The following text taken from the Black Triangle List was found and edited by poet, artist and campaigner Vince Laws in collaboration with film maker, digital artist, and campaigner Andrew Day.
Made for Dandifest! Norwich launch 27/5/15 with Arts Council England funding from the National Lottery, and donations.
I'm a poet, artist, and campaigner in Norfolk.
I want to list the people who have died within 6 weeks of their benefit ending.
I think it was at 10,200 or something when the government stopped counting... And any subsequent deaths that are due to DWP/benefit cuts.
Does such a list exist?
I’m afraid that was based on a number from a DWP statistics release, and there is no list of names available.
However, Black Triangle have an ongoing list of cases that have come from media reports of welfare-linked deaths.
Last time I looked, they were just short of 100 names.
The Black Triangle List
In Memory of those we have lost
In Hope for those who remain
Terry McGarvey, 48.
Dangerously ill from polycytheamia
Terry asked for an ambulance
to be called during his
Work Capability Assessment.
He knew that he wasn’t well enough
to attend his WCA
but feared his benefits
would be stopped if he did not.
He died the following day.
Elaine Lowe, 53.
Suffering from COPD
and fearful of losing her benefits.
Elaine chose to commit suicide.
Mark Wood, 44.
Found fit for work by Atos,
against his Doctors advice and assertions
that he had complex mental health problems.
Starved to death after benefits stopped,
weighing 5st 8lb when he died.
Paul Reekie, 48
the Leith based Poet and Author.
Suffered from severe depression.
Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits
due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.
Leanne Chambers, 30.
Suffered depression for many years
which took a turn for the worst
when she was called in for a WCA.
Leanne committed suicide soon after.
Karen Sherlock, 44.
Multiple health issues.
Found fit for work by Atos
and denied benefits.
Fought a long battle
to get placed into the support group of ESA.
Karen died the following month of a heart attack.
Carl Payne, 42.
Fears of losing his lifeline benefits
due to welfare reform
led this Father of two
to take his own life.
Tim Salter, 53.
Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia.
Tim hanged himself after Atos
found him fit for work
and stopped his benefits.
Edward Jacques, 47
suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C.
Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm.
He took a fatal overdose after Atos
found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.
Linda Wootton, 49
A double heart and lung transplant patient.
Died nine days after government found her fit for work,
their refusal letter arriving as she lay
desperately ill in her hospital bed.
Steven Cawthra, 55.
His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts,
he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation.
Elenore Tatton, 39
Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.
John Walker, 57,
saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax,
John took his own life.
Brian McArdle, 57
Suffered a fatal heart attack
the day after his disability benefits were stopped.
Stephen Hill, 53.
Died of a heart attack
one month after being found fit for work,
even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.
Jacqueline Harris, 53.
A former Nurse who could hardly walk
was found fit for work by Atos
and her benefits withdrawn.
in desperation, she took her own life.
David Barr, 28.
Suffering from severe mental difficulties.
Threw himself from a bridge
after being found fit for work by Atos
and failing his appeal.
David Groves, 56.
Died of a heart attack
the night before taking his work capability assessment.
His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.
Nicholas Peter Barker, 51.
Shot himself after being told
his benefits were being stopped.
He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage
left him paralysed down one side.
Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old.
Forced to live on £57.50 a week
and make 12 mile trips each week
to get free vegetables to make soup.
Mark and Helen both committed suicide.
Richard Sanderson, 44.
Unable to find a job
and with his housing benefit cut
forcing him to move,
but with nowhere to go.
Richard committed suicide.
Martin Rust, 36
A schizophrenic man who killed himself
two months after the government found him fit to work.
Craig Monk, 43.
A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee
who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.
Colin Traynor, 29,
suffering from epilepsy
was stripped of his benefits.
Five weeks after his death
his family found he had won his appeal.
Elaine Christian, 57
Worried about her work capability assessment,
she was subsequently found at Holderness drain,
drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.
Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old.
Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle,
clutching her baby son
jumped from a third floor balcony.
Mark Scott, 46.
His DLA and housing benefit stopped
and sinking into deep depression,
Mark died six weeks later.
Cecilia Burns, 51.
Found fit for work while undergoing
treatment for breast cancer.
She died just a few weeks after
she won her appeal against the Atos decision.
Chris Cann, 57.
Found dead in his home
just months after being told
he had to undergo
a medical assessment to prove
he could not work.
Peter Hodgson, 49.
Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work.
Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg.
His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.
Paul Willcoxsin, 33.
Suffered with mental health problems
and worried about government cuts.
Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.
Stephanie Bottrill, 53.
After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax,
Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter,
and lived on tinned custard.
she chose to walk in front of a lorry.
suffered from a degenerative lung condition,
his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone.
Atos awarded him zero points,
he died just three months after submitting his appeal.
Paul Turner, 52.
