Outside Carlisle’s Civic Centre, a few hundred rainbow-clad figures are gathered together. A multicoloured fire engine parked by an Italian restaurant across the road is booming out ‘Karma Chameleon’ as the crowd bops along. I’ve returned home for the tenth anniversary of Cumbria Pride; here there are no giant floats for corporate sponsors or semi-clothed dance troupes. Instead, there are people in walking gear, dogs sporting rainbow memorabilia, and among the few household names are Sainsbury’s and the National Trust, whose cohort hand out rainbow badges.

It’s the first time I’ve marched in a Pride parade, and with the procession only in its second year, it’s still small enough to join in unannounced. But Carlisle is not famed for its diversity. “We’re standing in quite an exposed area, if anybody throws anything,” my school friend Anna half-jokes, as we wait behind a huge rainbow banner and trans flag near the front of the parade.

I’ve been excited and nervous about this day. This is the smallest Pride I’ve been to, yet it matters to me the most. I grew up in a rural village seven miles outside Carlisle and this is the place that shaped my unhappy teenage years. It was tough growing up in a remote area like this, knowing that you’re different.

 

When Cumbria Pride started ten years ago, I was 15 and didn’t hear about the event until a few years after moving to London. Back then, before same-sex marriage was legalised, today would have seemed impossible to me. I went to church most Sundays with my family – my congregation has yet to discuss LGBT+ rights – and attended a school where gay jokes were commonplace. Luckily, my friends were supportive.

So today, I’m here to be visible for the other gay girls growing up in Cumbria. “It’s so that all the children, adults – anybody who is LGBT – knows there is actually somebody out there going through the same thing as they are,” Jane Ann Clark, secretary of Cumbria Pride committee, tells me about Pride. “Obviously, Carlisle is Carlisle,” Jane adds. “It’s either hit or miss. We get a lot of abuse, but we take it on the chin and we keep coming back stronger.”

We march to the sound of bagpipes and drums in the cool sunlight. My mum was initially devastated when I came out as a lesbian just before heading to London for university in 2012. About 20 metres in, I spot her cheering us on with her friend Helen as we continue through the streets that I know so well. By this point, Anna has started enthusiastically shouting: “Gay rights for gays!”

I have so many memories of breaking down at night in my bedroom that for a couple of years after leaving home, it was hard for me to sleep there when I came back for the holidays. I was depressed, I felt trapped, and I knew that my mum, in particular, would at first struggle to accept my sexuality. Watching her grow to welcome the person I am has been incredibly heartwarming.

Marching with Anna and Sophie, I feel like I’m healing. For the first time in years, I don’t just feel proud to be gay: I feel proud to be Cumbrian. Today, for me, is about moving on. I heard a lot of gay jibes and homophobic comments growing up – at school, around the kitchen table, at barbecues with family friends – and I’ve felt pretty bitter about all of that for years. But I’m ready to let it go. Things have moved forward since then: the landscape for LGBT+ rights has progressed significantly and I really believe the people around me have changed.

 
 
 

There are not thousands of people lining the streets here like at Pride marches in London or Manchester. Instead, a few bemused elderly shoppers watch with their bags outside Iceland, and some kids hang out their windows taking photos. As we pass The Lanes Shopping Centre, a dozen or so hardcore spectators have clustered together, including a small child in fancy dress and another school friend, James, who waves excitedly. Down in the city centre, I see my big brother and dad, alongside two other family friends.

“In a way, [Pride] is probably more important in a rural area like ours,” Martin Reeves, vice-chair of Cumbria Pride’s committee, tells me later in the day. While he notes the big cities have their own problems with hate crime, he adds: “There are still people who have homophobic experiences, maybe from their family or their local communities – and they still feel a bit isolated. Cumbria is not an easy place to get around.”

In Cumbria itself, some towns are stepping up – Silloth held its first parade over the summer, and Whitehaven is set to hold its first one in 2020. Across the country, too, change is happening. This year, Barry in Wales and Perth in Scotland both held their first Pride marches.

The parade ends at Carlisle Castle where a stage in the courtyard and stalls dedicated to promoting services for LGBT+ people in the region have been set up, alongside a beer marquee and a stand dishing out the local delicacy: Cumberland sausages. Unlike pride events in Manchester and Brighton, it’s free to watch all the acts, including the headliner Heather Peace.

Organisers shake donation buckets and advertisers are projected on the big screen, mostly dedicated to support groups and regional businesses: Cumbria Pole Art, a home removals service by someone called David, and Paulo’s Fish & Chips. “We fundraise all year round,” says Clark. “Literally, we do anything and everything.”

I meet Laura Cairns, chair of OutReach Cumbria, which has supported the county’s LGBT+ community for 25 years. She agrees pride is needed in smaller, rural communities outside the big cities. “There is an LGBT+ community wherever you go, but not everybody has somewhere to go about that,” she tells me. “A lot of people live in very rural areas that might not be as accepting. So, for those people, to be able to see all of these people here that are supportive of them, is massively important.”

After growing up in one of the least densely populated counties in the UK, I’ve learned that a lot of the homophobic remarks people made were the products of their surroundings, opportunities and education. Holding on to things said years ago was damaging me, and it was time to move past them. Being at Cumbria Pride with my community, all there to support me, means a great deal.

I’ve also learned love can change people. It can rip apart someone’s world and shatter their visions of the future – I’ve seen that firsthand. But, with time, it can also cause them to go against everything they were ever taught and say: ‘No, actually, this is wrong.’ I know it takes an unimaginable amount of strength to do that because I’ve watched my mum do it. She is the bravest person I’ve ever met.

