A community garden which has provided a gateway to the natural world in an inner city area is celebrating its 20th birthday.
Scotswood Natural Community Garden in Whickham View in Newcastle’s West End covers two-and-a-half acres and has served as a vital green lung in the built-up area.
On Saturday (4th July 2015), the garden behind the John Marley Centre will hold a public day of celebration to mark the anniversary
The event from 11am – 2pm includes a performance from the orchestra of Hawthorn Primary School in Newcastle, cooking goodies in the garden’s bread oven, crafts activities and a talk by Ed Tyler, who designed the garden 20 years ago.
The garden charity is run by co-directors Harriet Menter and Karen Dobson.
It features wildflower meadows, ponds with great crested newts, birch woodland, sculpture trail and a heritage orchard of 60 trees.
It has just launched a food-growing project with grant backing from the Local Environmental Action Fund (LEAF), which is run by the Community Foundation of Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.
Demonstration plots encourage local people to grow their own produce and the garden hopes to sell some of its crops to restaurants to generate income.
> Well, this is a move that should sow confusion in the ranks of the stormtroopers !
While they shared the same city streets, their political ideologies were worlds apart.
But now a Muslim councillor has become the unlikely supporter of a rioting thug jailed after a violent far-right protest.
Anthony Webster, from Newcastle’s West End, is beginning a 21-month jail sentence after he and scores of other far-right supporters ran riot on the streets of Birmingham following a march through the city.
But today Coun Dipu Ahad, a passionate antifascism campaigner who has regularly publicly condemned such views, has revealed how he tried to help the yob turn his life around after meeting him and seeing his remorse.
And the Elswick councillor now feels he may have missed his chance to save Webster, and reach out to others through him.
“I was gutted he went to jail. I think he just got swept up in it all and didn’t know what he was getting himself into.
“I hope I can work with him when he gets out and show him what different communities are about. I really think he wants to change.”
Webster, of West Road, was among more than 50 people charged with violent disorder after attending an English Defence League (EDL) march in Birmingham on July 20, 2013.
After yobs ran riot in the city’s Centenary Square, hurling missiles and injuring a number of cops, a police operation stretching across the nation swung into action to trace those responsible.
And by last week 50 rioters had been jailed for a total of more than 75 years.
But as Webster awaited his fate at court he ran into Coun Ahad on the West Road.
“After we got chatting I realised he was genuinely remorseful,” said Coun Ahad.
“He said he wanted to learn more about other cultures and religions. I told him to call me if he ever needed anything.
“He told me no one had ever shown him any support, and about three or four days after he gave me a call and we chatted.
“After speaking to me I think he realised that I’m a human being, like anyone else. I think he began to realise that Muslims are not bad people.
“He also assured me that he will withdraw his membership from any far right groups and will not partake in any demos in the future.”
Coun Ahad was so moved by 38-year-old Webster’s remorse and desire to make amends, he even wrote a letter to the sentencing judge asking him to consider giving Webster a chance – despite the criticisim he knew that might attract.
“I thought I would get a lot of backlash from people that have been fighting racism and fascism for a lot of years,” he said.
“But I was convinced that he wanted to change.
“So I explained why I was doing it and that he was a human being too.
“Some far-right group members might have racist values but that’s because of ignorance. If you can speak to these people a lot of them will change their ways.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Jan 2015
Parents have staged a protest over a council’s ‘history of horror’ cuts to services.
Children dressed as witches, ghosts and ghouls marched into a councillors’ surgery in Newcastle’s West End as part of a demonstrate over cuts to 20 Sure Start children’s centres.
Vanessa Cutter, from group Parents Against Cuts, said:
“Nick Forbes needs to attack Central Government and say to them, if you’ve got money to spend on redeveloping the city train station, then there should be money for Sure Start.
“The cuts that are being implemented are going to impact on so many families. The Sure Start centres are such an important resource for people. Parents Against Cuts is not prepared for them to close.”