After suffering a heart attack,
he was ordered to find a job in February.
In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.
Christopher Charles Harkness, 39.
After finding out that the funding
for his care home was being withdrawn,
this man who suffered with mental health issues,
took his own life.
Sandra Louise Moon, 57.
Suffering from a degenerative back condition,
depression and increasingly worried
about losing her incapacity benefit.
Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.
Lee Robinson, 39.
Took his own life
after his housing benefit and council tax
were taken away from him.
David Coupe, 57.
A Cancer sufferer
found fit for work by Atos in 2012.
David lost his sight,
then his hearing,
then his mobility,
and then his life.
Michael McNicholas, 34.
Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic.
Michael committed suicide
after being called in for a
Work Capability Assessment by Atos.
Victor Cuff, 59
suffering from severe depression.
Victor hanged himself
after the DWP stopped his benefits.
Charles Barden, 74.
Charles committed suicide by hanging
due to fears that the Bedroom Tax
would leave him destitute
and unable to cope.
Ian Caress, 43.
Suffered multiple health issues
and deteriorating eyesight.
Ian was found fit for work by Atos,
he died ten months later
having lost so much weight
that his family said
he resembled a concentration camp victim.
Iain Hodge, 30.
Suffered from the life threatening illness,
Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped,
Iain took his own life.
Wayne Grew, 37.
Severely depressed due to government cuts
and the fear of losing his job,
Wayne committed suicide by hanging.
Kevin Bennett, 40.
Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness
became so depressed after his JSA was stopped
that he became a virtual recluse.
Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.
David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48.
A disabled man who could no longer cope
after his parents died,
could find no help from the government via benefits.
David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.
Denis Jones, 58.
A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts,
in particular the Bedroom Tax,
and unable to survive by himself.
Denis was found dead in his flat.
Shaun Pilkington, 58.
Unable to cope any more,
Shaun shot himself dead
after receiving a letter from the DWP
informing him that his ESA was being stopped.
Paul ?, 51.
Died in a freezing cold flat
after his ESA was stopped.
Paul appealed the decision and won
on the day that he lost his battle to live.
Chris MaGuire, 61.
Deeply depressed and incapable of work,
Chris was summonsed by Atos
for a Work Capability Assessment
and deemed fit for work.
On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision
and ordered them to leave him alone
for at least a year,
which they did not do.
Chris took his own life,
unable to cope anymore.
a Dutch national with terminal cancer
living in the UK for many years
found that he was not entitled to benefits
unless he was active in the labour market.
Peter died leaving his wife destitute,
and unable to pay for his funeral.
George Scollen, age unknown.
Took his own life
after the government closed
the Remploy factory
he had worked in for 40 years.
Julian Little, 47.
Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure,
Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax
and the loss of his essential dialysis room.
He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.
Miss DE, Early 50’s.
Suffering from mental illness,
this lady committed suicide less
than a month after an Atos assessor
gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.
Robert Barlow, 47.
Suffering from a brain tumour,
a heart defect and awaiting a transplant,
Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos
and his benefits were withdrawn.
He died penniless less than two years later.
Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58.
As a direct consequence
of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP,
this man took his own life.
Martin Hadfield, 20 years old.
Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country
but too proud to claim benefits.
Martin took his own life by hanging himself.
Annette Francis, 30.
A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness,
found dead after her disability benefits were ceased.
Ian Jordan, 60.
His benefits slashed after Atos and the DWP declared Ian,
a sufferer of Barratt’s Oesophagus, fit for work,
caused him to run up massive debts in order to survive.
Ian was found dead in his flat after taking an overdose.
Janet McCall, 53.
Terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis
and declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos and the DWP,
this lady died 5 months after
her benefits were stopped.
Stuart Holley, 23.
A man driven to suicide by the DWP’s incessant pressure
and threat of sanctions for not being able to find a job.
Graham Shawcross, 63.
A sufferer of the debilitating disease, Addison’s.
Died of a heart attack due to the stress of an Atos ‘Fit for Work’ decision.
David Clapson, 59 years old.
A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive
by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms,
David died all but penniless,
starving and alone,
his electricity run out.
Chris Smith, 59.
Declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos
as he lay dying of Cancer in his hospital bed.
Nathan Hartwell, 36
died of heart failure after an 18-month battle
with the Department for Works and Pensions.
Michael Connolly, 60.
A Father of One,
worried about finances after his benefits were cut.
Committed suicide by taking 13 times the fatal dose
of prescription medicine on His Birthday.
Jan Mandeville, 52
A lady suffering from Fibromyalgia,
driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown
by this governments welfare reforms.
Jan was found dead in her home
after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.
Trevor Drakard, 50 years old.
A shy and reserved,
who suffered regular
and terrifying fits almost his entire life,
hounded to suicide by the DWP
who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.
