Category Archives: Campaigns

Twilight Training launches Homelessness campaign research – 20.11.17

Ten leaders from seven  institutions attended the first of three Twilight Training sessions following Two-Day Training 6-7.10.17.

The aim was to develop power analyses for each of the main issues prioritised at Leaders Forum on 14.11.17 – Homelessness & Housing, Mental Health & Isolation, Young Voices and Life Skills.

Plans were made for 121s with key individuals who might provide powerful testimony and help to create SMART campaign goals ready for presentation to Delegates Assembly on 5.2.18.

The first meeting for campaign teams will be held on Tuesday 12th December, 5-7pm, at Jury’s Inn.

Meeting with OCS Group UK Ltd gets us closer to MK50 Living Wage target

In a small action towards the target of MK50 Living Wage accredited employers, campaign leaders Debbie Wilson and Sheila Bacon (pictured) followed up last week’s action by meeting with OCS Group UK Ltd manager Roger Young.

Mr Young confirmed that OCS Group UK Ltd is already an accredited Living Wage employer and said he would do what he could to ensure that all contractors with thecentre:mk were also accredited, so that thecentre:mk can be recognised and celebrated as an accredited employer…hopefully before the end of 2017, MK’s 50th birthday!

Action to get thecentre:mk talking about Living Wage – 7.11.17

11 leaders from seven member institutions took action to get  the management of Thecentre:mk talking about the Living Wage.

Thecentre:mk is one of MK’s most famous institutions, defining in part at least our very culture as a community.  MK’s largest building, it was opened by PM Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and today attracts 27m shoppers to MK each year from around the region.  Earlier this year,  it was announced that thecentre:mk will undergo a £50m revamp.

Citizens:mk’s Living Wage campaign team has been working for more than five years to drive up the number of MK employers who are accredited  Real Living Wage employers, i.e. those who are committed to paying all staff and contract workers at least £8.45 per hour (the wage independently calculated to be what is needed for a decent standard of living).

And with some success…48 employers have been accredited so far (see list of MK fair employers).  But the campaign’s target is 50 by the end of 2017, to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday, so there is still some work to do.

Thecentre:mk appears to pay all its staff above the Real Living Wage (£8.45 per hour at 2.11.17) but to be uninterested in accreditation.

Over the past four weeks, thecentre:mk management has not responded to three emails, one letter and one phone call from the campaign team (e.g. letter to Kevin Duffy).  Is this because the annual accreditation fee of £120 is too high?

The Living Wage campaign team thought so…and wanted to show thecentre:mk the various benefits of being a Living Wage Employer if only we can have a few minutes’ conversation.

Led by Debbie Wilson and Sheila Bacon of MK Quaker Meeting, with the help of Kurshida Mirza and Ayser Al Jawad of Truby’s Garden Tearoom and the Middle Eastern Cultural Group, the team finally got a face-to-face meeting with thecentre:mk’s administrator, Debbie Stevens.

“We would like to be able to celebrate thecentre:mk as our 50th Employer before the end of this year,” said Debbie Wilson.

Debbie Stevens promised she would organise a further meeting.

Following the action, Citizens:mk has been contacted by thecentre:mk CEO Kevin Duffy and meetings are being arranged with thecentre:mk and OCS Group UK Ltd, which manages the cleaning services.

MK business leaders so near to 50 target – 7.11.17

MK leads UK on Real Living Wage – press release

MK businsess leaders met to celebrate reaching 48 of a campaign target of ’50 MK employers accredited by the Living Wage Foundation in 2017, MK’s 50th birthday’.

See list of MK’s Real Living Wage employers.  More than 1,500 MK employees have received a pay rise as a result of our Living Wage campaign so far.

The breakfast event was  hosted by Dentons UKMEA LLP  and attended by 46 adults plus the Summerfield Primary School choir.  The choir performed its new Living Wage song led by teaching assistant and composer, Nikki Elgar,  See video of recording on 12.10.17 (pictured below).

There were speeches from business leaders:

  • Santander – Karen Robson
  • 123 Internet Group – Scott Jones
  • KPMG Living Wage stats – presented by Suresh Nesaratnam
  • The Open University – Lucian Hudson

and community leaders:

  • MK Council – Cllr Peter Marland, Leader
  • MK Community Foundation – Ian Revell, CEO
  • Winter Night Shelter – Richard Wightman, Chair

Lola McEvoy from Living Wage Foundation spoke about the Future of Living Wage, and the event ended with Summerfield Primary School Choir singing  ‘We Built This City Called Milton Keynes’.

Guests were then invited to join the campaign team in an action to present a letter to thecentre:mk management asking for a discussion about Living Wage accreditation.

It is hoped that two more MK employers will be recruited to become accredited Living Wage employers before the end of 2017,.

Network Rail share listening campaign with Summerfield School – 6.11.7

Three volunteers from Network Rail visited Summerfield Primary School to hear from pupil councillors what issues had been raised in the school’s recent listening campaign.  Then they returned to Network Rail to undertake some one-to-one meetings with colleagues and find out what community issues they were concerned about.

The three Network Rail staff were Taiwo Adesanya, Gullemo Porras and Tolu Adewole.  They discovered that their colleagues had very similar concers to the children:  redway safety and homelessness.   The children pledged to include this in their report to Leaders Forum on 14th November.

After meeting with the School Council, the three Network Rail staff volunteered to help 40 Year 5 pupils with a litter pick on the redways surrounding the school.  Pictured below is Tolu (far left) with some of the pupils.

“The redways are much freer of litter than before we began this campaign,” said head teacher Pam Weston.

Building Bridges across Fishermead – 4.11.17

34 people attended a Weaving Trust event at Jubilee Wood Primary School.  While their children joined a football tournament organised by Galaciticos FC, parents and others from the Fishermead community enjoyed eight short one-to-one conversations with guests including Citizens:mk members and representatives from Fishermead Residents Association and Thames Valley Police.

Head teacher Tony Berwick said:  “This event was a very important first step in building an alliance across Fishermead committed to raising the profile of this amazing community and our school will help in any way we can.”

Before the Weaving Trust circle of conversations, there were speeches in favour of community cohesion:  Tony Berwick, Headteacher; Sophia Kibirige and Fidele Mutwarisibo, Citizens:mk; PCSO Zoe Genova and PCSO Paul Colbourn of Thames Valley Police; Terry Baines of Fishermead Residents Association; and two pupils from Jubilee Wood School Council spoke to the group

“Fishermead is my home,” said a Year 4 pupil (pictured below with a fellow Councillor), “and I like living here.”
In the plenary after the Weaving Trust circle, many people commented positively on  the diversity and growing community cohesion in Fishermead.

Participants were then asked to write down their priority issue for action, as shown below.  These issues will be discussed by the School Council and two prioritised for taking to the Citizens:mk Leaders Forum.

Issues raised

  • Raise awareness about mental health especially among young people
  • Concrete, boring, uninspiring, urban
  • Post office missed
  • Deliberate damage to cars
  • Stop public drinking
  • Give parents more parenting tools to help their children – mental and emotional support
  • More activities in Fishermead and whole MK
  • I like to see more interaction within the community
  • Create more opportunities for community to interact with each other to promote cohesion
  • More meetings and more events for family
  • How to reach new residents on estates in MK inc Fishermead – community engagement
  • Getting wider sector together like Eastern Europeans to get a better mix of community
  • Create a platform to spread the good work that is being done in Fishermead
  • Create community platform for exchange of ideas
  • Community cohesion
  • Rubbish is always a problem.  Encourage each resident to keep own frontage clean
  • Rubbish dump outside of the house
  • Litter and recycling
  • Litter.  Stop littering
  • Litter.  Improve first impressions
  • More teenage activities so we could meet more people and teenagers won’t be bored
  • Engage teenagers in after school activities
  • Community youth groups
  • Put up more equipment for older students
  • Provide activities for young people to do after school
  • Clear redways
  • Trim redways
  • Community clean up redway, pirate park
  • Issue with pirate park.  Some people find it unsafe
  • Need for greater safety at night at the pirate park
  • Lighting on redways is missing
  • We would like the community gates to the corner flats made more secure, preventing groups from congregating in the stairwells
  • Pavements.  I have fallen over before.
  • Level paths so children don’t trip up.

