Yesterday, we celebrated Wokingham LGBT+ Pride. Having grown up in Wokingham and now living here with my wife as an out lesbian couple, I cannot express what this means to me.
To see us recognised, accepted and celebrated in this way after so many years of being marginalised is a great leap forward for our society as a whole.
We no longer have to hide elements of our lives from our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues to be accepted.
We are going through some difficult times at the moment and cannot hold the Pride event that we would want for Wokingham.
It is also particularly sad that all of the victims of the Forbury Gardens attack in our neighbouring town of Reading, were active members of the LGBT+ community. However, it does illustrate the fact that we are teachers, scientists, healthcare workers etc who are part of our community and contribute to every corner of our society.
Please come help us celebrate Wokingham LGBT+ Pride, put out your rainbow flags and post your support on Social Media – it is for everyone who wants to see all of us as an inclusive, accepting and diverse community – even if we are not quite there yet.
Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, Councillor for the Emmbrook Ward of Wokingham Borough Council
Denmark Street was OK
I read your Voice of Wokingham article regarding the Denmark street closure with interest. I was initially quite sceptical of this idea as I felt it would be of limited benefit and cause a lot of disruption for people needing to get into and around town.
Saying that I ventured into Wokingham on Saturday and my journey in was not significantly changed (there was slightly more traffic coming into Peach Street but not a huge amount more). The big change was that walking around the Market Place was a far more pleasant experience and the town in general seemed to be very busy.
I think the initial increase in congestion along the other route through town would soon settle as people realised the Denmark street route was shut and this scheme will help to divert traffic out of the town centre and (eventually) along the North and South distributor roads.
I think Wokingham Borough Council should be commended for this bold move which over time will make the marketplace and the town a much more attractive place.
Alex Cran, via email
Why the closures?
I hear on the local traffic news that much of the area round the Forbury Gardens in Reading is still closed off to traffic and pedestrians, 10 days or more after the three murders and woundings.
It was an appalling event and the relatives of the deceased have my condolences, the relatives of the injured have my sympathy.
Police have a suspect in custody. He’s been charged. He’s appeared in court and been remanded in custody. The police have witnesses..
What are Thames Valley Police hoping to achieve by keeping the park and surrounding streets closed off?
Apart from wasting their resources to “secure the area” to demonstrate to the residents of Reading that the Thames Valley Police are in control of the situation?
What is wrong with Thames Valley Police’s senior managers? Are they so worried about their public image that they can’t bite the bullet and redeploy their personnel to do something useful, rather than “strutting their stuff”
Name and address supplied
Upset by BLM statement
I am writing to express my concern and deep upset at the recent statement by the leader of the council, Cllr John Halsall, that he and Wokingham Borough Council cannot support the Black Lives Matter movement.
This comes at a time when it is widely recognised that the current Covid-19 health crisis is having a disproportionate impact on BAME people.
The majority of NHS and care workers who have died from Covid-19 are from the BAME community.
The reasons for this are still to be fully understood, however, race is a social construct, it is not genetically determined. There is no gene for being black or Asian.
Those looking for a straightforward biological explanation will be disappointed. The underlying reasons are complex and related to structural inequalities that exist in our society.
These inequalities result in BAME people being more likely to be employed in higher risk and lower paid jobs such as in the caring profession. They also result in financial inequality and differences in how health care is accessed. Wokingham Borough Council is 66% male, and out of 53 current councillors, only three are from a BAME background.
In contrast the population of Wokingham is around 11% BAME.
This lack of diversity and under-representation of key parts of our communities clearly results in a lack of understanding from the council regarding issues which they do not directly experience.
We have seen numerous instances of this and the current failure to support the Black Lives Movement is another.
Black Lives Matter is a movement. It is not a single organisation with a single set of goals. Support of this movement indicates an awareness of structural inequalities based on race and the many implications of this.
By refusing to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter, John Halsall and the Wokingham Borough Council have let down the community which they are supposed to represent and demonstrated, yet again, how out of touch they are with the lives and values of their constituents.
Louise Timlin, Leader of the Reading and Wokingham Women’s Equality Party
Who is Black Lives Matter?
