Alan Quick is one of seven finalists in the Positive Role Model Award LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) category.

The editorial manager of the Crediton Courier newspaper (a sister publication of the Okehampton Times) and also a DJ, Alan has been actively campaigning against racism and homophobia since the death of his late friend Justin Fashanu, the first £1-million black footballer, who was also the first UK professional footballer to come out as gay.

Alan is is a member of Exeter City Football Club’s One Game Community (Kick it Out) group, a supporter of LGBT-friendly Devon Lions and Isca Apollo Football Clubs, Stonewall, Kick it Out and a member of Devon FA’s Inclusion Advisory Group. Alan was the founder of Proud Grecians, the Exeter City FC LGBT+ and allies supporters group. He is a trustee for anti-bullying charity Local Heroes and also a trustee for X-Plore, which runs LGBT youth clubs in Devon.

Alan was the inspiration behind the establishment of Exeter Pride and also organised the first hugely successful Crediton Diversity Festival in November last year.

In May this year he was presented with a commendation award from then Lord Mayor of Exeter Cllr Rob Hannaford for services to charity, anti-racism, inclusion and diversity.

He is among 124 nominees to reach the final stages of the National Divesity Awards out of more than 28,000 people put forward. He will find out if he is a winner at a ceremony in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on September 20.

He said: ‘I would like to thank all those who voted for me in the early stages of the awards and hope that any publicity will help support the charities and aims and objectives I have been supporting over the years.’

source- As featured on Travistock –

A charity which focuses on the power of music to bring people with learning and communication together is nominated at this year’s National Diversity Awards.

Accessible Arts & Media uses musical performance and arts and crafts to engage with disabled people so they can learn news skills, grow in confidence and express themselves through creative media.

The York-based charity has been running for 37 years and also helps people suffering with mental health problems and older people with dementia and memory loss.

Activities include the Hands and Voices choir, an inclusive singing and signing choir, set up in 1997 to help adults with learning and communication difficulties.

Along with music projects for disabled and non-disabled young people and children and creative sensory activities for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Wayne Davison told ITV News: “There’s quite a lot of members who are non verbal, and music gives them a media to communicate, and the more they engage with that, and I see it time and time again, the more they are able to communicate.”

The charity has engaged with more than 10,000 people over the three decades – Lewis Wilkinson is one of those who has benefited from the charity.

He told ITV News: “When we’re performing in front of an audience, then they join in as well, and they clap at the end for us.

“I feel a lot happier and I’ve made a lot of friends.”

Daniel Hayes has learnt to play the drums and ukulele through Accessible Arts & Media.

“It’s more relaxing, its great, its good fun,” he said.

Source – As featured on ITV News –

Edinburgh tech business Neatebox has raised more than £180,000 from investors as it continues to capitalise on the market for its Welcome app, which gives businesses and venues advance notice of customers’ disability requirements.

The award-winning business, which was advised in the investment round by Scottish law firm Harper Macleod along with angel investor and Neatebox chair Evelyn Simpson, has attracted the funding from business angel syndicate Equity Gap , Scottish Enterprise and a number of private investors.

A second tranche of funding will follow later this year, taking the overall investment to around £300,000.

Neatebox founder and chief executive Gavin Neate, a former Guide Dog mobility instructor originally created an app for use at pedestrian crossings before focusing on its potential to solve a fundamental customer service need.

He said: “There is a massive opportunity to scale up and roll out Welcome to the point where it is omnipresent and it is reassuring that our investors share our ambition to make this a reality.

“We’re receiving fantastic feedback from both businesses and disabled users wherever it is deployed, and this funding will allow us to really scale the business and reach more venues and hopefully positively enhance the lives of more and more disabled people over the coming months.”

Disabled people can use Welcome to let services or venues know when they are going to arrive and what kind of extra support they might need. Their phone then alerts the service provider when they book, when they trigger the building’s Geo-Fence and when they arrive at the venue.

