Saturday, 18 June 2016

Nottingham Award Winners!

Some of Nottingham's recent award winners...


Many wonderful stories in the "Nottingham Post Heroes Awards 2016"


Amanda Ogelsby - NCT Driver of the Year, 2015
"Amanda has been a driver for Nottingham City Transport for 2.5 years and qualified for the Driver of the Year competition after winning the Seasonal Driver Award earlier in the year. Along with her fellow finalists – Terry Bell, Nick Hill and Gary Slater – Amanda was assessed by mystery travellers over a number of journeys, and had demonstrated exceptional driving skills, route knowledge and a consistently high level of customer service."

In recognition of Amanda's skills, the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Councillor Jackie Morris, has officially unveiled the ‘Amanda Ogelsby Bus’, naming bus 334 in honour of 27-year-old Amanda from Cotgrave.

Nottingham City Transport Marketing Manager, Anthony Carver-Smith commented that “Not only is [Amanda] an incredibly skillful driver with outstanding knowledge of many routes on our network, she’s also a very warm and friendly person who genuinely cares about the wellbeing of her passengers. She’s received several commendations from customers over the years, and she’s highly thought of by her managers and colleagues.”(link)

The Amanda Ogelsby Bus!


2016 Nursing Times Award Winners
The University of Nottingham’s School of Health Sciences has won its biggest ever number of awards at the 2016 Nursing Times Student Nurse Awards. As well as The School itself winning "Nurse Education Provider of the Year (Post-registration)", three of its students won in individual categories. Now in its 5th year, the 2016 event saw a record number of entries, with 163 finalists shortlisted and 17 winners.(link)

MSc Advanced Nursing student Aquiline Chivinge won the Learner of the Year: Post-registration.
Final year BSc Nursing student Craig Bell won the Student Nurse of the Year: Learning Disabilities.
Jodie Shaw, a final year Adult BSc Nursing student, won the award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs

The UoN Medical School


Architect Laura Highton shortlisted for 2014 Rising Star Award
Laura Highton runs Purcell’s Nottingham studio, which she founded in January 2013. Since opening the studio, Highton has brought in 20 new projects, which was recognised by the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, which gave her its 2014 Rising Star Award.(link)

Restoration of Nottingham Castle is one of the projects Laura was invovled in


Chinook Sciences wins IET Innovation Award 2015
"The IET award for the year’s most outstanding innovation in Power and Energy recognises Chinook’s achievement in successfully developing and deploying the latest generation of its proprietary technology at a bio-energy plant in Oldbury, West Midlands."(link)

Chinook Sciences collect their award


Human Rights Lawyer Usha Sood wins lifetime achievement award
A lifetime achievement award was given to Nottingham based Human rights barrister Usha Sood at the 2016 Awards Evening of Nottingham Social Action Group Himmah.

Her biography at Trent Chambers comments that:

"Usha has always been at the heart of community matters across the Midlands and offers support to numerous charitable and public interest cases. She also combined this with an academic career as Senior Lecturer in Law at Nottingham Trent University.

Usha has numerous specialist areas including work on child abduction cases, dowry recovery, human rights, child and human trafficking, public law cases, and international family and civil law litigation."
Meanwhile, a Huffington Post interview (which you really should read in its entirety) goes into detail about a number of the cases that Usha has taken on.

Usha Sood


Jamal Sterrett - Young Creative of the Year 2015
Jamal, an 18-year-old student at New College Nottingham, was crowned ‘The Nottingham Young Creative of the Year’ - and also nabbed the prize for Graphic Design 16-18 year old category and top spot in the Dance category for the same age group (link)

You can see his graphic design poster here and an example of his dance here.

Jamal Sterrett and his award


Nottingham City Council takes 2015 Employee Benefits Prize
Nottingham City Council beat the likes of BMW, Arup and HSBC to win the 2015 Personnel Today Awards in the Employee Benefits category.

Nottingham City Council employs 7,000 staff and needed to deliver exceptional benefits to help attract, recruit, retain and develop talented employees; but at no cost to the Council. To do this the Council focused on : improving employee engagement and wellbeing to create an engaged and healthy workforce; making workplace savings to help reduce the budget shortfall; attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining talent; and increasing the number of 16 to 24-year-olds employed.