Weaving Trust against Hate at Zainabiya Centre – 21.10.17

On Saturday 21st October, 20 guests form 9 institutions, including Supt. Yvette Hitch from Thames Valley Police,  were hosted in a Weaving Trust at the Zainabiya Centre, facilitated by Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting.  Many conversations were enjoyed and thoughts on how to tackle hate crime were shared, including:

  • It is encouraging that so few of us have personally experienced hatred and we must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and become despondent by negative news stories.
  • On the other and we were a self selected and somewhat privileged group. We may be living in a bubble. How do we engage more marginalised people?
  • We cannot afford to sit on our hands. Someone referred to Martin Niemöller’s poem pointing out that if we don’t stand up for those who are oppressed then in the end no one will be left to speak for us.

Talking to people after the event, facilitator Alan reflected that there may have been deeper conversations about the issues than was represented in the telephone texts he collected.  “It may be difficult sometimes for participants to collect and record truly penetrating insights,” he said.  “However, the value of Weaving Trust lies more in the personal contact and conversations – it is our article of faith that dialogue creates its own benefits.”

Click here for full list of text insights.

Standing below are the organisers.

Children sing for city leaders’ support in Fight Against Hate

Children from Summerfield Primary School sang to the chief police officer and other city leaders at the city church in a plea for more action on hate crime.

In a day of action organised by Citizens:mk, as part of national Hate Crime Awareness week, the school choir sang a specially composed song, ‘Love is stronger than hate’.   See video.

“People look different, but inside we’re all the same,” the children sang.  “If we stand up strong together, we can stamp out hate forever.”

Clapped on by 75 supporters from 16 MK faith, education and business organisations, the song helped to secure specific pledges of further action from city power-holders.

Earlier the audience heard a series of testimonies from victims of hate crime, including  male and female muslims who had experienced Islamophobic hate against them and a gay man who had been assaulted in a club for dancing with his partner.

Bart Gamber, Director of Programmes at MK Community Foundation, reported that there has been a 25% increase in reports
of race-based hate crime in Milton Keynes since 2015.

After the children’s song, Yvette Hitch, Superintendent LPA Commander of Thames Valley Police (pictured below), pledged to organise a workshop on restorative justice and nominate a liaison officer to monitor and meet with Citizens:mk quarterly.

Hannah O’Neil, Deputy Leader of the Council, pledged to host two Healing through hearing events for victims of hate crimes and send two representatives to the new restorative justice workshop.

Kieran Lawson, General Manager of Arriva Buses, officially launched a new bus poster campaign to raise awareness of hate.  “Arriva wants our passengers and drivers to be fully safe at all times,” he said, “so raising awareness of hate crime through this poster campaign is absolutely in our mission.”

Fidele Mutwarisibo, who leads the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign team, said: “Milton Keynes is a great place to live and work, but there has been a 14% increase in reported hate crime over the past year and we must work together to do something about it.”

As part of the Day of Action, two large banners featuring the children’s ‘love is stronger than hate’ posters, were hung from the front of Church of Christ the Cornerstone.  The Rev John Robertson, Director of MK Mission Partnership, officially unveiled them.

Citizens UK’s Esmat Jeraj, who presented the ‘Missing Muslims’ report published earlier this year by the national commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life, said:  “It was truly an inspiring event, with strong and diverse turnout from individuals of all ages and backgrounds (from the LGBTQ alliance to the Church and Mosque). The passion from all those speaking was evident and reflections from attendees was that this was an uplifting and inspirational event.”

Click here for more photos (courtesy of Mubasher Maqbool.)

Click here to hear ‘Love is stronger than hate’ by the choir of Summerfield Primary School.

Click here for Fidele’s experience.

Click here for Nikki’s experience.

Click here to see design of posters on Arriva buses

For further information about the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign, click here.

Nikki’s experience of 18.10.17 action

I loved the Fight Against Hate action day that I attended and found it a hugely motivational and positive event. It was great that the children were so involved too, not only when singing the song, but when they had the opportunity to question and listen to others and share their own experiences of hate.

It was particularly beneficial for them to hear from other people’s experiences as this helps them to understand that words and actions have consequences but also that they are not alone if they have experienced hate directed at them.

Following on from my Leadership Training with Citizens MK, the importance of reaching significant power holders was demonstrated at the action day when pledges were made by people in power to support the anti hate campaign. This also showed the children how powerful we can all be in making a change and working together.

When writing the Love is Stronger Than Hate song, I really wanted it to highlight that differences are not reasons to divide and that all our friends are different from us but fundamentally we all want and need the same things. We are responsible for our feelings and actions and, by working together, we are powerful enough to make changes without pointing blame at others. When we are young, many of our thoughts are shaped by others’ opinions so it is important for children to question things and really recognise that hate is due to lack of understanding and isn’t based in fact.

The children love singing and I love writing songs and lyrics to teach them about their world and what a positive impact they can have.

Listen to ‘Love is stronger than hate’.

MK Academy students check MK Council progress on Redway improvements

Three students from MK Academy attended a meeting with MK Council’s Head of Highways, Sean Rooney, to check on the progress of his pledge to produce a list of dated improvement projects early this term.

Sean Rooney said the list hadn’t been finalised yet, but would be sent over by 16th October.  Sean and his colleagues showed the students around the Ringway site which maintains the vehicles and other equipment which keeps MK’s roads safe.

Afterwards one of the students said:  “It was good to be respected at the meeting, but we were disappointed that the list wasn’t ready yet.”

Pictured are students John, Tomasz Wisniewski and Harry Smith, with Gary Thorn of Ringway (left) and Sean Rooney of MK Council (right).

Network Rail plan to help MK Academy with Redways Relaunch

Taiwo Adesanya, Management Accountant of Network Rail, recently visited MK Academy to congratulate two pupils on receiving their Young Citizen certificates.

Student Harry Smith (pictured with Taiwo) was commended for his co-leadership of the Redways Relaunch campaign during 2016-17.

Taiwo pledged commitment to organising a team of Network Rail staff to volunteer a day of clearing and cleaning the Redways around the school in October 2017.

Noorah Mohammed wins Fight Against Hate poster competition – 19.7.17

Noorah Mohammed, Year 5 pupil at Summerfield Primary School, has been awarded first prize in the ‘Fight Against Hate’ campaign poster competition.  The runners up were Frankie O’Connor of Great Linford Primary School and Fariss Kapaga, also of Summerfield School.

The competition was sponsored by Arriva Buses, represented by General Manager Kieran Lawson, and The Open University, who hosted the awards event.

“We are proud of what the pupils have done to raise awareness of this very important issue,” said Lucian Hudson, the OU’s Director of Communications.

“It is good for Arriva to be doing something for the wider community,” said Kieran Lawson.  “I have no doubt we will be working together on this important issue in the years to come.”

Five primary schools brought pupils who were shot-listed for an award:  Great Linford, Jubilee Wood, St. Monica’s, Summerfield and Tickford Park.

“We are delighted to have two winners from our school,” said Pam Weston, Headteacher of Summerfield.  “We want to carry on with this important campaign next year.  Our school is located in a very mixed area of MK and we love to be part of it!”

The Summerfield children’s choir sang ‘We Built This City Called Milton Keynes’ and a specially commissioned new song, ‘Love Is Stronger Than Hate’.  Click here to hear Nikki Elgar and the Summerfield School Choir on BBC Three Counties Radio (1hr 50mins and 44secs into the show).

“We’re all different but we’re all the same on the inside,” said Nikki Elgar of Summerfield School.