Earlier this month the app was introduced to the Scottish Parliament site which joined Edinburgh Airport, Jenners, Double Tree Hilton and Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest among the prominent early adopters of the Welcome technology.

The new funding will allow the business to continue scaling up by growing its marketing, sales and customer support teams, as well as bringing in more software development expertise. Northlink Ferries is the most recent business to adopt the product, the transport operator introducing Welcome to all of its services.

Meanwhile, the original Button application for pedestrian crossings is still gaining traction and the ambition is for this tech to be integrated into every pedestrian crossing around the world.

Neatebox recently won the Digital Leaders 100 Award for Skills/Inclusion Initiative, and was runner up in the Disability-Smart’s Technology Initiative of the Year where they found themselves in the last three with both Microsoft and Facebook. This year it also finds itself shortlisted in both the 2019 Tech4Good Awards and National Diversity Awards.

Jo Nisbet, partner at Harper Macleod, said: “We’ve been working with Gavin and the team for many years and have seen the business evolve and almost reach a tipping point where the question seems to be, why wouldn’t you have this technology in your premises?

“We’re delighted to help them secure this funding package and support Neatebox as it becomes yet another Scottish tech success story.”

Fraser Lusty, investment director at Equity Gap, said: “We are delighted to be investing in Neatebox and are excited by both the potential and impact the technology can make. Gavin and his team have gained significant peer and user advocacy and we look forward to working with them as they scale the business.”

Kerry Sharp, head of the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise, said: “Having supported Neatebox from an early stage it is great to see the progress that has been achieved to develop and grow this innovative business improving inclusive access to businesses and services.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the company, both from an investment perspective and through our account management support, to deliver its growth ambition.”

Written By: Ken Symon Featured in –

Abuse, prison, drugs and heartbreak all form Ellie Lowther’s path to her ‘true self’.

Steve Billon’s childhood dreams always cast him as the leading lady in a Wild West film.

It would take 40 years to confront confusion and become Ellie Lowther, a Teesside nana finally happy in life.

“I knew I wasn’t right,” Ellie said. “But I didn’t have the insight to actually understand what it was.

“As far as I was concerned people like me didn’t exist back then, so I just tried to fit in.

“You end up with little ambition and led down dysfunctional paths.” The 52-year-old’s journey from man to woman put everything at risk.

Abducted by a serial killer, beaten up on the streets of Middlesbrough and disowned by her family, she managed to overcome adversity and finally find her true self.

Ellie’s school years were difficult. She felt different, but didn’t know why.

“I didn’t do what little boys did,” she said. “Getting changed in a room full of boys was the most horrible, unnatural thing – and I didn’t even know why.

“I struggled with school work. I was worrying about puberty. If you’re trans it’s a very dramatic time.”

At 15, she ran away from home after an argument with her parents.

With a stash of Bowie albums and £20 in her pocket, she finished her milk round and got in a lorry.

The adventure would bring Ellie, then a schoolboy, into the clasp of delivery driver – a man she would identify decades later as Robert Black, a Scottish serial killer convicted of murdering four girls.

“He raped me,” said Ellie, who has waived her right to anonymity as the victim of a sex crime. “I didn’t have any words to say. I thought I was going to die. I just froze.”

Ellie managed to slip out of the van and make it back to Teesside – but the incident cast a shadow that still haunts her today.

“I will always be a survivor, but my trans identity has nothing to do with being a survivor. They are two totally different things,” she said.

“I didn’t have the words to say what I had been through. I was just a 15-year-old scared of puberty.”

Alone with no one to talk to, Ellie went down the wrong path.

She got in with the “wrong crowd”, started smoking cannabis to mask her insecurities and performed petty thefts that landed her in Medomsley Detention Centre.

“I thought I would be leaving there in a box,” said Ellie. “When you’re in there, there’s no one on your side.”

On the outside, her identity struggle persisted: “My subconscious life was female. When I woke up I would think ‘wow, I’m still male’.

“When you have to wear a mask, you’re not actually your own true self.”

