Sunday, 28 June 2015

Words on Activism - A Mini Blog.

Yes, I'm a 'cyber activist', but I'm also an 'activist' because I do things offline, too.

I make this point, because to some there is a difference and they label you a 'keyboard warrior'.To me, there is no difference, actually, because both are equal. 

Any activism is better than none at all.

There are some campaigners who make differences between the two, and label you all sorts because you don't, or can't, go to protests.

This is hurtful and divisive, because for many there simply isn't another option. They may find it difficult to get to protests, (that's me), suffer anxiety, (that's me, too). They could have difficulty communicating, or not feel comfortable putting themselves in the 'firing line'.

Whatever reason you have, for not attending protests, is valid. We should not feel that we need to justify ourselves to anyone else.

When I started campaigning twenty six years ago, there was no internet. I wrote letters, made phone calls and I talked to people. All of which I still do. 

To me, 'cyber-activism' is an extension of that,- it makes it easier.

If you were going to be picky about it, you could argue that cyber activism is more effective, than marches and physical protests, because (particularly as there are often media blackouts), you can reach a bigger audience.

In short, don't label anyone 'just' anything, because often you have no idea, a) what they do offline, or b)how long they've been doing it, and it's very unfair to think you know, when you don't.

I think everyone plays their part, no matter how big or small it may be, and being judged by other campaigners (or people that don't know), as somehow less is damaging, and it belittles people's efforts.I think that's wrong.

We are individuals with different needs, different fears, and different lives, and we are doing the best we can, in difficult circumstances. That is the most important thing, isn't it? 


Friday, 26 June 2015

Independent Living Fund: A Question and Response.

This is a copy of my recent email query to Bath and North East Somerset Council, regarding their plans for Independent Living Fund money, after closure. (Feel free to use as a template, if you wish).

Copied and pasted beneath that, is their short response.  

'Dear Ms Luxford

As a long-time Disability Rights activist, I am naturally concerned about the closure of the Independent Living Fund, at the end of June 2015.

Currently, there are twenty five people in the Bath and North East Somerset area who have their lives improved by the ILF.

As I’m sure you are aware, the fund is used in many ways to help disabled people, who need it most.

You will also be aware that many Councils have no plans to ring-fence the money which will be transferred to them after the fund has closed.

I wish to re-iterate how vital it is that the monies are protected, and not directed elsewhere in the budget.
I would be grateful if you could let me know if you have plans to do this, and if not, what will happen to those people who stand to lose out?

Independence, dignity and quality of life, are precious especially to disabled people, which have already been badly hurt by government Welfare Reform policies.

Any re-assurance you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely


'Dear Helen

Thank you for your email enquiry concerning the ILF.

I would like to reassure you that B&NES has allocated the funding due from the ILF at the point of closure to all the current ILF recipients. Each individual has had their personal budget funding from the local authority and their ILF funding combined into one personal budget allocation commencing from the 1st July.

Kind regards
Sue Luxford
Commissioning & Contracts Manager
Bath & North East Somerset Council
People & Communities Department
Commissioning Services'

This is re-assuring, to a degree, (at least locally), but the fact is, ILF should not be closed in the first place. 

Despite a lengthy campaign to save the fund,involving campaign groups and celebrities, (and including a recent 'storming' of Parliament, by disabled people 

We know that in many cases the money will not be ring-fenced. This will lead to the possibility of allocated funds possibly being used elsewhere. This has in turn, has caused more anxiety, among disabled people, and added to what we feel already!

Although, it is late in the day for me to say so, disabled people deserve better, and have been failed once again by an uncaring government.



Monday, 15 June 2015

It Makes You Think - (For Joyce - A Mini Blog)

The story of Joyce Carol Vincent, is one I've found very disturbing, since I first heard about it a couple of years ago.

She was a young woman, who lay dead, in her London flat for three years.

Her family lost touch with her, and having resigned from her job, she detached herself from her friends.

I'm still really uneasy when I think about it, because I think it says a lot about how (in today's society), people can get lost, whether they intend to or not.

They live a life of isolation, and loneliness.

Loneliness is increasingly becoming a problem, with families spread out, and cuts to services, which enable people, to get out and about.

