Braving the sales in my wheelchair

By Simon Sansome

simon-sansome-2I have to say I love Christmas, it is one of the best times of the year and my wife likes to spend spend spend, so it’s also the most expensive time of the year.

The amount of rubbish she buys is incredible, she never notices that I hide a lot of it away somewhere for the following year to give away as Christmas presents.

Last year I made the horrible mistake by going to the Boxing Day Sales. This year will be no different for you, me and the rest of the country when we get bombarded by advertising for beds for sale, sofas and get told it is the best time to buy almost everything. Now I had never been to a Boxing Day Sale before while fully mobile, let alone in a wheelchair. I had seen all the commotion on TV but thought ‘it can’t be that bad’ – oh no, it was a lot worse.

Fenwick, the department store in Leicester, had the best offer, 90 per cent off a bed. Come on, 90 per cent! Who could not resist an offer like that?

We needed a new bed for the spare room and didn’t want to spend a few thousand on a bed and so we thought ‘great, let’s get down there for the boxing day sale.’ So, after watching Mrs Brown’s Boys on Christmas Day we went to bed at a reasonable time and were out the door on Boxing Day by 5am.

Now I have to say, this is where I love my Blue Badge, parking on double yellow lines outside the High Street, great. But then it hit me, my wife didn’t want me to come shopping, she just wanted to take advantage of her disabled husband who can park outside the front doors on the biggest sale of the year. After all I’ve not had the Blue Badge that long, I’ve only been disabled for a few years and my wife is taking advantage of me.

Anyway, it is still very dark, you can just about see some daylight pipping over the top of the surrounding buildings, it is very cold, people have been sleeping out all night to get in the shop. The queue is stretching around the corner and, not being able to see the front door, we joined the back of the queue.

img_0014Then at 7am, standing outside, or in my case sitting in my wheelchair, having been dragged out of bed, cold, and ‘people’ won’t let me sit in the car with a heater as they say I would sacrifice my place in the queue – at last, as if it’s a religious event, the doors open.

The great weight of people rush into the shop and swipe the shelves with their arms, while people outside get anxious as they’re still in the queue and don’t want to miss out on the discounted perfume they will never use or just sell on eBay. But when I roll up to the entrance, Fenwick’s have not thought about disabled people at all – there’s a step to get into the shop and now I’m holding up the anxious queue.

Now people are getting really impatient, especially my wife as there are just 30 beds on offer and we need to get to the third floor, while I can’t get up the first step. So, what does she do? She leaves me and does a runner (for 90per cent off, I can’t blame her!), like Speedy Gonzales, off she goes up the stairs, climbing the stairs like a bear up a tree. But now I have people pushing past me and staff have to rush and go and get a ramp from storage, just for me to get inside the shop. There are people not looking where they’re going – falling on me – four people in less than a minute, so now I’m the safety hazard.

I finally get inside the store to where all the sales stuff is but my wheelchair can’t get around the aisles as Fenwick’s have put in extra aisles so for the next 20 minutes I’m stranded between pots and pans and the tea towel area not being able to move. I manage to get to the lift as at this point I’m thinking ‘it’s going to be quieter upstairs’, but what I have not taken into consideration is how much stuff people have bought in the sales. Each person carrying a minimum of 10 bags each, three people take up the space in the lift, which it says you can fit 16 people in, so I have to wait 10 minutes for a lift. By the time it has taken me to wait for the doors to open, get in the store, work my way through pots and pans and wait for the lift, I could have driven to Eastbourne on the south coast and be sitting in the pub on the pier having a nice pint. Instead I’m trying to get to the 3rd floor of a city centre shop on Boxing Day. I eventually get to the 3rd floor and I see my wife paying for the bed she so wanted.

When she’s paid, she comes over to me and simply says “Ok, I’m done, shall we go home?”

While I look back now and find the whole situation ridiculous and something I would never do again, there is a serious point to all this. People with disabilities have difficulty getting out and about all year round. We also have extra cost to incur to assist with our independence and the one thing most people with disabilities would benefit from would be a sale of household goods, like beds, saucepans, sofas and other items.