Ellie only came to terms with her gender identity after banging her head in Ingleby Barwick while working as a postman in 1998.

Determined to get answers and break out of denial, she underwent therapy through the NHS.

It allowed her to discover “a truth deep within” that would change her life beyond recognition.

Steve became Steph in 2011 and began physical transition in 2012. She would later change her name again to Ellie.

“I was always female. I saw the world through female eyes,” she said. “But I wasn’t trans. Why would anyone be?

“But now I realise the person I am today is the person I have always been. I now understand the value of being my true self.”

Sticking out “like a sore thumb”, Ellie suffered unprovoked physical and sexual abuse on the streets of her hometown.

She was also “disowned by all and sundry” including her dad, brother and sister.

But while others struggled to accept her, Ellie had accepted herself and became finally happy in life.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m very happy in life now. The work that I do is very, very fulfilling.

“My private life is very, very happy. I’m surrounded by brilliant friends. My friends are my family.

“It took me 44 years to realise who I was so if it takes my family a few more years, that’s OK.

“I always leave the door open for reconciliation.”

Her children – three sons and a daughter – have mixed views on their dad’s change, but her four-year-old granddaughter has only ever known her as Nana Ellie.

And although not in a relationship at the moment, ex partners from her life as Steve are now Ellie’s “girlfriends”.

“I’m now exclusively attracted to men. Some trans people’s sexuality totally flips. Some it doesn’t.

“There’s no one size fits all. I class myself as a heterosexual woman.”

Ellie draws strength from a divine source: “I’m a Christian. I always believed I should have been a priest.

“God loves trans people. Jesus knows my struggles before I knew them. Bigoted Christians shouldn’t be criticising anyone.”

Inspired by God, she is focusing on making a positive change in the world by sharing her struggles and acting as a trans role model.

She established Trans Aware in 2017, hosts her own radio show on local station CVFM and has just been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award.

“There’s a lot of hatred out there,” she said. “If we can’t tackle it, where is it going to stop?”

According to equality charity Stonewall, a quarter of trans young people attempt suicide, 40% have been attacked or threatened with violence and two thirds have faced discrimination.

“I realise the general public may have a problem getting their head round it,” continued Ellie.

“But I’m not asking people to understand me. I’m asking them to accept me as myself. When we accept people, the whole world works better.

“I may have an extreme history but every trans person has a struggle. They all had a time in their life when they didn’t fit in.

“When we allow people to be their true authentic selves the world benefits.”

Written by Keane Duncan, as featured on Teeside Live –

Nicholas Nikiforou, a 12 year old activist has been nominated for the ‘Positive Role Model’ award in the UK’s National Diversity Awards 2019.

Nik was born with a pre-cancerous large congenital melanocytic nevus that covered two-thirds of his face.

After it was removed, it left him with scarring on his face. He is considered ‘disfigured’ under the ‘Disabilities Act’.

This is a term that he disagrees with and is fighting for facial equality. As part of his campaigning, Nicholas prints his own art pieces onto thousands of cards and physically hands them out to the public to advocate for kindness, diversity and equality. He also talks in the media about facial equality and runs a YouTube channel.

“I have been severely bullied all because of the way I look. It took a long time for me to realise the good impact I could have on the world, I believed people when they told me that I was worthless, when they told me I wouldn’t be anything because of the way I looked. But throughout the years, I have learnt that what we look like doesn’t define us,” Nik says.

In 2016, he became “The Face of Kinder” and appeared on the wrap of the famous chocolates.

“When newspapers in the UK were writing about me, I had a lot of support but then I noticed some newspapers saying ‘Birthmark boy becomes Face of Kinder’. I sat in my room repeating ‘birthmark boy’. Just in shock. Is that really what I was seen as by some? A birthmark boy? Rather than someone who has made history, I was seen as a ‘birthmark boy’.

He says that this inspired him to fight for change. “This started me on my journey which is why I am privileged to be able to reach individuals through my art, singing, and speeches. My vision is to encourage individuals to embrace what they do have and what they can be, rather than focus on what they do not have or may think they cannot be.”