“The Open University has an ongoing commitment to this campaign,” said Jiten Patel, the OU’s Head of Equality, Diversity and Information Rights, who organised the poster competition.  “Let’s make hate history.”

Pictured above are Noorah and Lucian Hudson, who presented the award.  Pictured below is the Summerfield School choir in full voice.

 

 

50 Redway improvements could be 500, Council Leader tells pupils

Seven pupils from three schools attended a second meeting with Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, and Sean Rooney, Head of Highways.  Also attending were David Foster and Rob Riekie, Chief Executive and Operations Director of The Parks Trust.

This was the second formal meeting between pupils and the main power-holders in Citizens:mk’s Redways Relaunch campaign.  The schools represented in the negotiations this time were MK Academy, St. Monica’s and Summerfield Primary School.

Sean Rooney explained that his team had been researching the feasibility of the Redway improvements proposed by pupils at the last meeting, and that most would be implemented.  The changes will include new lamp posts, clearing bushes and applying new surface treatments.  He said these would be detailed in a RAG-rated list, including improvements on Parks Trust land, and this would be shared with the schools for accountability.

Sean Rooney pledged that works would begin this summer and some of the new lamp posts would be ready this autumn.

He also proposed that pupils could design with individual school branding the heavy-duty stickers that would be used on lamp posts to identify the relaunched Redways surrounding each school.

“We have listened to you,” he told the pupils, “and we need to keep on listening”.

Councillor Marland said:  “The 50 improvements you want could be 500 improvements if we involve other schools and some of the businesses you are working with.”  Various business partners are already engaged in the campaign – Dentons, Network Rail, Santander, Shoosmiths –  and the meeting agreed it would be good to engage them further.

“Let’s do this across MK,” said David Foster.  “It’s unusual to hear directly the voices of young people…and we want to hear more of them.”   Rob Riekie offered that Parks Trust staff could walk with pupils around the Redways on Parks Trust land to look at other ways they can be made safer.

“Talking to these important people has helped me become more confident,” said 11-year-old Miriam from St. Monica’s Catholic Primary School.

“It’s clear that they’re taking us seriously,” said 14-year-old John from MK Academy.

Researching young people’s priority mental health issues – 11.7.17

Roz Mascarenhas from the Youth Participation Team of MK Council invited Citizens:mk’s Mental Health campaign team to lead a Mental Health workshop at the MySayMK Conference for pupils from local secondary schools.  The conference was held at MK Christian Centre in Oldbrook (pictured).

The workshop was facilitated by campaign leader Tess Price and two new team members, Brett Farrier-Smith and Laura Gaskell from the YMCA, along with Community Organiser Tom Bulman.  The workshop was delivered twice to a total of about 50 young people aged 11-16.

Through structured conversations (121, small group and whole group), short-listing and a process of voting at the end, the following mental health issues were prioritised for action (in priority order):

  1. Teacher Support and Awareness of Mental Health Needs and Issues in School (20 Votes)
  2. Support at School for Individual Needs (16 Votes)
  3. Teacher education/training on Mental Health (12 Votes)
  4. Improving Access to Services and Support for ‘Lower Risk’ Young People who can’t access CAMHS (9 Votes)
  5. De-stigmatising Mental Health needs, especially taking into account students/young people’s individual backgrounds, cultures and religions (9 Votes)
  6. Treating everyone the same, in school and outside school, so that young  people don’t feel further isolated/stigmatised by their mental health needs/issues (9).

It was agreed that the outcomes would be shared with MK Council and other stakeholders including the Joint Commissioner for the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Director of MK Mental Health Services.

Pupils get creative in fight against hate – 3.7.17

From 12th to 19th July, The Open University is hosting an exhibition of children’s art work to raise awareness of hate crime.  In a campaign organised by Citizens:mk, posters created by pupils from four MK primary schools will be judged by a panel including Arriva buses, whose marketing manager has agreed to display Fight Against Hate posters on MK buses this Autumn.  The poster competition was launched by the Bishop of Oxford in May.

Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications at The Open University and Chair of Citizens:mk, said:  “The Open University is delighted to be hosting this exhibition.  Raising awareness of how hate crime affects us all  is important to our shared vision of MK as a thriving, more inclusive and fairer MK.”

Sophia Kibirige, Treasurer of MK Muslim Association and School Governor at Summerfield Primary School, said:  “This competition is a great way for the children to express their natural kindness and show how much they want to live in a community without hate.”

At the competition awards event on 19th July, the Summerfield School choir will perform a song written especially for the campaign, ‘Love not hate’.  Prizes for competition winners include Apple computers.

Fidele Mutwarisibo, member of Church of Christ the Cornerstone and leader of the Fight Against Hate campaign, said:  “Raising awareness through this poster competition is one of our four goals for the campaign in its first year.  I am so pleased that we are all getting a chance to see and hear how much the children of MK care about this issue.”

To see and hear the pupils’ views and voices, sign up to attend the Poster Exhibition & Awards event at The Open University on Wednesday 19th July, 10.00-11.30am (arrival from 9.30).  Contact Jiten Patel, organiser of the competition,  jiten.patel@open.ac.uk .

(Pictured above are pupils of Summerfield Primary School Council after receiving their ‘Young Citizen 2016-17’ awards at the end of June.)

Successful Healing through Hearing pilot – 28.6.17

On Wednesday 28th June, two groups of five hate crime survivors met to share their experience and ask one another questions.  Among them were men and women of different ages who have experienced hate because of their religion, race,  LGBT identity or disability.

Running this pilot event was one of the four goals of the Fight Against Hate campaign launched in February 2017.

Hosted at MK Civic Offices, and facilitated by two campaign team members from The Open University, the pilot event was seen to be a success because the participants, who had not met before, said they would like to meet again.

Themes discussed included verbal sexual abuse, bullying/victimisation, isolation, fear for personal safety, anxiety, not knowing where to turn, futility of reporting to police, anger and frustration, inter and intra community tensions and  violence.

One  facilitator observed that people left feeling more supported as a result of having shared.

Santander clears St. Paul’s School Redway – 26.6.17

On Monday 26th June, 16 staff from MK’s Santander office spent a full day clearing over-grown bushes from a Redway path used by hundreds of pupils from St. Paul’s Catholic School.  It was part of a ‘Discovery Day’ scheme through which Santander encourage their staff to engage with the local community.

It was also a vital action day for the Citizens:mk Redways Relaunch campaign, with students wearing ‘Redway Warriors’ t-shirts and using litter-picking equipment purchased by Santander.

“We’ve coordinated well as a team.  It was so over-grown, litter everywhere!” said Luke Farrell, Contracts Manager at Santander, who spoke at the big outdoor meeting with the Leader of the Council on 21st April.

“We’ve found so much rubbish in the bushes,” said Jarrod Glover,  Head of Third Party Management (pictured above with Greg Maw, Assistant Headteacher of St. Paul’s Catholic School), “…cans, bottles, plastic bags, even nappies!”

“Working with the St. Paul’s students has been brilliant,” said Karen Robson, Santander’s Head of Third Party Management & Procurement (pictured below with student Tegan Dodimead).

“Suddenly this whole redway has opened up and all it’s taken is some people wanting to do it and a little bit of time.  All of my team has gained something from today just by being among the pupils and getting positive comments from the wider community.  It’s probably the most beneficial Discovery Day we’ve done so far.”

14-year-old pupil Tegan Dodimead said:  “It was great working with the Santander people.  They’re so friendly!”

A younger pupil, walking through on her way out of school at the end of the day, said:  “Wow, it’s got so much wider (the Redway path)…I feel safe now.”

“Working with the Santander team has been amazing,” said teacher Meghan Jones, who co-ordinated the action.  “We’ll definitely be doing more together.”

Another Santander staff member, Alan (pictured below), was happy to put in the extra effort because he’s training for a triathlon!

