Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Worrying Rise of UKIP

Nigel Farage’s UKIP party won a significant breakthrough in the Warwickshire area at the recent European elections, and its success is poisoning the political environment, says Owen Jones, an organiser with the HOPE not hate campaign.
UKIP secured 31.5% of the votes in the region, enough to take three of seven available seats representing the West Midlands in the European Parliament. On the plus side, the British National Party, a fascist group, won just 1.5%, down from 7.1% in 2009. On the downside, all the main political parties have in the aftermath of the result rushed to pander to the fears UKIP have exploited, hardening their stances on the EU and immigration, rather than seek to challenge the basis for them.
UKIP is different from other political groups that HOPE not hate has previously campaigned against. It is not a fascist party, nor is it avowedly racist like the BNP, but it is xenophobic and has campaigned to exploit fears over immigration. What is concerning is UKIP’s tactics. They have increasingly focused on immigration, and have campaigned on little else. They have scaremongered over the arrival of Bulgarians and Romanians, with some of their leaflets claiming that 29 million people could arrive in Britain – which is a figure greater than the combined populations of both countries. A recent YouGov poll discovered that 87% of UKIP voters believe “all further immigration to the UK should be halted” and 51% do not believe that Britain has benefited from immigration. All this flies in the face of facts that are well-known by informed people – economists generally agree that immigration is good for the British economy, and are not a drain on, say, local services and the welfare state – but not by UKIP supporters, misinformed by scaremongering in the popular press.
HOPE not hate led a massive campaign during the European elections to push back against this tide and stand up for modern multicultural Britain. We’ll need your support in the run up to the next general election if we’re to halt the rise of UKIP.


You can’t put a price on the Leamington Peace Festival

Much has changed in the 36 years since Leam first put on a free festival – but its radical spirit is undiminished


Leamington’s Peace Festival is one of Britain’s few remaining free music and arts festivals. It is now 36 years old. When it first started, there were many free festivals, but they have all but disappeared. A few remain – the Godiva festival in Coventry, for example, is free to enter – but they are funded by the local council.


The Leamington Peace Festival, on the other hand, remains totally self-sufficient – all the money needed to run the festival is raised by selling pitches for stalls.


An evolution

The Festival has evolved over the years. In its early days there were only a handful of stalls – now there are nearly 150. And the music was acoustic and confined to the Bandstand. Now we have two stages, both with PAs. There was a beer tent. But even with that attraction, the Festival only had a few hundred visitors. In 1983 the first commercial stall came to the Festival and has been followed by many more – the money they pay has enabled the Festival to put on a wide range of entertainment; activities for children and workshops on a wide range of subjects. And this has meant that the Festival now attracts about 5,000 people each year.


A cultural shift

Last year, however, we were confronted with a striking example of how our society has changed over the years since the Peace Festival started. For the first time in the Festival’s history, it was charged by Warwick District Council for the use of the Pump Room Gardens. We understand the financial reasons behind this measure and would like to stress that we still receive strong support from the Council. But it is indicative of a cultural shift that has occurred in Britain, in which everything has a price. And if it has no price it has no value. We disagree. We believe that the most valuable aspects of life are those that cannot be priced.


Mrs Thatcher famously said, ‘There is no such thing as society’. We disagree. We believe in society. We believe in community. We believe in co-operation and mutual aid. We believe in sharing – our skills and our knowledge. We believe that together we can make the world a better place.


Older, but no less radical

As people grow old, they are said to become less radical. We hope that this is not the case with the Peace Festival. We have had to adapt to changes in the way that public events are put on. And we have to sell trading spaces to pay for the infrastructure, insurance and to pay expenses to our entertainers.


But one key element remains: the Peace Festival is FREE. We believe that in a world driven more and more by money and greed this is a radical statement.


This article was written by the Leamington Peace Festival Committee. This year’s festival is on 14 to 15 June in the Pump Room Gardens. See the website at

[Article first appeared in the Leamington Spark - to view the full edition please visit:]

Monday, 12 May 2014

10 Years of Africa Week and still going strong

10 Years of Africa Week and still going strong, students in Kenilworth School and Sixth Form continue to strengthen their links with Uyogo.

