Witness to terror: ‘There was a lot of screaming. I’ll never forget the fear in the eyes of the police’

‘In situations of terror, you get the heroes, the quiet ones, and the people who completely lose their minds’: Paul Millar remembers the terrifying day he was trapped inside Parliament during the 2017 Westminster attack.

One foot in front of the other. He maintains a nervous pace until he reaches his office, writes Will Millar. A helicopter hovers above the building. He can see it clearly on the television in the corner of the room.

Every single office door is bolted shut and a deathly silence starts to emerge. On a normal day, the sound of chatter, laughter, and division bells ring through the palace of Westminster. Today, a policeman has been stabbed to death.

Paul Millar, who was just 24 when the Westminster terror attack took place in 2017, had only been working in Parliament for six months, as a researcher for the late Paul Flynn.

When the job got too chaotic, he’d sit alone in the atrium of Portcullis House, sipping a coffee, amongst the tranquil setting of trees and distant chatter.

That’s where he was when the sound of gunshots rattled through the atrium. That grim afternoon in March, there were six victims. Five innocent adults and a killer shot dead on the grounds of Parliament.

“There was a lot of screaming. The police officers were running, trying to keep everyone away from the entrance,” he says. “The fear in their eyes will always be stuck in my memory.”

Escorted to safety, Paul and his colleague Kathy hid underneath a table in the office. The chaos soon faded and was replaced by a tense stillness, where the slamming of every office door mimicked that of a prison cell.

“The feeling in the building was that this was only going to get worse,” he says. “Rumours were going around that there were bombs in abandoned cars. Even my dad texted me saying there’s a gunman in the building. It was terrifying.”

After a while, Paul was moved to a safer environment. Though, the new location, identified by its single-glazed windows and fragile structure, left him feeling even more anxious.

News channels relentlessly covered the event and started to identify the policeman that had been stabbed – PC Keith Palmer.

“I knew Keith Palmer. He was someone I used to walk past. Someone I used to speak to. A lot of people did,” he says.

With nothing to eat but some Rowntree fruit pastels from a near-empty vending machine, Paul started to observe the odd behaviour of those around him.

“I recall a few people who wouldn’t stop playing with the TV sets. They were obsessed with changing the channel,” he says.

“In situations of terror, you get the heroes, the quiet ones, and the people who completely lose their minds.”

Five hours had passed, and Paul could leave, he shuffled through a cowshed of journalists and reporters. On his long walk home, he passed Huw Edwards, setting up scene on Westminster bridge. Ready to deliver a united 10 o’clock news.

The following morning was eerily quiet in Westminster. Abandoned cars. Police tape. The palace had been choked of its personality. No bells. No laughter. No Chatter. Security no longer greeted Paul but grilled him on arrival.

Just a couple months later, a snap general election was called, and Paul was plunged into the chaos of campaigning. He tried to come to terms with the attacks, but he was restless and so were his colleagues.

One night, whilst campaigning in his MP´s constituency. Paul was sat in the back of a car driven by a colleague, when they crashed at a road junction and the car was sent spiralling out of control. “Inches more and we would have died,” he says.

That election campaign was littered with traumatic events and Paul vividly remembers these months being the hardest. Hearing about the Manchester Arena bombing, and the London Bridge attacks forced Paul to relive that horrible day inside Westminster.

Upon returning to London, Paul started to notice his mental health deteriorate. He recalls arming himself with a tennis racket on the tubes, in case he was attacked.  In Parliament, he started to experience symptoms of Post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD).

The sound of a hoover echoed the screams in the atrium. The cleaners in the corridor slowly morphed into police running up and down the building. Paul realised these triggers were sinking deeper into his conscious.

One day, after settling into a new role, he fell ill.

“I felt faint and my body was taken over with adrenaline. My face was bloated and pale. I thought I was having a heart attack,” he says.

What Paul experienced, was the beginnings of a panic attack. A very severe panic attack. He recalls the security guards. Fully grown men. Weeping as they watched on. His vulnerable mind started to play tricks on him, and he was cast back to the events of the attack.

“What happened during that panic attack proved that I’d completely lost my mind,” he says. “I thought the Russians had poisoned the water in the Parliamentary estate. That was my only explanation.”

Paul scrunches his face, as he explains the horrors, he felt during the panic attack. He remembers feeling that his death was certain. He even started to prepare his final wishes.

