Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy" by Christian Wolmar

Recently read a very interesting book by Christian Wolmar called "Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy" that, quite concisely, reviews how policies have have changed over the years. This post is based on the book, with a little added linkage.

Wolmar starts back in the 19th century, describing how roads were not up to the challenge of supporting the heavy steam engines being developed at the time, and that the necessary steering and transmission technologies had not yet been developed. This resulted in the 1865 Locomotive Act (knows as the Red Flag Act) which restricted the speed of self propelled vehicles to 4mph in rural areas.

1875 Grenville Steam Carriage

But it also resulted in focus moving towards railways, which did not need steering, were more efficient and could handle the heavy steam engines of the day. By 1900 there were some 18,700 miles of track and mainline speeds averaged about 45mph. Meanwhile, within towns, tram systems became increasingly popular.

An interesting point made by Wolmar is that it was cyclists, in the 1870s, who lobbied for improved roads. Unfortunately for them, these improved roads proved ideal for the first motor cars and soon motorists were lobbying for roads to be prioritised for cars over cyclists, people or animals. These latter groups came to be seen as "obstructing the highway" - a view that still colours thinking today.

Wolmar also mentions that, at the time of WW1, imported cars were being hit with an import duty of 30% - which seems incredible in todays globalised world.

After WW1, the newly formed Ministry of Transport had road and rail in separate sections, with road getting increasing importance as the years went by.

Lobbying by the British Roads Federation during WW2 resulted in postwar commitments and action by Labour and Conservative governments to build a national motorway network, starting with the Preston Bypass in 1958.

In contrast, all of Britain's tram networks (except Blackpool seafront) were closed between 1930 and 1960. Trollybus systems lasted a little longer, as they were cheaper than trams. But soon all of the approximately 50 systems in the UK had closed too. This was happening elsewhere as well - France closed all its tram systems after WW2.

A 1925 Dick Kerr Type Tram,from Leeds.

Wolmar notes however, and with some surprise, that the Conservative Government of the mid 1950s had spent a lot of money (some £26bn in 2016 prices) in modernising parts of the rail network) in order to make it profitable. Something the rail network failed to do.

Huge cuts were made in the rail network following the Beeching report in 1963, again to bring the railways to profitability.

Government started to face the facts in 1968, with a Transport Act that recognised that railways needed government funding for socially useful lines, and closures slowed down dramatically.

Remarkable, even after this there were determined attempts in the 70s and 80s by BR managers and civil servants to cut the rail network very significantly, for example in many of the options presented in the 1982 Serpell Report . [Incidentally, a debate at the Science Museum claimed that 1970s Labour "assumed that as only rich people travelled by rail, it was not right to subsidise the railways by taxpayers"]

From this rail nadir of the early 1980s, passenger numbers increased and there is now cross party support for investment in the rail network, with a planned £38bn of investment between 2014 and 2019.

Wolmar comments that many European cities took a very different view about the value of trams and public transport in general.

Rail Passenger Numbers

Roads are not an infinite resource, so roads lobbyists looked to remove capacity constraints and, with government resigned to a future that was built around cars, the result was the Buchanan Report in 1963. This report tried to reconcile the need to accommodate traffic growth with the need to avoid excessive use of motorways within cities. One of the key recommendations was for the separation of motor traffic and pedestrians. Another was that towns should consider redesigning themselves to meet future car traffic volumes. There was no consideration in the report of how how the recommendations would other forms of transport.

The sheer cost requirements of "Buchananisation" meant that many towns could only afford to implement it in part, as can be seen in the short stretches of dual carriageway, ring roads etc that can often be seen in towns across the UK - with these sections often being built by bulldozing the previous infrastructure.

Fast forwarding to the 1990's and the government mood began to change. This was the era of the Twyford Down bypass and also of a report, in 1994, that found evidence that new roads were, of themselves, attracting new traffic. For example, just 18months after commpletion in 1986, the M25 had reached the traffic flows expected in 2000. This dramatically changed the cost-benefit calculation for a new road and many proposed new road programmes were cancelled.

According to Wolmar, this was when a major opportunity was missed in that a coherent approach to the alternative approaches (public transport, car pricing) was never really developed.

The M4/M25 motorway junction, near Heathrow Airport

Commenting on buses, Wolmar describes how, following reduced passenger numbers (and higher subsidies) in the 1980s, there was a free-for-all privatisation and how the cherry picking of popular routes by the commercial companies has left local councils having to pick up the tab for rural services. All of which is in marked contrast, according to Wolmar, to the way whole operations are franchised out in many European cities, with the authorities specifying what levels of service are required. Wolmar notes how council run bus franchises, such as Nottingham's, routinely win industry awards, showing that the public sector can deliver a high quality service.

Wolmar also comments on the efforts by John Prescott in his 2000 Transport plan to use road pricing to pay for 25 tram systems around the country - but neither the trams nor the road pricing came to pass (with the exception of London's Congestion Charge and Nottingham's tram system) - Wolmar comments on how this partly because other cabinet members did not see transport as a high priority and partly because politicians were terrified of provoking a truckers fuel protest like that seen in 2000.

Modern Tram in Nottingham

Thinking further about (the lack of) joined up government, Wolmar shows an email sent by transport author Oliver Green in which Green explains how Oxford desperately needs trams due to severe traffic congestion and that the trams could link to nearby rail services - but all efforts are stymied by the fact that the City Council, County Council, Network Rail and Highways Agency are incapable of working together effectively. So all that happens is that half hearted park-and-ride schemes and bus lanes are provided.

A very interesting book, concisely written and with some gems of information about the history of transport policy in the UK.

Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy"
by Christian Wolmar

A Little Note
Just wanted to mention that the only reason BFTF read this book is because it was mentioned by Jilian Greenwood on Facebook and BFTF happened to later see it on sale at Five Leaves Bookshop. Funny how these thin threads of chance can knit together, no?

Related Stuff
Train Manufacture in Derby
History of Coal Mining in the East Midlands
Nottingham Architecture and Urban Design
Relevant article of Notts urban design by Jones the Planner

Image Sources
Steam Carriage, Tram, Rail Passenger Numbers, M25, Nottingham Tram

Monday, 26 December 2016

Himmah 2016

The Himmah foodbank was set up by concerned individuals in the Muslim community to provide help to those in dire economic need in Nottingham - irrespective of faith or no faith - and works with a number of agencies and other organisations in Nottingham to this end. If you wish to donate to the Himmah Foodbank, whether in goods, cash or your time, visit

Made up Foodpacks, ready to go our to those in need....

Contents of a typical foodpack, costing around £5

Each Foodpack cost around £5 and typically contains :
1kg pasta/rice
2 cans soup/bakes beans
2 cans tinned veg/tinned tomatoes
1 item dessert (tinned fruit/biscuits etc)
20 teabags
1 litre UHT Milk
1 pack cereal
1 item from each of any other categories in stock (e.g. pasta sauce, toiletries....)

Below are some of the foodbank donations that have been kindly provided to Himmah and also some of the resulting events that have been undertaken - in particular it is worth noting that Himmah donate food parcels to the Tasty Tuesdays events held every week at Thomas Helwyn Church in Lenton.

A lot is omitted from the list below, especially committee and social justice campaigning that is constantly going on in the background.


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah's first ever Christmas Day Meal for vulnerable, people who are on their own or those who are Homeless in Nottingham was held at Kabul Express in Hyson Green on 25th Dec 2016. All were welcome and it was free. So many thanks are due:
To Kabul Express Restaurant for hosting
To Annie's Burger Shack & Freehouse for food donations
To Louise for for sorting out the non-alcholic mulled wine too.
To Hillocks Primary School for the donations of Crackers
To Charles Washington for ending the event with a reflection/thought/prayer in the form a short song
To Anmarie Spaziano, Louise Regan, Shoana Qureshi-Khan, Vita, Spark Hillocks Primary School, Faizan Brosefzai, Shazia Khan, Maxine Forbes, Paul Singh AND MANY OTHERS

Himmah Christmas Meal

Himmah Christmas Meal Poster


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Louise Regan has been a volunteer and Donator for what seems like years. and she has been the go between for Himmah and those at Sherwood Labour Party who have been collecting for Himmah. Thank you to folk at Hillocks Primary School for the donations of Crackers for the Xmas Dinner. Thank you also to Janet Hautenne for a very kind donation and to Ivan Wels for being a Rock.