Great Get Together Iftaar Celebrates MK unity – 16.6.17

Two member institutions of Citizens:mk, Trubys Garden Tea Room and the Middle Eastern Cultural Group (MECG), teamed up to host a ‘Great Get Together Bring & Share Iftaar’ in Campbell Park Pavilion on Friday 16th June.  See video.

Inspired by The Jo Cox Foundation, this event aimed to celebrate both the unity of the people of Milton Keynes and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with a programme of talks, nasheeds (Islamic songs) and Christian hymns.  (Pictured reciting the Quran is Umar Mohiuddin from Bayt’ul Ilm Madrassa.)

More than 200 MK residents, including adults and children from all faiths and none, came together to share Iftaar, the breaking of the daily Muslim fast, in a spirit of solidarity.

Several non-Muslims, including the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire,  Peter Kara, had a go at fasting throughout the day too.

“Food fasting is something I do regularly as part of my physical wellbeing,” said Peter Kara. “But the experience of not drinking any water from sunrise to sunset required a mental discipline that made me realise why spiritual fasting is embraced by so many different cultures.  By overcoming the desire to react to a basic instinct for food and water within us, we can also learn to develop the capacity to overcome other, more negative instincts, such as greed, envy, lust and hatred.”

Mark Lancaster MP and the Mayor and Mayoress also attended and spoke in celebration of MK unity.

Mark Lancaster said:  “One year one from Jo Cox’s murder it is right that we come together and reflect what we can all do to ensure that as a community we focus on celebrating what unites us rather than that which divides.  This event is a fine example of MK demonstrating just what a united community we are.”

Mayor David Hopkins later wrote:  “It was a pleasure to attend.  The atmosphere from the moment we arrived and the smiles on the faces of those attending confirmed what a warm and comforting evening had been generated.”

Kurshida Mirza of Trubys Garden Tea Room,  an interfaith community cafe run by Muslim women, said:  “The generosity of the people of Milton Keynes was amazing.  Everyone was so keen to work with us, to make the Great Get Together Iftaar a success for Milton Keynes.  The feeling of unity was very strong indeed.”

Ayser Aljawad, of MECG, said:  “This was a tribute to Jo Cox but at the same time to MK’s spirit and the Communities unity, the ‘let’s do it’ approach which is also core to MECG.  The diverse collection of passionate volunteers and generous participants shows that MK will not be divided.  This was a truly wonderful event, which I hope will set a precedent for years to come.”

The event was supported by funding from MK Community Foundation and the Rotary Club, with private donations from several individuals.

and

The event formed part of MK’s celebration of its 50th birthday, with a special emphasis on celebrating MK’s unity, justice and welcome to outsiders.

Pupils negotiate Redway improvements with Council Leader – 15.6.17

Following the action on 21st April, pupils from four schools met Cllr Pete Marland and his Highways chief Sean Rooney to lay out their initial plans for Redway improvements.

Each school had 10 minutes to present images and details of their top 10 priority ‘hotspots’ for improvement.  These included over-hanging bushes, broken steps, old paintwork, discoloured signposts and lots and lots of rubbish and broken glass.  The schools involved were Jubilee Wood, Summerfield (pictured), St. Monica’s Catholic Primary, MK Academy and St. Paul’s Catholic School.

Cllr Marland agreed to meet with the pupils again once his team had drawn up a list of RAG-rated works, and following a meeting with The Parks Trust, which has responsibility for some of the Redways on which improvements are needed.

On summarising the pupils’ thanks to Cllr Marland,  Josephine Osei from MK Academy said:  “We feel privileged that you are finding time to work with us on something we are so passionate about.”

“I’ve been very impressed with the students’ research,” said Cllr Marland.  “I really like their idea of painting the Redway lamp posts in the school colours, so that hopefully former pupils and parents will take as much care of their school’s Redways as the current pupils and staff.  If this works, I think it can be rolled out to include schools that aren’t members of Citizens:mk.”

Pupils pictured outside Civic Offices below.

Shoosmiths takes to the Redways with Summerfield pupils – 15.6.17

Seven members of staff from Shoosmiths LLP joined dozens of pupils from Summerfield Primary School for 90 minutes of litter-picking on the local Redways.

This was another good example of local businesses doing their bit to help Citizens:mk member schools generally, and the Redways Relaunch campaign in particular.

“I simply put a request out by email and all these colleagues came forward to volunteer,” said Sarah Lovell of Shoosmiths (pictured third from left).  “It’s good for us individually as well as a business to be involved in community projects like this.”

“This is fantastic,” said Pam Weston, Summerfield School head teacher.  “We want to get involved in our local community and that includes companies like Shoosmiths.”

Dentons LLP staff help pupils take on Jubilee Wood redway – 13.6.17

Four staff from Dentons LLP UMEA joined pupils from Jubilee Wood Primary School in a massive clean-up of the Redway alongside the school.  This was an action for the Citizens:mk Redways Relaunch campaign.

Working with Mitch Michener from Campbell Park Parish Council as well as Dentons, the pupils split into groups to clean different sections of the Redway.

“It’s great to see how enthusiastic the children are,” said Angela Monzione from Dentons.  “What they’re hoping to do is adopt this area and maintain it.  It’s going to happen for years to come, so it’s a project for now and for the future.”

“If we can monitor the area at least once a week, we can keep it clearn,” said a 10-year old member of the School Council.

“I’m using a litter picker and picking up some glass,” said a 7-year-old pupil, “so people riding their bikes won’t fall on it and cut themselves.”

“We love our Redways and want to look after them,” said head teacher Tony Berwick.  “Our children are learning to love Milton Keynes, and that is good news for us all.”

Click here to see short video of Tony Berwick speaking.

Healing through hearing the voices of hate survivors 28th June

This pilot event was planned by the Fight Against Hate campaign in accordance with one of its four main campaign goals.  It is not for everyone, only up to 16 survivors of hate crime who have registered interest and been formally invited.

Venue: MK Civic Offices, 1 Saxon Gate, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3EJ

Date: June 28th, 2017

Time: 19:00 – 21:00 hrs

Outline of the Healing through Hearing session

The Fight Against Hate campaign of Citizens:MK won the support of MK Council in hosting a new approach to reducing the effects of hate crime.  Hate legislation covers five grounds: race/nationality, religion, sexuality, gender identity and disability.

MK Council hosted a twilight session, ‘Hearing through Healing’, to hear the voices of residents and/or those working or studying in Milton Keynes who have experienced some form of hate towards them in MK, no matter how big or small.  The aim is to reduce their discomfort by simply giving them the opportunities to listen to each other’s stories about what happened to them.

Two small facilitated groups came together to share their stories and be invited to explore feelings and possible next steps.   Finally, each participant was invited to say what, if anything they are taking away that may help to re-establish their sense of self confidence and self-esteem.  The whole session took 90 minutes.

All those participating committed to keeping whatever was said/discussed confidential to the relevant group and nobody’s contribution being shared outside the facilitating group without their permission.

This not a counselling or professional therapy session but rather an opportunity for sharing.

Participant guidelines

This event is intended to work through, with diverse and like-minded people who have also experienced hate crime, your reflections of your experience.

Using an action learning model the event will give you space to explore issues with the support of an experienced facilitator.

The event will also tap into individuals who may be available to answers any of your questions, for example,  how are police required to support a victim of prejudice based crime.

The event is not there to pre-empt,  so what you get out is what you put in, hopefully the attached briefing gives a good overview of what can be expected.

A key question for participants is ‘ What, if anything might I now need  to bring things to more of a closure or feel more resolved.’

The event will be underpinned by friendly, respectful,  dignified and fair conversations for all those involved.

Any actions arsing from the groups will be required to be actioned by individual members as the event is not geared to advocate or process issues on any individuals behalf.

If you require this information in a different format please do not hesitate to ask.

We require that you confirm your attendance also commit to confidentiality and consent for generic information to be used in the future.