Re: Council must take action on Black Lives Matter (Wokingham.Today, July 2) Would Keith Kerr (KK) and Sharon Harriot-Kerr (SH-K) please educate an ignorant pleb like me. Please can they inform me of the following in a letter to our much-loved Wokingham Paper:
Who are the leaders of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and @Black Lives Matter UK (@BLMUK)? Are they UK citizens?
The US is a foreign country which still has the death penalty in some states. Will KK and SH-K support the death penalty for all of the officers involved in the heinous death of Mr Floyd if that US state allows it? Execution would be a just sentence wouldn’t it? How could any reasonable person object to the death penalty in this case?
Who funds the BLM and @BLMUK? What are their political aims and manifestos? How is a common pleb able to hold them to account?
In Wokingham.Today of Thursday, June 11, a Maiden Erlegh Lib Dem borough councillor claimed that Lib Dems are “positively promoting equality”.
Therefore, will KK and SH-K join me in demanding that the Lib Dems, their national leadership and other political parties immediately scrap that vestige of privilege and inequality, the discredited and unelected House of Lords? If other political parties don’t want to join in getting rid of their Peers then the Lib Dems could set an example to everybody by scrapping their peers unilaterally immediately.
I am still waiting for a reply from the Lib Dems via The Wokingham Paper. The silence is deafening.
With Lib Dems it seems that words matter more than deeds. Or could it be that they are wedded to unelected privilege and that change is only for others?
When a multi-millionaire racing car driver, who is happy to race his car in countries with deplorable human rights records, who lives as a tax exile in Monaco, who has just had his Mercedes racing car painted black, the colours of the Nazi Waffen SS , who calls for civil unrest in his home country in the name of BLM and @BLMUK, then we plebs need to be told the truth about these organisations.
Are they really a front for, or have they been infiltrated by, hard left Marxist guerrillas piggybacking on the horrendous death of a man in US police custody? We need the truth.
Perhaps KK and SH-K can’t handle the truth in a country where, for the moment anyway, we still have freedom of speech and thought.
Paul Clarke, Wokingham
I feel the need to register my feelings for the Slaves in the factories of Leicester – whose employers seem to have a licence to break every law they wish to disobey in order to maximise profits.
That view is based on local ‘approval’ by the council together with the police – corruption cannot get worse. I could of course repeal my view if the authorities can prove me wrong.
They need to answer, for the whole of our country is waiting for some truth and judgement/s.
Apart from the law, I feel very sorry for those ill-treated slaves, whose terms and conditions of work are horrific – in fact they do not have any terms and conditions as far as I can see.
They are residents of our country and thus are supposedly protected by employment and minimum wage legislation, let alone health and safety legislation and the virus Government instructions, etc.
This revelation will no doubt have repercussions in many parts of the world – the US will surely be ‘pleased’ as we supposedly banned slavery in 1833.
By the way, where is Boris?
Maybe he knows the whole issue will be investigated and white-washed.
Reg Clifton, Wokingham
Close the digital divide
It is perhaps unsurprising that after months of isolation, and having discovered the feasibility of working from home, more town and city-dwellers are considering a move to the countryside.
The countryside promises cleaner air, vast open expanses and an abundance of natural life.
Some polls suggest that as many as 40% of all prospective house-buyers are looking to relocate to rural areas.
But many of these planned moves rest on the assumption that working from home will be as easy in the countryside as it is in the city.
All too often, this is not the case. If the Covid-19 crisis has made plain how much our economic life relies on technology and digital skills, it has also highlighted the yawning divide in connectivity between our urban and rural areas.
I know people living in rural “not spots”, who try and find key areas with 4G signal to take important calls or share large documents, be that at the end of the garden or driving to the top of a hill.
We welcome the agreement struck between the Government and mobile operators, which entails sharing the cost of phone masts as part of a £1 billion plan to end poor mobile coverage in the countryside, but what matters now is delivery.
Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses.
Love reaches everywhere
A beautiful new film about the charity Mary’s Meals, featuring Gerard Butler, has just been released. Love Reaches Everywhere sees the Hollywood actor visiting schools in Liberia and Haiti in the 30-minute feature.
Mary’s Meals normally serves nutritious meals in schools, attracting impoverished children to the classroom where they can gain an education that will one day be their ladder out of poverty. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have developed safe methods of distribution which allow almost all the children who normally enjoy our meals to eat at home instead.