Death of a severely disabled Dorset resident, unnamed,
who took her own life while battling the bedroom tax.
The black triangle was a badge
used in Nazi concentration camps
to mark prisoners as "asocial"
or "arbeitsscheu" (work-shy).
It was later adopted as a lesbian
or feminist symbol of pride and solidarity,
on the assumption that the Nazis
included lesbians in the "asocial" category.
More recently it has been adopted
by UK disabled people's organisations
responding to increasing press allegations
that disabled benefit recipients are workshy.
08457 90 90 90
It doesn't have to be like this.
There are better alternatives
like the UK Disabled People's Manifesto
published by Inclusion London
The Norwich Dandies are delighted to release Dandifest the Movie, today, World Mental Health Day.
Dandifest took place in Norwich from 28 April - 10 May 2014.
Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.
Please share and enjoy!
I want to highlight homophobia in the Commonwealth during the forthcoming Commonwealth Gaymes in Glasgow, July 23 - 3 August, 2014, so I've invented Umbrellas of Love!
There are 53 countries in the Commonwealth, and in 41 it is illegal to be lesbian, bisexual, or gay. In 7 Commonwealth countries I could be imprisoned for life for being myself, and in 2 countries - in parts of Nigeria and parts of Pakistan under Sharia law - I could be executed because of who I love and who loves me. I decided to paint the names of the 41 countries in blood red on white umbrellas and get them seen during the Commonwealth Gaymes. Because I'm a penniless poet, I appealed for donations to create Umbrellas of Love! and soon got enough to do all 86 countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal. I chose umbrellas because they are light and easy to carry, and because the Commonwealth is like a giant umbrella, only some people aren't allowed to step under its protection.
Each umbrella will have a giant letter on it, so collectively we can spell out LOVE IS A HUMAN RIGHT, NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL, WE ALL BLEED RED, LOVE AND LET LOVE, and COMMON WEALTH GAYMES, among other things!
I'm currently painting the umbrellas at my rural Norfolk home. Once painted, the Umbrellas of Love! will be sent to Glasgow, where Amy McLachlan Sayer will organise a photo-opportunity or two, probably at Glasgow Pride, and during the Commonwealth Gaymes - get in touch with Amy if you'd like to be involved in Glasgow or can help make something happen.
After Glasgow, the Umbrellas of Love will appear in the Norwich Pride Parade on Saturday 26 July - get in touch with Vince if you'd like be involved at Norwich Pride, or for any other info.
Thanks to everyone who has helped. Over 30 people chipped in and raised over £500 to make Umbrellas of Love happen, I'm very proud of that.
Please contact me via http://vincelaws.com to get involved.
Here's what Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation wrote about the Commonwealth recently:
The Commonwealth Games take place in Glasgow this summer. However, a report by the international LGBTI lobby group, the Kaleidoscope Trust, reveals shocking levels of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic persecution in four out of five countries belonging to the Commonwealth association of nations.
This persecution casts an ugly shadow over what will otherwise be a joyous sporting celebration. It makes a mockery of the Commonwealth Charter’s commitment to universal human rights.
The Kaleidoscope Trust report is titled: Speaking Out: The rights of LGBTI citizens from across the Commonwealth.
Of the 53 member nations of the Commonwealth, 41criminalise consensual same-sex behaviour between adults. They make up over half the countries in the world that have a total prohibition on homosexuality. Seven of these Commonwealth states stipulate life imprisonment. Two have Sharia law in certain regions - Pakistan and Nigeria - where the maximum penalty is execution.
Homophobic criminalisation, prejudice, discrimination and violence is routine - and occurs with impunity - in 80% of Commonwealth countries. Governments of these nations reject dialogue with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) organisations.
The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is no better. It refuses to even discuss the widespread violation of LGBTI human rights by its member states.
It is only since 2011 that a Commonwealth Secretary-General has, for the first time ever, declared against homophobia.
This was in response to pressure from LGBTI groups, including my stinging public rebuke of decades of Commonwealth silence and inaction.
Although this declaration was a pioneering, positive turning point, we’ve also experienced a fair degree of subsequent disappointment.
Despite the recriminalisation of homosexuality in India, the homophobic witch-hunts in Cameroon, gay-bashing attacks in Jamaica and the draconian new anti-gay laws in Uganda and Nigeria, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has been mostly muted or totally silent.
The Kaleidoscope Trust explains in its report why and how he should be challenging these human rights abuses.
Compiled with input from LGBTI people in many Commonwealth countries, it presents shocking, graphic evidence of the immense oppression they suffer. Indeed, one of the most powerful aspects of this report is the first-hand testimony from the victims of homophobia and transphobia:
“I have lost two teeth, had my family property invaded and car damaged by two masked men...I have had stones thrown at me, experienced simulated gun shots, insults and physical harm on public transportation.” Caleb Orozco, Belize.