If you wish to talk to a facilitator beforehand then please email fightagainsthatemk@gmail.com

Bishop of Oxford backs school competition to combat hate – 25.5.17

The Bishop of Oxford, Rev Steven Croft, joined other guests from  Arriva Buses and Thames Valley Police in an assembly organised by the children of Summerfield Primary School to launch a schools’ poster competition to combat hate.

The poster competition has been overseen by the Open University, who have created the rules and will be holding an exhibition of the children’s work from 12th July with an finale Awards event on 19th July.   Click here for competition rules.

Running the competition was one of the goals set by the Citizens:mk Fight Against Hate campaign which several power-holders signed up to at the 2017 Accountability Assembly.

Pupil Noorah, aged 9, said: “We often hear about wars in other countries as well as conflicts in England. There are many times when even in this city we love so much, harmony is replaced by hate. ”

The school choir showed its love of Milton Keynes and desire to support the Fight Against Hate campaign by singing their own song ‘We Built This City’.

Jiten Patel, a member of the campaign team who works for The Open University, said:  “Summerfield School can be proud of their student who were excellent ambassadors.  They are a credit to their school and left the guests at the launch with a strong impression of the values that are being lived by Summerfield.  The head teacher, staff and parents can rightly be proud of their students.”

Head teacher Pam Weston said:  “The children thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share their ideas and perform for their visitors. The responses of their ‘VIP’ guests made them realise that they do have a voice and will be listened to when they contribute on issues of local and national importance.”

Fidele Mutwarisibo, chair of the Fight Against Hate campaign, said:  “The moment I stepped into Summerfield I knew this mini assembly was going to be great.  The welcome by the Heateacher, the staff and the pupils was second to none.  The presence of the Bishop of Oxford, the representatives of the Police and Arriva Buses highlighted the timeliness and relevance of our campaign.  The presence of Summerfield’s governors highlighted the importance of partnership.  The leadership of pupils was reassuring.  My lasting memory from this enjoyable event was how very impressive the pupils were. They made a huge difference.”

To thank the guests for attending the assembly, the children gave each guest a box of fresh eggs laid by the school’s own hens – and served them with slices of amazingly delicious cake made with eggs from the hens.

(Photo from Mubasher Maqbool.)

 

Weaving Trust with Middle East Cultural Group – 12.5.17

On Friday evening 12th May, 50 people took  part in a Weaving Trust event hosted by Middle Eastern Cultural Group (MECG) at Bancroft Community Centre.

“I feel very happy,” said Ayser Al Jawad, leader of MECG.  “You can feel it was good because people didn’t want to stop talking when the bell rang.”

Click here to see a short clip of Weaving Trust in action.

“It was obvious just from watching people, and later from the feedback I received, that everyone enjoyed it and appreciated it,” said Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting, who chairs the Weaving Trust group.  “I think we can say that some trust was woven.”

Click here to see the text messages people sent at the end of the session.

Voter Registration – how you can help

The deadline for voters to register for the upcoming parliamentary election is 22nd May.   Leaders are encouraged to promote voter registration within their institutions, and are invited to attend a training session on Monday 15th May 5-7pm at Church of Christ the Cornerstone, to help with this.  Here are some ideas:

  • talk about it at Friday/Saturday/Sunday religious events and/or through 121s with people who may not know how to register
  • print this  ‘Register to Vote in 4 steps’ poster and put it on noticeboards
  • send through mailing lists and newsletters (include the poster as an insert, or include the blurb and link in an existing newsletter or mass email)
  • and via social media.

There is a simple Voter Registration form  online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote .  If you want to print the registration form itself here’s the link to a printable version, click here.

It can work really well to print the forms where you have large groups of people in one place, but remember to collect them all afterwards and deliver them to your local council.  If you collect large numbers then it is worth tipping off your local council’s electoral registration office so they know you are coming and they have time to process them.

The stumbling block is often that people don’t know their National Insurance number, so it is worth putting some thought into how to get around that.  It is possible to submit a paper version with a note saying that they don’t have a record of the NI number, but there is a possibility that this will delay the processing of the form.  Though that is better than not submitting anything at all.

If you have any questions, contact Tom Bulman, tel 07962 838685.

Accountability Assembly 2017 pledges to build bridges, not walls

259 individuals from 18 member institutions staked their claim in Citizens:mk for the year ahead and heard pledges of commitment from power-holders to build ‘bridges, not walls’ between MK’s diverse communities in this, its 50th birthday year.

Mayor Steven Coventry shook the hands of each member institution’s representative as they came up to call out their institution’s commitment – people brought and dues paid – for the year ahead.

The Assembly were shown a video of the MK Council Leader’s apology for absence and accountability for actions he has taken over the past year – click here to see the video.

Jo Astor of Network Rail pledged to host the biggest-yet Living Wage Business Breakfast at Quadrant:mk on 7th November 2017,   “We plan to welcome 50 Living Wage employers,” she said, “and wish the Citizens:mk campaign team every success in achieving that target.”

Having earlier performed a mime of ‘building bridges, not walls’ to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ song by the Youth Choir of Church of Christ the Cornerstone, the pupils of Summerfield Primary School performed ‘We Built This City’ (pictured above) to great applause.  “I just wish we’d all got up and danced to that one!” said Carmel Schmid, a seasoned Citizens:mk campaigner, after the event.

Harry Smith, Year 9 pupil of MK Academy, asked The Parks Trust to meet in June with members of the Redways Relaunch campaign team to plan the cutting back of bushes on the Redways to increase students’ sense of safety.  In response, Alex Chapman, a trustee of The Parks Trust, said:  “We are willing to be  part of your campaign and initially help each school identify which of their Redway landscaping concerns we can help with.   We will listen and respond quickly to any suggestions from Citizens:mk for ways we could make improvements to Redways in our responsibility.”

Following testimony from external guest Olumuyiwa Adekunle, the Fight Against Hate campaign team gave local testimony and secured important pledges from power-holders, all of whom then signed a ‘Fight Against Hate charter:

  • from Arriva Buses, to run a hate crime awareness raising poster campaign on MK buses.
  • from Pam Weston of Summerfield School, to run a schools poster competition to raise awareness of hate crime.
  • from Liz Gifford of MK Council, to host a peer support meeting for victims of hate crimes in MK.
  • from Supt Vince Grey of Thames Valley Police, to plan a restorative justice event.

Tyrone Blackford-Swaries (pictured above), recently appointed Director of MK Mental Health Services, heard testimonies and agreed to work with the Citizens:mk Mental Health campaign team, meeting quarterly, to help achieve its goals.

Leaders from the three largest political parties in MK Council – Labour, Conservative and LibDem, also pledged support for Citizens:mk’s campaigns 2017-18 and signed the Fight Against Hate charter.

In an evaluation session immediately after the event, this year’s Assembly scored 7 out of 10.

Pupils in mass action for Redway improvements – 21.4.17

On Friday 21st April, 400 pupils from five MK schools walked from their schools to the city centre to ask the Leader of the Council for 50 Redways improvements in MK’s 50th birthday year.   This was the first major action of the Redways Relaunch campaign, which was filmed and broadcast on BBC TV Look East.

Two pupil leaders, from MK Academy and St. Paul’s Catholic School (pictured below left), knocked for Cllr Pete Marland at Civic Offices and asked him to accompany them across the road to City Square, outside Marks & Spencers, where all the other students and pupils were gathered.

Employees from local businesses including Dentons, Santander and Shoosmiths, joined the action and pledged to help support the schools on Redway litter patrols later this term.

Pupils collected rubbish along the way and presented it to the Council Leader.  A told him:  “We are fed up with the litter, broken glass and other rubbish dumped on the Redways and we want to clear it up. Our school council are willing to look after the Redway next to our school and we have already started to pick up litter and think about ways to make it a better route to the city centre.”

A survey of 2,300 pupils in six schools showed that 80% of pupils use the Redways but only 40% think they are safe (survey results).

A pupil from Southwood Primary School said: “The more people use the redways, the less scary it is”.