But given my experience at Fenwick’s, how can any person with a mobility issue have a chance of getting into the shop and grabbing a bargain? In my experience, it was simply impossible, and shops and services I believe need to take more action so that it is not just the fully abled who can take advantage of the Boxing Day Sales. On a happier note, we did get the bed, my wife managed to get the last one on sale, but there were still 30 people behind her who wanted the discounted bed – I simply wouldn’t have got to the 3rd floor in time if it had been down to me on my own in my wheelchair.

A spokesman for Fenwick said: “Unfortunately ours is one of the oldest department stores in the city, built in 1886 for Joseph Johnston.

“We do all we can to accommodate disabled customers, indeed we have regulars who drive their mobility scooters into the store every day on their way to the restaurant, as there are several entrances into the store without steps.

“We will endeavour to make sure that on Boxing Day we ensure that disabled customers are given priority through the disabled access on Bowling Green Street and Market Street, and hope that any future difficulties are kept to a minimum.”

 

Festival on human rights issues returns to Leicester

by Nathan Rodrigues

human-rights-pic

‘Not My Good Arm’ band performing at the festival’s Music without Borders event last year (Image source:  Ambrose Musiyiwa/ CivicLeicester)

Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film festival is set for a return to the city next week, as it will host a series of events which focus on important human rights issues at home and abroad.

The festival, which runs from December 4 – 10 and is free to attend, features a range of programmes which includes a live political debate on the British and EU response to the refugee crisis, a discussion on connecting local communities and the ‘Music without Borders’ fundraiser, where many city based musicians and bands will perform to raise money for refugee charities After18 and LE Solidarity.

Festival organiser, Ambrose Musiyiwa said: “The festival’s aim is to facilitate engagement in human rights issues, as issues that affect us in Leicester also affect people in other countries.”

The event aims to raise awareness of a ‘vast range’ of human rights issues locally and globally.

Ambrose cited the negative perceptions of immigrants as an example of why considering human rights is especially important to a multi-cultural city like Leicester.

He continued: “For example, certain politicians and sections of the British media ramp up anti-immigrant rhetoric, which effectively creates a hostile environment for the majority of people in Leicester because they come from immigrant backgrounds.

“Leicester’s diversity and plurality is something that needs to be defended and celebrated because of its positives, so the festival is part of that defence and celebration in highlighting much needed conversations and ways of doing things that need to be improved on.”

Each year, the festival addresses different topics on human rights through various formats including letter writing campaigns, film screenings and art exhibitions, as well as also drawing attention to International Human Rights Day, which is observed every year on December 10.

Furthermore, whilst admission for the ‘Music without Borders’ event is free, those attending will be encouraged to donate to the supported charities, as the event will also be used as a drop off point for groceries to be handed to the Red Cross in Oadby, to distribute to those who are destitute.

Ambrose, who has organised the event since it started in 2014, added that ‘where possible’, the festival also tries to incorporate suggestions given by the public on potential topics for the future festivals.

For more information on the full 2016 programme for the Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, you can log onto: hraffl.wordpress.com/programme/.

 

LOROS DJ charity night hits Leicester tomorrow

LOROS are set to put on the “ultimate” charity night this Saturday, December 3.

In co-operation with a local DJ, LOROS are set to put on a musical night to raise money for their services and hospices in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Local DJ and event organiser, Adam Watts, 26, said: “The whole reason I put this event together is because LOROS helped my granddad before he died.”

The event will take place from 7.00pm until 12.00am at New Parks Social Club, on Battersbee Road, tomorrow.

The night will include four DJ’s playing music from throughout the years, with a special focus on reggae, house and R’n’B, as well as your traditional charity raffle.

Adam will be one of the four performing DJ’s under his alias, DJ Wattsy, and is set to put on a specialist set full of “exclusive mixes, remixes and house mash ups”, whilst the fellow slots will be filled by his friends.

Adam said: “They’re mates of mine who DJ at mobile discos as well as run their own, and they’re all across Leicester and Nottingham, I asked them if they wanted to join me and they wanted to do it.”

