. In the same year, the state of Israel was established, and the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 194, allowing re-entry into Palestine for the displaced Palestinian refugees.

From 1950–1967, Israel came to occupy the rest of Palestine, including the Syrian Golan Heights, Egyptian Sinai, Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel continued to massacre Palestinian villages, and the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242 calling for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied.

Israelis continued to attack Palestinians through to 1973 when the UN Security Council passes Resolution 338 calling for a ceasefire and again calls for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967. But 1976 saw Israel confiscate thousands of hectares of land from the Palestinian citizens.

1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. And 1987 saw the First Intifada launched in occupied Palestinian territory — this was the first organised, violent uprising from the Palestinians which lasted until 1993.

In 1995, Israel signed an interim agreement granting the Palestinians some autonomy in certain parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But 2000 saw the Second Intifada, which prompted Israel to reoccupy Palestinian cities in the West Bank and build the separation barrier.

2008 saw Israel attack Gaza, with attacks continuing up until 2014.

Today, the West Bank is nominally controlled by Palestinian authority but the wall surrounding Palestine is under Israeli occupation. This Israeli authority comes in the form of troops, who enforce Israeli security restrictions on Palestinian movement and activities; and Israeli “settlers,” Jews who build ever-expanding communities in the West Bank to deny the land to Palestinians. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamist fundamentalist party.


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“Look and do”

The Christian organisation, Evangelical Alliance Israel (EAI), aim to help anybody in Bethlehem to overcome the difficulties of being behind the separation barrier. EAI partnered with Pax Christi to set up the summer school for Muslim and Christian children of Palestine and host youth groups during the week for University students. They have also set up a women’s group, which aims to promote conflict resolution with attendees by holding discussions about the wall and the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel. They also discuss religious differences between Muslim and Christian Palestinians by comparing passages from the Qur’an and the Bible.

Angela was stationed as an art teacher in the summer school for a month each year.

It became clear on Angela’s first visit that there were some obstacles she would have to overcome to be able to teach there. The Palestinian people are living in poverty; the school had no running water and there was no art equipment on the premises, so Angela bought her own for the children to use.

The structure at the school is different to English summer schools, many of the children Angela looked after had not yet started compulsory education. In Palestine, children start school at age 6. This made disciplining them quite difficult; getting children to sit for long periods of time was a challenge, some of them would run off and play in the courtyard midway through class.

“I always ended up with the youngest because University volunteers always wanted the older kids.

“So, I taught the younger years — it should’ve been from ages 5–7 but some parents wanted to send their children somewhere for the summer, so the youngest I had was 3 and a half.”

The class total was around 50, but not every child would turn up to school every day for various reasons. So, from day to day, Angela would be teaching and looking after a whole new set of around 25–30 children. School would start at 8:30am and finish at 1:00pm when the weather became too hot to teach the children in.

One woman she met would bring her quintuplets some days, but other days it was impossible for her to get them all to the school by herself.

“At least with art, it’s look and do, so the language barrier wasn’t too difficult.

“You can show the kids what to do and I would play games with them like ‘wake up and shake up’ as well as prayers.”

“We used to paint lots of olive trees because they’re of great significance to the people of Palestine, they provide olive oil which they can sell for cooking, so we would do projects that centred around olive trees. We would use the children’s handprints to form the leaves of the tree, and things like that.”

The older children would make figures and hangings which would get stuck on the wall.

Screenshot 2018-12-09 15.53.56.png

Nobody took their work home, because it would most likely just get thrown away. It seemed that none of the children had much of a concept of what it was to be proud of their work or want to take it home to show their parents. So, instead, Angela made exhibitions of the work and displayed them in the classes over the three summers she spent there.

Screenshot 2018-12-09 16.02.18.png

The school did try to arrange outings for the pupils, but it was hard to arrange due to the fact the children did not own passports, and therefore could not leave the West Bank.

The complexity of the conflict and the effect it is having on the Palestinian children was one of many things Angela confronted during her time there. George, an 11-year-old, who was never any trouble during class, sat one day in the corner by himself. He said he didn’t want to join in with playtime, he just wanted to sit.