Nik is a Diana Award winner and anti-bullying ambassador, as well as a British Citizen Youth Award medalist. In 2017 he was voted as one of the “24 most Influential Bristolians Under 24.”

Source – Written by Stelios Marathovouniotis as featured on –

Gill Springgay has been nominated in the Positive Role Model category at the National Diversity Awards 2019 for her work in styling and providing makeup for transgender women.

Helping transgender women with their transition was not something Gill Springgay had initially intended to do when she launched her image consultancy service.

But when a male friend unexpectedly asked her to do his makeup, she realised there was no image consultancy service for a person who was transgender. She changed her client focus and launched Makeover Girl Reinvent Yourself, working with males who are transitioning or have already transitioned.

Now, following 10 years of helping male clients make the first steps towards transitioning into a female, she has been nominated in the Positive Role Model category at the National Diversity Awards 2019.

Gill, who works from her studio at her Eccleston home, says: “I used to be a housing officer for Chorley Council and I got made redundant. I always had a vision to set up a makeover and image consultancy business as I have always been interested in hair and makeup ever since I was a little girl.

“I studied at night school and set up a website.“A male friend came to me and asked if I could do his makeup and make him look female. He came to my home and we had a talk about how he would looking terms of clothes, hair and makeup and. I was completely amazed at how feminine I could make him look. He was happy and I thought I had a talent for it. I saw the possibility of what I could do.”

Gill began seeking out transgender support groups and visited the Manchester Concord social group, offering demonstrations every month. She adds: “I have never had any female clients. I decided to focus on transgender women. There are a lot of people who need my help and I have lots of clients in transition.”

Gill’s work reaches beyond teaching about hair and makeup, as she helps her clients become more confident in their new look and accept who they are. She adds: “I go out shopping with my clients and quite often it is their first step out. “I give them the ability to see themselves as females, rather than a man in drag. They never thought they could look feminine until I teach them how. “I give my clients makeup tutorials and look at their body shape so I can tell them what clothes suit them. I do a colour analysis and as I stock wigs to suit their face shape and skin tone.”

Gill develops strong friendships with her clients and supports them through their transitional journey.She adds: “I am not a trained counsellor but I can support my clients as I listen to them and help them feel relaxed. In some cases, I am the first person they have told about transitioning.
“I have a few links with gender clinics and counsellors where I can signpost people to.

“Not everyone is in transition. Quite a lot of clients seem to be the same age – in their 40s, 50s and 60s – who are married and have had children. “They have struggled to keep their identity in and are scared to make the first step. “It is hard enough dealing with their image as they thought they were male and they are now presenting themselves as female. Even though the concept is more accepted in society, it is still terrifying for the person. But when they are fully dressed they feel more relaxed as their brain is telling them they are a woman.”

Gill has more than 100 clients from all over the UK and has people coming from as far as London, Ireland and Scotland. She has also written various magazine articles on the subject and was poised to take part in a Channel Four documentary until her client no longer wished to take part.

Gill, who has two daughters aged 14 and 12, says: “I was the first image consultant exclusively for transgender women and I offer a specialist service so I have clients from quite far. I have links to a local B&B so people can stay overnight. I had Channel Four filming in my home as part of The Making Of Me. I was supposed to be on episode four but my client pulled out so we didn’t get aired.

“I have been lucky enough to have been invited several times to judge Miss Transliving in Eastbourne and Miss Rose Pageant in Scarborough, donating prizes and offering my sponsorship. I also attended the Beaumont Society Harrogate events for several years offering my services and sponsorship. I also voluntarily wrote regular fashion and beauty articles for their magazine. My service has grown and grown, so much so I have been mentored by Virgin, who is helping me upgrade my website and promote my business. I have been asked to represent them via their website, as they are big advocates of diversity.”

Part of Gill’s aim is to educate people about transgender and make the notion more accepted.
She adds: “My aim is to break down barriers and show it is normal. People who are transgender are no different to anybody else.”