Newcastle City Council’s Labour leader Nick Forbes needs to make a £5m reduction in funding for the service after its Central Government grant was reduced.
He is also contending once again with a significantly reduced revenue support grant from the Government which has previously led the council to cut libraries and arts funding.
Angry parents were hoping to confront Coun Forbes about the cuts but were greeted by his Westgate ward colleague Coun Geoff O’Brien.
Following the disruption at the surgery meeting at St Matthew’s Church, off Westgate Road, on Saturday Coun O’Brien blamed funding cuts from Central Government and said:
“I fully support the parents.
“The last thing we want to do is close down really good public services like Sure Start.
“I’m pleased they are protesting and there should be more people doing it across the country.”
Throughout September, the council consulted with families to try and come up with a new way of trying to maintain Sure Start Services with a reduced budget.
They have decided to pursue a model that would help 1000 vulnerable children, and spend £635,000 on targeted support services for children and families.
This means more children can be helped than was previously planned, however the future of all 20 current Sure Start centres is still under review.
Council projects like Newcastle Central Station come from a different source of funding, and it would not have been possible to transfer money to Sure Start.
Vanessa Cutter, who organised the protest, said many of the items used in the demonstration and fancy dress were used to represent services the city council has cut since 2010.
“We took along a paddling pool to represent money for the swimming pools being cut, we’ve took books to represent the cuts to libraries and bin bags to represent the bins that will be cut.
“We are looking at Nick Forbes’ history of horrors and set up a Halloween party in his surgery.”
Newcastle City Council has announced it must save £90m over the next three years on top of £151 already cut since 2010. It’s reduction in funding from Central Government has been significant with less money coming in to the revenue support grant, while cost pressures, particularly of an ageing population, continue to rise.
Vanessa said she has used the Sure Start centre in North Fenham for her children Freya, seven, Isabelle, five, and Niamh, two.
“Surely Nick Forbes’ job is to fight the Government. He talks of this £38m that has been chopped from the budget but we want to see him fight,” she said.
A city council spokesperson said:
“We know that people would prefer there to be no cuts whatsoever and we feel exactly the same way. However, the removal of government grants and the overall financial position of the city council, has left us with no alternative but to make savings in every area of our work.
“Our consultation presented people with three options but, once we collected and analysed the views of 5,000 people, a fourth option emerged. Earlier this week, our Cabinet approved the creation of new and innovative Community Family Hubs, incorporating Sure Start Children’s Centres, and with intensive support to families. The hubs would focus on those 30% of communities with the highest level of deprivation – the widest level of coverage the council can afford. At the same time the council will also continue to invest in other services targeting families with other particular needs.
“Detailed planning of how these hubs and other services will be configured, and where they will be located, will be discussed in a further phase of consultation before the council agrees its final budget position in March 2015.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014
Low pay and rising prices are pushing thousands of North East families into poverty, a charity chief has told MPs.
Sara Bryson, policy and development officer at Children North East, said that the majority of children in poverty in the region came from working families and that rising employment had not translated into living standards for many.
Giving evidence to Parliament, she called for central and local Government bodies in the region to introduce the Living Wage so that families could cover the basic costs of living.
Ms Bryson said that more than 60% of all children living in poverty in the North East have working parents and that it was years of stagnant pay and high prices that has pushed many low-income families to breaking point.
“It’s about making sure when people do work they can afford to feed their children and send them to school,” said Ms Bryson. “In order to do that they need to earn a living wage.
“National Government is very much focussed on getting people jobs in the private sector but the recession has hit hard and industry still hasn’t fully recovered up here. The region’s public sector, which has always been our most dominant employer, has also been hit hard.
“One in four children and young people in the North East live below the official poverty line. It is not fair or right that they don’t get the same chances and breaks as their peers.”
During the Parliamentary discussion, Ms Bryson shared her views, opinions and knowledge around poverty in schools and child poverty issues.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty and The Children’s Society will meet in August and September to review the findings from the sessions and produce an independent report which will be published in October.