George 11.png

“You could tell there was so much going on in his head. He would often take himself off from the group to sit quietly, and have time out.

“He wasn’t the only one I saw doing that, sometimes they just weren’t interested in playing.”

Adults are suffering, too, as a result of children becoming aware of the area in which they are growing up. Odette, a friend of Angela’s, did music lessons with the women’s groups, and her husband, Abdullah, would cook different meals every day for the students. Abdullah had to quit his job as an educator because the boys he taught were too tense and agitated to learn because they could not see much of a future within the walls of Palestine. As a result, Abdullah has opened a tailoring shop in Bethlehem, in which Odette has to be present so that women can come to be measured.


“The wall of apartheid”

The barrier was built during the Second Intifada. This followed a visit from Ariel Sharon, (the now-former Prime Minister of Israel) to Temple Mount, which the Palestinian people deemed provocative. The holy place is sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity alike. However, protests were met with rubber bullets and tear gas from the Israeli army.

The Israelis consider the wall to be a barrier preventing terrorism, and the government believes it has been effective due to the decrease in suicide bombers coming over from the West Bank since it’s construction. The wall was intended to be a temporary security measure to this end, but has since taken the form of what many believe to be the new political boarder between Israel and Palestine.

Most Palestinians believe the purpose of the wall is to annexe Palestinian land under the guise of security, and illegally establish new boarders. The wall also prevents free Palestinian movement. Tourists come and put slogans on it to support the Palestinians, but it does reverberate because it shouldn’t be a pretty wall, but people have been coming to do this for years now.

“People find it difficult to find work either within the West Bank or in Israel if it means they must cross the barrier, because the army can refuse passage at any time, even if the person has the appropriate paperwork.”

There are observation towers dotted along the wall, which are continuously occupied by the Israeli army. The lights from the watch towers shine so brightly into the nearby homes at night that many people have had to resort to boarding up their windows.

Screenshot 2018-12-07 13.41.34.png

Checkpoints are where you gain exit and entry into Palestine, unless you wish to walk through hours of countryside to bypass it, which some people do when the Israelis deny passage.

“On entering, there are three turnstiles and an x-ray machine. Once these are passed, you must walk across no-mans-land to have your bags checked. You have to remove belts and shoes, similar to in an airport.

“It’s guarded by the Israeli army and they have guns and tear gas — some of the soldiers look very young.

“They can choose to close the checkpoint at any time, with no reason. And if they decide you aren’t going through, you won’t get through.”

Israeli soldiers are not generally allowed to go beyond the wall into the West Bank, but Angela says that they sometimes do, regardless.

Screenshot 2018-12-07 13.41.03.png

“I have only ever seen two Palestinian soldiers within the wall.”

Refugee camps are set up all around the barrier, home to Palestinians who have been displaced and moved out of their houses and villages by the conflict.

 

The residents of the camps have no permission to enter Israel and many have never been to Jerusalem. Angela speaks of a man she met who lived there,

“Mahmood was born and bred in the refugee camp, and he will be searched often once a week.

“He lost his job because the Israelis told his employer that he’d done bad things even though he hadn’t.

“He’s trying to set up after school clubs for refugees in the camp.”


Screenshot 2018-12-12 19.31.42.png

“Fire road”

In 2013 Angela joined the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) who send people out into the areas for three months at a time, accompanying people, and offering protective presence and witness. They are a group of 25–30 strong on the ground, and they offer a local reference group representing communities and churches who have asked for the program. There are around 1800 former accompaniers who are still involved in some way globally, working towards trying to achieve peace in Israel and Palestine.

Angela’s friend, Ann, worked for Pax Christi and the EAPPI, and the accompaniers were short of someone, so she said yes and started the next leg of her volunteering.

The aim of the EAPPI is to stay in places of conflict and record anything that happens to send it back to the UN. Even though the UN don’t seem to do anything with the information — they must have rooms full of data.

They were first posted in Yanoun, a village just north-east of Nablus in the West Bank, near the Jordan Valley.

“They called the Jordan Valley the “fire road” because it got so hot to walk along during the day.”

There are just nine families left in the village because Israeli settlers have moved in all around.