Today, I’ve realised the importance of having Pride in rural communities. The gulf between the support services for LGBT+ young people in cities and rural areas is huge and, like so much in the UK, it’s far too London-centric. What about the teenage lesbian in Fermanagh, or the gay boy in Aberdeenshire, or the trans kid in the Yorkshire Dales?

Going to Cumbria Pride has made me see that I could have a bigger impact at home than at Pride in London. If my teenage self had seen me today, happily marching in a Pride flag and rainbow sash that my mum got me, it would have made such a difference. If you’re LGBT+ and left that small town for the big city years ago, think about going back for Pride. Things have definitely got better – and you might just change some closeted kid’s life.

Source –  Written by Ella Braidwood- Featured on- Inews

THE organisation Inspire Women Oldham has narrowly missed out on gongs at the National Diversity Awards.

Some 28,000 nominations were received for the awards and the Oldham group was shortlisted among the top eight gender organisations.

The achievement was described by Sally Bonnie, who founded the group and its Oldham town centre women’s centre 10 years ago, as “incredible”.

Up to 20 women from Inspire were present at the awards ceremony, which took place at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

Sally said: “Inspire women are a community of women, creating meaningful change in some of the most difficult circumstances.

“They are discovering that wisdom and wealth resides in them, that they can invent solutions, their creativity showing that a different more inclusive world is possible.

“This approach has enabled women to become shapers and leaders, co-designing the development and delivery of a Women’s Centre that is based on a cooperative rather than hierarchical model.”

 

She said that Inspire enables women from diverse backgrounds to come together, to create both a space and an organisation that celebrates individual journeys and gifts.

Sally continued: “We have seen first-hand the impact of sharing stories in a strength based way – women no longer feeling they are alone; learning, growing and recovering together; sharing stories of war, fleeing abuse, rape; losing children; life limiting illnesses; addiction etc; using their stories to develop innovative ways of enabling women to create new lives.

“In this space over 500 women have re-discovered their voice, changed the negative language used to describe them, become equal, free to pursue ideas, to shape & re-shape, to co-produce the organisation.”

Source- Written by Nick Jackson – Feature on – The Oldham Times

Well, where do I begin? I’m sat here writing this a few days after the National Diversity Awards took place at the stunning Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, relishing in every monumental memory, trying to comprehend the reality of the magical ceremony. 

With my navy maxi dress now slotted back under its plastic cover and my gold heels standing proud on my shoe rack, it’s hard to believe that it’s all over. But there are plenty of memories to hold on to and of course I have to take the opportunity to document them on here. 

Back on the 1st of July, I was working through my usual daily routines when a Twitter notification turned my day around in the best and most surreal way. 

There it was, a tweet stating that I had been shortlisted for the Positive Role Model for Disability category at the National Diversity Awards 2019! I hadn’t sneaked a look at my emails that day yet so I was convinced that this was a dream but after a small pinch and VoiceOver repeating the words back to me five or six times, I managed to convince myself that this was in fact a very awoken reality. 

With an email to confirm it, I burst into a pool of happy tears, still surprised that the judges had chosen me to be named alongside 7 other truly amazing people. 

How did I get there? I have no idea but it still feels so unbelievable to think that writing about my experiences of living with sight loss has lead to something so prestigious. 

With details of the ceremony being a very welcome addition to my inbox, the next couple of months were spent marvelling at the thought of the black tie event which was set to be the grandest celebration of diversity in the UK. 

ITV News were one of many sponsors of this year’s NDA’s and shortlisted nominees were given the opportunity to share their experiences on regional news channels.

I was lucky in the sense that I got to film with ITV Wales News in the weeks running up to the awards and it’s one of my favourite interviews to date. Despite the seriousness of talking about some of the realities of sight loss, a lot of laughs were had and it felt more like a chat rather than a TV interview. 

After a few months of anticipation, the 20th of September finally arrived and with the heels and bag I wore to the ceremony only arriving half an hour before we needed to leave the house, it’s safe to say that it was a very close call. 

A couple of trains later and my mum and I made it to Liverpool, the vibrancy of the city almost tangible as soon as we stepped on to the platform. 

With a couple of hours to spare at The Jury’s Inn (our hotel for the night) we used the time wisely to get glammed up for the evening ahead. After snapping a few outfit shots, we waited patiently in the gusty northern winds with fellow attendees, one of which was wearing the same dress as I was – we both must have great taste!

We shared a taxi with my dress twin and as we approached the Cathedral we were met by the sound of a drumming band playing outside. As we stepped out of the taxi, we were immersed in a sea of people – all dressed to the nines – with an array of different coloured dresses and dapper suits marking the occasion. 

With the gusts still strong, we were suitably windswept for a quick snap the photographer took of us before we headed inside. 

All smiles, we walked into the breathtaking venue, making our way up to the main seating area which was bathed in a beautiful blue light. There were over 50 tables extending towards the east window with the stage appropriately set up against the stunning backdrop. 

I couldn’t see these aesthetics but my mum did well in describing our surroundings, ensuring that I could paint my own picture of what was around us. 

The voices of attendees filled the space as more and more people filed in. A few camera clicks could be heard around us, a flurry of flashes also indicating the fact that everyone were capturing this moment with a clink of champagne glasses punctuating the beginning of the celebrations. 

We met Jenni, who was a fellow (and very worthy) shortlisted nominee in the disability category, and her mum before everyone took their seats at their tables. Jenni is an incredible advocate for invisible disabilities and she works hard to raise awareness of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and a cerebrospinal fluid leak. I love her fabulous blog and YouTube channel so it was lovely to meet her and her mum and relish in what we were about to experience. 

