After 20 years heading one of Europe’s leading outdoor arts festivals, and three years after helping to direct the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Bradley Hemmings could be forgiven for resting on his laurels.But following an MBE in the latest New Year’s Honours, he is now set to direct the second Paralympic heritage flame ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, in advance of this summer’s Paralympics in Rio. The flame will be created on 2 September, five days before the opening ceremony of the Rio Paralympics, and will be sent “virtually” to Brazil where it will merge with the Brazilian regional flames to form the flame used on the torch relay and then light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony.He has been advising Aylesbury Vale council on what the heritage flame ceremony could look like – although he has not yet been confirmed as its director – with further details likely to be announced in March.It would be interesting, Hemmings said, to mark the four-year journey from the London 2012 Paralympics and “imagine where [disability arts] might go next” – what that journey meant, what has changed during those four years, and what still needs to change.Asked what needs to change in the world of disability arts, his answer underlines his priorities as a disabled artist, and a festival organiser: “More people, more creativity, more collaboration, more internationalism, and more recognition for artists and for this still very fragile part of the cultural sector.”Hemmings (pictured) is probably best-known as one of the two artistic directors – alongside Graeae’s Jenny Sealey – of the critically-praised opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics.But he has been artistic director of Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) in London since founding it in 1996, and has produced the mayor of London’s disability arts festival Liberty since it began in 2003.He also directed the inaugural heritage flame ceremony in 2014, which celebrated the Sochi Winter Paralympics.He is proud both of GDIF’s longevity, when many other festivals have failed to sustain their existence over such a long period, but also of the festival’s work with Deaf and disabled artists over the last 15 years.He said: “What’s also been great is a number of those artists [he mentions Marc Brew, Graeae, Stopgap and Fittings] have through the building up of this kind of outdoor theatre sector gone on to enjoy touring and performances in other parts of the country.”He has, he said, a “particular vision of fairness in outdoor theatre”, and added: “The whole point is that outdoor theatre is profoundly about something really democratic; and what is good about it and brilliant and moving about it is when you get the audience feeling that [the experience is featuring] the same people who live in the city, that it includes everybody.”His own identity as a disabled person has played an important role, he said, in these ideas of “fairness and democracy and a sense of consideration about the way in which one likes to be communicated with or thought about or thought about imaginatively and with a degree of care”.Although Hemmings believes that disability arts has moved on and developed in the last 15 years, with far greater recognition from the Arts Council, he said he did not want to be complacent.He said: “There has been a wider conversation that has been possible about disability arts than there would have been perhaps 15 years ago when there was fantastic work being made but it was perhaps not being seen by nearly enough people.“There is a sense that things have moved on, but there is a lot more to be done, big challenges.”One of these is the challenge posed to many Deaf and disabled artists by the administration of the government’s Access to Work employment support scheme.With festivals such as Liberty, artists’ access needs are often built into the funding, he said, but “in the wider life of the artists it’s a much wider problem”.He said: “If you think about your working life in general and how you might be able to go about that and prepare and develop your work outside a moment in time, then that is obviously a considerable challenge.”He is also keen to dispel the myth that just by putting on a free outdoor festival in an accessible location “you have made it accessible and that’s it, job done”.He said: “There is a lot of work that needs to be done in engaging with audiences, which encourages people to feel that they are going to be safe and it will be an experience that they will come to and that they will enjoy it.”Access is not just about viewing platforms, he said. “It’s [also] about ways in which front-of-house staff are ready and equipped to think creatively and positively about how they might communicate with people across a range of impairment groups.”It is, he said, the “sense of welcome that is really important”, something that is often not done well with performances inside buildings.He said that much of GDIF’s work was “highly visual”, but when there is dialogue, the festival has “brought in not just captioning but thought about ways in which we can integrate text into performances”.GDIF always tries to ensure that at least one of its “large-scale spectaculars” has audio description, while it engages with the audience through volunteers and staff at festival meeting points so “it feels like a positive social experience rather than something that just stands in isolation”.He praised the charity Attitude is Everything for enabling outdoor festivals to “think creatively” on access, and added: “It’s obviously not an exact science, but it’s very often a question of openness and imagination.