“They’re set up all the way around the valley, they do their best to disturb the Palestinians: they walk through, they’ve urinated in the water supply, have their dogs run through, sometimes they will even come on their quadbikes through the village.

“The children are really frightened.”

“Not long before our first visit, the Israelis came and completely evacuated the whole village, and Israeli students heard about this and moved in the next day so that settlers couldn’t come — so, there are Israelis who are trying to help ease the conflict, too. There are ‘good’ Israelis.”

This is not a rare occurrence either, it tends to happen about once a month; the army come in and destroy the villages with bulldozers.

“As you can see, there is virtually nothing left of the village, they managed to put up a tent to shelter the animals they saved, but they will have to start over and rebuild everything with tin sheets.

“I’ve been to villages where there is no warning, and they lose everything.”

Ecumenical Accompaniers are now posted in the village 24/7.

Nejeeha owns most of the sheep in the village, and her home speaks for the poverty that most of the villagers now find themselves in. It consists of a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.

Until 18 months ago, the house would get flooded every time it rained.

The residents of Yanoun have an olive orchard which they are allowed to go to three days out of the year to pick the olives, so most of their income is sheep and goats.

“This is what got me thinking about how we can help these people because they use the sheep and goats for produce like cheese and milk, but the wool was just thrown into the field. I immediately thought, we could make felt.”


Screenshot 2018-12-12 23.10.20

“Self-sufficient”

Three years ago, Angela went into Nablus and she met Nasir, who owned a soap factory there. Nasir, also known as Shake, has written a book of history of Nablus because he is an architect by trade who does conservation. He has a large family with his wife and five children, and he lectures around the world.

The family no longer run the soap factory so they have the building spare.

“The building is just through the market in Nablus, Ann told me, “You must go and see Nasir.”

“So I went, and when I first walked into the courtyard the first thing I thought was I would love to live here, it was beautiful.”

She told Nasir she wanted to be able to teach women in Nablus how to do dyeing and make felt that they could sell, so they could become self-sufficient. The building was perfectly situated and built for the purpose, with a showroom, office, and workspace areas throughout.

However, there weren’t a great deal of facilities, so Angela bought the yarn and asked the women to bring bowls for dyeing.

Screenshot 2018-12-12 23.15.11.png

“Originally, I took dyes out with me to Nablus. Someone gave me a little bit of money so I arranged to have some chemical dyes sent out.

“But, because it was going to the West Bank, it got lost and never arrived. It just never showed up.

“Luckily, I had bought some with me in my suitcase, but I was really gutted that that had happened.”

“We made use of everything we had at our disposal in the workshop, we used the fence to hang the yarn to dry, which they were using for weaving.

Screenshot 2018-12-12 23.13.56

“We had the women hammering nails into boards to feed the wool we dyed, it was a little workshop operation.”

“One of two of the women were marvellous. But one of the younger ones who was better at it was also a lawyer, so she couldn’t make it to classes regularly.”

“I bring some of them back home to sell, because several of the women do crochet, but they have nobody to sell it to. Of course, there are friends and relatives, but pretty soon the market disappears. It would be great if they could sell to the whole town and then they would have a constant market.”

“I bought a couple of hundred pounds worth of wool from Najeeha more than once in Yanoun, and then I taught them how to make felt.”

The women, who never really knew each other before, now all meet once a week to make things to sell, as well as socialise with one another.

“The beauty of it is they are making things that they can sell to make their own money. I’m hoping we can spread to other fields as well, and other women can join in.”

“It’s important for me to keep going because although they don’t say it every time, I know they feel that people coming, seeing how they live, it is important for me to keep coming back with stories.”

Angela plans to return for as long as she can to keep teaching more women the same skills and helping in whatever way she can.


 

The conflict in Israel has devastated many lives. There are a great number of Palestinian people who have died, been displaced, or are simply missing with no explanation.

“The Palestinians don’t want to leave — many of them have left — but they feel that if they do leave, they will be giving up what is theirs, and they’ll have nothing left to call their homeland.”

While Angela understands not everyone can do what she does to help, there are a number of different ways to show solidarity with the people of Palestine.

“Your local MP can be written to, there are emails that come out that ask for help. Contact politicians and let them know what’s happening and show your support.”