Achievements included substantial savings from annual leave purchase (more than £1.7 million in salary and NI savings since 2012) and the new Carplus scheme; and more than £730,000 in total savings in 2014 - while sickness levels have fallen by 10%. (link)

Nottingham Council also won an award for their Youth Employment Initiative, which has been adopted as a model of best practice for the Skills Funding />
Loxley House, Nottingham


Sheku Kanneh-Mason - Winner of BBC Young Musician 2016

Seventeen-year-old Sheku attends Trinity Catholic Comprehensive School in Nottingham. He holds the ABRSM Junior Scholarship to The Royal Academy of Music, where he studies cello with Ben Davies. Sheku plays in the Chineke! Orchestra, as well as the JRAM Symphony Orchestra. He plays chamber music with the Kanneh-Mason Piano Trio and the Ash String Trio(link)

Sheku Kanneh-Mason


Related Content
Priory Church Martinmas Fair 2015
Simon Starling at Nottingham Contemptorary
Nottingham Green Festival 2015
BGS Open Day 2015

Image Sources
Nottingham Castle, Amanda Ogelsby, UoN Medical School, Chinook Sciences, Jamal Sterrett, Loxley House, Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The True Cost of Austerity (Part 3) - Accountability

This post is part of a series :

The True Cost of Austerity - Part 1 (Advice Nottingham Report)
The True Cost of Austerity - Part 2 (Effect on Children)
The True Cost of Austerity - Part 3 (Accountability)

The posts above, which described cases where people in Nottingham had been placed in great hardship by delays in providing welfare and other safety net payments - a few examples :

Suzanne - a mother who was fleeing an abusive relationship and needed child benefit and welfare payments transferring to her name. The DWP said this would take 12 weeks.

Winston - a single father who told the DWP he could not attend an appointment because his daughter had been taken ill. He was given a 4 week sanction.

It seems to BFTF that the efforts of some Foodbanks and other charitable groups are focussed largely on providing immediate aid to people like Suzanne and Winston - while the responsible local authorities are not held accountable for their failure to provide timely services to those who rely on this help as their only safety net.

Which Foodbank is doing it right?

This, to BFTF, is not acceptable. One can imagine the architects of austerity thinking something like this :

"This is perfect, we cut services to the extent that people cannot afford food - and these soppy do-gooders pick up the pieces with their foodbanks! And best of all, they are so busy running around making sure they have enough tins of beans that they don't challenge any of the blatantly vindicitve and unfair decisions that are being made. G&T's all round!"

So, on 30th May, sent this email to one of Nottingham Councils Portfolio Holders:

"I've been very disturbed to read a report by Advice Nottingham which includes case studies of people how have been treated very badly by the DWP and had sanctions imposed unfairly or had benefit changes delayed excessively.I have two questions:

1) Who, in Nottingham, is responsible for ensuring that benefit sanctions are always fair and reasonable; and that delays in processing benefit claims are not excessive or handled incompetently.

2) How does the council collect data to ensure that benefit sanctions are always fair and reasonable; and that delays in processing benefit claims are not excessive or handled incompetently."

They said they would find out.

Dear Reader, if you think local officials should be held accountable for the welfare decisions made on their patch, you may wish to email your local councillors with questions like those above. You can get their contact details here:

Update 14 May:No response so chased up by email again
Update 20 May:No response so chased up by email again
Update 30 May:Chased up again, cllr said they'd get back to me.
Update 14 June:Chased up again
Update 21 June:Chased up again, cllr said they'd get back to me.
Update 25 June:Chased up again, cllr said was working on it.
Update 7th July :Chased up again

And then, finally...

Update 15th July : Received the following response (edited slightly for clarity) from :

Question 1
Who, in Nottingham, is responsible for ensuring that benefit sanctions are always fair and reasonable; and that delays in processing benefit claims are not excessive or handled incompetently.