Donation from Louise and Hillocks Primary School


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Vita has donated flapjack she made today for the Himmah Christmas Party , also spiced fruit slice. and then boxes of breakfast bars, mash, peanut butter , ketchup , loo roll, kitchen roll, boxes of cereals.

Donation from Vita


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Thanks today to the Wonderful Anmarie Spaziano Emma 'Loki' Kitchen and Steve from Annie's Burger Shack & Freehouse for dropping a quite amazing donation to Himmah. They brought down lots of food donations for the food bank as well as Sacks of Potatoes, Carrots, Brussell Sprouts, Stuffing and Chicken for The Himmah Christmas Community Meal. Pictures cannot show how generous and huge this donation is. they had to use a van and a car!

Donation from Annie's


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : We at Himmah would like to thank Javeria Burwood for collecting some lovely Children's items including some lovely Baskets to give to some local parents in need.

Donation from Javeria Burwood


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : The Himmah Food Bank Himmah would like to thank Staff and Pupils at The Berridge School in Hyson Green for a wonderful food collection.

Donation from Berridge School


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah :Visiting the lovely Louise Cooke at Sharewear today....we are donating duvets and sheets!!

Visit to Sharewear


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah had the Honour and privilege of being asked by The Syrian Community to help them organize their gathering in Nottingham today. Syrian Refugees and the established Syrian Community of Nottingham all gathered today, to eat and celebrate and also reflect.

Syrian Community Gathering


?? 2016 : On at least three occasions, BFTF has had the trusty i10 rear seat filled with kind donations - once from Shaheen Hafeez; once from a member of the Bahai community called Ali; and once from a kind person in the Sneinton area.

i10 full of donations


Nov 2016 : Via Himmah : A massive thank you to our fabulous sisters at An Nisa Network tonight providing over 75 people at our Salam Shalom Wednesday evening dinner!! It was so professionally prepared and organised as always....even seconds and takeaway for our most vulnerable and needy in our community.

Al-Nisa at SaSh


Nov 2016 : Via Himmah :Himmah would once again like to thank the Sherwood Labour Party for a very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank. you guys have donated on several occasions over the past year or so and we are very grateful for your continued support.


Nov 2016 : Via Himmah :Thank you to the wonderful Caroline Kerr and the good folk at Campfire Convention with a generous donation of food.

Donation from Caroline Kerr / Campfire Convention


Sep 2016 : Via Himmah : A big thank you to the NCVS (Nottingham Community Voluntary Services) for collecting all this food for our food bank. NCVS is a collection point for the Himmah Food bank, so please drop off donation there. Thank you.

Donation from NCVS


Sep 2016 : Via Himmah :Himmah Food Bank would like to thank the wonderful Andrew Calder would another great donation. he is our Rock.

Donation from Andrew Calder


Aug 2016 : Via Himmah : A short video of our work can be found here.


Jul 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Ali Akhbar, Hussain Manny, Mohammed Aamir Ali, and Saqib Mahmood for their very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank helping those in Need in Nottingham. on their behalf of those in need we thank the family for their generosity.

Donation from Messrs Akhbar, Manny, Aamir Ali and Mahmood


Jul 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank the family of Khaddam Al Hajjaj Lala Abdul Malik for their very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank

Donation from the family of
Khaddam Al Hajjaj Lala Abdul Malik


Apr 2016 : Via Himmah : Many wonderful people took part in the Himmah "Food Parcel Challenge" and raised a total of £2,608.68

The Food Parcel Challenge


Apr 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Swaira Alvi and the TSB Nottingham Mortgage Team for volunteering. They helped with shopping for the food bank and then packed Food Parcels ready to go out. they were AMAZING, and even cleaned up the food bank. we cannot thank them enough.

Volunteering by TSB


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Last Wednesday, SASH welcomed the Pakistan Forum. A huge thank you to Dr. Raoof and all his group. Everyone had a wonderful night, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was delightful. We couldn't ask for more!

Pakistan Forum at SaSh


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Andrew Calder for another very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank

Donation from Andrew Calder


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank the Trustees of MERCY Malaysia UK for a very generous cash donation towards our work in Nottingham with Syrian Refugees.

Donation from Trustees of MERCY Malaysia UK


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Islamic Society - University of Nottingham for collecting for the Food Bank and Syrian Refugees.

Donation from UoN ISOC


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Javeria Burwood for collecting Fem Care products and Baby Products for the Food Bank and Syrian Refugees.

Donation from Javeria Burwood


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Since 2011 Himmah has been supporting the Anti-Destitute Group at The Refugee Forum in Nottingham, providing a hot meal at least 1 Saturday every month. we hope this year to be extending this to twice a month and also providing Food Parcels.

We also want to thank the support of Al Majlis Restaurant and it's owner Iftikhar Ahmed who provides the food at no cost to Himmah, volunteering his time and resources for the sake of others. we recommend that you check out Al Majlis Restaurant in Sneinton. the food is great.

Food at Anti-Destitution Meal


Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Julie Kenny and staff from The Clinical Haematology department at the City Hospital for a very generous collection of items, from creams, shampoos, soaps, too many to mention.

Donation from Julie and the Clinical Haematology Dept


Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : What an interesting evening we had last night, as Himmah invited the Syrian Community to join us for food but also an opportunity for them to be listened to and heard. they shared their experiences of being in Nottingham. and told us how they can be helped and supported by the Nottingham. we will publish our findings very soon. it was noisy, Chaotic but so important. they told us that they were happy that they were finally being listened to , and that what they wanted was being seen as valued.

We have many to thank. our partners at Nottingham Arimathea Trust (Caron Boulghassoul ) and Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum (Rebecca Wilson) for their support with this event.

We served 150 meals on the night and want to thank the food provider Al Majlis Restaurant is working in partnership with Himmah to create positive employment and training opportunities for Syrian Refugees in Nottingham. As a start from Five Star Syrian Chef will start to train 2 trainees to work in the catering industry. This is really a positive initiative which will help to integrate refugees in to mainstream society and enable them to find jobs thereby lessening the burden on the public funds.
this is actually quite exciting
Syrian Community Event


Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : Rev Dr Megan Smith , Vicar at Lenton Holy Trinity , taking delivery of Food Parcels from Himmah (Food Bank) to be given out to those in need at Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton, organised by Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum (DLPF). Tasty Tuesdays is held at Thomas Helwys Baptist Church.

Rev Dr Megan Smith with Himmah Foodbpacks
at Tasty Tuesdays

Other Foodbanks in Nottingham
You can read about the Foodbanks operating in Nottingham, and some testimonies from the people who are helped by them, here.


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 

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


Himmah, the Nottingham-based, grass-roots, social action organisation has been running for a few years now, so it seemed like a good time to review what the group has achieved and where it is going....

The Himmah Foodbank
One of the first projects set up by Himmah, the Foodbank initially took a while to find it's feet, but over time relationships were built up with referrers such as the Metropolitan Housing Association, British Red Cross, WAIS and the Notttingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum

Contents of a typical foodpack, costing around £5

A lady donated this entire trolley of food at a collection at ASDA. Humbling to see

Donation from East Nottingham

When Himmah buys food, it is often from stores such as Lidl,
who pay the living wage

Donations have come from a number of groups and individuals across the city.

More recently, Himmah has built up a strong relationship with Thomas Helwys Baptist Church, Lenton, who are supplied with 20-30 foodpacks every week as part of the "Tasty Tuesday" project run by the Dunkirk and Lenton partnership.For people in financial difficulties it offers a filling, nutritious, meal, food parcels, and signposting to support agencies and services. For people experiencing loneliness or social isolation it can provide company, the chance to make friends, and a weekly social event to look forward to, in a welcoming and relaxed environment."

Himmah Foodpacks at Tasty Tuesdays

Tasty Tuesday Christmas Dinner 2015

Himmah, recognises that it is important to tackle the CAUSES of destitution as well as providing AID to the people affected. To this end Himmah will soon be asking its supporters to challenge (via email or social media) local authorities and stakeholders to reduce the number of benefit delays and unfair sanctions that cause so much stress, upheaval and misery.

The SaSh project is run by Himmah and the Nottingham Liberal Synagogue, and based at the Bridge Centre in Hyson Green. It runs every Wednesday evening and aims to provid a safe place where members of the public who are struggling can go and obtain a free meal. The project recently celebrated its first birthday!