“You can buy an olive tree, there are organisations that will help fund that or organise funds to be sent out. People go out olive-picking, too.

“The main thing is to get into a political way of thinking. Politicians need to know and try and do something about it.”

What is solutions journalism?

A short essay on what it is, and why we need it.

I’ve recently started my journey in journalism, but it was clear to me from the start that a career in solutions/constructive journalism is something I am looking to get involved in.

Constructive and solutions journalisms are currently gaining a lot of attention despite being practiced by many U.S. publications for at least 20 years. They come as what some believe to be a response to consumer apathy and detachment from mainstream news.  Some studies show that existing mainstream news can have an adverse effect on consumers’ psychological wellbeing and that constructive/solutions journalism is more effective at encouraging audience engagement. This essay will clarify what constructive and solutions journalisms are, and why they have emerged as forms of journalistic storytelling.  I also aim to explicate the significance of solutions in presenting opportunities of reengagement within audiences, and my own reasons for finding an interest in the form.

Primarily, there are some important definitions to be made within the terminology of this subject area. Giselle Green (2017) says that constructive journalism is an “umbrella term” for reporting that takes a solutions-focused approach with the goal of empowering audiences to respond constructively. This definition includes a range of solutions journalism, spanning those which rigorously explores one or several solutions to a social problem in-depth, to solutions-lite articles that look at a response less thoroughly.  Most scholars agree on the interchangeability of the terms solutions and constructive journalism and McIntyre (2017) notes that solutions journalism is considered to fall under the umbrella term that is constructive journalism. Industry practitioner, Gyldensted (McIntyre and Gyldensted forthcoming; found in McIntyre 2017) agrees on this substitutable usage of both terms.  In much of the literature the terms are used as such, hence for the purposes of this essay I will use the terms constructive and solutions interchangeably.

Constructive journalism is a branch of reporting that is defined by Ahva and Hautakangas (2018) as journalism that reports on both social problems and the “possible solutions and spaces of action” in response to the issue.  Similarly, Susan Benesch (1998) states that the point of the solutions piece “is to search for the real, structural reasons why a particular program is succeeding, and anchor the narrative there”.  According to Benesch (1998), solutions doesn’t just point out what’s wrong, rather, it details what people are already doing right in the hope that someone might imitate it.  It should be noted that constructive journalism is not to be conflated with constructive or solutions-based reporting.  Positive journalism is less rigorous, and focuses on the positives of any given story, rather than an active solution to a social problem.  For example, a positive-style approach might be a story of someone letting a homeless person stay in their home, while a constructive/solutions-style approach will detail an initiative that is working to combat homelessness as a social issue, and how effective the campaign is by presenting evidence of results (Solutions Journalism Network, 2017).  Positive reports may not have much significance within society as a structure, instead serving as a feel-good area of reporting, rather than a catalyst for invoking social change or sense of social responsibility in the audiences.

Its emergence began in 1998, when the Columbia Journalism Review discovered a trend in solution reporting in many American print papers. Newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, magazines like The Nation, and broadcast shows such as ABC News’ World News Tonight with Peter Jennings published stories highlighting probable solutions to social problems (Benesch 1998).  This is the same year Seligman called for a founding of a positive psychology field of study (Seligman 1998), since then other scholars joined in creating the field thus positive psychology was founded (Gyldensted 2011), and solutions journalism grew as a result.

Solutions differs from mainstream media, which often details a problem and some accompanying opinions, but it doesn’t necessarily inspire action.  This feeling of hopelessness about current news is what might be causing disengagement, studies may have shown that our brains are more sensitive to negative news (Gyldensted 2011; Cacioppo, Cacioppo & Gollan, 2014), but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are therefore inspired to act.  The result may be the opposite – we may react strongly by completely switching off from the news altogether for lack of being able to change anything.  Seán Dagan Wood (2014) describes our consumption of news as a “media diet”, and that if positive news stories were given more prominence, we might relate to our surroundings in a different and more positive way.  A study of over 2,000 participants (Gyldensted, 2011) noted a mood drop of 38% in females and 20% in males after being exposed to a mainstream news story, if this is contributing to our daily “media diet”, it is hardly surprising that people are reporting feelings of apathy.  I’m interested in solutions because evidence supports the belief that it’s a growing form of storytelling that has the potential not only to reengage people with the news, but to also inspire people to act on what they read in a positive way.  These are two things which are crucial to the functionality of society: awareness and cooperation.  If good journalism can encourage both these traits in members of a community and perhaps contribute to progressive action, then it should.  A lot of the constructive stories I’ve come across thus far have been on a largely national or globalised scale, in my contributions I might like to look at more localised solutions stories within my own community.  For example, lots of news outlets are covering the growing homelessness crisis in Birmingham, but not many are covering it in relation to any resolutions, even though there are several charities and initiatives that are working to tackle the issue.