“A mob had gathered there saying they wanted to kill gays. I was getting into a public minibus and the conductor started to beat me. Then everyone started beating me.” Anonymous, Tanzania.
“I was attacked beaten and paraded naked on the street of Dakwo village, Abuja in July 2013 on the allegation that I am gay. People brought several video camera and mobile phone to record my nakedness. This inhuman degrading treatment has ruined my life and I have been banished from Dakwo village.” KC, Nigeria.
With a prestigious forward by the former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, and a damning critical introduction from the ex-head of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit, Dr Purna Sen, the report is an authoritative, illuminating call to action.
Dr Sen notes that criminalisation and hate crime are not the only persecutions suffered by Commonwealth LGBTI citizens. There is also widespread discrimination: the denial of “equal access to rights, education, employment, housing and healthcare.” These abuses happen in defiance of the human rights obligations enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.
Based on the evidence amassed, the report urges all Commonwealth governments to repeal legislation criminalising same-sex behaviour and, in the meantime, to agree a moratorium on the enforcement of any such existing laws.
It also calls on member states to engage in dialogue with their LGBTI communities and to approve the formation of a Commonwealth-wide LGBTI association with formal consultative status.
The biggest, most challenging demand is the discussion of LGBTI equal rights at the next CHOGM. We live in hope and, if there is any justice, this commendable, excoriating report will prompt the Commonwealth to ensure that it happens.
I want to highlight homophobia in the Commonwealth during the forthcoming Commonwealth Gaymes in Glasgow, July 23 - 3 August, 2014, so I've invented Umbrellas of Love!
There are 53 countries in the Commonwealth, and in 41 it is illegal to be lesbian, bisexual, or gay. In 7 Commonwealth countries I could be imprisoned for life for being myself, and in 2 countries - in parts of Nigeria and parts of Pakistan under Sharia law - I could be executed because of who I love and who loves me.
I decided to paint the names of the 41 countries in blood red on white umbrellas and get them seen during the Commonwealth Gaymes. Because I'm a penniless poet, I appealed for donations to create Umbrellas of Love! and soon got enough to do all 86 countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal.
I chose umbrellas because they are light and easy to carry, lots of people can get involveduseful if it rains or gets too hot, and because the Commonwealth is like a giant umbrella, only some people aren't allowed to step under its protection. Each umbrella will have a giant letter on it, so collectively we can spell out: LOVE IS A HUMAN RIGHT, NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL, WE ALL BLEED RED, LOVE AND LET LOVE, and COMMONWEALTH GAYMES, among other things!
I'm currently designing and painting the umbrellas at my rural Norfolk home. Once painted, the Umbrellas of Love! will be sent to Glasgow, where Amy McLachlan Sayer will organise a photo-opportunity or two, probably at Glasgow Pride, and during the Commonwealth Gaymes - get in touch with Amy if you'd like to be involved in Glasgow.
After Glasgow, the Umbrellas of Love will appear in the Norwich Pride Parade on Saturday 26 July - get in touch with Vince if you'd like be involved at Norwich Pride, or for any other info.
Thanks to everyone who has helped. Over 30 people chipped in and raised over £500 to make Umbrellas of Love happen, I'm very proud of that.
Glasgow contact: amymclachlansayer[at]gmail.com
Art collective extraordinaire, The Norwich Dandies, are planning Dandifest! a two week happening, launching on Monday 28 April 2014, running through the May Bank Holiday, and ending on Saturday 10 May 2014. The Norwich Dandies, established in 2010, have worked separately on a vast array of projects, but always have the most fun when they work together. An impressive line-up of Guest Artists will be announced in the run-up to the launch.
Feedback from Helen Jones, after MindOut’s Wellbeing Day in Brighton. “The Norwich Dandies were a delight… They artfully created a corner of creative inspiration and got everyone involved… whatever their level of skill… they were generous, gentle, gorgeous and we can’t wait for them to come back...!”
Current Norwich Dandies are:
Eloise O'Hare, artist and campaigner, currently co-organising the Norwich Rising event, Drum For Justice, an international One Billion and Rising event on Vanentine's Day, highlighting violence against women. Eloise also works for Hospital arts and is a leading campaigner in stopping junk mail to save trees.
Chrissy Sabberton, artist, performance artist, and campaigner, explores the way women are portrayed in the media, and wears a lot of pink.
Dugald Ferguson, artist and actor, is currently working in Berlin. His multi-media show Torrents of Rapture, received Arts Council England funding, and has been seen in London, Madrid, and Brighton, where it touched the hearts of millions.
Ann Nichols, photographer, photojournalist, and campaigner, regularly photographs protests, campaigns, and celebrations. Her work often features in the media.