SaSh' is one year old!

Look out for the SaSh signs

The Big Supper
Since 2011 Himmah has been supporting the Anti-Destitution Group at The Refugee Forum in Nottingham, providing a hot meal at least 1 Saturday every month, often with the help of kind donations from people such as Al Majlis Restaurant owner Iftikhar Ahmed.

The Big Supper

Nottingham Citizens
Himmah is a founder member of Nottingham Citizens , a broad based alliance of Nottingham based community organisations. As such Himmah has been active in many of Nottingham Ciizens activities, such as the 2012 and 2016 PCC accountability assembly, European Election Hustings and the Hope And Homelessness Commission report - as well as actions that aimed to increase the number of people in council and other employers who were paid at least the minimum wage.

Some of the nearly 1000 citizens at the 2012 PCC Accountability Assembly
The launch of the Hope and Homlessness Commission Report
Dates in the Square
The summer of 2012 saw Himmah holding a series of Dates-in-the-Square "flash mob" style events at dusk in Nottingham's market square.

Great to see such a wide demographic at the events.

Himmah 2013 to 2015
The Himmah foodbank was set up by concerned individuals in the Muslim community to provide help to those in dire economic need in Nottingham - irrespective of faith or no faith - and works with a number of agencies and other organisations in Nottingham to this end. If you wish to donate to the Himmah Foodbank, whether in goods, cash or your time, visit

This post looks at the donations to the foodbank from 2013(When it started) to 2015. For information on 2016, go here

Made up Foodpacks, ready to go our to those in need....

Contents of a typical foodpack, costing around £5

Each Foodpack cost around £5 and typically contains :
1kg pasta/rice
2 cans soup/bakes beans
2 cans tinned veg/tinned tomatoes
1 item dessert (tinned fruit/biscuits etc)
20 teabags
1 litre UHT Milk
1 pack cereal
1 item from each of any other categories in stock (e.g. pasta sauce, toiletries....)


Dec 2015 : At the time of writing Himmah are supplying about 20 foodpacks per week to the awesome "Tasty Tuesday" project run by the Dunkirk and Lenton partnership at Thomas Helwys Baptist Church, Lenton.

According to the partnership website, Tasty Tuesdays " a weekly free meal for everyone and has been running since summer 2014. It aims to bring people together across the different communities. For people in financial difficulties it offers a filling, nutritious, meal, food parcels, and signposting to support agencies and services. For people experiencing loneliness or social isolation it can provide company, the chance to make friends, and a weekly social event to look forward to, in a welcoming and relaxed environment."

BFTF paid a visit to TT recently when they were having their Christmas meal event, which was covered by BBC East Midlands no less. It was a great event and BFTF had some very interesting conversations with the diners, in which BFTF learnt about how sign language has different "dialects" across the UK and some of the troubles of the NDC project. Anyway, here are a few pictures...

Himmah Foodpacks at Tasty Tuesdays

Lilian Greenwood (Right in the "festive" jumper) was a volunteer

Great atmosphere, very interesting conversation


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah, on a donation drive at ASDA Hyson Green on 19th Dec : Himmah would like to say a massive thank you to our wonderful volunteers who stood for hours talking to people and giving out shopping lists: Norzaiha Norhan Louise Regan Yousuf Farooq Andrew Calder Zahra-Iram Butt Kai Magico Ursula Donnelly Hydra Bramwell and Maxine Forbes (Zahra-Iram Butt also gave a very generous Donation!) also Ash Choudry and Shahril Azwin for using their cars to transport all the donations to storage. ALL of you are amazing people for giving up your busy Saturday afternoons for those in need. We thank you.

To all those who donated. Thank you. There was some very generous people out there, people from all backgrounds and cultures coming together. Thank also to Phil Pidluznyj from Empleo Community Interest Company who donated to Himmah Food Bank with the contributions from their Creative Writing course students.

And a thank you to Angie Murfitt , ASDA Hyson Greens Community Champion for all her support over the past few years.

We received 10 Trolley's full of food, equivalent to around £1000, Plus £100 in Cash Donations. LOVE YOU NOTTINGHAM

Volunteers at the ASDA event on 19th Dec

Just SOME of the bags of food donated at ASDA on 19th Dec

A lady donated this entire trolley of food. Very Humbling to see


Dec 2015 : A kind donation from the East of Nottingham....

Donation from East Nottingham


Dec 2015 : A kind donation from Mrs BFTF and friends...

Kind donation from Mrs BFTF and friends


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah would like to thank and honour Fi Corbett from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. Here she is pictured at Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton with Food Parcels donated by The Himmah Food Bank, with food donated by YOU. we currently support between 20-25 people at Tasty Tuesdays via the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. We are proud to partner with DLPF and the great work Fi and her team does.

Fi Corbett from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah would to thank Iram Nazir and Ishy Qureshi from Evoca Drinks for a very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank. We rely on the good folk of Nottingham to help us support those in Need. Iram Nazir has made several wonderful contributions these past couple of years. And thank you to Evoca drinks for their kind contribution of drinks. Thank you Nottingham. We love you. May we all continue to work together.

Donations from Evoca Drinks


Dec 2015 : Via Himmah : "The Himmah food bank would again like to thank the Nottingham Pagan Network for a generous collection from it's members. Pictured here is Ashley Mortimer from the Network. We would like to thank him and all the members for their ongoing support for Himmah and it's work. On behalf of those in need in Nottingham, Thank you.

Donation from Nottingham Pagan Network


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah would like to thank Asma Salim Mirza from the Salim Welfare Trust for her very generous and large donation to the Himmah Food Bank. Without her and other kind Nottingham Folk we could not help those in need. Thank you Nottingham on behalf of those in Need.

Asma Salim Mirza from the Salim Welfare Trust and their donation.


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "The Himmah Food Bank would once again like to that the Nottingham Pagan Network for another very generous collection and donation to the food Bank. We are proud to partner with good people of Nottingham. Muslims and Pagans joining forces to help others. We are proud to call friends at The Nottingham Pagan Network as a partner in our work to support those in need in Nottingham. We can all work together. Thank you Nottingham, keep showing the way.

Donation from Nottingham Pagan Network


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "The Himmah Food Bank would like to say a massive thank you to 2 amazing Nottingham people for a very generous donation and their friends. There was so much food, we are now more toned up. Greg Lonsdale, and his wonderful friends including the lovely Nina Smith from Notts.MyProblem, got together on Greg's Birthday and decided to donate to the Food Bank. that is an amazing and generous thing to do. on behalf of those in need in Nottingham we say thank you for your ongoing support to Himmah. We hope you and many others will continue to support our work.

Greg's Birthday Bash Donation


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Louise Regan for organising the continuing donations by Sherwood Labour Party to the Himmah Food Bank Himmah on behalf of those in need in Nottingham we would to thank all those part of the Sherwood Labour Party and of course Louise for your kind and ongoing Donations. Thank you people.

Donation from Nottingham East Labour Party


Nov 2015 : Via Himmah : "Himmah is indebted to Louise Regan for another amazing donation to the Himmah Food Bank. A powerhouse of a woman who organises collections from Nottingham East Labour Party Members and Union Members. We really cannot express our gratitude to all those who donate to Himmah. It makes us proud that Nottingham has people like Louise in the city.Thank you Louise and all those who donate through her.Nottingham East Momentum supporters."

Donation from Nottingham East Labour Party


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page : The Himmah Nottingham Food Bank would like to thank Andrew Calder once again for a very generous donation to Himmah to help those in Need in Nottingham. Andrew continues to support Himmah and we are very grateful to him and others who have supported us over the years.

Donation from Andre Calder


Oct 15 : From the Himmah FB page : The Himmah Food Bank would like to thank Ali Akhbar Hussain for a very generous donation to Himmah to help those in Need in Nottingham. We are very grateful to him and others who have supported us over the years. we could not help people without your kindness. On Behalf of those in need we want to thank you all, Thank You Nottingham. Love Ya.

Donation from Ali Akhbar Hussain


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah Food Bank would like to thank one of Nottingham's finest Daughters, Nina Smith from Notts.MyProblem, for her kind donation to the Food Bank and for helping those in Need in Nottingham. Not only a great artist, but Nina is a great soul and we cannot thank her and others for the continuing support."