 

References:

Ahva, L. & Hautakangas, M. (2018). “Introduction: Why do we suddenly talk so much about constructiveness?” Journalism Practice. Pp. 657-661

Benesch, Susan. (1998). “The Rise of Solutions Journalism.” Columbia Journalism Review, March 1. 39

Gyldensted, C. (2011). “Innovating News Journalism through Positive Psychology.”  MAPP Capstone, University of Pennsylvania. Pp. 8-38

McIntyre, K. (2017). “Solutions Journalism.” Journalism Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2017.1409647 Published online: 14 December 2017.  Pp. 1-8.

McIntyre, K., and Gyldensted, C. Forthcoming. “Constructive Journalism: An Introduction and Guide for Applying Positive Psychology Techniques to News.” Journal of Media Innovations 4 (2).

Online resources:

Dagan Wood, Sean. 2014, September 14. The Positive Future of Journalism. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=sean+dagan+wood+2014+ted+talk&&view=detail&mid=D460BEA9FBFD54DB742DD460BEA9FBFD54DB742D&&FORM=VRDGAR.

Giselle Green https://www.ncvo.org.uk/guide-to-constructive-journalism

John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo, Jackie K. Gollan. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X13002537 Published online: 27 June 2014

Solutions Journalism Network. 2017. “Solutions Journalism Network.” https://www.solutions journalism.org/.

Birmingham half marathon: group raise over £7,000 for charity in tribute to friend

A group of 13 have raised over £7,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust in memory of their best friend.

The team, from the Midlands, completed their first half marathon on Sunday in a bid to raise as much as possible for the charity.

Teenage Cancer Trust work with people aged 13-24 who have been diagnosed with cancer, offering support specifically tailored to young people’s needs.

Joe Farley was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2013, when he and his friends were just 17-years-old.

During his four years of treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the charity ensured he received the best care available to him.  Their support subsequently allowed his friends to spend the time they got with him.

Following Joe’s death in November 2017, the group signed up for the Simplyhealth half marathon hoping to raise £200 each for the cause.

Speaking about the event, Megan O’Shea said:

“I’m incredibly grateful to all the donors, the pure support for such a great cause is overwhelming.

“To be able to take the horribleness of 2018 and add a bit of good with this fundraising in memory of Joe has made me incredibly proud of my friends.

“Raising such an incredible amount of money for such a worthy cause close to our hearts, I think even Joe would be smiling at the achievements.”

Thousands showed up to support runners along the 13.1 mile route despite the torrential weather conditions.

Speaking after the run, Katie St Aubyn said:

“It was emotional running past the Teenage Cancer Trust stand, and seeing all the people who’d come to support us.

“The fact we did it together as a group and had all of our friends waiting at the end was amazing.”

Echoing these thoughts, Richard Tudor said:

“The crowd were fantastic throughout the race, and it really gave me a boost of confidence when people on the pavements were cheering me on.

“It feels great to have raised so much money for Teenage Cancer Trust – they do so much important work and to be able to help them help others is an absolute privilege.

“Completing such a difficult task with everyone else by my side, in memory of one of our best friends, and in aid of such an important and necessary cause, has been a fantastic experience.”

The total now stands at £7,320.49, exceeding the targets set by each of the runners.  This donation pays for 290 hours of nursing care by a Teenage Cancer Trust Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Contributions can still be made to the GoFundMe page here.

Link to original article

Paxman tells aspiring journalists “Don’t do it!” 