Gill now needs your votes to be shortlisted for the next stage of the National Diversity Awards 2019, which take place at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on September 20.
To vote, visit Voting closes May 31 and the shortlisted nominees will be announced soon after that.

Source – Written by Natalie Walker as featured in The Lancashire Post  –

YORK charity Accessible Arts & Media is in the running for a National Diversity Award 2019.

Based at Sanderson House, Bramham Road, Chapelfields, the charity has been nominated in the Community Organisation category.

Kelly Langford, project manager and marketing coordinator, said: “These awards celebrate the excellent achievements of grassroots communities that tackle the issues in today’s society, giving them recognition for their dedication and hard work,so it’s a real honour for us to have been nominated.”

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral will play host to the awards ceremony on September 20, when “Britain’s most inspirational and selfless people will come together to honour the rich tapestry of our nation”, recognising nominees in their respective fields of diversity, whether age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

Accessible Arts & Media (AAM)has been running inclusive arts and media learning programmes in and around York since 1982. At present the focus is on projects for learning disabled young people and adults, older people living with dementia and memory loss and people with mental ill health, with the aim of helping people to develop the skills and confidence to become involved in their community and have more of a say in what matters to them.

Creative director Rose Kent said: “We’re incredibly proud that our work’s been recognised with a nomination for a National Diversity Award. The awards are all about celebrating inclusion and diversity, which is what we do every day at AAM. We believe that everyone can learn, everyone can be creative, and everyone can contribute to their local community; they just need the right support. It would mean the world to us to win the award and put York on the map as an inclusive city.”

The National Diversity Awards receive more than 25,000 nominations and votes annually. Nominations for who should win are now open and will close on May 31; shortlisted nominees will be announced in June. The judging panel will take the number of nominations received for each nominee into account when making its decision. “Don’t miss out on your chance to get involved and support Accessible Arts & Media,” urged Rose.

To nominate Accessible Arts & Media and explain why you think they should win an award, visit or email for a nomination form.

Source – Written by Charles Hutchinson as featured in The York Press –

Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia to name but a few. They’re all conditions we’ve heard of, but there’s now a word to describe them all.

‘Neurodiversity’ refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information.

According to the Department of Education, 15% of students in the UK have a what’s called ‘learning difference’, and now a 16-year old girl wants to honour them all – with the creation of ‘Neurodiversity Celebration Week’.

Many neurodivergent adults look back on their school days in a negative light. They spent much of their time at school feeling embarrassed and humiliated. Speaking to ITV News, Siena Castellon says often students with neurodiversities are made to feel like failures.

She says their ability to fulfil their potential is threatened by the stigma associated with having an educational need, and the misconceptions many people still have about those with a learning difference.

Siena is on a mission to break down those barriers.

She’s set up a website dedicated to the inaugural week, and so far almost 300 schools across the UK have pledged their support.

They will either organise lessons to educate the wider student population about Neurodiversity, or will hang up posters around their schools to raise awareness.

The idea for the week came up after Siena found comfort in Anti-Bullying Week. She’d been bullied at school for having a number of learning differences.

Just like the national Anti-Bullying Week, she wanted Neurodiversity to have the same platform.

Being neurodivergent includes having ADHD, Autism and Dyslexia and more.

All forms of neurodivergence bring strengths as well as difficulties. The creation of this week hopes to celebrate those strengths.

“In order to help us to flourish, I believe schools should stop focusing only on what we cannot do and should begin to acknowledge and celebrate the many positive aspects of being neurodiverse.“It is important for schools to recognise our many strengths: our creativity, innovation, ability to think outside-the-box, problem-solving skills, unique insights and perspectives, perseverance and resilience.”– SIENA CASTELLON, FOUNDER


Arundel resident Charlotte Twinley, 21, has been nominated for a Positive Role Model for disabilities at the National Diversity Awards. Charlotte was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) when she was 15 years old. EDS is a connective tissue disorder, affecting all of the collagen in the body which supports joints, muscles and organs. This caused her to have severe digestive complications. This greatly affected her life, causing her to stop being able to take part in sports. This all led her to develop anxiety, depression and anorexia.