Tickets are £5 for adults, and children can attend for free, all proceedings raised will go straight to the charity. Advanced tickets can be bought from Dave’s 303 in Aikman Avenue.

LOROS specialise in helping people living with cancer and other terminal illnesses, and provide free support to adult patients and families, such as Adam’s.

They currently have over 28 charity shops in the county, their own LOROS lottery and over 1100 volunteers.

Despite not working for LOROS directly, Adam is known across Leicester for the various fundraising events he puts on for various charities.

Adam said: “I did one last year, which was for cancer research. I usually do them once a year, or whenever I can, what dates are available in what venues.

“I’m not setting any goals, I’m just helping people raise money and doing the best I can, and it helps put my name around with these charity events.”

However, Adam did state that if the event was a success that he would do another one for LOROS in 2017.

 

 

By Mollie Mansfield

Crohn’s sufferer calls on students to dress in purple

A Journalism student who suffers from Crohn’s Disease is urging others at De Montfort University to get into the spirit of #PurpleFriday today to help spread awareness of the condition.

Chloe Hewitt found out during the summer that she suffers from the Inflammatory Bowel Disease and is now supporting the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

chloe-crohns

More than 300,000 people in the UK suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease, with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis the two most common conditions that fall under that umbrella.

“Despite how common these illnesses are they are still largely unknown,” said Chloe, who is in the second year of her Journalism Degree course at DMU’s Leicester Centre for Journalism.

“Before July 2016 I knew about Crohn’s but did not have a lot of understanding about it – that was until I was diagnosed with it myself and learnt just how serious this illness actually is.”

Chloe is promoting awareness of the conditions and is hoping to end the stigma that surrounds them as part of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, which began on December 1.

Today, Crohn’s and Colitis UK is encouraging people to wear purple in support of sufferers as part of #PurpleFriday and to make a small donation if they can.

To learn more about Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the different conditions, visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk which has also has information packs to help sufferers with aspects of daily life, including how to deal with Crohn’s and Colitis while living as a student.

To make a donation text CCAW22 £(and whatever amount you wish to donate) or you can donate by going online to https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/get-involved/donate

FareShare volunteers hold Neighbourhood Food Collection in Leicester city centre

By Luke Cowley

FareShare volunteers gathered in Leicester City Centre yesterday, Thursday December 1, to hold their second Neighbourhood Food Collection of the year for people in need.

Volunteers for the popular charity handed out ‘shopping lists’ of suggested food donations to people in the street and collected donations they may have, all while spreading Christmas cheer.

The collection was in conjunction with Tesco and the Trussell Trust, with Tesco promising to ‘top up’ all donations by up to 30%.

Ryan Garner, 31, General Assistant at Tesco and volunteer for FareShare, said: “We are here to help gather food and money for those in need.

“I was homeless at the age of just 17 and I’ve been in the situation where I was sleeping under a slide, not knowing when my next good meal or night’s sleep was going to come from, so I know how much of a massive difference this can make to people.

“Sometimes when you’re there, you think you’re stuck – but with a little push everyone can make something of themselves. Nobody is alone.”

The charity, that aims to relieve food poverty and reduce food waste in the UK, takes food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributes it across the UK to over 2000 charity and community groups, including homeless shelters and women’s refuges.

As a charity, they provided over 4,650 projects with enough food for 21.9m meals last year, while in 2014, FareShare East Midlands collected 375 tonnes of food for those in need, a substantial increase on the 205 collected the previous year.

Ryan added: “People may not realise the true amount of positive impact these collections have.

“The differences something like this can make to people are vast and we’re building people up for the future.”

Between December 1 and 3, people can donate long-life food to their local Tesco store to help some of the 8.4m people in the UK that are struggling to afford to eat.

Laura Parker, lead assistant for the Neighbourhood collection, said: “Everything that somebody can do, helps us, and the people we aim to assist, massively.

“The smallest act can make a huge difference.”

For more information on FareShare, or to volunteer at the Neighbourhood Food Collection 2017, visit www.fareshare.org.uk.