Answer 1
Sanctions Protocol
In 2014, in response to concerns regarding inappropriate sanction decisions by the DWP, affecting claimants in Nottingham, the City Council set up a Sanctions Protocol with the DWP locally. Employment and skills are responsible for the protocol and have worked hard to ensure that it is understood by colleagues and partners – Activity listed below:

Organisations have been encouraged to engage with this process through a variety of networks: Employment and Skills Officer (ESO) involvement in communities and with lead organisations, including foodbanks and faith groups.

Advice Nottingham promoting to their members and ESO attended Advice Nottingham Manager meetings to encourage referrals and answer questions.

ESO presented at a training event for the voluntary sector hosted by NCC Welfare Reform project leads.

ESO promoted protocol to organisations engaged with the Quality and Commissioning led Financial Vulnerability Assistance and Advice event.

ESO met with Welfare Rights colleagues to promote the protocol and will be attending a team meeting later this summer to talk to the wider team and answer questions.

Working with Policy Welfare Reform leads to identify full picture of impact of sanctions and qualify some of the information we are receiving from community sources.

Question 1b
What is the Council doing to support ALL vulnerable citizens (including those subject to a sanction).

Answer 1b
Lobbying Government
Nottingham City Council passed a motion calling on Government to reverse welfare cuts which affect the most vulnerable citizens in the city.

Responding to consultations in partnership with the advice sector.

Highlighting concerns on Universal Credit and asking for clarity on Universal Credit implementation, process and timescales.

Helping to prepare our citizens
Investing in advice services.

Plus our own Welfare Rights service to provide benefits advice and support with budgeting/money management and debt.

Organising job fairs and advertising local job opportunities through

Helping with energy bills
The Council has launched Robin Hood Energy, a not for profit energy company aiming to provide low cost energy.

Working with partners
Including Nottingham City Homes (NCH), registered social landlords, advice agencies.

Including Credit Union - To improve access to bank accounts & affordable loans.

Including Advice Nottingham - who also offer a support scheme to help local people in fuel debt. The scheme offers money to eligible city residents to help relieve fuel debt.

Question 2
How does the council collect data to ensure that benefit sanctions are always fair and reasonable; and that delays in processing benefit claims are not excessive or handled incompetently?

Answer 2
The Council only has access to the limited data made available by the DWP and has no opportunity to assess the decision making process. The data released by DWP is largely management data relating to the number of decisions and appeals made. There is no data whatsoever on the number of people in the City who currently have financial sanctions applied against them. We have raised this on numerous occasions with the DWP and been told that they do not have the time or capacity to produce this data.

Update 19th July : Council further advised that they could not give a named contact at the local DWP and the the portfolio holder ultimately accountable (so far as the council had accountability) was Cllr Graham Chapman

External Links
An Anthology of Modern Poverty
Austerity in Europe - A Cautionary Tale
ONS perspectives on home ownership in the UK
NTU Research into Nottingham's economy.
Foodbanks in Nottingham

Related Content
The Himmah Foodbank
Extracts from the Commons Fooodbank Debate
The Opportunity Costs of Bad Government

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Himmah 2016 Awards & Fundraising Dinner

Himmah, the Nottingham-based, grass-roots, social action organisation, recently had their Annual Awards & Fundraising Dinner - at which BFTF learned about how Muslims had fought for the UK in WW1 and 2; the story of a Human Rights lawyer from Nottingham; and a little about Paddy Tippings clothing choices....

The Event

After an introduction to Himmah by some of the team, the first guest invited to speak was Nottingham PCC Paddy Tipping.

Paddy talked about his concerns regarding demonisation of the other, pointing out that his own ancestors had come to the UK as refugees seeking refuge from religious intolerance.

Paddy also commented on how Himmah was an organisation that, as well as creating dialogue, also did a great deal of practical work to help the disadvantaged in Nottingham.

He also told the guests that he was wearing a special item of England flag bedecked clothing to support the football team in that days Euro 2016 game against Russia (which ended 1:1, with Russia equalising in the 93rd minute btw).

Paddy Tipping

A Community Award was presented to Angie Murfitt who, during her time at ASDA Hyson Green, was involved in many projects to support local community organisations.

Angie Murfitt

Another award was presented to Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich for her work as one of the driving forces behind the SaSh community kitchen, as well as other community initiatives. Rabbi Tanya was unable to attend due it being the Jewish celebration of Shavuot but did send a representative to take the award on her behalf.