Vince Laws, founder of the Norwich Dandies, is a poet, artist, and campaigner. Channel 4 News broadcast live from Vince's last happening - a protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the Winter Olympics. He was Arts Council England funded for the B.Right.On Festival last year.
Dandifest! will centre on St Margaret's Church of Art on St Benedict's Street, Norwich, with art, poetry, politics, live events, workshops, photography, and whatever else turns up between now and then.
If you want to get involved, get in touch. Volunteer Dandies are always welcome. Contact The Norwich Dandies via vincelaws[at]gmail.com
Late last year I was commissioned to produce a visual piece based on my poem 'Human'. I had no idea what the end result would be. I was told to do what I wanted.
I started by re-reading the poem with the commission in mind. The commissioner had said how he liked the way my work contains layers, and how the phrase 'human first and foremost' resonated.
I was struck by how well another phrase from the poem, 'such a fuck off fabulous host' suited the commissioner. He likes good food and drink, both as a host and out dining. The Biblical meaning of 'host' combined with the profanity of 'fuck off', appealed to me.
I have part of my poem 'Diagnosed' written on a large mirror in dripping blood: 'If I believe in fate I can't cheat it' and for a while I thought about putting 'Human' on top of that. I have another canvas 6 foot wide, 2 foot high, which hangs above my fireplace, it is a constant 'work in progress', and I considered using that. I cut out empty medication boxes and sprayed through them. I tried this onto a roller blind too.
Eventually I hit upon using a piece which was dark and gloomy, called 'I just stopped taking my medication', which I had made specifically to fill an ornate frame I'd bought at auction. It was hanging above the stairs. I took it down. I turned it 180 degrees and re-made it. It slowly developed. I added collage. Tintoretto's 'Adam & Eve' got painted over. So did lots of other stuff. It slowly grew. It went white. It went orange, yellow, and purple. I used household paints,and then acrylics. Finally I got to red and green. I wanted it to have vitality. I wanted it to have the human touch. Mistakes. Vs. Dust.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, H.I.V.
Human first and foremost,
A maker of mistakes.
The mistake I made,
Was to fall in love.
Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
I is Immunodeficient -
I catch more germs than most,
Of course I prefer to think germs think me
Such a fuck-off, fabulous host!
V is for Virus,
It contains both I and Us.
We’re all human first and foremost,
And in the end, all dust.
There's been a fair bit on DAO about the Work Capability Assessment recently. I'm in the throws of a WCA yet again and thought I'd take this opportunity to publish the following letter I've sent to the benefit office, and to my MP.
I am a poet and artist because of my disabilities. I’m HIV+ and deal with mental health. It is very good for me to be creative, mentally, and I can do it around my fluctuating symptoms.
Rosie, my bookkeeper wrote: ‘your books for April 2012-March 2013 and a copy of the tax return I submitted today. You made a loss of £2,299 but you will receive a tax bill for £60.80 because your turnover increased. We can claim this back at the end of the year.’
I hope this is helpful.
I need to stay in the support group I am currently in. I need to continue being a poet and artist, doing the best I can, when I can. I do sell some art. I am gaining an artistic reputation. I want to carry on doing permitted work. I want my permitted work put up from £20 a week to £95 a week.
I want these Work Capability Assessment’s to stop. They are very stressful. It’s like I can’t do anything while this is in process, the uncertainty is so great. Will they stop my benefits without warning as they did before, make me appeal, jump through hoops that the government itself has accepted is not fit for purpose for those with mental health, fluctuating symptoms.
It’s very cruel. The process itself traumatises me year on year, again and again. It’s like breaking someone’s leg every year to check they can’t walk. It’s madness. That can’t be right or helpful. Why can’t I be in this group for life? I’m sending a copy of this to my GP, my MP, my HIV consultant for my own protection.
I want to do my best, but the system hampers me. I’ve tried to fill out your form, starting ‘Do you have a job?’ and I enclose my accounts. I got an Arts Council Grant for £7,500 in February and got great reviews on my work.
I want to apply again and keep being creative. I can’t do that until this period of going back though the sausage machine of the Work Capability Assessment every 12 months ends.
I’m performing at this event: ‘INCITE’ @ THE PHOENIX ARTISTS’ CLUB The West End’s Phoenix Theatre is opening the doors of its exclusive members club for a free evening of LGBT poetry and in-house jazz.
This monthly event, hosted by Trudy Howson, is an opportunity to experience the very best LGBT poets, and performance artists. With well-known guest performers and open mike later for budding and flowering poets who want to have a go.
Stay afterwards and enjoy this unique, theatrical club’s facilities. Phoenix Artists Club. 1 Phoenix St. WC2. Wednesday 8th May 7pm.
I’ll be bringing THIS POPE IS PANTS, MENTAL HELMET, and QUEEN NEVER plaques.
You were warned! Please share with London people, thanks.