Nina Smith


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page :"The Himmah Food Bank Himmah Nottingham would like to thank Chris Gibbon , Louise Regan, Ivan Wels and the Sherwood Labour Party for their kind donations to the Food Bank and for helping those in Need in Nottingham. Ivan, Louise and Chris have been supporting Himmah for a while not, along with the Labour Group, and local NUT Branch."

Louise Regan

Donation from Louise Regan and Sherwood Labour Party


Oct 2015 : From the Himmah FB page : "A big thank you to the Nottingham Pagan Network for their kind donations to Himmah . They have started a monthly collection for the Himmah Food Bank . Thank you to all those who donate to Himmah, without your kindness we could not make this happen and support those in need. on behalf of those in Need in Nottingham thank you guys. makes me proud to be from a City where Pagans and Muslims (and others) can come together for the common good thank you Sarah Louise Kay Gordon McGowan Charlie Dolby Julia Elizabeth Atkins Kayrakise Evans Lauren Lalita-sky Phoenix Alison Rouse and all the other members of the network."

Donation from Nottingham Pagans


Oct 2015 : This is Minister Gill Isterling from the Thomas Helwys Baptist Church in Lenton with the Food Parcels donated by Himmah and all your wonderful donations. we give on average 20 individual parcels out on a Tuesday evening at Tasty Tuesdays, an initiative of the Lenton & Dunkirk partnership . Thank you to all those who donate to Himmah, without your kindness we could not make this happen and support those in need."

Gill Sterling from Helwys Baptist Church, with Himmah Foodpacks


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB : "Himmah would like to thank the incredible Louise Regan , the lovely Chris Gibbon , and Ivan Wells : ), for a very generous donation to the Himmah Foodbank last night. as always they are really kind and have donated to Himmah on several occasions."

Donation from Louise, Chris and Ivan


Sep 2015 : This from he Himmah FB page : "Himmah would like to thank Llew Nacy for her very generous donation, lovely smile, and amazing basket. thanks for supporting those in need in Nottingham. on behalf of those in need, thank you so much."

Donation from Llew Nacy


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "Himmah would like to thank Amreen Hussain for her very kind donation to the Himmah Foodbank. thank you so much."

Donation from Amreen Hussain


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah Foodbank would like to thank Becca Elizabeth for her kind donations of Milk and Cereal. thank you so much Becca."

Donation from Becca Elizabeth


Sep 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah FoodBank Himmah Nottingham, would like to thank Ehsaan Qureshi and the The University of Nottingham Islamic Society for it's kind donation."
Donation from Ehsann Qureshi and UoN ISOC


Sep 2015 : Very kind donation from Matthew Bain, in memory of the late Ghulam Rasool. Matthew gave £100 for the purchase of rice. This is what £100 of rice (from Living Wage paying Lidl) looks like.
Donation from Matthew Bain in memory of Ghulam Rasool


Aug 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "The Himmah Food Bank has been delivering Food Parcels for several months to Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton. run by @ Dunkirk and Lenton Partnershiip Forum. this has been a great partnership with our friends Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. Pictured is Tasty Tuesdays' Ni Claydon with the Food Parcels we deliver. "
Ni Claydon from Tasty Tuesdays


Jun 2015 : This from the Himmah FB page : "Himmah Nottingham would like to thank Iram Nazir and her friends for a very kind donation to The Himmah Food Bank."
Donation from Iram Nazir


Update : Jan 2015
Thanks to the local branch of the NUT for donating to the Foodbank! BFTF is conscious that teachers often see the fallout from family hardship.
NUT donation to the Himmah Foodbannk


Update : April 2014
Worth mentioning that the Himmah Foodbank has provided over 3 car loads of food to other Foodbanks in Nottingham over the last several months.

So far in 2014, foodparcels have been made up as follows:
January : 17 parcels
February : 48 parcels
March : 42 parcels

And have been given out to :
Elderly people referred by the Metropolitan Housing Association
People referred by the British Red Cross
Women referred by WAIS
People referred by Notttingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum

Himmah Foodparcels ready for delivery
(strong carrier bags kindly supplied by a Himmah Volunteer)


08 July 2013
Respect to BMCC and for their recent valuable donations of 24kg and 36kg respectively!

Rather lovely recent donation from


04 July 2013

Cracking donation from KQZ

Together with a few other items, this will help feed a family for a week

With food now categorised, the Himmah Foodbanks is ready to take on more customers


26 June 2013

Some of the recent donations

Cash donations from KQZ used to buy flour, oil and tinned fish...

...and here is the receipt

25% of recent donations went to the NG7 Foodbank.....

...and here is the recipt

The Himmah Foodbank

Himmahs Foodbank is at Unit 2 on Hubert Street, Hyson Green


Initial Donations
The main donations (including "Bring A Tin" events) are shown below. (NB: For any cans containing product in water (e.g tinned chick peas) the net (drained) weight is used. All weights are rounded and approximate.

Aug 2012 : Masjid Noor (75ppl) : 34kg

Aug 2012 : WCCW (Wollaton)(150ppl) : 47kg
Aug 2012 : BMCC (600ppl) : 69kg
Oct 2012 : Karimia Masjid (120ppl): 7kg
Feb 2013 : Masjid Noor (75ppl) : 72kg
May 2013 : WCCW : 17kg
Jun 2013 : BMCC : 24kg
Jun 2013 : KQZ : 62kg (!!!!)
Jul 2013 : KQZ : 102kg (!!!!)
Jul 2013 : : 36kg Jul 2013 : BMCC : 24kg

Donations from the Aug 2012 event Masjid Noor


June 2013 :Action at the Bank
Building For The Future Blog and Himmah have teamed up to present a series of six practical and very interactive sessions looking at examples of how we can all challenge (or praise) organisations and government on their actions and policies. One aim of the sessions is to focus on actions and topics that are not narrowly "Muslim" topics, but rather look at issues where Muslims and wider society can share common ground.

Sessions aim to be largely structured group discussion format. Critically, sessions end with participants committing to send an email to challenge (or praise) an organisation about an issue related to the topic of that session. The group may decide to all email the same org, or they may decide to work independently. Scroll down to read short reports from each session.

Click to enlarge

1) Introduction, examples of collective action
2) Sustainability and ethics
3) Local Government
4) NGO's
5) The Media

Further Sessions

Session 1 : Introduction, examples of collective action
The introduction to the sessions, together with many exampls of collective action, are pretty well summarised in a previous post entitled "Proof that Activism really can work".
Lucky these groups didn't think engagement with authority was useless

It is also perhaps adding examples of how ad-hoc campaigns can achieve results remarkably quickly, a good example being that of the blog run by charming Scottish school Martha Payne

During the discussion it became clear that it was very easy for people, BFTF included, to run off in a solely negative direction, listing one perceived injustice against Muslims after another. To try and combat this, BFTF pinned up the schematic below, as a reminder to stay in the centre section and not drift off into one of the outer areas.

Need to stay in the centre section !

Session 2 : Sustainability and Ethics
During the discussion, it became clear that some people were simply not aware of third party labelling systems such as FSC(for wood and paper) or MSC(for fish).

Regarding wood and paper, it pretty much boils down to this:
i) A lot of paper is produced from illegally logged or unsustainably sourced wood.
ii) There is a strong Islamic basis for avoiding this paper and using sustainably sourced paper instead (similar ethos in other faiths)
ii) Labels saying "sustainable" mean nothing, there has to be a recognised third party scheme behind the label
iii) Schemes such as ISO14001 and PEFC are very weak, and do not provide much protection to ancient untouched forests.
iv) The best type of paper to buy is "post-consumer recycled paper", made from the waste paper from offices etc.
v) The next best thing is FSC certified.
vi) A measure of how far wider society has gone along the road of using FSC certified paper is that even the till receipts at TESCO are printed on FSC paper.

On the other hand, there were some great comments from the group about how they had been involved in camapigns to save allottments.

Others commented on how they bought their meat from Willowbrook Farm, a halal supplier who treated the animals humanely and farm organically.

And there were also comments on how great organic vegetable box schemes were ( earth organics.)

After some discussion, it was decided that the group would email NTU to thank them for their "EcoCampus" work on improving sustainability via their internal auditing system.

And that the group would challenge Councillor Nicola Heaton on why the Notts Refugee Forum could not have a recycling facility. This action was based on a comment from one of the group who had volunteered at the forum and noted that the Forum wanted to recycle their paper etc but could not get the right facilities. Another group member took on the task of clarifying exactly what the problem was before any emails were sent out.