As we ventured to find our seats for the evening, my mum gleefully announced that we were sat on one of the front row tables, directly in front of the stage. I have no idea how we managed that but it felt so incredible to be so tangibly close to the stage and all the hard working people that would later be crowned on it. 

A bag of Lush goodies were waiting for us on our seats – Lush were one of the sponsors of the awards this year – as were Able magazine who gifted everyone with their latest issue. An article of mine was included in this specific issue so I was secretly proud when met with the knowledge that this was something attendees would be taking away with them. 

But the cherry on top of the cake was a certificate of appreciation which was sitting proudly on the table. The writing stating my place in the Positive Role Model for disability shortlist, goosebumps raising as my mum read the words out to me. 

The evening was no longer a whisper of a dream and we spent the ensuing hours getting to know the people on our table and cheering on the winners and nominees of this year’s National Diversity Awards. 

Speaking of those who were on our table, we had the company of people such as Gavin Neate (the entrepreneur behind the app, Neatbox), Cheryl Robson who was shortlisted for the Lifetime Achiever award, Alan Quick who was up for the Positive Role Model for LGBT award and Errol Murray –  the founder of Leeds Dads who was shortlisted in the Community organisation for Gender category

I have to admit that I hadn’t been feeling the best in the run up to the ceremony but the awards were the perfect antidote. Providing everyone with uplifting speeches and tears being teased whilst inspiring videos echoed through the room as winners made their way to the stage. The energy was infectious with the promise of even more heartfelt speeches on the horizon as the ceremony continued.

Actress and comedian Sally Phillips was the host for the evening and what a great one she was! She greeted the audience at the beginning of the evening with a flurry of inspiring, uplifting and funny words before introducing Paul Sesay, the CEO and founder of the awards. 

He highlighted the importance of the ceremony, talking us through his aspiration to create the NDA’s before going on to talk about how many people the awards have recognised since its inception eight years ago. A record breaking 28,543 nominations and votes were received this year alone with 126 shortlisted nominees attending the ceremony on Friday night. How incredible! 

But whether you were taking an award home or not, Paul stated that to him, everyone was a winner. I second that. 

The awards clearly hold a monumental place in the name of diversity and I felt incredibly proud to be amongst the celebrations.

A speech was also delivered by Liverpool’s first black mayor, Anna Rothery, who highlighted that Liverpool has always been a city that celebrates diversity. The capturing and inspiring words of every speech were perfect to kick off the night. 

We were then treated to a three course meal (gluten free for me) and an opportunity to mingle with other attendees before the ceremony itself started. 

The evening was live streamed by ITV on their YouTube channel from 9pm onwards, you can watch it back here if you fancy. 

It felt like a movie. Only there weren’t any main characters, everyone had an equal part.

I won’t talk you through all the winners as we’d be here all evening (and you know how I can ramble) but if you’re intrigued to know who took home each award, the full list of winners can be found on the National Diversity Awards’ website – here

The Positive Role Model for Disability award was the second to be announced with Able magazine editor, Tom Jamison, and former footballer and Sky Sports pundit, Chris Kamara, being the two men to present it. Kamara even treated us to a short performance of The Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he has quite a lovely singing voice – who knew?

My heart raced as the names of the shortlisted nominees echoed through the cathedral. I had no expectation of winning since every nominee was incredible. The fact that I had no speech prepared is testament to the unlikely outcome (I’m not sure what I would have done if my name was called out!)

When the winner was announced, some of the men on our table said ‘And Elin’ and their cheers were enough to make me giggle. That’s just a nod to the extent of the support that filled the cathedral that evening, it was so incredibly heartwarming. 

The winner of the award was the amazing Strongbones youth ambassador, Myles Sketchley, who works hard to campaign for young people with disabilities. A very worthy winner and someone I was honoured to be shortlisted alongside. 

Applause and cheers filled the cathedral as 15 people and organisations were crowned the best of British diversity with fabulous speeches being delivered by the presenters of the awards and their recipients. 

One that stood out to me was Annie Wallace’s, who presented the award for Community Organisation (Multi strand). She expressed her dilemma when choosing what colour to wear to the ceremony, thinking that opting for black would be too funeral-like. But then she went on to say:

“Maybe it is a funeral, maybe it’s a funeral for intolerance, and hatred, and lack of diversity, and racism, because every single person here is killing it stone dead.”

The attendees bursting into rapturous applause, displaying their agreement. The cathedral being struck by an even stronger sense of unity.

These claps and cheers were the footnotes of a celebration of equality. Every inch a symbol of diversity, encouragement and acceptance. Something we need more of in the world. 

The evening was laced with those uplifting cheers whilst trepidation melted away, leaving space for support and unity. No trace of detachment, misconceptions or judgement. 

There was also plenty of entertainment throughout the evening with Jelli Studios capturing us all with their singing and dancing. A performance of Les Miserables ‘On My Own’ was a personal favourite of mine although I can imagine that I would have loved their Toy Story production if I could see it.  

The X Factor’s LMA choir wrapped up the evening with incredible performances of songs such as From Now On and the Circle of Life with everyone listening intently before filing on to the dance floor and singing along to the powerful rendition of The Greatest Showman’s ‘This is Me’ – a very fitting song to mark a night of diversity, equality, acceptance and unity. Everyone soaking up the words that remind us we should embrace the people that we are and be proud of every step we take. The moment being an emphasised symbol of unity. 

As shortlisted nominees, we were asked to mosey on to the stage for one final photo before the evening drew to a close. 

After a few goodbye’s, my mum and I made our way back to the hotel, sleepy and satiated.

We ventured out into the bustling city centre on Saturday but chronic fatigue caught up with me, meaning that we had to cut our visit short. So after a quick sandwich at the M&S cafe (being the glamorous people that we are), we headed back to the hotel to collect our cases before hopping on the first train home. 