Jeremy Paxman warned students “Don’t do it!” when asked what advice he might give to aspiring journalists at an event in Birmingham.

The University Challenge quizmaster and former BBC Newsnight presenter told Birmingham City University lecturer “You should be trying to recruit fewer [journalists] because your promise is an illusion.”

Paxman was attending the Annual Journalists’ Charity Lunch as a guest speaker on Friday at the Villa Park football stadium in Aston.

The query was put to Paxman by ITV reporter Bob Warman during a short guest talk and audience question round.

Marverine Cole, Journalism BA course director and journalist, responded,

“Not at all, there is more multi-producing in the world, there are so many more platforms for journalism now. I train my students to record stories on [their phones].”

“Come and see us at Birmingham City University and see how well-schooled they are. We would love for you to meet our students and show you what they can do.”

Anti-austerity demonstration: thousands demonstrate ahead of annual Conservative Party conference

Thousands of campaigners and trade unionists gathered this weekend to attend an anti-austerity protest ahead of the forthcoming Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

The protest, which took place on Saturday, was organised by the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) and the People’s Assembly.

Union leaders, local MPs and officials from campaign groups addressed the rally in Victoria Square before leading the march through the city centre.

The People's Assembly

A statement from the TUC said that the demonstration was organised to highlight how austerity policies have affected Birmingham City Council, with budgets being cut by 40%.

Organiser of the event, policy and campaigns officer for TUC Midlands Rob Johnston, said:

“People in the Midlands are at the sharp end of austerity policies.

“The austerity agenda has failed, now is the time to invest in a civil approach, and for the government to work with us for decent hours, pay and working conditions.”

Johnston said that funding cuts had been “drowned out” by Brexit negotiations. “We need to shift media attention back to the real problem.”

Unison balloons

Demonstrators called for a £10 minimum wage, a ban on zero-hour contracts, proper funding for the NHS and an end to the privatisation of public services, as well as putting a stop to tax avoidance.

Speaking at the event, full-time teacher Toni Bennett said:

“My school and nine others have been forced to club together to become an academy because it’s the only way we are going to save each other from the impact of funding cuts.

“The pressure put on teachers because of the lack of teaching assistants and proper funding is unbelievable. We need to know that something is going to change.”

The Conservative Party Conference will take place from 30th September to 3rd October at the ICC, with around 11,000 delegates expected to attend.

Expert on feminism says the Repeal campaign is “a model for social movements.”

An expert on feminism has called the Repeal campaign to legalise abortion in Ireland “a model for social movements” at an event in Birmingham.

Máiréad Enright, a senior lecturer at Birmingham Law School, said,

“Repeal the Eighth is a model for social movements because it took something that was an untouched subject for so long and turned it into a subject that people felt compassion for.”

An active participant in the campaign, Enright was speaking at a special event at the Impact Hub on Thursday 20th September, reflecting on the success of the Repeal campaign in a winning majority Yes vote of 66.4% in the referendum on May 25th 2018.

Enright spoke at the event of the importance of campaigners making themselves visible by donning REPEAL t-shirts and jumpers, as well as Yes/Ta badges and stickers and how going door-to-door might have swayed “Middle Ireland” – the voters who were still either unsure what to vote, or whether to vote at all.

“Canvassers were equipped with a deep knowledge of the law and constitution” she said, “but they did not harass members of the public with a barrage of complicated speeches.”

The National Women’s Council of Ireland launched the Who Needs Your Yes? Campaign, which canvassers championed with “someone you love needs your Yes.”

“It is most likely that the campaign messages and door-to-door conversations from Yes spoke to the silent voters: those who weren’t going to talk about voting Yes because they don’t agree with abortion.”

Pauline Roche, Managing Director at RnR Organisation Asset based Community Development and Tech for good, who organised and attended the talk, said “there was a strong feeling of ‘I can sway this vote’, something unlike any other referendum.”

Orla O’Connor, the co-director of the Together for Yes campaign, said it was “a monumental day for women in Ireland”, calling the result “a rejection of an Ireland that treats women as second-class citizens.”

The eighth amendment will be replaced with a clause stating: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”