The comments on NTU's environmental auditing, including efforts to increase video conferencing and reduce car travel, made the group wonder whether car sharing was something that should be promoted amongst Nottingham's mosques - all of which have parking issues on a Friday in particular. It seemed that one mosques had already made moved along these lines. BFTF agreed to find out more...

BFTF's email to NTU:

I have recently become aware of the Carbon Challenge project at NTU that aims to reduce the carbon footprint of NTU by 48% from a 2005 baseline by 2021/21, and that you are already purchasing all your electricity from a green supplier.

Wow !

I really wish you all the best with this endeavour and hope you reach the very challenging target you have set yourselves!

The whiteboard at the end of the session !

Close up on the interesting bits

Session 3 : Local Government (e.g. justics, care for the vulnerable
Regarding a example where it was proving hard to get Nottingham Council to act on a particular social issue, some of the attendees at the session suggested that perhaps a way forward would be send an email to Nottingham Council saying "Contratulations, you fobbed me off so many times I felt lke giving up".

One positive example that was mentioned was a report in the Nottingham Post about the Forest Rec, and how engagement between the council and grass-roots organisations such as the "Friends of the Forest" had transformed and upgraded it over recent years.

More critically, another issue discussed was that of the way in which the council imposed parking restrictions on streets close to areas such as hospitals. One person commented that "I don't mind people visiting sick parking outside my house, I don't mind nurses dealing with wage freezes parking outside my house. Just don't block the drive!"

In terms of a postive email, the consensus was to send a message to Cllr Trimble thanking him for the work the council had done with grass roots organisations to improve the facilities at the Forest

Whilst in terms of a challenging email it was decided to ask the council how the ensured they got a truly representative spread of opinions when implementing parking restrictions - and how they evaluate approval of the changes after they had been impletmented.

BFTF's email to Cllr Trimble:

"Just wanted to say thank you for you and the council for working with grass roots organisations such as the Friends of the Forest to improve facilities at the Forest Recreation Ground and help preserve this gift to the city for future generations."
BFTF's email to Cllr Jane Urquhart

"I was involved in a discussion recently about the imposition of parking restrictions in residential areas such as sthose close to hospitals and wanted to ask a) How does the transport dept ensure it gets a truly representative view of what the residents feel.b) How does it evaluate the residents feelings regarding the parking restrictions after they have been implemented."

The board at the end of Session 3

Session 4 : NGO's (charites, community orgs etc)
Another positive example was that of tiny Masjid Noor, who had been hugely and unhesitatingly supportive of "Bring A Tin" foodbank donation events.

A discussion about other examples of praising or challenging NGO's proved to be absolutely fascinating...

One attendee described how they had been impressed by an Islamic Org in Liverpool that took the rights of their neighbours very seriously. The org had notices inside the building explaining why it was important to show respect for ones neighbours, that parking close by was discouraged for congestion reasons, that parking on the next street was preferably for sisters only (for their security) and that everyone else should park 2-3 streets away where there was more room!

Another gave the example of a group of Imams in London who call themselves "Imams Against Domestic Abuse" who were doing some great work in combating the causes of domestic abuse (they use the term "abuse" rather than "violence" to recognise that psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical atacks). You can find out more about this group here, here and here.

Yet another gave the example of the National College of Policing who, at one of their facilities, had made quite an effort to ensure there were prayer and other facilities for Muslims. The sister who mentioned this said that she had sent a senior policeman a lengthy email thanking the Police for the facilities and had found that the policemam concerned had remembered this several years later when she again had cause to have a dialogue with him. Which just goes to show how big an impact an email can have!

One attendee rather thoughtfully mentioned that, in their opinion, one of the most important positive actions over the last year or so had been the decision of some senior Nottingham Imams to support, and pay subsciption dues to, Notingham Citizens. He describd how it had taken many meetings and "delegations" to achieve this and that it seemed that a problem was that Muslim orgs were so focused on their internal politics that they were not looking at the wider picture. He also pointed out the difference between a congregation at a mosque, who are not generally active volunteers, and the congregation at a church such as Trent Vineyard, who each pledge to give several hours of time as volunteers each month.


In terms of a supportive email, discussion settled on a wish to say well done to the Islamic Centre for starting to open its doors to other Muslim community organisations and allowing them to use its facilities and space. So the group agreed to each send an email to the Islamic Centre to this effect.

In terms of a challenging email, the consensus was that there was a need for Jammat Alhe Sunnat Nottingham (the city's most representative Muslim group) to become more active and more accountable. To this end it was agreed that the group would all send an email to JASN asking them to attend a meeting at Himmah. At the meeting, JASN would be asked what they were doing to address three significant issues in the Muslim community:
i) Educational underachivement
ii) Provision/services for women at mosques
iii) Islamophobia

There was also the view that these issues should also, perhaps, be taken up directly with three of the largest mosques in Notingham (Islamic Centre, BMCC and Jamia Fatimiah) at a later date.

Top of the board on Week 4

Bottom of the board on Week 4

Session 4 : The Media (Bias, PCC, Challenging the media)
An initial comments in the discussion was how the media can label a person to demonise a particular group. One example given was that of a criminal who the media described as a "British born Nigerian" whereas he was simply a person who was born and brought up in this country. BFTF has had trouble finding evidence of this on the Internet, so this may not be a significant issue.

More positively, comments were made regarding a heartwarming article that described how an Indian had sold some of his farmland to fund his daughters education, you can read the tale here.

And also on how someone had been so impressed with the way the BBC had reported an Islamic Awareness event that they had send off an email to say "thanks, and well done".

One interesting comment was how the media had covered the, frankly bizarre, Twitter reaction to the new Miss America being a lady of Indian heritage. Many Tweeps complained that such a person should not hold the crown because she was "an Arab", or because it was "a slap in the face" after 9/11, or that she was Miss "Al Qaeda". Much of the press rightly poured scorn on these comments, which was good to see.

The Guardian was praised for its coverage of Wikileaks, support for Bradley Manning and exposure of NSA surveillance.

In terms of an action, the consensus was very much that Experian, who are based in Nottingham, should be challenged on their advertising support alongside a MailOnline article that demonised Muslims by trying, completely without fundation, to associates the phrase "strict Muslim" with a criminal who assaulted a series of women in London. See here for the relevant blogpost. More news on this in due course.

A response to the question regarding the parking restriction process was received and is shown (in a condensed form) below:
The original request for action normally comes from the residents themselves. They provide us with invaluable knowledge about who, why, how long and the impact that the problem has on the neighbourhood. This is all gathered by direct contact with the residents themselves and residents groups as well, through questionnaires and at times public meetings.

Through this we are able to establish the best way to deal with the matter and again, solution is fed directly back to the residents individually, allowing them to make comment, either voicing their support or objection as they see fit…

There have been a number of schemes where only part of the restrictions have been introduced on certain streets, the rest only being introduced if the residents themselves feel and experience problems mainly through displacement …The feedback from residents has been the decider on whether the restrictions have grown to cover a greater area.


Dates in the Square 2012
The summer of 2012 saw Himmah (a not-for-profit grassroots community based initiative providing services, organising and education for Nottingham’s citizens) holding a series of "flash mob" style events at dusk in Nottingham's market square (see here and here)

Great to see such a wide demographic at the events.

Timed to co-incide with the month of Ramadhan, when Muslims are most focussed on charitable work, the events are held on Wednesdays over a period of four weeks and involved the sharing of food with the general public and short presenations by key local figures on the issues of Racism, Poverty, Sanctuary and Homelessness.

Claire Grainger and Sandra at the Week 4 event
After the reflections, food, water and dates were distributed to the audience and everyone was encouraged to take the opportunity to relax, enjoy the food and strike up a conversation or two.

It's dinner time

Here is the Carnivore option in Week 4

And here is the, equally delicious, vege option


The first of the Dates in the Square events, held on 25th July, focused on racism and included a short talk by Shad Ali (who suffered a vicious racist attack a few years ago yet forgave his attacker) and also by Cllr Alex Norris providing the reflection.

Shad Ali Mr Ali described how, back in 2008 he had intervened to stop a man hurling racial abuse at two women in the city centre. The man, schizophrenic Glenn Jackson punched Ali unconscious and then stamped and kicked him in the head, leaving him with injuries were so severe that Ali needed four metal plates inserted into his face to support shattered eye sockets.