Rabbi Tanya at SaSh

An award for volunteering was presented to Louise Regan, senior VP at the NUT, who has given a great deal of time to support initiatives aimed at helping and giving justice to the most vulnerable in society.

Louise Regan, at the Himmah Foodbank

A lifetime achievement award was given to Nottingham based Human rights barrister Usha Sood. Her biography at Trent Chambers comments that:

"Usha has always been at the heart of community matters across the Midlands and offers support to numerous charitable and public interest cases. She also combined this with an academic career as Senior Lecturer in Law at Nottingham Trent University.

Usha has numerous specialist areas including work on child abduction cases, dowry recovery, human rights, child and human trafficking, public law cases, and international family and civil law litigation."
Meanwhile, a Huffington Post interview (which you really should read in its entirety) goes into detail about a number of the cases that Usha has taken on.

Seriously, read that article!

Usha Sood

Next up was well known historian Jahan Mahmood, who talked about the contribution of Muslim soldiers from the subcontinent to the British was effort in WW1 and WW2.

Jahan talked about how the 129th Balochistan Regiment were, in WW1, the first Indian soldiers to fight for Britain in France, and one of their number Sepoy Khudadad Khan became the first Indian to win the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Ypres.

Jahan also talked about the financial cost of the two wars on India - £479million was taken from India during WW1, which almost brought the country to its knees; and £1.3billion was taken during WW2, an eighth of British GDP.

More on the history of Muslims soldiers fighting for Britain can be found an another BFTF post here.

Jahan Mahmood 

Lastly, before the much anticipated meal at hosts Mugal E Azam restaurant, was a special award to Maxine for her relentless support and efforts to make each and every SaSh kitchen event a success.

The only image BFTF can find of Maxine, standing just behind the chap 

Related Content
Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person
Proof that activism works
Positive Muslim Stories
Some ideas for finding common ground with wider society

Image Sources
All BFTF own or via Himmah/SaSh FB pages

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Talk : Muslims in Europe – Opportunities and Challenges

Prof Akbar Ahmed (Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C and the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland) recently gave a talk at the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with Karimia Institute, entitled "Muslims in Europe – Opportunities and Challenges". In this talk, Prof Ahmed described the “quartet” of research projects he and his team had undertaken after 9/11 to examine the relationship between Islam and the West and offered some messages for minority and majority communities in the UK.

Project 1 : Asia
The first project visited Asia and found that the what disturbed Muslims most about the West was not its foreign policies but instead the way “the west humiliates Islam and distorts Islam”. They also found that people largely quoted Muhammed (PBUH) as their role model.

Prof Ahmed brought this information back to the US and told government that if it wanted to win hearts and minds these were some pointers on how to act.

Himalayas from Bangladesh

Project 2 : America
This project was undertaken some two years later and visited around US 75 cities and 100 mosques. Prof Ahmed pointed out that the US Muslim community was much less monolithic than that in the UK, and had a large proportion of African-American Muslims who were proud Muslims as well as being proud Americans.

A constant comment from the non-Muslims in the US was say that they did not really know who Muslims were, or much about them. They asked why Muslims preferred violence and would often ask Prof Ahmed “You are the first Muslim we have seen are they all like you? You seem very reasonable”

Wheat harvest in Idaho

Project 3 : Tribal Communities
Third study looked at 40 tribal communities from Morocco to the Balkans and beyond. Noting that there was very often a great deal of tension between the centre of the country and the tribal communities on its periphery. Prof Ahmed took the example of Waziristan, where the vast majority of drone strikes had taken place, and pointed out that central government as well as the west had been “hammering” these communities for a long time, with the result that young men there had seen nothing but war their whole lives. Whereas what was really needed was the investment in schools and water projects to bring these areas up to the same standards of infrastructure as the rest of the country.

Farmland in Morocco

Project 4 : Europe
Some 40 cities were visited in this study, from Edinburgh, to Medilla (the Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast) to Xanthi, on the Greek-Turkish border. Prof Ahmed described how there had been three distinct phases of European interaction with Islam.