And so the National Diversity Awards 2019 were over but the memories we captured during the evening will stay with us forever. 

The people recognised throughout the evening don’t ask to be in the spotlight, they don’t plead to be acknowledged. They simply work hard to make the world a more diverse place and they do so in such incredible fashion. Many underestimate the power of their own work and the positive influence they can have on others and this is why they deserve to be recognised and celebrated because without them, change wouldn’t be so tangible. 

So let’s raise a glass to every single person who is working hard to make a difference, whether they were a part of the NDA’s or not. Be proud of yourself and everything you do because YOU can make a difference even if you don’t always see it. 

To have so many incredible individuals under one roof was something really powerful and my mum and I felt incredibly lucky to share the evening with so many people who are striving to make a positive difference in today’s society. 

We were propelled into an incredibly positive and inspiring atmosphere, something which was enough to make anyone feel like a winner. 

It baffles me that writing my blog has lead to something so incredible. I started blogging with the sole intention of reaching just one person, completely oblivious to where it could lead. I’m still left blown away when someone reaches out to me stating that my writing has helped in some way so for my work to be recognised on such a prestigious level is an absolute honour, I can’t quite put it all into words. 

So I want to say thank you to everyone who supports me. Whether you read every post or if you’ve only read one, thank you. If you’ve ever reached out to me, liked, shared or commented, thank you. Your unwavering support will never go unnoticed and it’s no secret that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it, thank you so much. 

If I can continue to use my writing to make a positive change then I’ll take the opportunity to do so with both hands. As someone who used to be so shy, especially when it came to talking about my disability, I’m astounded when thinking about the position I’m in today. But I’d like to think that this is testament to my development in both confidence and acceptance. So in a way, I have to thank my vision impairment too for equipping me with experiences and knowledge that I wouldn’t otherwise have and for allowing me to share those things in the hope of raising awareness and helping others who are in a similar situation. 

Just one last note about the NDA’s; I want to thank the National Diversity Awards for working tirelessly to put on such a powerful display of diversity and for allowing my mum and I to be a part of it all this year. The energy in the room was intrinsically positive, with nominees cheering each other on in a true display of equality. It’s safe to say that I’ve never experienced anything like it. Everything about the evening was so magical. 

Who needs the Oscars when you have the National Diversity Awards?!

Congratulations to everyone involved, every nominee, Paul Sesay the founder, everyone behind the scenes and of course to everyone else who are working hard to raise awareness and make the world a more diverse place. 

You should all give yourselves a pat on the back – it’s so well deserved. 

There’s no doubt that the National Diversity Awards have become a cornerstone of British diversity and I have no doubt that they will continue to strive to recognise those who are making a real difference. It was such an honour to attend the awards this year and even more mind-blowing to be shortlisted in one of the categories – something I’ll be forever grateful for. If you ever get the opportunity to attend the awards, I can assure you that it will be one of the most inspiring and magical things you’ll ever experience. 

So let’s raise (another) final glass to the NDA’s and all those who strive to make diversity and equality a reality for everyone. 

Elin x

Source – Written by Elin Williams – Featured by https://myblurredworld.com/2019/09/29/celebrating-equality-at-the-national-diversity-awards-2019/

Disability positivity was the message of a pride event organised by a group which works to break down barriers for disabled people.

Music, dance shows, sports demonstrations and alternative therapies were all featured at the Equal Lives Disability Pride event at the Norwich Forum today.

The 2019 event was aimed at changing the conversation around disability and shining a spotlight on the fantastic things happening in the local disabled community.

Neil Howard, equality and accessibility officer for Norfolk County Council said: “Over the last 10 years the conversation about disability has been very negative, and we want to change that. If you look at things like the LGBQT pride they’re gone from campaigning to celebration about identity. We want to be about celebrating people and removing those every day barriers for them. Disability should be a normal thing.”

Source – Written by Bethany Wales, Featured on Eastern Daily Press 

This year, Christopher Kenna, CEO and Co-founder of Brand Advance, was shortisted for Entrepreneur of Excellence at the National Diversity Awards, hosted in the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

The annual awards celebrate those companies enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion and the individuals working hard to widen opportunities for all. Kenna, who founded Brand Advance in 2018 and has also been shortlisted for Chief Executive of the Year at the Inclusive Companies Awards 2019, discusses the inspiration behind creating the business – the first diversity-driven global media ecosystem connecting brands with diverse audiences globally.

Mid-way through an especially busy year for Brand Advance, one of the highlights so far for me has been taking to the stage at the WFA forum at the recent DMEXCO conference in Cologne.

Side-by-side with the marvellous Jerry Daykin, EMEA Media Director at GSK, we told a room full of senior brand-side marketers that thanks to current keyword blocking requests from both brands themselves and their agencies, it’s likely their communications were invisible to gay, lesbian and even BAME audiences online. There was an audible intake of breath, and no small amount of shock at news of such a widespread exclusion.  

This is all down to the current responses to Brand Safety in digital marketing, which takes a blanket approach to content on keyword terms including ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘hood’, and ‘interracial’ – in case ads turn up next to unsuitable content.

This blanket ban means that large swathes of valuable audiences are effectively being missed by brand campaigns – and all in brand-safe and highly reputable media channels.

There’s a longstanding lack of engagement, and Brand Advance was set up due to our desire to support the media which serve these communities. As the advertising and media communities wake up to the power and dynamism of the LGBTQ+, BAME and disabled communities, we connect brands with diverse audiences.

Here’s how we achieve authentic engagement. Our in-house creative team works closely with brands and agencies, and tests every single piece of creative against 10 representatives from the community in question. Seven of these 10 must say a piece of creative is OK, or it simply never goes live. 