Soon after, Charlotte had to leave university, and have a completely liquid diet for a year, until she had surgery to get a stoma bag. Now Charlotte uses social media and the internet to help others who are going through similar problems, spread awareness and end the stigma towards stomas, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and mental health problems.

Charlotte said: “Now, less than a year into having my stoma, I’m able to go out and eat and, what’s even more important, I want to eat and finally fully appreciate food again. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m raising awareness for EDS and chronic illness and helping those who are in a similar situation as I was as much as I can on Instagram.

I worked with Barcroft TV to produce a video on YouTube and Snapchat about EDS and my ileostomy – highlighting the fact that it’s not just people with cancer, crohns and colitis that have a stoma. The YouTube video has over 203,000 views and I received 60+ messages on social media about my video after it was released on Snapchat, all of which I replied to. I’m taking part and modelling for campaigns about body image and health conditions, like a campaign organised by Love Disfigure and NuNude outside of Victoria’s Secret for more inclusivity – this became viral with Huffpost, LadBible, Daily Mail and People writing articles about it, as well as many others around the world.

In January 2019, I was part of an article in Glamour Paris talking about how I raise awareness for stomas on Instagram. I have also set up my own website, sharing my story and have started to blog about various topics; such as diversity, disabilities and mental health. I’m dedicated to raise awareness for mental health, for eating disorders, for body dysmorphia, for body confidence, for diversity and for encouraging people to love and accept their bodies the way they are. I want to be the girl I needed to see when I was struggling. I want to be the best role model I can be.”

If you would like to vote for Charlotte for you can do so here

You can also follow her on her blog and Instagram.

Source – www . Sussex Local . Net


THREE influential role models have been nominated for a prestigious national award.

A police sergeant, an MP’s inspirational caseworker and a Whitefield mum who was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 12 have all been nominated in the UK’ largest Diversity Awards.

Sgt Abed Hussain, who has served with Greater Manchester Police for 24 years, and Ummrana Farooq, a caseworker for MP James Frith, have been nominated for being positive role models for race, religion and faith.

Mum-of-six Emma Murphy, from Whitefield, has been nominated as a positive role model in the disability category. Based on her own experiences, Emma has been campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of taking Epilim — one of the registered trade names of the anti-epilepsy drug sodium valporate.

Mrs Farooq, aged 43, said: “I am keen to leave a lasting legacy in the Bury community and I aspire to be a great role model to my own children and to wider society.”

The mum-of-five said “her life changed completely” after she began working as a caseworker for James Frith, MP for Bury North, handling asylum and immigration enquiries for constituents.

She had previously worked at Bury Carer’s Centre, organising various multicultural events, with a focus on promoting equality and diversity.

As her influence expanded, Mrs Farooq has also been appointed fundraiser for Muslim Hands charity, parent governor at The Derby High School and St Thomas’s Primary School, as well as the chief BAME co-ordinator for the Bury North Labour Party.

Mrs Farooq added: “I have been asked how I manage being a British Pakistani Muslim wife, mother, friend, work colleague and community volunteer. To give inspiration to other women, especially the ethnic minority, I recently started a blog of my inspirational journey, hoping to reach out to the women worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Sgt Hussain is recognised for his work to build relationships between members of the police force, faith leaders and young people.

He created Bury’s LGBT Rainbow Walks and first ever Pride march. He also set up the Bury Muslim Forum, which has helped to increase the understanding and reporting of domestic abuse and other issues, and planning the multi-faith Collabor8e event.

In December 2018, he received a Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) in recognition of his contributions to policing.

This year’s Diversity Awards, which recognise role models of diversity within various fields, will take place at Liverpool Cathedral on September 20.

Source – Written by a Bury Times Reporter as featured in The Bury Times –


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