Wheat field near Essex

Europe Phase 1 : The Andalusian phase
Prof Ahmed described how the 8th century was a period in the “Golden Age” of Islam, where the library at Cordoba was the largest in Europe, with 600,000 books and when Muslim society held great regard for “ilm” (knowledge). This was also the time of scholars such as Averroes, who Thomas Aquinas and others simply called “The Commentator”.

Averroes, leaning on a laptop

Later, in Sicily, buildings such as the Palentine Chapel were built using a combination of Byzantine and Arab styles, with copious Arabic calligraphy [see this analysis by Prof Jeremy Johns]. Rulers such as Roger II of Sicily had Muslim bodyguards [and hired many Muslims and Greeks skilled in administration]. This era came to an end in 1492, with the reconquering of Spain by Christian forces which was followed by a period where the Church tried to create a more monolithic society (inquisition etc).

Palentine Chapel, Sicily

Europe Phase 2 – The Ottoman Empire.
Prof Ahmed stated that the Ottomans, blocked in the east by the Safavid [Persian] empire, began expanding westwards in to Eastern Europe and that this was often a cruel relationship and is what is in the minds of many eastern Europeans. Europe begins to look at Ottomans and says this is Islam – predatory, violent, coming here and as a conquering power.

The Prof then mentioned how the situation was more complex than this, with Polish Muslim Tartars being part of the Polish cavalry that arrived to protect Vienna in 1683.

Ottoman army outside Vienna

Europe Phase 3 : Colonisation and Immigration
Prof Ahmed suggested that there was a direct link from colonisation to immigration. Taking the examples of Britain in India and France in Algeria, Prof Ahmed suggested that the UK intended to mould Indian society whereas the French were focussed purely on suppression.

As evidence for this, the Prof mentioned the Macaulay Minute on Education in India which advocated funding a very western education system for the elites in India, with the long term goal of transforming the culture and worldview of the country.

In 1857 there was a violent Rebellion in India, which was put down equally harshly by the British. Prof Ahmed describes how the Muslim communities in India were asking themselves questions about their place in the sub-continent, especially as their Moghul empire was gone, their Emperor was in prison in Rangoon and their elites were no longer elite. Two main reactions emerged:

One was the emergence of the Deobandi movement, who felt that Islam was under threat and joined the mutineers.

The other was a movement by people like Syed Ahmed Khan who believed that Muslim society would not progress without the acquisition of western education and science and who sided with the British [although Khan also wrote a pamphlet blaming the British for causing the violence]. This movement resulted in colleges such as the Aligarh Muslim University, which aimed to provide students with a western technical education, combining faith with the ability to live in a pluralistic society.

Part of Aligarh University

Prof Ahmed’s message to the Muslim community in the UK was to consider the reality of living as Muslim Europeans – that they need to be much louder and clearer in rejecting any form of violence, with no “buts”. And this has to be done by the leaders, because the majority population is not convinced that Muslims are condemning violence enough.

The Prof added that Muslims need to stop living in cocoons; they need to bring something to the table; to learn about local cultures; to build on links of Muslim historical figures.

And Muslims needed to understand that the majority population have rights too, because of their history in the land.

Prof Ahmed’s message to the host community was that Europe needs to challenge, unequivocally, acts of racism. The continent does not have to look far back to see the warnings of what happens when racism is allowed unchecked. Furthermore, Prof Ahmed can see in his own country of Pakistan how the targeting of one minority can grow if not challenged into the targeting of another minority , then another.

Prof Ahmed added that the problem of the hostile media was something that needed to be resolved by the majority community, suggesting that constantly projecting a minority community in a negative light encourages violence and prejudice.

Related Content
Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person
Proof that activism works
Positive Muslim Stories
Some ideas for finding common ground with wider society

Image sources
Bangladesh, Idaho, Morocco, Essex, Averroes, Palatine, Vienna, Alagarh

Palestinian products

Some Palestinian products that BFTF has bought in the past - because it is always better to give communities a hand-up as well (or instead of) a hand-out).