This approach really shouldn’t be groundbreaking, and yet it seems to be. It involves well-used techniques which companies have deployed for decades when planning campaigns to reach other audience groups.

To me, the fact that so many businesses have been overlooking the value of the LGBTQ+, BAME and disabled pounds is astonishing. Recent studies have calculated that in the UK alone, these audiences wield a massive £81 billion, £300 million and £250 billion in spending power respectively.

This also takes an umbrella look at these groups – but just as you wouldn’t attempt to reach different ethnic groups with a blanket ‘BAME’ approach, the LGBTQ+ communities are just as diverse in terms of what might appeal to the nuances of culture in lesbian, gay, bisexual and other audiences. Take it from me: tokenistic, skin-deep or the kind of LGBTQ+ ‘tick-box’ marketing that’s creeping into some creative work just won’t wash with these audiences when it comes to effectiveness.

Putting a gay male couple in one advert does not equate to diversity, or earn any brand the right to call itself diversity-driven.

We’re inundated with requests from household name brands eager to connect properly with diverse audiences, which tells me that brands have also realised the potential these communities offer, and that we’re seeing innovative new approaches to engage with these long-overlooked cultures. We’ve just been involved with the London Queer Fashion Show for a client, and seeing brands like Zalando embrace this audience so wholeheartedly with their sponsorship is tremendous.

After the year we’ve experienced at Brand Advance, the kinds of approaches we’re encountering and the campaigns we’re becoming involved in, it’s heartening to see that companies aren’t just woke, they are waking up to the value of people just like me, and my communities.  

Source – Written by Charlie Spargo, as featured on Prolific North 

It’s strange to think, as I sit here in bed in my most comfortable tracksuit with a bloated tummy and sore head, that this time last week I was sat down for a 3-course dinner in a beautiful cathedral, which looked like it had been taken straight out of a Harry Potter film, dressed like a modern-day Ariel who had just learned to walk. I was surrounded by funny, interesting, brilliant people and had just been laughing as Sally Phillips, from Miranda & Bridget Jones’ Diary, made fun of the current mess of our country’s leadership. It definitely wasn’t an ordinary Friday night. I spent last Friday morning traveling to Liverpool for a wonderful and exciting event that evening. I had been nominated for the Positive Role Model for Disability Award at the National Diversity Awards 2019. It was an absolute honour to just be present at such a wonderful occasion. Let alone being there because I had been nominated for an award myself. It was a very special night.

The first surprise of the night came well before we’d even reached the stunning setting of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. After our very long journey’s mum and I got glammed up at our hotel a few miles away. I gave mum a quick lesson in taking the perfect Instagram shots before our Taxi arrived and we headed to the venue. The surprise comes when we get out of the Taxi and he tells us it will only be £3?! I like it up north 😛 Not only this but outside we were greeted by a huge tribe of drummers to welcome us. I was flattered with so many compliments before we’d got to the entrance but I did have a strange conversation with a random stranger who did not appear to be going to the event but merely a passerby. He complimented my hair and then spotted my walking stick and said ‘Is the cane a reference to a film or tv show or something?’ This was a new one. ‘No, it’s just a walking stick’, I replied. ‘Right…Good…Because that would be bad’, said the stranger. Yes, yes it would, I thought as I carried on my way. A few more pictures outside, got to get the good light, and we headed into the cathedral itself. From the outside It wasn’t the most beautiful building, it’s a strange rusty colour which doesn’t fit with the image of a cathedral which I have in my mind but the inside was a completely different story.

The stained glass windows sparkled under the lights that my lighting designer boyfriend would have geeked out over. Waiters floated around with champagne and canapes whilst film crews and photographers whizzed round. It really did feel like the Oscars. Then we spotted the dining area full of hundreds of candles on tall candelabras atop over 50 round tables in long rows. It really did feel like I was about to attend the yule ball at Hogwarts.

Then I met the first of many superstars of the evening, The lovely Elin from My Blurred World, who was also nominated in my category, yet far more deserving! In 2018 she was named one of the most influential disabled people in the UK for her Disability & Lifestyle blog all about living with a visual impairment. She was diagnosed with degenerative eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa aged 6 and was registered blind by 12. We had a lovely chat with Elin & her mum before we went to our respective tables for dinner.

Catering for my difficult dietary requirements is tricky so whenever I go to big events with mass catering my expectations are always low. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. We had a very tasty tomato soup with a gluten-free dumpling to start. Now, I’m not going to lie, I still can’t tell you what the vegetarian main was, I’m going with some kind of Polenta slice but the vegetables, fondant potatoes and sauces which accompanied it made the whole plate taste fabulous. They’d gone to great effort with the vegan dessert to make a soy panna cotta with raspberry coulis but desserts generally aren’t my thing, especially milk-based ones even if they are dairy-free, but a gave it a try.

We had some fab people on our table. From SuperTeacher Sarah Mullin, who was nominated for positive role model for gender and has way too many letters after her name, to another nominee from my category, Terry McCorry, a disability hate crime advocate and rheumatoid arthritis sufferer from Northern Ireland. He had brought along his beautiful wife Patricia. We talked twitter and walking sticks and had a lovely time.

Talking of walking sticks, I was so excited to have been gifted a brand new one for the occasion by NeoWalks. Lyndsay, who runs Neowalks, is a beautiful soul. An amputee herself she wanted to make sure people know that walking sticks can be stylish too. I had chosen the champagne fizz stick which is clear and has beautiful bubbles in the acrylic. These catch the light and make the whole stick sparkle. I think this was the first time I’d ever felt proud to use a mobility aid. It complimented my forest green, sequinned mermaid dress, which Mike had bought me last Christmas, so well and with my freshly coloured red hair I did feel like a real-life Ariel for the evening. I felt like a million dollars. As soon as I have some spare cash I know I will have a whole NeoWalks walking stick wardrobe!