Jackson was sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in jail.

Shad Ali describing his experience of being the victim of a racist attack

What was surprising was that Ali, who still has trouble breathing through his nose, forgave his attacker and has been trying to visit Jackson in jail to tell him that he is forgiven.Thus far, his application to visit Jackson have all been rejected. You can read more about Shad’s story here and also at the very interesting “4thought” site.

Councillor Alex Norris
The reflection from Councillor Norris was very passionate and heartening to hear. He bagan by saying that he believed in a “world class Nottingham” and that this required not only the right physical infrastructure such as roads, recreational facilities and jobs - but also a sense of community and caring in its citizens “You’re not world class if you have communities where neighbours are turned away from each other”.

He described how the council had a target of reducing hate crime by 25% by 2015 and added that the council wanted to do this not by making it harder to report hate crime, or by making people feel that it is not worth reporting hate crime - but rather by giving the people the confidence that if they reported hate crime it would be taken seriously. Because of this, he expected that “before it [hate crime] went down it would go up”.

Councillor Norris also pointed out the there had already been dramatic changes over the last few decades, pointing out that the constant stream of racism meted out to black football players 20 years ago has now become a very rare occurrence - and that, in large part this was due to the football fan community coming together and saying that this kind of abuse was not acceptable.

Councillor Norris described how some parts of the media contributed to creating distrust and fermenting hatred by way they portrayed minority communities. Commenting specifically on a recent story in the Daily Mail which claiming that Ramadan would add to traffic congestion, the councillor made some very heartfelt comments, saying “Shame on them, They know it’s not illegal but they also know that it they can put a little bit of hatred in peoples ears it would stop people getting together [as a community]“.

Councillor Norris describing his vision for a "World Class" Nottingham
Moving onto the demograhics of the council itself, Councillor Norris pointed out that “there are structural things that make it harder for someone who isn’t a white male” to reach the highest levels of the council and that this needed to be dealt with both on the “demand” side by ensuring that minorities are appropriately represented in the council and also on the “supply” side, but ensuring that all of Nottingham’s young people get the change to achieve all they can and compete effectively for these jobs.

Sajid Mohammed
Sajid is the chairnan of Himmah, who organised this event, and he spoke a few words to explain how the event was to encourage people to “”become friends with each other, to know each other, respect each other and to live in harmony in this great city”.

The Daily Mail
It is perhaps worth mentioning a little more about the Daily Mail article that councillor Norris mentioned. Headlined “Ramadan 'will cause even more transport chaos during the Olympics as worshippers squeeze on to non-Games lanes' the article states the following:
“Every year during the month of August, vast crowds of worshippers descend on east London - one of the most concentrated Muslim communities in the country - for nightly prayer.”

In reality, the worshippers do not “descend” on east London - they live there. People generally attend mosques that are close to them, either walking or driving very short distances to get there.

More disturbingly, the article is illustrated with a picture showing Muslims praying in a small road, possibly a cul-de-sac, with the same “vast crowds” caption. The image clearly implies that it is typical for Muslims to block whole roads across East London during prayer times.

In reality, the image is from a completely different story, relating to a specific instance of a mosque that does not have sufficient space for worshippers, who then spill out onto the paved area outside. Indeed, so hidden away is the area that the original article has a quote saying “‘You wouldn’t know unless you were looking for it”

And one can see that the article has indeed managed to provoke ill feeling in its readers by looking at the comments (which the Daily Mail CHOSE to leave unmoderated). Here are a few examples:

“The colonisation of Britain continues.”

"Too much to expect this to be treated the same way Christians would be treated.More special treatment."

"I bet you they use the Olympic lanes and nobody will say a word. How many of them will be insured too?"

Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Speech is a wonderful right, and something to be cherished - but we also have a freedom to challenge. And when publications like the Daily Mail adopt a policy of drip feeding negative stories about a particular minority, and no-one in authority challenges them - we are heading to a dark place.

Until Councillor Norris’s comments, BFTF had never heard any politician condemn this kind of article, which leaves one with the feeling that politicians think that the Muslim community will just have to put up with this kind of one-sided reporting. Week in. Week out.

You can check what the Daily Mail published for yourself by going MailOnline and searching for articles with the word "Muslim" over the last 30 days. But be warned, the resulting stream of headlines will look like a page from a far-right website.

And what the Daily Mail reports matters, because it is the worlds leading online newspaper, reaching 45million people in December 2011 alone.


The second of the 2012 Dates in the Square events, held on 1st August, focused on poverty and included a short talk by Maqsood Ahmed (who is working on issues of community welfare at Muslim Hands) and also by Archdeacon Peter Hill.

Valerie's Story
Sajid Mohammed, chairnan of Himmah, who organised this event, began proceedings by describing the situation of Valerie (who had been unable to attend). Valerie had been working full time until 3years ago when she lost her job and was living in a flat on the 10th floor of a tower block. Her son, who had mental health issues, was also living there and the two of them had to survive on just £60 per week. Every time there was a knock on the door, Valerie would wonder "is that a bill?" and if the weather became cold she would have to ask herself "can I afford to put the heating on?". Sajid explained that this was the reality for many of those at the bottom of the economic pileand he spoke a few words to explain how the event was to encourage people to “”become friends with each other, to know each other, respect each other and to live in harmony in this great city”.

It was great to see so many different demographics represented at the event
Maqsood Ahmed OBE
Maqsood has recently joined the Nottingham based charity Muslim Hands after a career in the local and national civil service where he advised on community and equality issues. His LinkedIn page describes his vocation as being "To Help Human Beings in all aspects of life. Poverty alleviation and equal rights".

He described how his focus at Muslim Hands is going to be on issues relating to deprivation in the Muslim and wider communities. Taking one example, he described how the proportion of Muslims in prison had risen disproportionately in recent years and said that the the Muslim community was in denial about this issue. Mosques do not have the capacity to help offenders returning to society and the general Muslim community isn't helping them either.

Maqsood also outlined other issues such as education and the empowering of women as being areas that he wished to devote time and resources to.

(L-R) : Sajid Mohammed, Archdeacon Peter Hill, Maqsood Ahmed
Archdeacon Peter Hill
Peter began his reflection by outlining some of the statistics relating to povery in Nottingham, including the fact that some 42,000 children were in homes where no parent worked or where parents were in very low wage jobs.

Looking at the emotional impact of poverty he pointed out that poverty "robs people of human dignity, reduces life chances and damages health"

Peter explained that the council was aware of the scale of the problem and that some policies, such as the "early intevention strategy" which had been championed by Nottingham North MP Graham Bright, had really made a difference.

After outlining some of the initiatives that the Christian community was running to help those in poverty (Foodbanks, debt councelling, welfare advisors, the Archdeacon pointed out that to both the Muslim and Christian communitites "faith without action is dead" and mentioned a Muslim tradition that says:

"He who sleeps on a full stomach while his neighbour is hungry is not one of us"

and also a quote from Mother Theresa to give a Christian perspective:

"If you give what you don't need then you are not giving"

No3 Son (whose arm is pictured) is growing
somewhat faster than we anticipated

The third of the 2012 Dates in the Square events, was held on 8th August and focused on seeking sanctuary. It included a short talk by Bishop Paul Butler, a testimony from Arian (who came to the UK seeking sactuary from persecution in Syria) and finally a reflection from Bea Tobolewska, head of Notts and Nottingham Refugee Forum. (see here for 1st and 2nd events)

Bishop Paul Butler
Bishop Paul focussed on the recent "Homelessness and Hope" report that was the result of an investigation into homelessness and destitution in Nottingham (see also here).

He commented that reading the report "made me weep" and that people needed to read the report and, just as importantly, ensure that their local decision-makers (Councillors, Imams, NGO's etc) were aware of the report and its findings.

The Bishop closed by summarising his message as "Please look at the "Homlessness and Hope" report and act on it"

Bishop Paul Butler

Arriving in the UK several years ago to escape persecution in his native Syria, Arian's application for asylum was initially rejected. Arian appealed against this decision, but was denied access to any support funds during this appeal process, leaving him completely destitute.

He commented on how it had been Nottingham Arimathea Trust and Himmah who had helped provide him with accomodation and sustinence during this difficult time - when no one else wanted to help him.