Love Reaches Everywhere shows Gerard, who has starred in films such as 300 and P.S. I Love You, immersing himself in community life – teaching a maths lesson, planting crops in a school garden, carrying water from a local well, and even sharing acting tips with some children.
It is available to watch for free now at marysmeals.org.uk/lovereacheseverywhere. I hope it will be a tonic for your readers at this uncertain time, showing the difference donations made here in the UK can make to little ones living in some of the world’s poorest countries – and proving that love really does reach everywhere.
Daniel Adams, UK Executive Director of Mary’s Meals
Stop complaining, start doing
I advise our members, never to waste their time – complaining, and moaning, about the mental health services, or the lack of them. Complaining, and moaning, achieve nothing.
If you think that certain services are needed, but are lacking, a much better, and more constructive, use of time, and energy, is to set them up, yourself.
Groups of people with mental health problems, and their informal carers, can, for example, set up he following services – which do not require, statutory funding: mental health drop-in centres, befriending, and advocacy, schemes, work related activity groups, social activity groups, talking therapies, peer support groups, carers support groups, and mental health education programmes.
Prior to taking over Station House, our Association ran a carers support group, at the Old Library, in William Street, Slough, a mental health drop-in centre, at the British Red Cross, in Denmark Street, Wokingham, a Befriending and Advocacy Service, and a Mental Health Education Programme.
All these services were self-funding. For the past ten years, of our thirty-year occupancy, we have run, at Station House, a mental health drop-in centre, a Befriending Scheme, and an Advocacy Service.
All are dependent upon our own fund-raising, and donations. The only service that we ever had, that was dependent upon, minimal, statutory funding, was that of our mental health crisis beds – so when their funding ceased to be, so did they. Nevertheless, I believe that – were anyone sufficiently determined to do so, mental health crisis beds could be run from independent fund-raising, and donations.
Our Association isn’t a building; it is an Association of mentally ill people and their, informal, carers, so we can function, indefinitely, in any building, and on any money, that we are able to raise. We don’t need to complain about statutory, mental health services, nor have anything to do with them.
I am happy, to put time, and energy, into advocacy – in supporting people in Benefits Appeals, for instance, because we usually win, and then, people’s lives are enhanced, as a result. But I will only complain, about services, if something very serious, such as a death through negligence, is involved, or, if what is happening is demonstrably, illegal.
Then, I can pursue a complaint, because I know that I will get a satisfactory resolution. But, just complaining about the poor quality of services, amounts to hitting one’s head against a brick wall.
They can only work with the people, and the money, that they have, and actual, concrete, mental health facilities, have all but completely, disappeared.
You could complain, until the cows come home, without result.
So, I advise our members, ‘Set up your own facilities; make them as good as you can make them; make sure that nobody else gets control of them, and let the rest of the world, go by!’
Pam Jenkinson, The Wokingham Crisis House
Open the libraries
Some libraries are open in Bracknell, and also in the Windsor and Maidenhead area. Ours aren’t. Why not? Surely all local authorities are following the same guidance from the Government with regard to Covid-19?
Michael Storey, Emmbrook
Is lockdown easing too early?
The most moving, indeed humbling, images to emerge from the coronavirus epidemic have been those of NHS hospital staff and ambulance crews applauding survivors for whom they had risked and given so much, leaving their care to return home.
After all the sacrifices it is difficult to comprehend the actions of those gathering for street parties, assaulting the police, flocking to beaches, leaving behind them a trail of litter, destruction and the risk of bring about a second wave of infection likely to affect others.
While there is an understandable degree of pent-up frustration, brought about in part by a good deal of political dithering, financial, social, national economic and other pressures in the light of spikes of infection being experienced in other countries.
A number of questions need to be addressed: after initially taking too little action too late, is there now the danger of too much easing taking place prematurely? Is public health and safety being sacrificed on the altar of the economy?
Opinions will differ and there may well be no definitive answers, nevertheless, they are questions requiring consideration if even greater devastation and distress is to be avoided.
And to close: the inmates of Shute End Towers appear to have finally lost it completely.
The lunatic changes being made to town centre road layouts will impose their own particular brand of local lockdown and surely drive yet another nail into the town’s coffin.
J W Blaney, Wokingham