Terry & I had a little wander around before the awards segment of the evening got started; the chairs were not ideal for people with hip problems. We were lucky enough to meet Sally Phillips who was so lovely and had time for everyone and asked questions despite being on a tight schedule. We also got to meet National Diversity Awards CEO Paul Sesay who thanked us for our hard work. Finally, we got to meet Dan White, who we had both met separately through Twitter. Dan is a broadcaster, writer and campaigner who had been nominated for these awards in the past but that evening he was there to celebrate the achievements of his amazing daughter Emily, who, at just 12 years old, won the award for positive role model for age. Emily was born with Spina Bifida, among other things, and has been a wheelchair user since she was 3. She wanted to see more people like her represented in TV & Books so, with the help fo her dad created ‘The Department of Ability Comic‘ which features 5 disabled superheroes. She has also appeared on almost all the major TV channels campaigning for better access & care for disabled children. She’s a true rockstar!

Then it was time for the awards to be given out. A whole host of celebrities and public figures were in attendance to present the awards from the Mayor of Liverpool herself to Reggae Reggae Sauce creator Levi Roots, and one of my all-time favourite Paralympians, Hannah Cockcroft. Presenting my category was the editor of Able Magazine, Tom Jamison and Sports Pundit Chris Kamara who rather surprising got the whole room to join him in a chorus of Let It Be which you can see in my latest vlog. Unfortunately, It was not to be for me this time, but I’d come to that conclusion as soon as the nominees had been announced and I’d seen the caliber of who I was up against. Having been shortlisted from over 28,500 nominees, I felt like a winner just being in that room. Plus, Terry and I had already had the discussion that neither of us could possibly win considering we are disabled and we were seated right at the back 😛 The prize went to the brilliant Myles Sketchley who has Schizencephaly, a rare brain defect that caused cerebral palsy, scoliosis, kyphosis. He is a youth ambassador for Strong Bones and has traveled across Europe making wheelchair accessible guides to various attractions.

Obviously, the whole room was filled with incredible people doing amazing things but one of the main people that stood out to me was the winner of the entrepreneur of excellence award, Codilia Gapare. She is a breast cancer survivor who the first-ever range of false eyelashes for people undergoing chemotherapy called ‘C Lash‘. It’s such a simple but brilliant idea that I’m sure makes such a huge difference to people with Cancer and Alopecia. Her speech was so eloquent and she just really shone.

After the awards, we were treated to some great entertainment including a fabulous Toy Story inspired number from Jennifer Ellison’s dance company, Jelli Studios. But one of my highlights of the night was the LMA choir who you may have seen on The X Factor. There was a technical glitch at first so they treated us to an impromptu acapella performance of the Circle of Life from The Lion King which, in the acoustics of the cathedral, sounded magical. But my favourite performance of there’s, which they ended up doing as an encore, was This Is Me from The Greatest Showman. I know this song is done to death despite the fact it’s been nearly 2 years since it’s release, but having a whole room of incredible, diverse people who knew exactly what that song meant singing along was a highlight of the evening.

The evening finished with all the nominees getting on stage for a fabulous group photo. We shook hands with CEO Paul Sesay as he tried to convince us to join everyone at the after-party but after a 4 hour + journey that morning and a long evening of festivities I decided not to let the fear of missing out win and Mum and I headed back to our hotel in another £3 taxi despite it being almost 1am.

Until I was nominated for one I’d never even heard of the national diversity awards but I think they are a hugely important event which should be much better recognised. Celebrating diverse people and inclusive companies which often don’t get any recognition despite their amazing work. I’m so glad to have many so many amazing people and to have learned about so many more. Thank you so much to the NDAs for having me and huge congratulations to all of the nominees & winners.

To see more about my time at the national diversity awards and weekend in Liverpool head here to watch my vlog.

Source – Written by Jenni Pettican as featured on https://chronicallyjenni.com/2019/09/28/friday-thoughts-the-national-diversity-awards/

Comic actress and writer Sally Phillips hosted the 08th annual National Diversity Awards on Friday 20th September.

Community organisations and role models from across the UK headed to the breathtaking Liverpool Cathedral on 20th September to witness the countries 2019 winners being crowned the best of British diversity.

ITV News have been working in conjunction with organisers leading up to the ceremony to highlight role models and community organisations on regional and national news channels.

Rachel Corp, Acting Editor, ITV News, said; “We were delighted to work with the National Diversity Awards to showcase some of the important and inspiring stories of the nominees across our news platforms.  We recognise and support the devotion of those involved in highlighting equality, diversity and inclusion.”

The ceremony, which was also live streamed through ITV News’ YouTube channel, has been described as the ‘golden globes of the diversity world’ among attendees. In addition to real life diversity heroes, a number of special guests made an appearance at the UK’s largest diversity awards to show their support for the incredible nominees who have changed the lives of many.

Football pundit Chris Kamara (pictured above) joined Dragons Den alumni Levi Roots to praise role models and charities for their outstanding achievements. Scouse sensations Philip Olivier and Jennifer Ellison also showed their support alongside the cast of Hollyoaks and Emmerdale. Gold Medal Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE took to the stage to honour those fighting injustice and discrimination.

Taking home one of the big gongs of the night, Sir Lenny Henry CBE was the recipient of the Celebrity of the Year Award for his ongoing commitment to increasing diverse representation across the media industry,

“Diversity to me means involving everybody without any discrimination” Said Henry. “It means having integrated groups in society, it means fairness and total inclusion and that’s what the National Diversity Awards are about. This is about everybody being on the bus and nobody being left behind. And that’s what diversity and inclusion is about – nobody being left behind.”