This year marked the tenth year of Kenilworth School’s celebration of Africa Week. The largest fundraising event in the school’s calendar, the celebration is in support of the village Uyogo in Tanzania. Funds raised go towards supporting underprivileged children; deprived of basic amenities such as clean water and electricity, their educational and life opportunities are incredibly limited.

In addition to the sponsored events, such as well as the very well-attended USU Swing Night to raise the much-needed cash to improve the lives of the children in Uyogo, the students at Kenilworth School were lucky enough to be able to see the importance of the week through visiting speakers and poets. In Year 9 English lessons led by Beryl Starkey, Secretary for the Kenilworth Uyogo Link, set up 30 years ago with the UN’s Child of the Year, they learned about the background of the Tanzanian village and the lives of young people in Uyogo. Studying photographs and artefacts, the children were encouraged to formulate their own questions about life in Uyogo.

One Year 9 girl said: ‘It’s so easy to take all we have for granted here in England, and particularly in Kenilworth where we have so much going on and so many opportunities. It was fascinating to learn about the children’s lives and their culture, but it also made me reflect on what’s important.’ Another boy added: ‘I’ve never been truly hungry and never needed to worry about whether clean water would come through my tap. It’s a very harsh reality for these kids and we have a responsibility to help if we can.’ The children followed up their learning with letters to the children in Uyogo and after their lessons, many expressed their desire to continue their involvement with the Kenilworth Uyogo Link.

Year 7 students were treated to an afternoon of entertainment and education from the renowned performance poet and BBC Radio 4 Slam Event host, Dreadlock Alien. Excited by the poet’s energy and strong messages, one Year 7 said: ‘This is how I like to experience poetry. I will definitely look him up on Youtube and maybe write some of my own poems now.’

It is hoped that the 2014 has helped to push funds raised over the past ten years towards the target of £60,000. The money raised will continue to help supply medical and educational facilities in Uyogo to support the ongoing development of the community.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A community centre in Syndenham lights up the area

In Autumn every year, the ‘Festival of Lights’ is held at the Sydni Centre in Sydenham. Held between Guy Fawkes’ Night and the Hindu and Sikh celebration of Diwali, this festival brings together the residents in a unified celebration of culture and community.

Year on year, the festival attracts greater numbers, with around 700 people expected to attend the 2014 celebrations. The event includes entertainment highlights such as Bollywood dancers, the Bob Barker fair for the children, the fireworks display and a range of food from different cultures. 

In addition to the entertainment and celebration of the evening, there are also a host of stalls and information points from local community groups and businesses. 

Kate Cliffe, the : ‘It’s a really vibrant festival, the atmosphere is so warm and welcoming; everyone has a great time. It’s wonderful to blend the two celebrations so that everyone feels part of the community and shares in the celebration.’

Set in the centre of the Syndenham Estate in Leamington, the Syndenham Neighbourhood Initiatives (Sydni) was set up by local residents as a place to bring people together to offer support and different community opportunities. The population of around 5000 people is made up of a rich mix of cultural backgrounds including Asian, Polish and Portuguese; a community of which the residents are very proud and the centre is committed to providing a supportive community space free from prejudice where everyone can feel welcome and valued.

Since opening, the centre has become a hub of social activity and community work. The centre offers IT drop-in sessions for those wanting to work on CVs or job applications, ESOL lessons for those who want to improve their English speaking skills along with a host of other information, recreation, leisure and sporting opportunities and facilities. Richard, a long-serving volunteer at the Sydni Centre, said: ‘The range of facilities on offer really are fantastic. I got involved because I wanted to help my sons set up a football team, and it all just snowballed from there. I’m involved in virtually everything now!’ 