“I don’t think anything is ever perfect. That is what life is like: you’re always striving to do something new and make something better. That’s the challenge. I don’t think there is a nirvana.”The Liberty disability arts festival has posed some different challenges, including the criticism drawn when it was forced to merge with National Paralympic Day from 2013.Hemmings accepted that people had “a wide variety of views” on whether that merger was a good idea.But he said: “From my point of view, there is a great deal of common ground and a great deal of opportunity in terms of the megaphone it provides through Channel 4 and so on and the way you can communicate with bigger audiences and tell different stories, so as somebody who makes theatre I’m interested by it.“There are all sorts of ways of coming at it and I know as we go into 2016 – although I don’t know yet what the arrangements will be – [Liberty] will feel very different again, because a lot of the focus of the Paralympics will have moved to Rio rather than to London.”He said his approach to his work was “always to listen”, as he was “quite a practical and grounded person”.And he points to Circus Space, the training programme he and Sealey set up in preparation for the London Paralympics opening ceremony.Some of those who took part in the programme – and later appeared in the ceremony – were actors, performers, ex-servicemen, or people who “just wanted to have a go and hadn’t self-identified as an artist or anything else”.He pointed out that the opening ceremony itself featured striking sections towards the end about the importance of protest, including the emergence of the statue of a pregnant Alison Lapper and the performance of Ian Dury’s Spasticus Autisticus.He said: “There was dialogue, there was certainly common ground and sharing between all those different participating artists, sportspeople and services.“I wouldn’t have thought they are in completely different camps [at Liberty]. There is always possibility for exchange and sharing and there’s a lot of stuff that perhaps could be done to make sure that happens more.”Liberty, he said, had always been “a place of exchange, a meeting point, a coming together”, and he has noticed how families who attend because of their interest in the Paralympics “are going back and forward across the [sports and arts] areas and engaging with both”.Hemmings said there was some relief in the arts sector after the government’s spending review last November.He said: “It is not just [GDIF] but anybody working in the arts was prepared for a difficult autumn statement in November, and when that didn’t happen there were huge sighs of relief heaved throughout the whole sector.“We were anticipating a really, really difficult time this year and next and that hasn’t happened in the way we thought it might.”But although that has meant relief for the Arts Council – Hemmings is a member of the London area council of Arts Council England – many local authorities, which are vital to outdoor theatre around the country, have not been so lucky.GDIF has been fortunate, though, because Greenwich council has “stuck with the arts through thick and thin”, while committed sponsors such as Canary Wharf Group and London City Airport have also played a significant part in the festival’s continuing success.At a time of austerity, when many disabled people are finding it difficult to be included in their local communities, Hemmings hopes his festivals can make a contribution.“There is something about people coming together in large bodies to experience something together in an atmosphere of conviviality,” he said, “which might not sound very much on the surface of it, but it’s actually really important.“I think all of us need those occasions when we share something wonderful together that is quite different from sitting in any other kind of cultural experiences, because you can’t help but be aware of the other people who are in the audience with you.“You get this sense of real exhilaration from being in that experience – that is what people tell us, anyway – and I think that’s important and to make sure deaf and disabled people are right in the heart of that too is what I feel I have tried to do.”
Only three out of 20 Premier League football clubs have met minimum requirements on providing accessible spaces and seating for disabled fans, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).A new EHRC review says Premier League clubs have made “only limited progress on stadia accessibility”, have broken Premier League rules, and have failed to provide sufficient information when questioned by the watchdog.It also concludes that access issues may never have been discussed at board level at some clubs, while three of the clubs do not appear to have appointed anyone to the “key” position of disability access officer.The EHRC said that some of the information provided to it by the clubs was of an “appalling” standard, and it warned that it could launch a statutory investigation into the failings of some of the clubs.Seven of them appear to be breaching the Premier League’s own rules after failing to provide a comprehensive disability access statement – including all the information a disabled person needs when attending a match – on their websites.Only seven of the 20 clubs provide the recommended number of wheelchair spaces, and only eight provide the minimum number of amenity [extra leg-room] and easy access (AEA) seats.The figures could be even worse, says EHRC, as some of the wheelchair spaces may not meet the relevant criteria in the guidelines.The worst performers for providing wheelchair spaces were Burnley (27 per cent of the recommended number), Crystal Palace (38 per cent) and Spurs (31 per cent, although it is building a new stadium).Just three clubs – Swansea City, Manchester