Thursday, 6 February 2014

TV star Paul O’Grady speaks out at Russia protest in London

All Out petition with 131,447 signatures handed to McDonalds

Russian national anthem played. Mass salute with P6 sign

London - 6 February 2014

Three hundred Londoners braved atrocious weather and a transport strike to rally last night (5 February) in Whitehall in solidarity with Russian LGBTs against the country’s anti-gay law and escalating homophobic violence.

They urged governments and Olympic sponsors to speak out in support of Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination.

All Out announced at the rally that its petition making this demand had secured 131,447 signatures.

Details of the petition were delivered to the Whitehall branch of McDonalds by Marie Campbell and Peter Tatchell. The hand over was accepted by the company’s head of communications in the UK, Ray Farrelly.

As the Russian national anthem was played, the crowd saluted with five fingers and a thumb to make the Principle 6 sign. There was a live performance by music artists Ooberfuse.

The protesters chanted: “2-4-6-8. Putin, stop the hate. 3-5-7-9. LGBTs are mighty fine.”

Photos of the protest:
Free use. For high resolution versions, click on the desired photo or contact us - our email address is below.

Gathering by the Montgomery statute in Whitehall, the crowd heard TV star Paul O’Grady (aka Lily Savage) denounce President Putin as a “tyrant” and condemn Russia’s anti-gay law as “shocking” and “appalling”. He also joked about the “homoerotic” pin up photos of Putin riding bare-chested on horseback; suggesting that the Russian president seemed to have issues with his sexuality and might well be a closet case.

There were also speeches from Marie Campbell from All Out, Labour MP Chris Bryant, Liberal Democrat peer Liz Barker, Edwin Sesange of African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, Wilson Chowdhry, Chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, performance artist Jonny Woo and Peter Tatchell.

Timed two days before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the protest was part of a Global Speak Out against Russian homophobia that took place in 20 cities around the world on 5 February. 

The London protest was organised by the international LGBT pressure group, All Out, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“Our protest urged the British and Russian governments, and the International Olympic Committee, to uphold Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination. We also called on Olympic corporate sponsors - such as Coca Cola, McDonalds and Visa - to speak out against Russia's anti-gay law and homophobic violence. So far, they have failed to do so,” noted protest co-organiser and speaker, Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.  

“We want government leaders from around the world to boycott the opening and closing ceremonies at Sochi. Empty VIP seats would be an effective gesture to show President Putin that his crackdown on the gay community is an unacceptable abuse of human rights.

“None of the Olympic corporate sponsors have explicitly condemned the Russian anti-gay law or homophobic violence in Russia. They’ve made only general, vague equality statements. This isn’t adequate. Instead of standing up for human rights, they seem more interested in maintaining their Russian profits and kow-towing to the Kremlin.

"I would have expected them to make a simple statement such as: 'We are deeply concerned about new Russian legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community. We deplore the homophobic violence that is taking place in Russia.' It is shameful and cowardly that they feel unable to say this.

“The intensely homophobic atmosphere in Russia, much of it orchestrated by President Putin’s government, means it would be very unlikely for an openly gay athlete to be selected for the Russian Olympic squad. The Kremlin has banned a Pride House - a social meeting space for gay athletes and spectators, like the one at the London 2012 Olympics.

“These are clear breaches of the anti-discrimination Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Yet the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said and done nothing. It is allowing the Russian government to ban a Pride House and has not required the Russians to give a written undertaking that they will not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes in the selection of Russia’s team for the Winter Olympics. 

“The IOC has hinted that any athlete who expresses support for LGBT equality during the events or ceremonies could face disciplinary action, possibly including disqualification, expulsion and being stripped of any medals won.

“The IOC’s doesn’t seem to be prioritising Olympic values and human rights. It appears to be driven by primarily commercial interests. The Olympics are big business. The host nation and corporate sponsors are supreme. Nothing is being permitted to detract from financial success and ‘good news’ PR - certainly not the plight of Russia’s persecuted LGBTs.  