The main goal of the campaign is to gain pledges from MK Council and The Parks Trust to plan and implement 50 Redway improvements. The priority improvements which the pupils want are:

  • litter removal (backed by 67% of the survey respondents)
  • improved lighting (62%) and
  • cut back hedges (56%).

Lucy Gray of Shoosmiths LLP (pictured below) said: “Seeing Milton Keynes through the eyes of local pupils gives you a very clear view of what our local Redways should look like.  Our colleagues love volunteering in the community and working with schools and that is why we are really looking forward to joining forces with Summerfield and making a real difference to our Redways.”

Luke Farrell of Santander UK said:  “It’s really important that children have a safe route to school and we’re delighted to be able to do our bit to support our local community.”

Cllr Marland pledged to support the pupils’ goal of 50 realistic Redway improvements and organise for his senior officers to meet with the pupils so that plans would be agreed before the end of MK’s 50th birthday year.  For this he was thanked with a garland decorated with pupil comments on the Redways.

The five schools who took part in the action were members of Citizens:mk, an alliance of 23 community groups including churches and Muslim associations as well as schools, who had taken part in a joint training session back in September and resolved then to launch a Redways campaign.  The schools (and number of pupils they brought to this action) were:  Jubilee  Wood Primary (22), MK Academy (13), St. Monica’s Catholic Primary (8), St. Paul’s (7) and Summerfield (360).

“We value active citizenship and training young leaders from schools is an important part of what Citizens:mk does,” said Lucian Hudson, Chair of Citizens:mk and Director of Communications at The Open University.

“I am really impressed by the children,” said Tony Berwick (pictured in grey top above), Headteacher of Jubilee Wood School.  “They have put their case across  with style.  We now hope the wider community here in Milton Keynes will support this campaign.”

Jubilee Wood school pupils address City Breakfast – 5.4.17

Headteacher Tony Berwick introduced Year 6 pupils (aged 10-11) to present to more than 70 business guests their plans for the Redways Relaunch campaign.  Also presenting was campaign leader Josephine Osei, Year 12 student from Milton Keynes Academy.

“As a group of students we want to improve the Redways because many of us use them to go to and from school and we want them to be cleaner and look better,” said one of the pupils. “We think more people across Milton Keynes will use the Redways as a healthy way to get around if they are better cared for.”

“As children and young people we are fed up with the litter, broken glass and other rubbish dumped by selfish people and we want to clear it up,” said another pupil.  “At my school our school council are willing to look after the Redway next to our school and we have already started to pick up litter and think about ways to make it a better route to the city centre.”

Six local schools, all members of Citizens:mk, have organised a day of action for Friday 21st April at 2pm.  The schools will be walk along the Redways to the city centre to ask the Leader of the Council to pledge the Council’s support for the campaign goal of 50 improvements to the Redways in MK’s 50th birthday year.

Business leaders and their employees were invited to join the action on 21st Apil – also to help a school on a Redway litter patrol at a later date and sponsor a sign to show they support a local school taking care of their Redway.

“I was really impressed with the children today,” said Tony Berwick, “and they put their case across to the business leaders with style.  We now hope the wider community here in Milton Keynes will support this campaign.”

For further information, contact Tony Berwick.

Living Wage is LUSH – 29.3.17

The Living Wage campaign team paid a visit to LUSH in the shopping centre to say thank you for becoming an accredited Living Wage employer. Team members dressed up in bathrobe, bath hat and slippers to meet the manager and staff, and celebrate the new pay standard for the store, £8.45p per hour for all staff and contract workers.

“This is MK’s first city centre retail store to achieve Living Wage accreditation,” said Living Wage campaign leader, Debbie Wilson. “I don’t mind dressing up in my bath gear to celebrate this!”

“It will make a massive difference to our staff,” said MK store manager, Hannah Downs. “We’ve always paid above the national minimum wage, now our staff are being paid a little bit more of what they actually deserve. This is what a lot of our managers across the country have been fighting for.”

“I travel quite far to get to work and the cost of that won’t make such a big dent in my wage now,” said Lauren Gerrie (pictured left below), who has worked for LUSH for 18 months. “I am saving for a mortgage so it will help with that too. It also means a lot because LUSH as a company are about ethics and making a difference. Living Wage will help with that.”

Monika Gleiznyte (pictured right below), who has worked for LUSH for two years, said: “I feel grateful. To get a bit extra will make a big difference.”

LUSH becomes the 41st employer in Milton Keynes to achieve Living Wage accreditation. Citizens:mk’s Living Wage campaign team now has just nine more employers to achieve its target of 50 to mark MK’s golden anniversary.   It is hoped that at least nine more employers will achieve accreditation before the end of 2017 and begin enjoying the proven benefits of increased staff motivation, lower staff sickness and improved staff retention.

Summerfield pupils show Council Leader green energy – 29.3.17

Children from Year 5 and 6 of Summerfield School on Bradwell Common got to quiz the Leader of the Council, Pete Marland, about his commitment to renewable energy when he visited the school on Wednesday 28th March.

Cllr Marland was invited by the Citizens MK Community Energy Campaign to come and see the children’s performance which was first showcased at the MK Community Energy Conference.  The performance included a series of sketches which highlighted the need to save energy and generate more from renewable sources.

At the end of the performance, Cllr Marland presented certificates to all the children who participated in the performance, and was given an original piece of artwork for his office wall, which showed a sun inside a light bulb, symbolising the power of the sun to power everyday objects (main picture).

He has committed to taking the school’s green energy campaign seriously, and announced that by 2030 50% of MK’s energy would come from renewable sources.

Interdirect Proud to be a Living Wage Employer

Milton Keynes leading full service marketing agency, Interdirect has become an accredited Living Wage employer.

Nicholas Mann, Managing Director of Interdirect explains why he feels it is important that everyone working for his business receives a Living Wage: “With 21 years’ experience as an employer I know and understand the importance of building and maintaining a happy and fulfilled team.

“There are many ways in which we can show our appreciation for the hard work and dedication that our employees put into the business, and a fair rate of pay is a crucial one.”

Living Wage Foundation Director, Katherine Chapman said: “We are delighted to welcome Interdirect to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer.  The best employers are voluntarily signing up to pay the Living Wage now.”

Summerfield pupils meet Shoosmiths for Redways Relaunch – 6.3.17

Three pupils representing Summerfield Primary School Council joined head teacher Pam Weston for a meeting with three members of staff at Shoosmiths solicitors on 6th March to discuss partnership in the Redways Relaunch campaign.

“We need to clean the redways to make them more attractive because most pupils don’t use them” said pupil Jaydun. “The more people use the redways, the less scary it is.  Will you help our campaign?”

At the meeting, Shoosmiths agreed in principle to partner with Summerfield Primary School to make the Redways Relaunch campaign happen.

“We want to be involved in the community,” said Jocelyn Kirkwood of Shoosmiths.  “We need to work together to achieve something.  If I can help tidy a redway near your school, that’s really important to me.”

“We are part of MK,” said Sarah Lovell of Shoosmiths.  “We should give back to the community as much as we can.  It’s great you (the pupils) have the energy and passion to do something.”

 

Refugees Welcome MK thanks Dentons solicitors – 21.2.17

Kim Opszala of Dentons LLP UKMEA was formally thanked by members of the Refugees Welcome MK team, Marc Eisenstadt (pictured left) and Tim Norwood (right), for her and her colleagues’ pro bono work in producing legal documents for their constitution as a charitable incorporated organisation.

This marks the legal establishment of what began as a campaign within Citizens:mk, the alliance of diverse community groups that works for a thriving, inclusive and fairer Milton Keynes.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Refugees Welcome in the next phase of the charity’s development,” said Kim.

For further information about Refugees Welcome MK, visit www.rwmk.org.uk.  For Dentons, it’s www.dentons.com.

Jubilee Wood pupils take Redways campaign to Dentons – 27.2.18

On Monday 27th February, three pupils and the head teacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School met with staff at Dentons solicitors in Central Milton Keynes.