After being taken to hospital, Paul was diagnosed with PTSD and a severe anxiety disorder. He soon left Parliament and moved back in with his parents. For him, this was a safer, more secure place.

His overall health had been chipped away at but months of cognitive behaviour therapy helped him get back to his feet. Though, the effects were still long lasting and sleep became his only medication.

It has been more than four years since the Westminster attack. He no longer visits the city. Paul now works as a councillor for East Devon District Council, 200 miles from London.

Recovery is slow and he often laments that afternoon. That grim afternoon in March, where five innocent lives were taken.

Paul may never look past his own trauma, but he is insistent that each person, affected by the attack, should look after oneself.

“I like to remind myself of the instructions from cabin crew to air travellers. Put your own oxygen mask on, before helping others,” he said.

Lights, camera, stupefaction: filmmaker stunned to find herself on the Forbes tip list

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list is an incredible place to find yourself, no matter your age, writes Izzi Rix. It indicates significant achievement before you’ve even hit your prime, with previous year’s line-ups going on to become stars on a global scale. To her surprise, on the morning of April 8th 2021, at just 19 years old, that list is exactly where Ella Greenwood saw her own face gazing back at her.

“I was just scrolling and saw my face and it was literally incredible, I think it was 7.30 in the morning and I thought ‘oh my god I need to have cake and I need to have prosecco right now’,” she says.

Ella is one of an increasing number of female filmmakers disrupting the industry. For her, the world of film was clearly where she belonged from the get-go.

“I just always loved films. I would see the same film in the cinema so many times just because it was my favourite thing to do, all I wanted to do was sit in a dark room rather than be outside or anything,” she says.

While some children become obsessed with their favourite superhero or Disney princess, for Ella is was Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia.

“I can’t remember what age I was, maybe about – god time is a weird concept – maybe about eight. I would be like, ‘please I’ll use my pocket money on it’ and then for my birthday all I wanted to do was see it again and again,” she says.

Besotted with watching films, she knew she had to become a part of that world. She assumed acting was the way in, “For so long I thought that was it, that would be my only passion, if I didn’t do that, I would just be such a failure,” she says.

After years of auditions and landing a few projects, at 18 she realised acting wasn’t fulfilling her creative desires and decided to take things into her own hands.

“I just wanted to do something myself, to have more control and not just wait around for other people to decide how I spend my time and what I’m able to do.

“Now that I’m on set I have no urge to get in front of the camera. I still love acting, I really enjoy it, but I love film making more,” she says.

As well as being an ambassador for Stem4 (a charity promoting positive mental health in teenagers and their support network) she hopes to increase the number of representative portrayals of mental health by featuring them within her own films. Her first, Faulty Roots, delves into what it’s like for teenagers with depression.

“I wanted to do it on something that I thought could be important and potentially help people, because I have experience with mental health that just made it a bit easier,” she says.

Faulty Roots was met with great success, being nominated for an award by Film The House, a competition run by MPs to find ‘the filmmakers of the future’, and is now a feature film adaptation.

“I just felt like I didn’t have much to lose, I thought, well if the review’s bad then I just won’t share it I’ll just try and forget that it exists and hope that nobody sees it,” she says.

Being taken seriously as a female filmmaker is a struggle at any age, never mind at 19 years old. Ella decided she wasn’t leaving people’s perceptions of her up to chance, it was time to get serious, so she created Broken Flames Productions.

“I just thought ‘I’m nobody’ if I go to people like ‘Hi, my name’s Ella, I’m making a film can I hire you?’ people were going to skim past me, so I thought, if I’m going to do it let me try and do this properly and make it seem more professional.

“I had no qualifications, no training, I was like the least qualified person ever, but if you have a story you want to tell and if you’re passionate about what you’re doing then people are really nice,” she says.

In addition to a lack of personal expertise, Ella finds herself in the midst of an industry half frozen in its archaism and half hysterically trying to encourage equality.

“There is just so much in the industry based on structures that only help a certain group of people and elitism and nepotism that, I don’t know, I’m not sure I want to be a part of that,” she says.

A main aspect of her dedication and drive is to create change through her own work. In terms of mental health, the areas she sees as lacking representation are, “just everything.”

“I watched so many films growing up and so much TV and I just had no clue what mental health was at all. You’d see these really dramatic suicide scenes, it made it seem so intense and unrelatable. It just needs to be more normalised because so many people struggle with their mental health.

“For me, something that sticks in my mind a lot is the suicide scene from 13 Reasons Why, it was so graphic,” she says.