International Women’s Day saw ladies from across the county having an afternoon of music food and culture at the centre, and shortly the Syndi will hold another annual event, the ‘May Festival’ which, like the Festival of Lights, boasts an exciting programme of events such as live entertainment, food, table-top sales and stalls from local companies. The local Fire Brigade attend every year, bringing with them information leaflets in the different languages of the community and the local council’s recycling department provide information and activities. For more details, visit the Sydni centre website and Facebook page.

Saturday, 1 February 2014


Until recently, the prospect of living a life without  legal documentation had never occurred to me.
I, like many, had always deemed my passport to be an accessory for plane tickets and the source of an embarrassing photograph.  After a brief but powerful speech, however, I came to the realization that documentation carries important rights overlooked by those fortunate enough to possess them and denied to those who should (in my opinion) be equally as entitled to them.

 The speech was delivered by Carlos Saavedra, a man who introduced himself as someone who, like the audience he was addressing, had once been a teenager with aspirations to attend university. Mr. Saavedra spoke of his childhood ambitions to become a professional pianist and of his teenage intentions to earn a university degree. While his words were tinged with reminiscence, the struggles he detailed were still relevant today and easily relatable to my peers and I. We all nodded solemnly as he spoke of the pressure he faced in high school to meet the expectations of his teachers, and there was a murmur of agreement when he criticized society for conditioning teenagers to believe that they only have one educational path to pursue.  The relatable nature of the topics discussed, however, was fleeting. As Mr. Saavedra subsequently detailed the challenges he faced when attempting to apply for university, my empathy turned to disbelief. The idea of a someone being unable to attend university due to lack of legal documentation was a foreign concept to me, and one which immediately seemed unjust, especially when considering Mr. Saavedra’s circumstances. Mr. Saavedra had moved to America at an early age, and as such he had always considered Boston to be his home. The idea of a teenager being denied basic civil rights in their home, especially when the circumstances they found themselves in were beyond their control, was a heart breaking reality to be presented with. And as Mr. Saavedra provided further examples of the hardships of an undocumented life, such as the inability to travel or drive or pay lower fees for university, I couldn’t help but feel a sense anger toward a government that had denied an innocent child of the freedoms that his very classmates were entitled to.

It seemed that anger was also Mr. Saavedra’s initial reaction. However, in an inspirational turn of events, Mr. Saavedra spoke of his decision to turn his anger and indignation into motivation. The treatment he was subjected to as an undocumented teenager encouraged him to begin his long and successful campaign for equality and reforms to immigration laws. Now, Mr. Saavedra is an important American activist and a leading voice in the fight to humanize the immigration debate; and I found his ability to turn his suffering into an opportunity for change incredibly admirable. I was also inspired by his ongoing dedication to the cause even after obtaining personal results, for it showed his ability to remain empathetic towards others regardless of others’ indifference towards him. 

  Overall, Carlos Saavedra’s speech instilled in me a newfound appreciation for certain aspects of my life that I had previously taken for granted; but more importantly, it inspired me to fight for what I truly believe in. As a teenager making important decisions for my future, Mr. Saavedra’s resolve to fight personal and widespread injustices was the encouragement I needed to pursue my own dreams and an invaluable experience to have. 

- Clara

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Welcome to Warwick District HOPE not hate

Warwick Distict HOPE not hate are a local community group which campaigns to celebrate all that is great about living in modern Britain and to stand up to those that try to divide our community for their own political gains, covering the towns of Leamington Spa, Kenilworth and Warwick.

Whenever groups such as the British National Party or the English Defence League seek to divide or segregate our neighbourhoods, we will be there to offer an alternative - the message of HOPE.

Our message is simple; that we've all seen what hatred and division can do to our communities, and how it can tear us apart.

We know Britain and our araa is
not perfect. We know people are angry at our politicians and many people are struggling in these economics times. But we also know that pointing the finger at vulnerable sections of our local society is not the answer.

Instead we believe that by working together we are much more likely to overcome our problems than we are divided.

We will be working hard across the town in the lead up to the European Elections, and beyond, to deliver this message. From community activities to on-line campaigning we will be offering HOPE not hate.