The aim was to brief the Dentons staff on the goals of the Redways Relaunch campaign and find out their interests in supporting it.

“The children thought the office was amazing,” said head teacher Tony Berwick.  “Dentons’ support and help is very much appreciated and we are very pleased they have agreed to attend the Day of Action outside Civic Offices on Friday 21st April.”

“We hope to have Dentons employees working alongside our children on a Redways project in the future.”

 

Living Wage Action on CMK Solicitors – 21.2.17

On a cold Tuesday afternoon, 21st February 2017, nine members of the Living Wage campaign team set off to meet solicitors in CMK who were thought to be paying Living Wage to all staff…but not their cleaners.

The aim was simply to meet the solicitors, give them a letter outlining the benefits of becoming a Living Wage employer…and an enclosed tea bag for a nice cup of tea while reading it!

The action was successful in engaging with nine solicitors, with appointments being made for a series of follow-up discussions over the next two weeks.

“We got a positive result,” said Suresh Nesratnam of The Open University.

“It was good to do something for a good cause,” said Chris Freedland of MK Quaker Meeting.

 

50 MK organisations create Weaving Trust 50 – 28.1.17

On Saturday 28th January 2-4pm, 90 individuals from 50 MK organisations took part in the ‘Weaving Trust 50’ event to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.

Following short testimonies from individuals of different faiths, talking about their experiences living in Milton Keynes, participants had seven conversations about their own experiences in a carousel of six-minute conversations with people they didn’t know.

“It is so important to talk to new people,” wrote one participant at the end.  “We are often so busy in our own world, jobs that it takes someone to set up an opportunity for us to be able to have the time and space to meet other people from all walks of life in MK. It can only serve to bring communities together.”

Another participant wrote:  “It’s really opened up my eyes to the diversity of people, faiths and groups in Milton Keynes and how many community and charitable organisations there are which are dedicated to the social cohesion and celebration of them. Perhaps this is what makes MK so different. We’re not just roundabouts and concrete cows after all!”

“It was lovely to talk to so many interesting and MK committed people,” said Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire.

“The feedback has been wonderful,” said Alan Bainbridge, of MK Quaker Meeting, who chairs the Weaving Trust campaign team and facilitated the event.  “It was marvellous to stand on the podium and gaze down to see 90 people engaged with each other and so obviously enjoying the experience, and clearly getting a lot out of it.”

 

Weaving Trust at HMP Woodhill – 6.12.16

Alan Bainbridge, Chair of the Weaving Trust action team, writes:

We met seven prisoners and Alan Hodgetts, the managing chaplain acting as a host. I  introduced the session by saying that Weaving Trust is simply about meeting people we otherwise wouldn’t and through personal contact getting a fuller appreciation of each other’s lives. This may not immediately create trust, but without contact and conversation trust is impossible.

I was initially a bit apprehensive about meeting prisoners, some of whom were serving long sentences, but by the end of the session I was no longer apprehensive and I think that sums up the event. I learned a lot about prison life and found the prisoners to be reflective and insightful.

One interesting observation that came out strongly was that the prisoners wanted there to be more prison officers on duty. This reflects and supports the recent strong representations made by prison officers themselves that they are too few in number. The prisoners were generally respectful of the prison officers and recognised that they make the environment safer and enable prisoners to have more freedom within the prison, rather than being locked in their cells or ”behind the door” as they called it. I learned that prison life is tough, but not as tough, or cruel, as it is sometimes represented on television or in the press. The major difficulty was boredom, and the prisoners themselves seemed to greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet people from beyond the wall.

I came away from the event strangely conflicted because the people I met seemed remarkably ordinary, and yet they were prisoners and, as they all acknowledged, were there because they had done something wrong. In Weaving Trust we don’t expect any outcome, other than greater understanding, and I think I will reflect on this experience for some time. I wish all the people I met well.

Standing Room Only To Welcome Refugees – 14.11.16

On Monday 14th November, more than 150 MK citizens packed into the Guildhall at the city centre church yesterday evening to formally welcome five Syrian refugee families who have arrived in MK this year.

Following a negotiation immediately before with the leaders of three main political parties at MK Council offices, Council Leader Peter Marland said:  “The Council is committed to increasing the number of refugee families welcomed to 50 if the Refugees Welcome campaign group will continue to help us find new private accommodation.  The more you can help, the more we will take.  MK will never turn its back on refugees.”

Campaign leader David Wolfson thanked MK Council for taking a lead on welcoming refugees:  “Again and again we are hearing from around the country that we are doing this well in MK…but there is more to do.”

One member of the campaign group, Marie Gracie, said:  “Council officer Jeremy Beake has been a star, supporting refugees in so many ways.  We’re very committed to helping him develop relationships with local landlords.”

One of the refugees, Assad, spoke through a translator of his thanks for all MK Council and the British Red Cross have done to welcome his family.  “I feel lucky to have been born again twice…first when I found my children alive in the rubble, and again when we arrived in MK.”

“MK is my new country,” said another.

Click here for longer article.

MK Businesses Celebrate Real Living Wage Progress – 3.11.16

On Thursday 3rd November, lawyers Dentons hosted a Living Wage Business Breakfast for MK’s accredited Living Wage employers and others at their offices on Midsummer Boulevard.  Business, faith and civic leaders celebrated the benefits of paying the real Living Wage, whose new hourly rate is £8.45 per hour outside London.

This is the amount of pay per hour which is independently calculated to be enough for workers and their families to live on.  It is higher than the government’s national minimum rate.

The audience of 45 heard the latest statistical analysis from KPMG showing the staff recruitment, productivity and retention benefits of being a real Living Wage employer.

Employers also celebrated MK’s Living Wage campaign achieving two-thirds of its goal of 50 accredited employers in MK by the end of 2017, MK’s 50th birthday. See short film about the ’50’ campaign.

Ian Revell, Chief Executive of MK Community Foundation, said: “”Our Vital Signs 2016 report shows that, whilst the local economy continues to grow there are many workers left behind that are struggling to make ends meet and where wages have not kept pace with the cost of living locally.”

Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, said: “It’s only right that every worker gets a decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work.  MK should become the first Living Wage city.”

Tony Berwick, Head teacher of Jubilee Wood Primary School, said:  “Our greatest ambassadors are our children and staff.  Morally, paying the Living Wage is the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense, makes my staff feel good about their work.”

Nick Peacock of Ascendant Recruitment, an MK company newly considering becoming a Living Wage employer, said:  “Our net profitability would increase.”

Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications at The Open University and Chair of Citizens:mk, said:  “It is exciting for Citizens:mk to be working with some of MK’s most successful businesses.  I hope we can develop these partnerships to address other social issues so that MK’s impressive prosperity is increasingly shared by all its people.”

Next November, the campaign expects to be celebrating 50 Living Wage accredited employers in MK’s 50th birthday, a remarkable achievement accomplished by a remarkable partnership of MK’s civil society and business communities.

Weaving Trust at MK Synagogue – 18.9.16

On Sunday 18th September, 20 guests from Citizens:mk were hosted by 10 members of MK & District Reform Synagogue in Giffard Park.

After a warm welcome from Henry Fried, Chair of the Synagogue (pictured below), and some delicious cakes and tea, the series of six-minute conversations began.

henry fried

At the end of the event, several people commented positively about the event, which the evaluation group awarded a score of 10 out of 10.

“Just hearing of others’ experiences was an eye opener,” said Marion, who has been worshiping at the synagogue for 38 years.

“The door was opened, I was welcomed and I feel enlightened,” said Debbie Wilson, a guest from MK Quakers.

“This was my first visit to the Synagogue,” said Ayesha Peeran of MK Muslim Association.  “It was so interesting to find out how you conduct services here.”

“My life and faith is put into perspective by a group like this,” said Kate Abrahams of Church of Christ the Cornerstone.

