A North East woman has become a poster girl in a campaign to combat prejudice against immigrants.
Wendy Dirks is one of 15 people selected nationwide to feature in the “I am an immigrant” initiative launched by the Movement Against Xenophobia.
Their pictures, taken by Vogue magazine photographer Philip Volkers, can now be seen at 400 London tube stations, 550 national railway stations and other sites across the UK.
Explaining the thinking behind it, the group said:
“Immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. It’s time to celebrate, not vilify them.”
Wendy, 62, is originally from Chicago in the US but has lived and worked in Newcastle for nine years with her husband, Gateshead-born Dr Don Reid. She is a lecturer in Oral Biology at Newcastle University.
“When I first saw the picture of me it was absolutely surreal. This and the fact it was taken by a photographer from Vogue.
“But it’s a fantastic idea to let people know that immigrants have contributed so much to British society, particularly when the issue has become so toxic in the run up to the general election.”
More than £44,000 was raised in a crowdfunding drive to back the campaign.
It feature the likes a fire fighter from Poland, a stand up comedian from Somalia, a barrister, a teacher and a bus driver, people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world who have one thing in common. Living and working in Britain.
Wendy revealed how a run in with British immigration officials indirectly led to her involvement in the campaign.
She said her son from her first marriage and still living in the US had lost his job which resulted in health issues. As a result she and Don wanted him to come and stay with them in Newcastle for six months to recuperate.
“He was in a bad way. We looked into it and thought he could come for six months without a visa.
“But he was stopped at the airport, put into a cell and sent home the next morning because they decided as he had no job here he had no reason to go back to the US.”
As a result of the incident she was in touch with the UK-based Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which is behind the Movement Against Xenophobia. One of its emails asking for volunteers for the ‘I am an immigrant’ campaign found its way to Wendy.
“I put my name forward straight away and was chosen.
“The campaign is definitely not saying that there should be no immigration controls. But the way people talk about immigrants, it’s as if we’re to blame for all the ills, as if we don’t make a contribution to the country, which is very wrong.
“I love it here, especially the North East. I love Newcastle and Northumberland is gorgeous.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Apr 2015
Rail services at around 20 of the region’s “little-used” stations are under threat, under new Government plans.
Ministers are proposing cutting the number of trains that serve 67 stops with “particularly low levels of use”, when a new contract is brought in for a private operator.
They include ten in North Yorkshire, four on Teesside, three in Tyne and Wear and a further five in Northumberland.
Some have extraordinarily few passengers, in particular the station at Teesside Airport which – notoriously – had just eight passengers last year, on only two trains each week.
Five other local stations attract fewer than ten passengers a day on average; British Steel Redcar (2.44), Battersby, North Yorkshire (4.31), Kildale, North Yorkshire (4.99), Dunston, Gateshead (5.93), Blaydon (7.59) and Ruswarp, North Yorkshire (8.07).
And the list stretches down as far as stops with nearly 10,000 passengers a year, but still small numbers each day; Marton, Middlesbrough (27.02) and Danby, North Yorkshire (27.13).
The Department for Transport (DfT) has vowed that 30-year-old ‘Pacer’ trains – condemned as “cattle trucks” by critics – will finally be replaced, as part of the new contract.
It asks: “What are your views on giving priority to improving the quality of the Northern rolling stock at the expense of some reduction in lightly used services (e.g. fewer calls at low-use stations)?”
The proposal is included in plans for the new Northern Rail and Trans-Pennine franchises, which are due to be awarded late next year and to start in February 2016.
The operators run services to Darlington, Durham City, Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool, Redcar, Sunderland, Newton Aycliffe, Redcar, Northallerton, York and Scarborough.
Controversially, the DfT has already warned that rail fares may have to soar to pay for the new trains, regardless of whether some services are culled at less popular stations.
> So business as usual – fewer services costing more… to be followed by big payouts to shareholders .
Commuters in the region pay up to 60 per cent less than in other parts of the country for short journeys, according to officials.
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, pointed out that James Cook Hospital had just opened a new platform linked to Marton.
And he said: “They’re probably less used because services are few and limited. South Bank hardly has a service that stops there, so it’s a bit cheeky for Northern Rail to highlight stations it hardly services.
> It’s a good point – if there are very few services to start with, the number of users is going to be less. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if services were increased.
Teesside Airport station always attracts headlines for its lack of use… but it only gets two trains per week. What the hell else does anyone expect ?
“Perhaps if it increased services and improved rolling stock, it would improve the frequency of use.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin insisted that no decisions have yet been taken on the proposals in the document, arguing it was normal to seek views in a consultation.
Source – Northern Echo, 26 July 2014