HSBC UK and Direct Line Group were amongst some of the brands sponsoring the pioneering awards that have paid tribute to over 850 grass root charities and diversity champions since its inception. Other companies shining a light on diverse talent included The Open University, The British Army, Nielsen, MI5, Lush Spa, Financial Ombudsman, Kantar, Auto Trader UK and Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure.

A record 28,543 people nominated this year alone with an astonishing 126 nominees being recognised for their various achievements nationwide. Amongst those being commended were the real stars of the show; From a reformed gangster educating children on the perils of crime, to the first ever holistic wellbeing and sexual health service for trans and non-binary people; Liverpool’s grand Cathedral was filled with goodness.

The energy in the room was an intrinsically positive one, with each nominee being extremely supportive of each other. The evening was kicked off by founder of the NDA’s Paul Sesay (pictured above), discussing the importance of the National Diversity Awards and what inspired him to create the ceremony.

“Each year we witness selfless work being carried out by community groups and role models who do not ask for the thanks and praise that they deserve”. Said Mr Sesay. “It is a privilege to recognise your bravery, resilience and courage.”

Soap star Bhasker Patel presented the first award of the night to 12 year old activist Emily White, who created ‘The Department of Ability Comic’, featuring five disabled superheroes with Emily as the leader!

Strongbones Youth Ambassador Myles Sketchley was next to receive an award in the positive role model category for campaigning tirelessly for young people with disabilities. The UK’s leading ‘super manny’, Joss Cambridge-Simmons was gifted with the gender accolade for challenging stereotypes and taking modern childcare to the next level.

Patrick Ettenes was named LGBT role model of the year for raising awareness and understanding of HIV and dementia, whilst Darryl Laycock was awarded the positive role model for race, faith and religion for educating over 160,000 children on the perils of crime.

C-Lash founder and breast cancer survivor Codilia Gapare scooped the the Entrepreneur of Excellence Award for revolutionising the beauty industry by creating the first ever false lashes range for chemotherapy patients.

Another highlight of the evening came when Wirral based charity The Hive Youth Zone (pictured above) accepted the Community Organisation Age Award for welcoming 160 young people per night at the state-of-the-art facility.

Optical retail chain Specsavers were presented with the Diverse Company Award and CliniQ were hailed for changing the way that holistic wellbeing sexual health HIV services are now informed for trans and non-binary people.

The Josephine & Jack project were commended for using life-sized rag dolls to teach people with learning difficulties about sex and relationships, and Andys Man Club were applauded for becoming one of the most important organisations working to help men today, with 10,000 men using the groups last year alone.

Musicians in Exile beat seven other competitors for their work uniting asylum seeking and refugee musicians through the universal language of music, and L6 Community Association emerged as the winner of the Multi-strand category for improving the lives of 89,743 residents in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the country.

Author, speaker and longstanding sports editor of Britain’s leading black newspaper ‘The Voice’ for over 19 years, Rodney Hinds received the prestigious lifetime achiever award with a list of tremendous achievements being recongised by judges.

Featuring an array of local talent performing at the ceremony, Batala Mersey welcomed guests with their mighty Samba Reggae Drummers, World Champion Dancers Jelli Studios wowed the audience with an energetic performance portraying a powerful message, and the ceremony concluded with X factor’s LMA Choir filling the grand Cathedral will their stunning vocals.

Designed to highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people, the NDA’s are supported by the likes of Stephen Fry, Katie Piper and Adam Hills amongst many. Talk show legend Graham Norton said;

“Promoting and celebrating diversity is close to my heart, which is why I am thrilled to support The National Diversity Awards! Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees, you all deserve to win!”

The National Diversity Awards was a real feel good ceremony, where each nominee had earned their right to be in attendance for their fantastic work in their specific community.

The UK’s grandest celebration of diversity was a wholeheartedness event refreshingly celebrated in such swanky style, that it was evident who were the stars of this show, the well-deserving, humble and extraordinary nominees.

The full list of winners is as follows:

Positive Role Model for Age:
Emily White

Positive Role Model for Disability:
Myles Sketchley

Positive Role Model for Gender:
Joss Cambridge-Simmons

Positive Role Model for LGBT:
Patrick Ettenes 

Positive Role Model for Race, Faith & Religion:
Darryl Laycock

Community Organisation Award for Age:
The Hive Youth Zone

Community Organisation Award for Disability:
The Josephine & Jack Project

Community Organisation Award for Gender:
Andys Man Club

Community Organisation Award for LGBT:
CliniQ

Community Organisation Award for Race, Faith & Religion:
Musicians in Exile – The Glasgow Barons

Community Organisation Award for Multi-strand:
L6 Community Association

Entrepreneur of Excellence:
Codilia Gapare

Celebrity of the Year:
Sir Lenny Henry OBE

Diverse Company:
Specsavers

Lifetime Achiever:
Rodney Hinds

Source – As featured in Keep The Faith – https://www.keepthefaith.co.uk/2019/09/24/national-diversity-awards-2019-winners-announced/

The journalist, author and co-founder of the Football Black List is this year’s recipient of the prestigious lifetime achiever award

THE VOICE newspaper’s longstanding sports editor, Rodney Hinds has been honoured with the prestigious lifetime achiever award at the National Diversity Awards.

Hinds, who is also an author, speaker and co-founder of the Football Black List and has worked at Britain’s black newspaper for 19 years and spent many more years supporting the BAME community, was presented with the award on Friday September 20 at a televised ceremony held at Liverpool’s grand Cathedral.