2016: BFTF was delighted to see Palestinian Medjoul Dates in a local independant store (Bismillah Food Store, Alfreton Road, Bobbers Mill, near junction with Gregory Blvd). The suppliers (Yaffa) comment that :

"Anyone who has ever tried Medjoul dates will know how sweet and delicious they are. Medjoul Dates are known to be large, sweet and very succulent to eat. They are widely regarded as the "king of dates" relating to their size. Medjoul Dates first originated from Morocco. They are called "Madjhoola", meaning anonymous in Arabic. Medjoul dates are now grown in a handfull of countries including the Palestinian Territories. A growing number of Palestinian farms are springing up around the Jericho area. Despite being so sweet, each date has only 66 calories, and they are packed with natural fibers; potassium, copper, magnesium and manganese. These dates are delicious to eat on their own or you can dip them in some sauce. "
Yaffa Dates, earlier today

The dates are delicious!


2015: BFTF bought some Zaytoun dates (which were delicious and caramely) and some Zaytoun Olive Oil from Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham. The products were from Zaytoun, a company who sell olive oil and other products grown by Palestinian farmers. Their website describes them thus:
Zaytoun was founded in 2004 to support the resilience and livelihoods of Palestinian farmers under occupation through fairly trading their olive oil. Initially funded by hundreds of customers who put up payment in advance of receiving their oil, Zaytoun quickly established itself as a UK social enterprise. With funding from Triodos Bank the company developed to offer a wide range of Palestinian artisan foods, and supported Palestinian farmers to pioneer the world’s first Fairtrade certified olive oil in 2009, sold through the UK market.

The range continues to grow, and is now available nationwide through independent shops, online, in Oxfam and of course through our very active network of volunteer distributors. We run two trips a year for customers to visit Palestine and learn more about life for a farming family there, and bring producers to the UK once a year for Fairtrade Fortnight.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2014, we remain a successful Community Interest Company supporting the relationship between Palestinian producer communities and a growing network of passionate, discerning customers in the UK and Ireland.

Aside from some books, BFTF also bought
some Zaytoun Olive Oil and Dates

Related Posts:
Commons debate on Gaza 21st July 2014
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person
Proof that activism works

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Doug Fishbone's Leisure Land Golf at NAE Nottingham

Rather interesting 10 hole mini-golf installation at New Art Exchange recently!

Entitled "Doug Fishbone's Leisure Land Golf", each hole is designed by a different artist, and each with a different point to make. By way of example, three of the holes that particularly caught the attention of BFTF are shown below.

"Putting a Hole in the Wall"
Here Yara El-Sherbibia offers players the chance to navigate their way through a series of checkpoint and boundaries, a reminder of daily life in territories under occupation.

Putting a Hole in the Wall

"The Bridge of Konigsburg"
This "hole" is designed by Eyal and Ines Weizman, and is based on a mathematical problem that asks how one can move between all the land areas by crossing each bridge only once.

The Bridge of Konigsburg

"Football Cloud"
Yinka Shonibare's contribution displays the economic tension between Africa and the West as a mushroom cloud made of footballs.

Football Cloud

Related Content
Surface Gallery - Michael Powell Exhibition
Report on Street Art Exhibition at the Surface Gallery
Pictures of the Sky
Nottingham - Tiltshifted
Shonaleigh at Nottingham Storytellers
Great programme describing how some of Turners paintings covered key changes in the Industrial Revolution.
Piero Gilardi and John Newling at Nottingham Contemporary
Light Night 2013
The Chair
Jean Genet at Nottingham Contemporary

Hey, Asda! Where did the charity booktable go?

BFTF really likes the charity booktables that can be seen in many supermarkets, and has found some great books there.

It seeems like the perfect synergy between business. The supermarket provides the high footfall, the visible-but-not-in-the-way location, while the charity provides the books. In return the supermarket gets a warm feeling and can tick its working-with-the-community box while the charity gets an outlet for books and some money coming in.

Great to see this case of charity books for sale at Sainsburys  Castle Marina

So BFTF was a bit gutted to find that the charity booktable at Asda Hyson Green suddenly vanished, and wonders where and why it has gone....

There used to be a charity booktable in this gap at Asda Hyson Green....
Update : Asked at the customer services counter and they said they had "no idea" why the table had gone.