“Education is so important to lift children out of poverty but they need to have a positive experience at school,” added Ms Bryson. “Some children will never have been on a school trip, they will have gone without meals, warm clothes and perhaps felt embarrassed or scared to bring their friends home.
“I was brought up in Blakelaw, in Newcastle’s west end, and it was my first school trip that inspired me to go on to university and study.
“As well as adopting the Living Wage we need to work closely with schools to maintain a bursary for pupils after the National Education Maintenance Allowance was abolished and ensure schools are effectively using the Pupil Premium funding from the Government to support disadvantaged children.
“We also doing terrific work as a charity at helping teachers and school staff better understand the individual needs of children in poverty. This goes a long way to abolishing the stigma and prejudices felt between children at school.”
The latest figures show that 24.5% of children in the North East are in poverty, compared to a UK average of 20.6%.
That figure rises to 29% in Newcastle and the proportion of children living in poverty in some parts of the city is far higher. In both Walker and Byker, in the city’s east end, the figure rises above 50%.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 31 July 2014
The English Defence League is to march through Newcastle’s West End, despite objections from police.
Northumbria Police’s Chief Constable Sue Sim fears tomorrow’s demonstration will cause distress to residents.
> Well, yes… that’s their whole intention, isn’t it ? That’s why they’re not marching through Gosforth or Jesmond.
However, the far-right group has refused to compromise with the force and change its route so tomorrow’s march will go ahead.
Chief Cons Sim said: “Northumbria Police has been speaking to organisers from the English Defence League for a number of weeks following their announcement that they want to hold a march in Newcastle on Saturday, May 17.
“The EDL expressed an intention to march in the West End of the city through a highly populated, residential area. We have made our position clear that we do not support this as the impact on the local community is too great. It poses a risk to public safety, will cause people fear in their own homes and create significant disruption as people try to go about their daily lives.
“Northumbria Police has always tried to facilitate peaceful protest and has worked with the EDL in the past to agree suitable routes for them to march and protest. We also regularly work with other groups with a range of opposing views to agree routes for marches and protest locations.
“Regrettably, this time EDL organisers have not been prepared to compromise on an alternative route, although we would remind them we are still prepared to discuss alternatives.
“Those planning to attend should be aware there has been no agreement with police with regards to meeting points or route locations.”
Protest group Newcastle Unites has also spoken to police about marching through the West End tomorrow.
And after discussions the route of this demonstration was altered.
Mrs Sim has vowed that officers will be out on the streets to ensure all protests pass peacefully and that residents’ safety will be a priority.
She added: “We have an excellent history of harmonious relations between all our communities and the public should rest assured that their safety remains our priority. We will not allow anything to disrupt their way of life or any marches to take place in residential areas.
“Our neighbourhood officers, known to local communities, together with other officers will be out and about in the run up to and throughout Saturday to reassure local people and answer any questions they may have.
“We have also been working with representatives of the local community and partners in the run up to the weekend.
“We do expect Saturday to be extremely busy in Newcastle but it will be ‘business as usual’. There are a number of events going on in the city centre and surrounding areas but there is no need for anyone to change their plans or avoid the city.”
Northumbria Police’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird is now appealing to the EDL to get in touch.
She said: “The Chief Constable has made an operational decision that no march or demonstration should be allowed in the west end of Newcastle on March 17, and, although I do not make operational decisions, as the Police and Crime Commissioner I agree and support her wholeheartedly.
“Few people would wish to have their communities disrupted in that way, including probably those who want to protest.
“In previous demonstrations, protests and marches by the English Defence League (EDL), they have accepted the request to discuss the route and the details with Northumbria Police, who have a good history of protecting the right to protest whilst ensuring that people who are not involved are not seriously inconvenienced.
“It is disappointing that the EDL have refused to give details of their plans to the police.
“I would appeal to them to make contact now and agree reasonable arrangements as usual.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 May 2014