Vince Laws explains THIS POPE IS PANTS... banned from the Jubilee Library, Brighton at the launch of 'I Am A Poem'
The visual poem, entitled THIS POPE IS PANTS, is made of donated pants, stitched together to form bunting. There is a letter stapled to each crotch, spelling out THIS POPE IS PANTS. THIS POPE IS PANTS was displayed at the packed artistic launch in the library on 1 February, but has now left the building.
As a poet and artist I wanted to protest at the Pope’s visit to the UK. For me that means coming up with words, a poem, a slogan – and then finding a way to make that piece visual., something that engages with the public.
When I came up with THIS POPE IS PANTS I liked the derogatory, perhaps infantile but humorous sense that PANTS evokes, and set out to spell out why this Pope is PANTS after checking out the Protest the Pope.org.uk website.
THIS POPE IS PANTS
P – Protector of paedophile priests.
A – Against abortion always, even in extreme cases, vulnerable women, rape, abuse
N – No Condoms Never leading to big families and the spread of AIDS (He’s changed his view on this since I started my protest, now male prostitutes are showing responsibility when they use condoms… it’s a start.)
T – Teaching segregation by encouraging segregated education.
S – inSulting to all Sexualities who don’t fit his narrow definition of normal.
I invited people I knew on Facebook to send me pants if they agreed with my protest and I got over 50 pairs from enthusiastic supporters. I’ve hand-stitched the briefs and y-fronts and knickers together so they hang like bunting. There are poets’ pants, artists’ pants, teachers’ pants, a pop star’s pants, mum’s pants, dad’s pants, kids’ pants, all sewn together in protest.
I hung the 3 strings of THIS POPE IS PANTS bunting on my cottage in Norfolk during the Pope’s week long visit to the UK. I was interviewed about my protest by BBC Radio Suffolk, and on North Norfolk Radio News. The letters are made of card, stapled on to each crotch.
So here’s how it happened. I went into a cafe in Brighton where I used to clean the floors and asked for an art exhibition. The owner liked my work but said it was too political for his business. A friend knew someone who knew someone at the Jubilee Library – I got offered an exhibition there next February. I’m going to paint BANNED across the main window in dripping blood. In the foyer exhibition space there’ll be some of my visual poems, and giant speech bubbles from the OUT140 project, telling coming-out stories in 140 characters: ‘Mother said I’d rather you were a prostitute than a lesbian’ or ‘I told my parents I was bisexual when I was 16. They said "go to your room."
Then someone said do you want to see round the Town Hall – some lovely Old Police Cells, and a basement fitted with shelves, both ripe for exhibitions, performances, just saying – and I ended up saying “Yes!” to the Atrium, the perfect place to hang the Hankie Quilt, a memorial to those we’ve lost and those living with HIV. I’ll be representing the 482 HIV+ people who have died in Brighton since 1982 with drops of red blood, and the 1,895 people living with HIV in Brighton today with fresh lime leaves. Please update these figures if you know better. A quarter of the people living with HIV don’t know it yet – early diagnosis = longer life.
So then I asked if anyone else wanted to help celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans History Month in Brighton next February. First, National Co-Chairs Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick said yes, and then Gscene magazine said yes, and Brighton Council LGBT Worker’s Forum said yes, and the Jubilee Library said yes, and Bear Patrol said yes, and Emmaus said yes, and Lunch Positive said yes, and artists said yes, and poets said yes, and choirs sang yes, and Disability Arts Online said yes, and Barefoot Wine said yes, and I Am A Poem turned into we are The B.Right.On Festival - now with added Arts Council England support! Thank you all for your enthusiasm! Needless to say, I’ve thanked the café owner for saying no.
So far we’ve got Launches, Adopt-A-Pansy, Trouser Wearing Characters, Make Them Eat Cake, a Queer Brighton Tour, a Human Library, The Small Frayed Knot, The ‘L’ Word, and How Gay is Your Pet? We could do with more wall space for art and photography. If you’ve got other stuff planned, let me know and we’ll put it in the programme and let as many people know as possible. Think what you can bring to the party, not what you can take.
I’m calling it a celebration of Queer History Month – I don’t care what your sexuality is, or your preferred gender - I just insist you’re not straight, white, and able-bodied. Only kidding. It’s a celebration for everyone who realises everyone is worth celebrating. As Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t have to bat for us to admire our balls!”
Get in touch if you want to get involved.
Her Worship the Mayor of the Great Yarmouth, Councillor Colleen Walker will officially launch OUT140: The Little Book of Coming Out Stories in Great Yarmouth Library on National Coming Out Day, Friday 12th October. The book will then be available in libraries across Norfolk.
The Little Book of Coming Out Stories was created by community filmmaker Shelly Telly (Michelle Savage) and poet Vince Laws for Norwich Pride. It lists 140 coming out stories told in 140 characters or less (a tweet on Twitter) from lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people from all over Norfolk and beyond.