“The 1936 Berlin Olympics took place in an atmosphere of anti-Semitic hatred incited by the Nazi government. The 2014 Sochi Olympics echo this hatred, only this time the victims of demonisation are LGBT people. There are no Nuremburg laws or concentration camps but the hateful anti-gay propaganda is similar to the anti-Semitism stirred by the Nazis in the early 1930s.

“There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like Putin’s Russia. The Kremlin stands accused wide-ranging attacks on human rights, including the arrest of opposition leaders and peaceful protesters, state censorship of the media and the harassment of journalists, lawyers, environmentalists and civil society activists,” concluded Mr Tatchell.

“Olympic sponsors are failing to live up to their commitments", said Andre Banks, Executive Director and co-founder of All Out. "The IOC has confirmed that Principle 6 includes discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Athletes all over the world are speaking out.  We’ve just heard that the Russian government is considering amendments to the anti-gay laws. But sponsors continue to look the other way while gays and lesbians in Russia suffer.”

"The Global Speak Out means a lot to us here in St. Petersburg, Russia", aded Dmitry, one of the local LGBT rights organisers in St. Petersburg. "Together with thousands of people around the world we are going to show Russian authorities they can't attack lesbian, gay, bi or trans (LGBT) Russians with impunity, without risking their international reputation and the success of our Olympics. We will not be silent anymore! We will fight back! For our rights! For our human rights!"

The 50 current and former Olympians supporting Principle 6 include Sochi-bound athletes Belle Brockhoff (Australia), Heath Spence (Australia), and Mike Janyk (Canada).  To see the full list of Olympians backing Principle 6:

Our thanks to Wilson Chowdhry, Chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, for providing the generator and PA system at the rally. Wilson does great work defending Christians and other minorities persecuted in Pakistan: The Peter Tatchell Foundation has been proud to work with him and his association.

Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Redbridge residents invited to New Years Bash on Gordon Road, Ilford.

Residents of Gordon Road off Green Lane, Ilford, are inviting people across the borough to join them for a New Years Bash to remember.

Date:          31st December 2013
Time:          2pm - 2am
Location:    Gordon Road
Price:          Free (donations being collected for victims of Peshawar Bombings)
Activities:   Face painting, Music and live performances, Bouncy Castle, Fireworks, stalls, food,                         games and much more.

The event is being led and coordinated by the East Ilford Betterment Partnership in Partnership with Redbridge Carnival, the Albayan Centre (Green Lane Mosque), Eden Christian Centre and others.  

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ilford children learn lessons on futility of hatred - 99 years after the Great War (WW1 1914 - 1918)

Older Children aged 8 - 10 work collaboratively on potential designs for a large collage, after completing individual Poppies.

At Clementswood Community Centre over the October half term holidays a series of free art workshops, have developed participants arts skills whilst developing social cohesion.  The workshops led by Redbridge Carnival Association have proved to be both popular and rewarding. Children on the course have expressed new found confidence and a desire to learn and have exhibited exception team work skills.   

The art workshops have been held in tandem with some inspirational talks from faith leaders, community leaders and groups and have developed the conscience and cultural awareness of local children.   The theme for the event was the 99th anniversary of World War 1 and children were taught how the war was a reminder of the futility of hatred. The aims of the project were to provide structured learning and moral direction, in a fun environment. 

The 26 particpants on the course so far have spanned 6 faiths and cover a number of cultural and ethnic diversities.   Four local primary schools were represented at the event all whom serve the deprived wards of Clementswood and Loxford.   Chairman of the Redbridge Carnival Association Wilson Chowdhry said;

"Children have absorbed their learning very well and produced some excellent art work. Many of these children are from severely deprived backgrounds and simply would not be able to afford classes of this nature, outside of this service.  Moreover all participants exhibited greater cultural enrichment and a willingness to help one another, which will contribute to a more cohesive local society for posterity."

One of the wonderful poppy designs that became the focus of our message of peace.

Young artists learnt about the reasons for poppies in particular the annual flourishing of poppies in Flanders.  So many soldiers were killed in World War 1  at this location, that the disturbance to soil caused  by burials induced the otherwise  latent poppy seeds to bloom.   Bringing a sense of reassurance, life,colour and hope to living soldiers. 