City and West Ham – meet recommended levels for wheelchair spaces and AEA seats and provide no more than a quarter of wheelchair spaces at pitch-side.EHRC points out in the review that the relevant guidelines, contained in the Accessible Stadia Guide (ASG), were published 14 years ago.In August 2015, 17 of the clubs – all of them except those promoted this season – pledged to meet all of the ASG standards by August 2017, but the review suggests most of them will break that promise, although it says that there is “a lot of work being undertaken by clubs” in the run-up to the deadline.EHRC points out that football clubs have been required by law to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people since 1999, and adds: “Given the considerable wealth of the majority of Premier League clubs we would expect them to have taken significant steps over the past 18 years to ensure that they comply with their legal obligations.”It adds: “Following our analysis of the information provided to us, the Commission remains concerned that not all clubs in the Premier League are complying with their obligations under the Act.”It is now seeking meetings with clubs that have yet to demonstrate their plans to meet their legal obligations, and next month will issue a call for evidence from disabled fans on their experiences of attending Premier League matches.But it warns that it will launch formal investigations into clubs in September if “we continue to suspect that a club or clubs are not complying with their legal obligations”.Tony Taylor, chair of the national disabled supporters’ organisation Level Playing Field (LPF), said: “Once again, we need to make absolutely clear that these minimum standards have been in place for many years and that there is simply no excuse as to why any club should fail to meet these basic criteria to providing an inclusive matchday experience for disabled fans. “Indeed, we believe that Premier League clubs, with all their resources, should go well beyond what is considered to be the minimum requirements and should set the standard for all sports stadia.“LPF have always worked closely with Premier League clubs and will continue to do so, and unequivocally welcome the firm stance the EHRC is taking on the issue.”David Isaac (pictured), EHRC’s chair, said: “The end of the season is fast approaching and time is running out for clubs.“The information we received from some clubs was of an appalling standard, with data missing and with insufficient detail.“What is clear is that very few clubs are doing the minimum to meet the needs of disabled supporters.“The Premier League itself does not escape blame. They need to make the concerns of disabled fans a priority and start enforcing their own rule book.“We will be meeting individual clubs and asking them to explain themselves and tell us what their plans are.”A Premier League spokesman said in a statement that clubs were “working hard to improve their facilities and rapid progress has been made”.He claimed that the improvements were “unprecedented in scope, scale and timing by any group of sports grounds or other entertainment venues in the UK.“Given the differing ages and nature of facilities, some clubs have faced significant built environment challenges.“For those clubs, cost is not the determining factor.“They have worked, and in some cases continue to work, through issues relating to planning, how to deal with new stadium development plans, how to best manage fan disruption or, where clubs don’t own their own grounds, dealing with third parties.“Clubs will continue to engage with their disabled fans and enhance their provisions in the coming months, years and beyond.”The Premier League will publish a report in August to detail the work carried out by clubs since August 2015.
24 cases currently with the NCC, Labour’s top disciplinary body, are outstanding.A Labour spokesperson commented: “Jennie Formby, after obtaining the NEC’s agreement, has published the figures on antisemitism complaints handled by the party and published a report on the work the party has done and is doing to speed up and strengthen our procedures, increasing transparency.“These figures relate to about 0.1% of our membership, but one antisemite in our party is one too many. We are committed to tackling antisemitism and rooting it out of our party once and for all.”Formby has offered the requested information today despite advising MPs last week that she would not release statistics.Her latest email explains: “The NEC has previously been clear that statistics on disciplinary matters should remain confidential and not be published. This is in line with our policy about not publishing other party statistics.“However, I took that request very seriously, and considered how it would be disclosed in an open and straightforward way, so that it was not misinterpreted or misused for other purposes by the party’s political rivals.”She added: “I consulted NEC officers to get their permission to publish data. I pushed hard to get their agreement to do so.”Tags:Labour /Jennie Formby /Antisemitism / Labour general secretary Jennie Formby has released data on disciplinary cases concerning antisemitism, following the requests for information made at last week’s parliamentary party meeting.Ahead of the meeting tonight, Formby told MPs that the party received 673 accusations of antisemitism by Labour members between April 2018 and January 2019.The email informs Labour MPs that:Of those who were party members96 members were immediately suspended146 received a reminder of conduct220 cases did not have sufficient evidence of a breach of party rules to proceed with an investigation211 were issued with a Notice of InvestigationOf the cases who were issued with a Notice of Investigation or suspension, there have been 96 NEC antisemitism disputes panel decisions42 members referred to national constitutional committee (NCC)16 members issued with a formal NEC warning6 members’ cases were referred for further investigation25 members issued with ‘reminder of conduct’7 members’ cases were closedThe following 18 NCC decisions have been made12 members were expelled6 received sanctions
