Leicester’s ‘Stabby’ park leaves students fearing for their safety

By Daniel Bellamy

Leicester students are fearing for their safety after sharing concerns over lighting around a popular park route through Bede Park.

An image of the green space Bede Park
An overview look on the popular open green space, Bede Park located in Westcotes

The calls for lighting improvements followed a previous initiative shared by the city council in which they aimed to turn Leicester street lights ‘greener’ by using LED alternatives.

Bede Park is the route for many students to and from campus and, more importantly, the route for students to social events at night.

Students and many users of the park nicknamed the space ‘Stabby’ Park referring to knife crimes and other anti-social behaviour that occurs across the park typically when darkness overcasts the area.

On several occasions, including September 24 last year, police cars were parked at the end and sides of the park, not only this, on a couple of mornings police have been spotted at the entrance of the park near a weapon detector gate.

Police were seen around these gates speaking to members of the public in a general manner.

A Leicester City Council spokesperson said: “The lighting provided is in line with permitted lighting levels for public green spaces to ensure a compromise is met between user safety and wildlife/biodiversity on the site, in particular minimal impact on bats.

‘”The site is regularly patrolled by parks wardens. Where there are repeat criminal offences recorded, this creates a profile with local police who then align police patrols in order of need, public safety.”

According to Leicestershire Police crime map data there were 17 reported incidents in September last year when students began arriving, which was a high number for that year.

One student said: “I feel anxious any time my friends ask me out, knowing I have to cross the park as my way to get there.”

The park is set to have CCTV surveillance installed in the future, with additional monitoring making it a safer place.

The city council spokesperson added: “In summary, safety in any site is dependent upon both the common sense informed decisions made by users, together with the provisions and maintenance incorporated into the location. Amalgamated, they contribute to designing out crime and anti-social behaviour wherever reasonably possible within the resources available.”

The fundraiser event of the summer – Leicester’s One Big Weekend

By Jessica Smith

Leicester’s One Big Weekend, a fundraiser for the Sue Young Cancer Support charity, promises popular headline acts, family fun and delicious treats this summer in Market Harborough.

The event is set to take place from August 14-15, in Leicestershire Show Ground; with adult weekend tickets starting at £35, and all proceeds going to charity.

Event organiser Stacey Coleman, 35, said: “We’ve got Sam Bailey, the ambassador for our centre, Jake Quickenden, who tragically lost his brother and father to cancer, Roman Kemp, and Scouting for Girls and so many more local acts.

“The proceeds are going to a range of charities, Sue Young, LOROS, Macmillan, because we want to bring awareness to all these great causes, of all the services out there that are united in their cause, to support those vulnerable or in need.”

The event celebrates the 40th birthday of Sue Young, with proceeds helping fund the charity in her namesake, which provides emotional and practical support to those affected by cancer in Leicestershire and Rutland.

With services for cancer patients being extremely limited due to COVID-19, Stacey said: “We’re not a massive charity; we’re just trying to give the best possible care with services like person complimentary therapy.

“Because of the pandemic we have had to take on children, and we’re hoping this event helps bring awareness to the services we provide and help provide funding for the services to continue.”

Tara Simms, a local guitarist/vocalist set to perform on the weekend said: “I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to join the line-up – the other artists on the bill are incredible so I’m looking forward to seeing them too.”

Tara will be performing a range of acoustic covers and she added: “I like to go with the feeling of the crowd, I don’t plan sets. I’ll be sure to include some big sing-along numbers, I love audience participation.”

The venue has already reduced tickets from it’s 23,000 capacity to 12,000 over the whole weekend in line with government guidance, but has passed COVID risk assessments, and looks set to offer fun for the whole family this August, with fairground rides from Billy Bates and Sons Funfair, local talent with Tara Simms and Tin Pigeons, and tribute acts Take@That and Little Fix.

Tickets for camping, VIP Golden Circle, and Day/Weekend Tickets are available at leicestersonebigweekend.com, and the latest Tara Simms cover of Creep by Radiohead is available here https://music.apple.com/gb/album/creep-feat-vikki-holland-bowyer-single/1553434908

Leicester united through song: the lockdown choir bringing hope in times of darkness

By Jessica Smith

A Market Harborough opera singer has created an innovative lockdown choir, digitally mixing recordings from 95 members across Leicester for a performance of Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World.’

Olivia Slatter, 22, the choir leader, stated: “I decided to create the choir, as singing has helped me so much through tough times, and I feel that it is important to try and get people young and old to communicate with something that they have in common.”

Prior to lockdown, Olivia undertook an internship, on top of studying at Trinity Laban, a London-based school of music and dance, but with the challenges COVID introduced, her difficulties living with dyslexia and autism were exacerbated, stating: “Lockdown affected my daily routine, as routine is vital for my ASD; I lost a lot of motivation and drive, my anxiety was very heightened, with constant changes and not knowing the future, it was incredibly stressful.

“The choir has been an amazing experience and I’m so pleased I could make a small difference; it’s been a great learning experience for me and ‘Brick Work Studios’, who have helped combine the individual recordings for the track.

“This choir is a non-bullying, no judgement choir, to relieve stress, even if you sing into the shower or sing whilst cleaning up, please join – because this choir is for you!”

Funded by the National Lottery and free to join, the young singer emphasised the choir’s success, as she stated: “The project has done incredibly well, we have certainly hit our targets! With restrictions lifting, and a slow return to normality, we’re keeping an eye out for future performances together, and we’re considering an ‘Olivia’s recovery choir; singing has been a resource helping mental health, and especially with the pandemic and rising suicide figures, this choir is something I felt a responsibility to do for the community.”

An interactive Facebook poll unanimously chose the hit ‘Heal the world’ to perform, a song of positivity and hope at a time when it was much needed. With almost 100 members already, this chorus collaboration looks no signs of slowing down.

To join the choir crew, and for more information, follow the link: https://bit.ly/36idcIK?fbclid=IwAR3hzMl9JwEg-czzz4ZtNpK7tevzxbQPJfKvZjt49ICIvpOIgZp95Z2iSYM

Dog groomer painting puppy portraits during lockdown in Braunstone

By Jessica Smith

A Leicestershire dog groomer has combined passion with art this lockdown, creating personalised key rings to sell alongside her business.

Sarah Streeter, 26, owns Boutique Blues, a successful dog groomer in Braunstone, Leicester, and has began combining a passion for painting with her love of being a groomer, creating personalised dog portraits on keyrings as a side income to her grooming company.

“Personalised paintings are a hobby I hope I can make work, but dog grooming is my passion,” said Essex-born Stacey, who made the move to Leicester two years ago.

“I’ve had a very busy lockdown, recently having a baby, a new puppy, my partner having a serious operation and starting two businesses. But all those things won’t stop you if you’re positive.”

Whilst lockdown delayed the opening of Stacey’s salon much longer than she had planned, so far she has only a tale of success to tell.

She told how: “I love painting and thought the key rings are something safe I can do and still keep making money, as I have a newborn and disabled husband to support.

“A lot of money had to go into making the salon safe for my family and clients. But one thing I’ve learnt is Covid should be everyone’s wakeup call – home is where you should be.”

Boutique Blues is open seven days a week, and appointments can be made via email, or phone, accessible on the Facebook page.

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