Hinds’ list of tremendous achievements were recognised by judges, who selected him from six other finalists for the evening’s headline honour at the eight annual National Diversity Awards which was hosted by comic actress and writer Sally Phillips.

Accepting the award, which he said would be displayed in Barbados where his parents reside, Hinds dedicated it to his daughter, journalist Chantelle.

He said: “If I have played my part in the progress of the black sports journalist I’m happy and proud. I know when I started even today there were hurdles a plenty but in the words of the legendary Sam Cook a change is gonna come and it is coming, however slowly. Doors have been closed in my face but I was determined to kick them open and succeed. I always felt I belonged in the industry and my confidence never diminished. My parents had to fight just for recognition when they lived in this country back in the 60s and 70s. I saw them battle against the odds so I had to do the same thing. As I made my way I began to understand my role and it was simply to provide opportunity for others. I have done that and I will continue to do so. I have been as delighted developing careers as I have been interviewing the likes of Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Thierry Henry.”

Hinds went on to highlight the work of BCOMS, The Black Collective of Media in Sport, which he heralded as the future.

“Rather than people question whether black journalists can do the job they certainly can, give them as much opportunity as everybody else,” Hinds said.

He added: “Even in 2019 as we approach 2020, sports press boxes still do not represent society and I will continue to help change that landscape.” 

Paul Sesay, the founder of the National Diversity Awards, said: “There is no diversity in journalism, absolutely none. It’s still very white male [orientated], you’d be hard-pressed to find a female. So I know first-hand the fight that this guy has on. [Rodney has] been key to the careers of hundreds of journalists and he’s now a regular voice on TV and on radio, having an astonishing impact on the lives of many.”

The ceremony, which was aired on ITV News and live streamed through ITV News’ YouTube channel, has been described as the “golden globes of the diversity world” among attendees. 

In addition to real life diversity heroes, a number of special guests including Levi Roots, Jennifer Ellison and Chris Kamara made an appearance at the UK’s largest diversity awards to show their support for the incredible nominees who have changed the lives of many. 

Taking home one of the other big gongs of the night, Sir Lenny Henry CBE was the recipient of the Celebrity of the Year Award for his ongoing commitment to increasing diverse representation across the media industry.

He said: “Diversity to me means involving everybody without any discrimination” Said Henry. “It means having integrated groups in society, it means fairness and total inclusion and that’s what the National Diversity Awards are about. This is about everybody being on the bus and nobody being left behind. And that’s what diversity and inclusion is about – nobody being left behind.”

Rachel Corp, acting editor, ITV News, said; “We were delighted to work with the National Diversity Awards to showcase some of the important and inspiring stories of the nominees across our news platforms. We recognise and support the devotion of those involved in highlighting equality, diversity and inclusion.”

A record 28,543 people nominated this year alone with an astonishing 126 nominees being recognised for their various achievements nationwide. Among those being commended were Darryl Laycock, a reformed gangster educating children on the perils of crime; CliniQ, the first ever holistic wellbeing and sexual health service for trans and non-binary people and C-Lash founder and breast cancer survivor Codilia Gapare, who created the first ever false lashes range for chemotherapy patients. 

Source – Written by Alannah Francis as featured in The Voice Newspaper 

Amazing people who help create and celebrate Britain’s diversity were honoured at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

The National Diversity Awards recognise the efforts of individuals and companies who strive to make the world a better and more diverse place.

28,543 people and organisations were nominated in this year’s awards, with judges finding it incredibly difficult to whittle down the nominees into a shortlist.

The glittering event, hosted by actress and comedian Sally Phillips, was held on Friday evening at the cathedral, with guests served a stunning three-course meal while they heard about the truly extraordinary work that’s been going on across the country this year.

Celebrities were also out in force at the event, with Levi Roots, Chris Kamara and Love Island’s Gabby Allen among those handing out awards to the worthy nominees.

Awards were given across 15 categories, with Merseyside Youth Centre The Hive, which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited earlier this year, one of the organisations recognised.

The lifetime achievement award went to Rodney Hinds – sports editor of The Voice.

Rodney said that when he first started out in journalism he had to work incredibly hard to break in to the industry and that when he did there were hardly any other black journalists working alongside him,

But he said that things were slowly changing as he quoted singer Sam Cooke and said: “A change is gonna come.” to rapturous applause.

Liverpool’s first ever black mayor Anna Rothery spoke at the event, saying how proud she was to speak in front of those assembled and how Liverpool had always been a city that celebrated diversity.

And Liverpool-born founder and CEO of the awards Paul Sesay also gave a speech to the crowd, saying how everyone was a winner in his eyes.

Entertainment was provided by Jennifer Ellison’s Jelli Studios, with dance performances and incredible solo performances going down well with the crowd.

X Factor finalists the LMA choir also performed, with a spine-tingling rendition of the Circle of Life being the highlight.

A full list of this years official National Diversity Awards Winners can be found here – https://nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/2019winners/

Source – As featured in the Liverpool Echo, written by Sophie Mccoid – https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/thousands-celebrate-success-national-diversity-16958197

A North East charity has taken a prize at the National Diversity Awards.

The Josephine and Jack Project runs relationship and sex education workshops for people with learning disabilities triumphed in the Community Organisation Award for Disability category. Its managers were presented with the prize last night at a ceremony in Liverpool.

This organisation provides interactive sessions, using two life-sized, anatomically accurate cloth characters to make the message more accessible.

The characters take centre stage during interactive, creative education sessions run by and for people with learning disabilities.

ITV live-streamed the awards ceremony, which can be watched in full here.

Sourced- As featured by ITV News-https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2019-09-21/north-east-charity-wins-prize-at-national-diversity-awards/

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