Children wrote messages of peace to be read with their poppies.

Children thought long and hard about how to get their peace messages across to children.

Seven volunteers helped artist Madhumita to organise the classroomn activities

The final artwork will be placed in Ilford Library and some will be left as a memorial after the Borough's Rememberance Sunday service. 

Hard at work children learnt new art skills whilst also learning about other diversities and the futility of hatred.

Children enjoyed working together on group projects, whilst also designing their own individual designs.

Children were eager to learn and to participate.

Several faiths and all major diversities in the ward were represented in the mix of students.

The children exhibited wonderful caring for others, helping each other and the helpers in setting up the classroom activities.

During any Questions and answers session they all wanted to participate.

The works of art were of a particularly high standard.  Attention to detail was inspired through the large number of volunteers.

As they awaited the arrival of Redbridge's Mayor, children all wanted to practice their questions.

Volunteers spoke of how well behaved all the children were.

One of the participants was a child with Autism and he was the first child we have served with such a condition.  We overcame this by ensuring the mother stayed with the child throughout the course.

A local teacher from the Local Mosque spoke of the precepts of peace in Islam and his abhorrence for war.

Children listened attentively and asked very pertinent questions.  They will also hear from a Nazi Holocaust Survivor, a Local Pastor and from a Hindu speaker as part of an interfaith harmony theme for our sessions.

Children learnt about the need for acceptance and tolerance to build stronger more productive societies.

The Mayor of Redbridge Felicity Banks arrived and received a great welcome.

Wearing her Mayoral Chain Madam Mayor looked authoritative.

Mayor Banks explained how the Mayor was the first citizen of the Borough.

Excited children could not wait to ask their questions.

The Mayor described how she was not able to remove or put on the chain which has to placed upon her under a very tightly controlled traditional method.

Cllr Banks described the individuals parts of the Borough Emblem on her chain, and how is some places she is not allowed to wear the Borough Chain.

Cllr Banks explained how the Borough got its name due to Red Bridge that once spanned the local River Roding.  This was after a heated debate and desire for a new name that did not incorporate any existing town name to prevent bias.

26 Children have attended the course of the last 3 days.

Mayor Banks was particularly adept at speaking to children as she was once a Teacher - starting off her career at Barley Lane Primary School.

Some of the volunteers with Mayor Banks.

The Mayor described the contents our Borough emblem to children.

The older Children with Mayor Banks.

Younger children with Mayor Banks.

Everyone was having fun, Mayor Banks spoke warmly of the good nature of the children.

Mayor Banks with a smile every bit as gorgeous as the children.  She was one of the warmest Mayor's our group has met.

Children simply enjoyed being around such an important person.

Mayor Banks enjoyed conversations with many of the children.

Volunteers met our Mayor for the first time.

Children kept the mayor with good company.

Mayor Banks was patient with children and shared valuable time with them.  They left the days activities very inspired.

The Mayor displayed a lovely "Posh Poppy" that had been donated to a number of Councillors.

Poppies were on show outside our Community Centre.

Children enjoyed their time with the Mayor.

Excitement filled the air.

With so many diversities represented so far this experiment has been a huge success.

Art work produced by children is off the highest calibre.

Children worked on finishing touches of the poppy project.

The accuracy of the shape and type of leaves and poppies were excellent when considering the age of the children.

Children expressed a desire to tell their teachers about the project, so something similar could be done in their schools.  They will all be sharing news of the library exhibition with their friends and relatives and seemed very excited about seeing their work in a display.

Participation on the course was extremely encouraging, children seemed relaxed and extremely focused.

Local mothers volunteered and all really enjoyed the experience.

One child expressed their gratitude with an impromptu hug.

Leading to a huge rush towards Mudhumita the artist.

Children simply did not want the course to end and expressed great love for the efforts of Mudhumita.

We thought we would catch the moment in a few more photographs.

Simply an adorable end to the project.