We chose 12th October for the launch because it’s National Coming Out Day - an important day for raising awareness and visibility of LGBT people. We are in every family, workplace, and group of friends and the OUT140 book captures the diversity of the coming out experience. I hope this book will make people think about how they respond when someone they know comes out.
You can buy the book for £1.40 + P&P from firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been invited to bring my show 'I Am A Poem' to the Jubilee Library, Brighton, next year. I intend to celebrate LGBT History Month with a series of events, launching on Friday 1 February 2013.
I’m hoping creative people all over the city will join in the celebration. There will be a Launch Party, a Human Library, Flashmob Poetry, a Ball, the OUT140 project, and lots more. Already there’s talk of a photo exhibition, film showings, and a choir. Get in touch if you want to take part.
I held my first solo gallery show at Georges House Gallery, Folkestone, in February this year. Gallery Director, Brigitte Orasinski, said:
“The exhibition was more than just a collection of artworks, it was a happening that involved and deeply engaged many people. Vince’s work has important things to say, but he has a deftness of touch that means he can attract attention and interest without bludgeoning people over the head with his message. His energy and attention to detail made the exhibition unique, memorable and joyful.”
Contact me via www.vincelaws.com
The Norwich Dandies art collective are delighted to be invited to the Time For Change event outside Norwich Forum on Saturday 1 September from 10am-5pm. Time For Change provides a friendly atmosphere and encourages people to talk about mental health while challenging preconceptions and stereotypes.
The Norwich Dandies (Vince Laws, Ann Nichols, Dugald Feguson, and Eloise O’Hare) believe creativity is a valuable part of human well being. We will be bringing the infamous Dandies dressing up box, encouraging people to dress like a Dandy, lie back on the chaise lounge, and have their portrait painted, either by one of us, or a passer-by.
Come and pose! Come and paint! Come and live!
I'll be exhibiting at the forthcoming Norwich Pride Without Prejudice show at St Margaret's Church of Art, St Benedict's Street, Norwich, which launches on Sunday 22 July from 6-9pm (all very welcome) and then runs until Saturday 4 August.
I'm running a Paint Your Own Plaque Workshop (or bring a charity shop plate/mug/whatever to adapt?) on Tuesday 24 July at St Margaret's Church of Art from 2-4-30pm, free/make a donation.
I will be performing at the Pride Tea Party at the Tea Lounge on Ber Street on Friday 27 July from 4-6pm, then watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony with the Pride posse at the Norwich Arts Centre from 7pm, before making live art and performing at the Dysfunctional Room later that night.
On Norwich Pride day, Saturday 28 July, I'll be about! Hope to get to the Forum to listen to the Any Questions debate, then to Chapelfield Gardens where I'll do a few poems from the bandstand, then the Parade, then I'll do a couple of poems on the main stage, then I'm co-hosting The Norwich Dandies Do the Diamond Jubilee with Olympian Pride at The Loft, from 5pm-Midnight, expect art darlings, poetry, projections, drama, djs, fancy fucking dress, only £2 entry and that all goes to Pride - so come and support us - we're doing this for nothing because we want to!
Sunday 29 July it's the 2nd annual Cromer Pride from 2pm - the only Pride in the country that takes place on a beach! I'm performing and introducing the acts for the first 2 hours. And collapse.
All the best
Share it, print it out, stick it up where it can be seen, slip it in your notes, leave it in on a desk, post it on to friends, the people least able to campaign for themselves are being traumatised by the state.
The mentally ill are being assaulted. Disability is not a life-style choice. Fund us properly, enable us, and then we can do our best - and our best is amazing.
Our best will reward you far more than forced labour. This is our country. You govern on our behalf and we demand to be treated with respect.
I’m taking part in the Norfolk & Norwich Open Studio event this year, showing visual poetry, text art, and protest art in a picture postcard cottage in the middle of nowhere.
Inspired by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I’ve hung Rainbow Jack bunting outside and erected a blue plaque which reads ‘1952-2012 HM the QUEEN NEVER VISITED THIS HOUSE’.
I was curious to see if the blue plaques would sell, so I sent out an email and immediately sold 8. I’m enjoying painting different words for different people, including: HM the QUEEN NEVER HOOVERED HERE, and HM the QUEEN NEVER ATE KIPPERS HERE.
I’m going to send the plaques via the Royal Mail, like giant postcards, so they can be read on their journey, plus I get to stick the Queen’s head on the back of each plaque. A limited edition of 100 blue plaques, hand-painted on cardboard, are available for £20 each, including postage.
Norfolk & Norwich Open Studio, Ships Cottage, Hall Road, Oulton, Norfolk NR11 6NU, open 1-5pm, May 26, 27, June 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 & 10, Visit www.vincelaws.com for more information.