One of Ella’s upcoming films, Self-Charm, focusses on self-harm, but Ella made the decision to never show a cut or anything graphic.

“I think you can still get what you need to across and tell a story without, because it seemed like that (scene) was put in there for dramatic and entertainment value,” she says.

As a newcomer Ella wants to ensure she makes the right decisions socially and ethically, this means constantly assessing her options. “It’s so important to get it right and I’m very conscious of what I’m putting out there. It can get hard sometimes, I’m the only person making the decision.

“When I wanted to hire a fully female crew it was such a struggle to find females, but I was like, ‘No I want to do this and if it takes extra effort, it takes extra effort, but it’ll be worth it’,” she says.

Ella’s new projects are raring to go, with four currently in the works all progressing fantastically.

“I love working on different projects, it’s just nice to get to work with different people and different actors and different stories and themes, it’s really nice to have a variety of things going on,” she says.

When asked if there’s been any standout moments since she began producing, Ella encapsulates the typical manic beginning of a blossoming career, saying, “It’s all been a bit of a blur.”

Community Football Academy to cycle 300 miles from London to Paris for mental health awareness

Pictured: The charitable cyclists raising money for the mental health pandemic

By Jessica Smith

The Leicestershire based Community football academy training children and adults, is taking part in a huge 300-mile cycle to raise money for Mental Health Awareness this summer.

The ‘CFA Ride for The Future II’ is set to take place from August 12th – 15th, as volunteers and coaches from the academy plan to cycle from London Trafalgar Square to Paris, a mammoth distance of 300 miles in 48 hours.

Imran Govaria, 42, the academy’s volunteer social media and marketing correspondent, said: “Our charity work is not done for fame or fortune – CFA have a platform and we aim to use our influence in the community to raise awareness on the issue.

“Mental health affects everyone; and so many people still don’t feel comfortable speaking out, especially in the BAME community. That’s why we’re hoping by doing this challenge we’re able to raise money to educate the community to address this issue. We’ll be surviving on a minimum of 5 or 6 hours sleep, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make to raise awareness for mental health.”

The academy aims to raise around £25, 000 with the donations to its GoFundMe page, as its 15-20 volunteers take part in the difficult cycle this summer, with support from local charity Rahma Mercy, which support refugees, giving a sizeable donation and increasing the charity’s reach.

The institute hopes to reopen their doors gradually from March 29th, with 300 children enrolled returning for training, which for some is the vital lifeline they need to stay off the streets. 

 “The academy offers an escape, and it’s amazing to see children smile and be themselves in a safe environment.

“There was nothing like this when I was a child, so it’s so important that they feel comfortable to approach coaches – safeguarding is key for us.

“Rain or shine, our volunteers are there for the children, because we care genuinely care about their futures,” added the father of four.

The academy has raised money in the past for many local causes; a 136-mile cycle last summer raised £20, 000 for Leicester General Hospital’s Neonatal unit, where most of the club’s members were born, a trip to Albania in 2019 to help local orphans, and a further fundraising challenge raised money for Help the Homeless Leicester.

“Charity starts at home, and that’s why we raise money for local charities. We’re a small academy trying to do a good thing for our community – this is just the beginning for us.”

Donations can be made at the GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/cfa-ride-for-the-future-2

“You are beautiful always – but I need you to eat. I’m begging you”

A girl and her weight. A struggle many young teens must come to terms with but, for Charlotte Hugo, it was a battle that nearly killed her. She explains her fight against Anorexia to feature writer Samantha Johnston.

Charlotte Hugo always hated hospitals, and this visit was no different. Sat beside her dying grandad, clenching his tired hand, tears streaming down her face, he turned to her and said something she would never forget. “You are beautiful always, but I need you to eat. I’m begging you.”

Charlotte, now 21, was 11 years old. She lived in a town just south of Lincoln with her parents and older brother. She went to school and was happy and active, even competing in Riverdance competitions. She loved to dance.

All that ended the day she collapsed.

Being rushed into Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, Charlotte had never been more scared. It was juvenile arthritis and she needed to take steroids. Steroids that caused unwelcome weight gain.

“From dancing five times a week to not being able to move made me hate myself, especially the way I looked,” Charlotte says, running her hand over her stomach.

She made the decision to start going to the gym and dieting, a decision she didn’t realise would put her life at risk. “It became an obsession, I had to be skinny, I just had to be,” she says.