Happily, Arian was able to say that his appeal had been successful and he now had refugee status.

Great to see such a wide demographic at the event.
(note the, very polite,  PCO in background asking the Bishop if the event has official permisson)

Bea Toboloweska
Bea, who is manager at Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum began her talk by mentioning that it was almost exactly 40 years since the Ugandan expulsion of Asians and that one of her first memories of being aware of current affairs was watching the news and asking her father who all these people were arriving in the UK - and of feeling very proud when she was told that the UK was accepting these people as refugees.

Bea then moved on to give an outline of the asylum process in the UK, saying that the rules were quite strict and explaining that an "asylum seeker" was someone who was going through the process of seeking refugee status and that there was no such thing as a "bogus" or "legal" asylum seeker.

She also countered the myth that many of the worlds refugees were targeting the UK or Europe by pointing out that the UK only receives 2% of the worlds refugees and that the rest of Europe only receives around 15%. In contrast, some 66% of the worlds refugees are located in countries directly bordering conflict areas in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Lastly, Bea gave an outline of the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum, saying that it had initially been formed, many years ago, to provide a social function to asylum seekers and refugees by providing with help in orientating themselves in the UK and also providing help and advice.

Bea Toboloweska


The fourth and last of the Dates in the Square events focused on homelessness and included a reflection by Claire Grainger, from the Housing Support organisation HLG.

Claire was assisted by Sandra, one of HLG's service users, and they took turns to describe the various issues regarding homelessness.

Claire began by pointing out that there were homeless people in Nottingham right now. Some would be sleeping rough, some in cars, some in friends houses, some in hostels. And she asked the audience to consider how they would feel if they were suddenly homeless in Nottingham tonight - where would you go? How would you eat? How would your friends react?

Sandra now took over the microphone and outlined her experience, saying that before she became homeless she had thought that the homless were just dirty people living in the street. Sandra became homless when she lost her job and she was kicked out of the rented accomodation because they did not accept people who were on whose rent was paid by the DSS. Although Sandra was able to access emergency accomodation, the experience was, unsurprisingly, very traumatic and she became depressed.

Sandra felt that people (such as those in arreas or with mental health issues) needed to be helped before their situation became too severe.

Claire then continued the reflection, saying that Nottingham was now being hit very hard by cuts in public services and that this was resulting in some of the progress that has been made in recent years being lost, and that there were concerns that Nottingham was going back to the days when there were large numbers of rough sleepers because there was so little emergency accomodation provision.

Recognising that many people would be wondering what could be done to improve the situation, Claire made a number of suggestions:

1) Those who have been through homelessness need to be listened to.

2) Organisations need to ensure that they are making every penny count and are using best practice in their work.

3) Organisations also need to work together to achieve their aims.

4) People need to let decision makers know that homlessness is an issue that the people of Nottingham do care about.

Claire closed her (and Sandra's) presentation by thanking Himmah, saying that "Himmah is an organisation that, in a very practical way, show that they care for the homeless in Nottingham and they bring food and friendship to the homeless in Nottingham"

Sunday 3rd June 2012 saw a lovely Jubilee celebration at Nottingham Hyson Green ASDA. The store had teamed up with local community organisation Himmah to organise the event which comprised food stalls and live entertainment from a number of Nottingham's communities.

Angie Murfitt, who is ASDA' Hyson Green's Community Life Champion explained that the event was "ASDA's way of giving back to the community", adding that it was about "everybody getting together and celebrating the Jublilee"

The breadth of culinary styles on offer really did offer something for everyone with people really getting into the spirit of the event and trying out the different foods.

Alain Job was running a very impressive stall of African fare, with dishes ranging from Safari Jollof Rice (based on the traditional recipes of a Nomadic tribe, to Exotic Fish Curry wrapped in Wach leaves. If these seemed a little too exotic then he also had some mouthwatering beefburgers on offer for the more traditional palate.

Alain Job and his African fare - you can find him at the Victoria Centre Fish Market

A table of confections from Divine Cakes was very popular, with each cupcake featuring a picture of the Queen gently placed on top for that Jubilee touch.

Farooq (Himmah Volunteer), Angie and Hannah at the Divine Cakes Stall

Tea was provided by a team comprising Himmah Volunteers Safoora, Humaira and Shafa. When asked why they thought that tea needed to be part of the event, Safoora responded that "Tea epitomises something very British but has also transcended boundaries to become something very international"

Safoora, Humaira and Shafa selling pukka English tea !

Classic food from the subcontinent was provided by local fast-food legends Khyber Pass. Himmah volunteer Javaid was manning the stall and ready to provide near instantaneous combinations of samosas, pakoras and chaat that would ease the hunger of the emptiest tummy.

Javaid with Khyber Pass's menu

Somewhat optimistically, an ice-cream van was also at the event. Still, knowing the British weather, anything could have happened.

Mr McYummy and his ice-cream van, waiting for a break in the weather !

On the entertainment front, there was also no shortage of things to see. . .

Unique World who demonstrated their African Bongo Drums, which certainly gave the event a strong beat.

Nottingham Capoeira - who have a strong relationship with Himmah - showed what this South Americal blend of dance and martial arts is all about

Other performers included the Nottingham Samba Group and a Sikh Swordfighting demonstration, the latter of which may have left many of the on-lookers with a newfound respect for the art of swordsmanship.

As the event drew to a close, and with the bunting still fluttering in the wind as it was taken down, Angie was asked why ASDA had chosen Himmah, who usually work with the homeless and destitute in Nottingham, as partners for the event. Angie commented that she had been impressed by Himmahs attitude and that Himmah had "really opened my eyes to situation of people less fortunate ourselves"


Himmah, a Muslim organisation working to provide assistance to Nottingham’s homeless, held a Fundraising Family Festival at Djanogly Academy on Saturday 19th May 2012 to provide a great family day out as well as to increase awareness of some of the issues faced by the vulnerable in society.

Some of the stalls at the Family Festival

The Great Day Out component was provided by children’s attractions including a trio of circus clowns who spent the day riding unicycles, juggling batons and making some very impressive balloon models - whilst still finding time to show children how to spin plates, learn poi-poi and juggle. The day also saw bouts of swordfighting between what seemed to be Zorro and a Pirate, which added a swashbuckling element to the day.

Bring on the Clowns !

Security at the event didn't mess about. .  .

The obligatory Bouncy Castle, somewhat inevitably, got a very serious workout.

The Bouncy Castle got a thorough bouncing.

An interactive Capoiera demonstation by Capoeira Nottingham was fascinating. Seeing their acrobatic moves, it is no surprise that they needed some time to limber-up beforehand.

Capoiera - a fusion of dance and martial arts.

Stalls, some kicking ethnic food and African Drummers provided further entertainment for the hundreds who attended the event.

Bridging the gap between entertainment and social justice were a number of performance artists including Shaam, poets and other nasheed artists.

Shaam - a group who were very approachable and happy to answer questions,
sign autographs and provide the lyrics to their nasheeds

In terms of increasing awareness of the social issues faced by some of the most vulnerable in society, the keynote event was a talk by writer and journalist Myriam Francois Cerrah discussed how issues are rarely black and white but rather shades of grey and that Muslim communities need to adopt an attitude of compassion, understanding and empathy when dealing with the troubled and destitute in society.

Myrian Francois Cerrah (left)

Backing this up was a stall by UNISON who were able to provide information on the campaigns that they run such as those on protecting the NHS, equal pay for equal work and defending public libraries.

And completing the picture where Himmah themselves, who were able to provide information of their work with organisations such as Nottingham Refugee Forum, Citizens for Sanctuary and Nottingham Arimathea Trust.

The event was sponsored by Pak Foods, Djanogly City Academy and Muslim Hands. TakbeerTV were the media partner.


In Aug 2011 BFTF interviewed Mohammed Sajid from Himmah Nottingham and Wesal Afifi from Nottingham Arimathea Trust (NAT) who were summarising the work that had been performed over the last year by the Community Aid Nottingham Project (now called the Community Fund).

The project aimed to provide a subsistence allowance to some of the most destitute refugee and asylum seekers in Nottingham.

Sajid described the incident that first made him realise the scale of the problem in Nottingham. He had noticed that there was a very quiet, elderly gentleman who would be at the door of the Islamic Centre when it opened in the morning. Sajid noticed that the person would use the showers at the Centre, say his prayers and then leave later in the day – but it was only when Sajid began talking to him that he realised the sadness of his story. talked to the visitor and was shocked at his story.. .