Eventually, researchers managed to piece Joyce's Iife together, and the film, 'Dreams of a Life' was made.

I gradually managed to put Joyce's story to the back of my mind, until tonight, when somebody mentioned the film to me.

The reason I'm writing this, is to say that if there's someone you haven't spoken to for a while, and you miss them, pick up the phone, or pop in, because for someone like Joyce, it could have made all the difference.

Also, I just wanted to say, to anyone that knows me, if you need somebody, or you're lonely, phone me.



Saturday, 13 June 2015

Helen...On Writing

It's difficult to explain how I write to anyone else because it tends to vary depending on my mood and also where I am. Before I get started on that, however, I'd better try and explain why I write.

To be honest, I don't remember a time when I didn't.

When I was about six or seven, I developed an interest in history, after a family holiday to France. We visited some of the chateaux  in the Loire valley, and I wanted to know everything! Who lived there, when, why? 

Something in my imagination was sparked. It wasn't that I wanted to be a princess and live in them myself. It was an interest in what had been there, and who.

After we visited her room in Chateau de Chenonceau, I was fascinated by the life of Catherine de Medici.

When we arrived home, I asked my Mum to find out more about her. I was far too young to do research myself, so Mum did it for me, and made notes.

In a dark green exercise book, I then began to write about Catherine's life. I guess you could say that was my first 'book' of sorts.

I realised that I loved writing. I loved the feeling that I could fill the paper - and only me, - my way.

I was also aware, that I wasn't like other children. It wasn't possible for me to run, jump, skip, and play in the way that they did. I could write, though, and I had all these ideas, and questions, and colourful things coming into my mind, so I wrote them down.

A year later, Mum and I worked on another book, only this time, I wrote about Mary, Queen of Scots.

Through mum, and the way she was reading and finding things out from different books, I learnt the importance of research and opinions. She would say to me, 'well, this book thinks such and such, but this book thinks...'

So that stayed with me, and along with it, came a love of research, information, and randomness! I'm a very curious person, as I think most writers are.

You'll realise I started writing because it was a natural progression, as part of other interests, and something to do, but then magic happened - and words are magic!

The realisation that I could create worlds, stories, characters, and I could express my feelings, as time went on, became part of who I am, and it became an escape from whatever I was going through.
Writing is like being in another world, and when the words come, it's like nothing else exists. I love that. I love knowing that I can create anything, and the buzz that happens, as I do it, and when something is completed, is like a drug!

There is a sense of excitement, of happiness, that I can get in few other ways.

It is my constant, my passion, my ability, and being able to do it, makes up (at least in some ways), for all the things I can't do, and it can never be taken away from me.    

As for process, that's where it gets tricky, because there isn't one single way.

I always carry a notebook with me, because the smallest thing will give me an idea. Things like leaves floating, sounds of engines, snippets of conversation, debate, graffiti on toilet walls, movement, scents, music, anything!

I can't pretend it happens as often as it used to, these days, and it seems to happen in phases, and then disappear for a while, leaving me in a state of panic, mixed with an almost palpable feeling of loss. Doubting myself, and worrying that each piece I write, might be my last.

After all this time, what would I be without it? I can't imagine that, and I don't want to! It would be like ripping my heart out.

Usually, I will write the first draft of something in the notebook, and then edit it - also in the notebook. I like being able to see something taking shape. That is in danger of being lost, as we use computers more and more, and are able to delete something we aren't happy with. We are in danger of losing the spark, and freshness, if we are constantly getting rid of things, because we feel they aren't right.

After a draft, or two, I will then make a decision about what I do with it. Is it strong enough for a blog, would somebody else get more out of it, is it good enough to be read at all?

Sometimes it takes me a me a while to make that decision, and others, it will be instant, but I rarely throw anything away, and even when something appears completed, it often isn't. I will find a better to word, or think of something that I have left out, so it takes a lot for me to say 'yes, okay, that's done'.

Whatever happens in the future, wherever I am, whatever I'm doing or feeling, I know I will never be alone, because for as long as I have my words, I have somewhere to go. 


Chateau de Chenonceau  Wikipedia