SHANNON McDonnell made a great start to his Saints career on Friday when he bagged a brace in the 40-16 win over Wakefield Wildcats.The 27-year-old pulled on the Red Vee for the first time in the victory and is keen for more.“It’s good to be back as it has been a long year,” he said. “I played at Rochdale and really enjoyed that. It meant I was more comfortable coming into the game and it paid off.“I knew the atmosphere would be great as I’ve played here before. The fans are passionate and the boys have made it easy for me to come here and do what I have to do. I couldn’t ask for anything more.“I have been around for a while at fullback so I wasn’t really under any pressure. In fact it was easier wih the style of football we play to fit in. Playing off the back of the halves we have here has made it easier too.”Shannon scored two tries in the match and whilst he was pleased to get over the line, he was quick to praise his teammates.“The first one was fluky I suppose!” he continued. “There was a kick, I chased it and at times like that you hope for the best, put yourself in right place and right time and hope one comes off. I put my head down, kept the legs going and it came off in front of the fans.“The second one – there was a great lead up from the boys and I was lucky enough to get on the back of it.“Of course I’m hoping for more. I’m just training hard and hoping for the best. I just want to contribute to the great year Saints are having in any way I can.“Long term I’d love to pull on the Red Vee here. I’ve not spoken about next year yet. Hopefully this is the start of something.“I would love to stay on here beyond this season, especially after how easy it has been to come in and the culture of the club.”
Ben came along and answered questions from Foundation Ambassador Tommy Martyn and then from the audience.He told the Café how well he and his family had settled in St Helens and how the people have made he so welcome from day one.He stayed on for some photographs before the Chair exercises began with our very own Gaz Foster.The Reminiscence Café is a free bi-weekly event which is open to all and has an aim of using the Saints and the town as a way of triggering memories and instigating discussion.It also acts as a little respite for carers who do such a wonderful job looking after loved ones on a daily basis.The next Café is on Wednesday November 15 at the Totally Wicked Stadium between 11am and 1pm.Refreshments are also served .If you require any further information please email [email protected]
As part of Betfred Super League’s ‘New Beginnings’ campaign, a new 21-man voting panel for the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel award was announced by Panel Chairman Ellery Hanley MBE.Hanley, a three-time winner of the prestigious award, was joined by Linzi Prescott and panel members; Paul Sculthorpe MBE, Phil Clarke, Eorl Crabtree, Robbie Hunter-Paul, Barrie McDermott, Jason Robinson OBE, Garry Schofield OBE, Keith Senior and Johnny Whiteley MBE at an event in Leeds to unveil the full list of former players who will be awarding points throughout the season, leading to the crowning of the 2019 Betfred Super League Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel at a new look event in October.Hanley said: “The major new approach will see a panellist allocated matches to watch from the Betfred Super League and award points to his three outstanding players: 3 points for their chosen Man of the Match, 2 points for the runner-up, and 1 point for the third-ranked player.The panel is an outstanding group of former players from across the generations who have experience of playing at the very top of the game, with seven of the group being Man of Steel winners and five inducted into the Hall of Fame. Their insight is priceless and will shape the worthy winner of the game’s ultimate individual accolade.”Fans will be able to follow the season long narrative when the scores are published each week of the season until Round 22 in mid-July. After that, the leaderboard will be hidden until the Awards Ceremony in October. Further details of that Awards Ceremony will be released during the season.Super League Chief Executive, Robert Elstone followed: “It feels wholly appropriate that the Game’s highest individual award, with over forty years of heritage, be selected by a panel of iconic and multi-decorated former players.Clearly, we couldn’t have done this without the support of the panel and I would like to thank all of them for injecting the rigour and authenticity to make the 2019 Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel the ultimate Rugby League accolade.It was also really important for us to have the support of Linzi Prescott, wife of our ultimate Man of Steel. We thank Linzi and her family for working with us throughout this process.”Linzi Prescott said of the award: “This is a fantastic initiative from Super League! The judging panel assembled features some of the greatest names in Rugby League and all of whom Stephen had the greatest of respect for. It is a testament to Stephen’s legacy the level of respect the Man of Steel award is being given by the game.The Prescott Family would like to thank all who have revamped the voting process and we are really looking forward to the season and welcoming the new Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel.”