The apparantly elderly gentleman told Sajid that he was 44yrs old, partially blind and had fled Algeria to escape persecution. He had sought asylum in the UK but there had been problems with his application and he was now destitute, reduced to sleeping in a shed at night.

He also told Sajid that he was not the only person in Nottingham who was in this situation and that there were some 60-70 others who were similarly destitute (some in Nottingham estimate that there are actually several hundred people being caught in the destitution trap)

Together with some friends, Sajid set up the “Community Aid Nottingham” (CAN) project which aimed to provide a £20 per week subsistence allowance for destitute asylum and refugee status seekers who were being housed by Nottingham Arimathea Trust (NAT).

Before describing the work of CAN and NAT in more detail, it is perhaps worth stepping back a little to understand some of the terminology and processes involved.

An ASYLUM SEEKER is someone who has fled their homeland to another country and exercised their legal right to apply for asylum.

A REFUGEE is someone whose asylum application has been successful and has proved that they would face persecution in their home country. It is worth mentioning that Arica and Asia host more than 75% of the world’s refugees, with Europe looking after 14%. (UNHCR, 2007 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum seekers, Returnees, Internally displaced and Stateless Persons, 2008)

A REFUSED ASYLUM SEEKER has had their claim for asylum turned down and been told that they cannot remain in the UK. This does not necessarily mean they were lying or that it is safe for them to go back to their country. Administrative errors, failures in research and a lack of good legal representation all lead to asylum claims being turned down.

The asylum seeker can appeal if their claim fails, but this process can take many weeks, months or even years. Critically, once all their appeals have been completed, the asylum seeker receives no subsistence or accommodation support at all. Wesal described how their plight has become even more dire in recent times due to the fact that two of the major legal aid providers have gone into liquidation in the last year, due partly to cases now being funded on a flat rate rather than hourly basis.

Some asylum seekers may end up sleeping rough whilst others may “couch surf”. As you can imagine, this is a precarious existence and one that makes it very difficult to organise ones case during the appeal process, not to mention the stress and mental health issues that it can cause.

Many asylum seekers who are in this situation contact the Refugee Forum or the Red Cross for help. Whilst these two organisations can provide advice and administrative help, they cannot provide accommodation.

The Refugee Forum or Red Cross will, in turn, contact organisations such as NAT for help with accommodation.

NAT are a charity funded by a number of organisations, including the charitable foundation Lankelly Chase and the Lloyds TSB Foundation (the funding for Wesals position is currently coming from Trent Vineyard Church). They manage 3 houses (two for males, one for females)in Nottingham which are used to house destitute asylum seekers. The aim is to provide accommodation for asylum seekers during the period between their initial application being turned down and receiving further evidence which solicitors can use to prepare further submissions or fresh asylum claims. This time period can range from a few weeks to a several months.

When a place becomes available NAT calls for referrals from partners such as the Refuge Forum and then assess the cases based on need. They also ensure that the person offered the place is actively looking to resolve their case.

NAT try to ensure that the asylum seekers in their accommodation are provided with legal representation and a volunteer befriender or mentor. This is someone who they meet with regularly to get to know Nottingham, practice their English or help with phone calls to solicitors etc.

NAT also helps people to find medical support and English classes, as well as giving them volunteering opportunities. One of the houses has a vegetable garden that is being developed by the residents who are also planning to build a chicken coup so that they can live a more sustainable lifestyle on a low income.

However, whilst NAT can get funding for trips and activities, it finds it much harder to get support for the asylum seekers essential living costs. The Refugee Forum provides some help with this by providing a weekly food parcel of basic foodstuffs and a £10 per month allowance, but are unable to offer more due to the relatively large numbers of asylum seekers that they are supporting.

This is where the Community Aid Project kicks in. Being focussed on fewer people (i.e. those in NAT Accomodation) it is able to provide a more significant subsistence allowance of £20 per week. This is crucial to giving the asylum seekers some dignity and self-respect by allowing them to purchase basic items. The effect it has had on the asylum seekers can perhaps best be understood by listening to their own words (taken from a project feedback report) which are shown in Part 2 of this post.

Feedback from the asylum seekers who had been supported by CAN and NAT was very positive, as can be seen below:

Male Feedback Comments
“We can organise ourselves now we have money, instead of spending all day walking to projects and restaurants seeking free food”.

“We have choice now in that we can buy food or maybe something else we need, such as socks or underwear. These items need replacing often, especially if you have few items and the discomfort when they are worn is difficult”.

“Without money we have no choice and no dignity. We are still deprived much dignity but this is much better than the old ways of support” [food parcel and £10 cash a month from Nottingham Refugee Forum].

“What I came to this country for is protection not for money or anything, but we are treated like animals for years to try to force us to leave”.

Female Feedback Comments
“Before I used my £10 to top up my mobile to ensure I could contact people when I needed help, now I can top up when I need to and I feel safer knowing I have credit and people I can call when I need to with any problems”.

“Before I didn’t like to go out in the evenings in case I had to walk home late at night. Now I can get a tram or a taxi and it means I am going out much more, I’ve even started college again in the evenings”. (Disabled young woman)

“We can now buy clothes, rather than just taking what people are giving you. It makes me feel much better having the choice and being able to go into shops knowing I can choose things”.

“We can spend money on toiletries and sanitary products for women. These are essential needs but no one provided for them before. We had to buy the very cheap products because of very limited income and they were uncomfortable, but now we can buy what we need and the better products which are much nicer for us to use”.

Community Aid Nottingham raised £4271 (mostly as Zakat, but some as Sadaqah), which was spent on providing a subsistence allowance for 9 residents (many of whom benefited in the first quarters support), of the 9 residents, 6 were Muslim and 3 were other faiths. 5 were disabled and 5 had complex mental health difficulties. 6 residents were male and 3 were female. They came from Iran(x 2), Syria(x2) , Zimbabwe(x2) , Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq , Kenya and Rwanda

Over the six months of funding the ages of the residents ranged from 17 (age dispute client, where client says he is 17 but Home Office have assessed as 18) to 46, with the majority being in their twenties, which reflects the trend in terms of asylum seekers in the UK.

The work of CAN has now been taken over by Himmah Nottingham under the “Community Fund” Project. With the original funding having been used up (indeed, the Community Fund is now in debt to NAT !), Himmah are looking to raise funds to keep this project going so the destitute asylum seekers can continue to be given a little dignity and help whilst they are enduring some very difficult circumstances.

Interestingly, and unusually, Sajid was keen to point out that Himmah are more interested in getting peoples time than their money. What they would like most of all, is volunteers to sign up to a place on a nine week rota, so that they just had to come in on a Saturday morning one week in nine to help in preparing occasional meals and in food distribution at the Refugee Forum or to simply spend a little time talking to the asylum seekers. To volunteer your time, donate money or simply to find out more about the project, you can call on 07980 407282 or visit the website at

BFTF asked Sajid about lobbying and whether it had any effect. His response was to point out that the lobbying by a number of local groups involved with asylum seekers had led to a commitment by the UK Borders Agency to look for a local venue for asylum seekers in Nottingham to report to, instead of having to travel to the Loughborough Reporting Centre every 2 weeks, a journey that is almost impossible if you have no income. Additionally, Citizens for Sanctuary are now running a mini-bus to Loughborough to make the journey easier for destitute asylum seekers who have health problems.

Given Wesals background in refugee activities both in the UK and in her home country of Egypt, BFTF asked what the differences were in the treatment of asylum seekers in the two nations. Wesal responded by saying that the biggest difference she had found was the very hostile press and media coverage that asylum seekers are given in the UK compared to Egypt.

Lastly, BFTF tries to avoid interviews ending on a note of gloom and doom by always asking guests what they think the best thing about living in the UK is. Wesal’s answer to this question was that she really valued the diversity of the population in the UK and thought that it was great that you could be on a bus and hear a dozen different languages being spoken. More practically, the diversity of cuisine has resulted in Wesal getting a taste for curry, something that was rare back in Egypt !




Other Foodbanks in Nottingham
You can read about the Foodbanks operating in Nottingham, and some testimonies from the people who are helped by them, here.

How can you help?
If you would like to make a donation to Himmah, or would like to volunteer to help Himmah in its activities, please visit