She began eating less, until eventually she would eat nothing at all, sometimes for days. It would make her sick. She would faint. She was losing weight. Rapidly.

“My mum and dad started to panic. They didn’t know what to do. I remember hearing my dad on the phone. He was crying, begging the doctor to help me. It was so sad,” Charlotte began to cry, “I wanted to tell them not to worry, but that’s their job I guess.”

“When I was 15, I hit my lowest point. I was in the shower and fainted after not eating for three days. I hit my head on the bathroom sink and was bleeding badly. I don’t remember much after that, but I woke up in the hospital,” Charlotte says. She was referred to start therapy after the doctor noticed how underweight she was. 

“I hated it. My parents had to take time off work because I couldn’t be left alone, the man I had to speak to was annoying and I didn’t like the activities he made me do.” Charlotte was told to remove all the mirrors in her house and start writing a journal of things she liked about herself.

Every week, she would go to therapy and be weighed. Her weight was still decreasing. It came to breaking point five weeks in when my therapist told my parents I was going to die,” Charlotte says. “I was dying, and it was my fault. I can’t eat even though I know I should.”

Charlotte’s father, Gary Hugo, drove her home from that appointment without saying a word. Once at home he became aggressive, throwing plates and glasses at the kitchen wall and screaming. He knew he couldn’t save his daughter. He felt helpless. 

Charlotte noticed a change in her family after that day. They started taking control. “My mum had started meal plans and asking me what foods I would enjoy eating the most,” she says.

“My brother would sit with me at the dining table for hours until I had eaten enough. It was sweet how much effort they were putting in but it wasn’t helping. I had to change on my own.” Charlotte hadn’t spoken to her dad in a week. She couldn’t face him. A lot of Charlotte’s family had stopped talking to her. Her grandparents, her cousins. They were all afraid she would die and didn’t know what to say to her. “I got really lonely, she says.

A visit to her see her grandad is what inspired Charlotte to recover. “He was dying. It was one of the last times I would get to see him, and he spent that time asking me to eat. I realised just how selfish I was being. I knew then that I had to get better because I wanted my life to go back to normal.” 

Charlotte started eating again, small amounts, but it was a start. “It takes away your freedom, I was emotionless and numb for years and it tore my family apart.” She apologised to her family for the pain she had put them through and asked for help getting her calorie count up. They worked together and supervised her eating until she was a stable weight. 

It took six years.

“Recovery was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do but it was worth it. I’m alive and at university studying a degree I love,” Charlotte said, “I’ve found an online community of girls all in recovery that I talk to which helps. I’ve made so many new friends and I’m happy. My grandad was right, I am beautiful, and now, I actually believe that.” 

** If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact Beat at 0808 801 0677

De Montfort asks: ‘Are You Okay?’

By Erik Dawson

De Montfort University Students’ Union launched its ‘Are You Okay?’ campaign to help combat mental health and wellbeing issues on campus this Monday (NOV30).

The campaign has been created to give students a space to let the university know how they are feeling, and what they can do to support them.

In a video posted to the DSU website, Academic Executive Laura Flowers said: “I think especially this time of year it can be tough. It can be harder for everybody let alone in a pandemic.”

‘Are You Okay?’: Academic Executive, Laura Flowers introduces the campaign.

‘Are You Okay’ is currently a survey focused on isolation and loneliness at DMU, with each result helping the university create an action plan to help students.

Ex DMU student Paschal Nnedu is no stranger to the negative effects that university life can result in.

“I got depressed and suffered with really bad anxiety while I was at University, the pressure of deadlines coupled with bad results made me feel like I didn’t have what it took.” He said.

The ‘Are You Okay’ survey aims to support the university’s existing health and wellbeing services, by offering a more personalised space where students issues can be identified easily.

Paschal said: “I was aware there was a service to help, but waiting times were so long that I never used them, especially as I didn’t want to take up the limited space instead of people who had it worse than me.”

The campaign will constantly be adapting to cater to students needs throughout the year.

“I don’t know what the next steps are going to be. What I can tell you is it is going to be reactive to exactly what you need.” Academic Executive Laura said in the video.

‘Are You Okay’ has been well received on campus and even by ex-students. Paschal said: “It’s a great campaign and makes speaking about your issues so much easier and more accessible.”

Over the coming weeks, the scheme will highlight support services available, as well as introducing competitions and activities for students to get involved in.

More information can be found on the DSU website as well as their social media accounts, and the survey is available here.