“I realised you can sit with anyone and feel you can have a cup of coffee with them,” said James Cartman of Q:alliance.

“I really appreciated the open-mindedness of all the guests to Judaism, ” said Andy Gilbert of the Synagogue.

“Weaving Trust is about opening new doors of unexpected understanding,” said Carol Barac of Transition MK.

The event ended with Chair Henry Friel offering to host a similar Weaving Trust event next year.

Weaving Trust with MK Quakers – 10.9.16

On Saturday 10th September, 26 people participated in a Weaving Trust event hosted by MK Quaker Meeting.

“I am purring with delight,” said Eva Barton of MK Quakers, immediately after the event.

“It’s a great way to get to k now people in 3-D,” said Don Rowe, also of MK Quakers.

“I feel I’ve grown a lot today,” said Kurshida Mirza, visiting from MK Muslim Association.  “I’ve learned a lot about the Quakers and found we have so much in common.”

“It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon,” said Azra Peeran, also of MKMA, “better than anything I expected.”

Parishes can benefit from community-owned energy – 15.8.16

Community Action: MK is inviting members of Parish Councils in Milton Keynes to a special event being organised during the national Community Energy Fortnight taking place between 3rd-18th September.

The event will take place at the Imovation Centre at Transport Systems Catapult (170 Midsummer Boulevard) between 5-7pm on Tuesday 13th September.

This short and practical session will provide useful information about the role that your parish council could play in promoting community ownership of energy. We will be using case studies of successful MK-based projects, such as Wolverton Community Energy, to illustrate how this model can act as a vehicle for community cohesion, at the same time as raising income for community investment in your area. In particular, we will be exploring:

  • Planning for sustainability and resilience – how you can include community energy outcomes in your Neighbourhood Plan, Parish/Business Plan or other strategic documents
  • Ways of improving efficiency of local buildings
  • Community ownership model – challenges and benefits
  • CAPE, Community Action Platform for Energy – new project in Milton Keynes

There will be an opportunity to network with representatives of other parish councils from across MK Borough and to find out about the exciting new MK Community Energy Alliance, and how your parish could become a part of it.

If you would like to represent your parish council at the event, please RSVP to anna@communityactionmk.org.

The event is being organised in collaboration between CAPE, Community Action Platform for Energy (one of Community Action: MK’s projects) and Wolverton Community Energy.

Thank you to Transport Systems Catapult for providing the venue. 

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You can see this and other events listed on the official Community Energy Fortnight 2016 website and follow updates on Twitter through #CEF16:

First MK Church Accredited Living Wage – 28.7.16

Church of Christ the Cornerstone has become MK’s first church to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.  This means that all its employees and employees of sub-contractors will be paid at least the current Living Wage of £8.25p per hour.

Debbie Wilson, co-chair of the Living Wage campaign, welcomed the latest accreditation.  “It is very good to add Christ the Cornerstone to our list of 30 employers accredited so far, one step closer to our target of 50 for MK’s 50th anniversary next year.”

“I am delighted we have achieved this,” said Rev Brenda Mosedale, who is due to retire from her post in a few days.  “I hope other faith institutions are not put off by the paperwork.  In the end, only a small proportion was relevant to us.”

Pictured from left to right are:  Bob Collard, Rev Ernesto Lozada-Uriaga and Rev Brenda Mosedale of Church of Christ the Cornerstone, with a gift of flowers; Debbie Wilson, Sheila Bacon and Jacqueline Eustace of our Living Wage campaign team.

Weaving Trust at MK Council – 14.7.16

On Thurs 14th July, 18 MK Council staff and councillors hosted 18 guests from Citizens:mk’s alliance in the 9th Weaving Trust event organised since the campaign began.  The event took place in the main Chamber at Civic Offices.

Cllr Liz Gifford, who formally welcomed everybody at the start, said:  “This event is brilliantly timed because as a country we must work on how to bring people together and in MK we have a model for doing it.  Now we must do more!”

As usual at a Weaving Trust event, ach participant took part in eight short conversations with people they didn’t know.

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“I was impressed most by the strong sense of community shown at the event,” said Opheas Shiridzinodya of MK Council, “from people who have lived in MK since the 70s to those who moved here two years ago.”

“The event was well organised and really enjoyable,” said Sharon Bridglalsingh of MK Council.  “What shone through was the pride we all share as citizens and Council officers in our city.”

At the end, participants scored the event with a 9 out of 10.  One commented:  “This proves what a lovely bunch of people we have in MK.”  Another said:  “It’s all about making connections.  This has helped me to become more aware of the commitment of churches in making MK a great community.”

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Colin Wilderspin of MK Council said:  “You can see people’s passion, what they believe in and how we can do more together.  I hope to be involved in future.”

Tim Norwood (pictured top facilitating the session), chair of the Weaving Trust campaign group, said:  “The Chamber was a fantastic venue for a Weaving Trust event.”

Statement After the Referendum – 28.6.16

The following statement was issued by MK Interfaith, Citizens MK and the MK Council of Faiths:

The people of the UK have voted to leave the EU. Whatever our views about the decision we must now unite to strengthen generosity, hospitality and compassion in our city. Let us cherish our differences as well as what we have in common.

We know that amongst neighbours, friends and colleagues, especially those from overseas, there may be a sense of insecurity.

At this time we stand together to speak out against racism and other forms of prejudice.

We also recommit ourselves to work together for the good of all people in our city, regardless of their origins.

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – 17.5.16

On May 17th, CitizensMK member institution, Q:alliance will be hosting a celebration to mark the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. There will be a short ceremony at the MK Rose in Campbell Park at 1pm, followed by refreshments at the Milton Keynes Gallery Project Space.

Despite tremendous advancements over last 15 years in the UK, prejudice continues to be a serious issue at home and abroad. Although steadily declining, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic violence and discrimination continues to make headlines in the UK.

CitizensMK works to bring together the diverse communities of Milton Keynes to work together for a better MK. Our Weaving Trust campaign has been focussed particularly on bringing ordinary people together to meet each other as neighbours in our city.  We are delighted the Q:Alliance are a member of CitizensMK and are keen to create more understanding and tolerance.

Living Wage at Ikea – 25.4.16

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On the 1st of April IKEA introduced the Living Wage for all its co-workers. In the Milton Keynes Store. Staff were also treated to a celebration Living Wage breakfast and a box of goodies.

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Tanya Hamilton, HR Manager of the MK store said “I am very proud of IKEA for paying the Living Wage. I am really looking forward, together with my team, to exploring the relationship with Citizens MK and the Living Wage team.”

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Weaving Trust at Thames Valley Police – 7.12.15

Thames Valley Police hosted a Weaving Trust event in CMK on Monday 7th December. Fourteen officers, staff and volunteers met a similar group from various Citizens:mk communities.

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The Police talked about their work and how they spend their time. Although they have a lot of paperwork to contend with, they expressed a strong sense of public service and a desire to make MK a better place.

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Both Police officers and visitors enjoyed the event, and a few new links were made. It was a great event in our growing campaign.

Weaving Trust at MK Dons SET – 16.11.15

The MK Dons have become an important part of our local community. Citizens of Milton Keynes have really taken the team to their hearts, and the successes (and occasional failures) of the Dons matter to thousands of people. The MK Dons Sports and Education Trust does a lot of exciting work across the borough, so it was really good to hold a Weaving Trust Event with them at Stadium MK.

Young people from Brooklands Farm Primary School and MK Academy joined people from other Citizens:mk communities at this event. There were lots of questions and excited conversations. By the end of the event a lot of new friendships had been made and the visitors had learned a lot about their local team and the many things that take place in the stadium.

Weaving Trust is all about building up the links that hold us together as a community. The MK Dons have done a lot to help develop a sense of community in Milton Keynes, so it was really good for the Dons SET and Citizens:mk to be working together.

There were a few thoughts about future Weaving Trust events at Stadium MK, so we may be back…

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