I had a fabulous time exhibiting my work and meeting the people of Folkestone in February. I didn’t get an Arts Council Grant, but went ahead and financed the show myself, andthough I say so myself, I made quite a splash. The MP came and launched LGBT History Month, the Town Mayor came, the Bishop of Dover sent his love, and I made the front page of the Folkestone Herald with my ‘disgusting art’ – Support the Troops, Start Another War!
Volunteer artists who joined me: 8
Volunteers in non-creative roles: 11
Number of new works created 22:
Predicted figure for engagement in my ACE proposal = 1800
Total figures for engagement = 2254
Plus 25,000 readers of the Folkestone Herald
Plus listeners to Academy FM
Plus listeners to Future Radio
Plus readers of Canterbury Pride’s website
Plus readers of Kentish Times/ KM Extra
Plus readers of Creative Folkestone
Plus readers of Gscene
Plus readers of Disability Arts Online
Here’s the feedback collected during the Folkestone show, held in the beautiful Strange Cargo gallery, including coming out stories for the OUT140 project:
Your event outshone all the others especially the Brighton ones. Best wishes James Ledward, Editor, Gscene Magazine
Eat the Poor: Fantastic! Brilliant!
This man (Vince)! Has got the most unbelievable positive and creative energy!
Going to skip home and tell my Mum. Inspired! Thanks Vince, love Adrian
I like the dogs. I am curious.
What a refreshing place, and Proud to show its support. Thank you. Martin & Andy
Gay Asylum Seekers Welcome Here xxx
Love the exhibition. Fabulous works of art. Really opened my mind xx
I think it is very beautiful because it says just be yourself. Alana
Give Birds Eye Peas a chance. Jaydee xxx
My nephew came out – his older brother was a bit whoa! – but his mum was fine.
Thank you for your kind and welcoming hospitality! Love the coffee table – shame ATOS don’t give me enough to make an offer! Susan
I met, fell in love with and married a beautiful person. It really didn’t matter to me that she happened to be a woman. What matters is that I love her and she loves me. Lindsay x
Event was fab, loved it, support from people was great!
Thought provoking – more please!
We love Folkestone Pride x Stevie and Michelle x
Sing if your glad to be gay – or paint, or poem – it’s great to see Kent painted in rainbow colours! Jo
Thought provoking – honest, open, love it!
What an enterprising artistic chap you are!
1976 went into a pub in Camberwell and realised I was not the only one.
People are all different – we just need to get on with it and enjoy life.
Excellent exhibition, really exciting work, well done!
Excellent – time to self – thank you. Ruth
Still a long way to go for true equality!
Vibrant. Inspiring. Accesable. A great uplifting start to a sunny day. A stunning way to spread the message.
Wonderful! Really wonder-full!
My brother told his mum he was gay – she said he was a waste of 9 months and never spoke to him again. That was 20 years ago!
I love it. Random. Love the space, much bigger like this. JD
Some of it’s sad, some of it’s funny, love that Gary story!
Howler loves Vinnie x x x x x
My mum said I don’t mind just don’t turn into a raving queen!
A visual delight.
Art is crazy but nice.
So pleased this exhibition and these issues can be seen in Folkestone. Fab!
In my school, the word ‘gay’ was used to mean ‘bad’! My friend Richard got bullied so bad for it the school shut down Facebook. Rich is a touring professional actor and comedian now. I still see the boys who bullied him round clubs in my home town, trying and failing to pick up girls. How very gay they are.
All the colours make me happy.
I love your exhibition – it’s fantastic!
I came out and my mum told auntie Heather, “You owe me £50!”
Well done Vince, awesome!
Took my son till the age of 26yrs to come out… Now happy, happy, happy gay. What a waste of youth. Xxx
I always told my kids to be whoever they wanted to be. (I was secretly disappointed they were all straight!) Me, I’m not straight, more of a wavy line xxxxx Karen
Good stuff Vince!, Art and Politics – good bed fellows. Best – Pete.
Wow! Nick from Bournemouth xx
So colourful, well done! Sarah xx
I came out to my mum by wearing a t-shirt that said: “I like girls who like girls.” From An Anon Lesbian
My cousin took me for lunch to tell me something, she was so worried, I was the first. After a 3 hour lunch and her telling me I’d never guess, I asked her if there was a closet she would like to come out of – she said yes. I found it so sad that someone, never mind someone I love, could be so worried about who they are. Like I said to her – who cares, you are the same person you were yesterday and you will be the same person tomorrow. Your private life is just that – private. I love the exhibition – Sarah, Academy FM radio.
Loved it! Loved the idea. Loved the creativity. Loved the inspiration. Loved the words. Loved the eco. Too many ignorant people out there. We are all human. We are all the same. Not enough love out there. Loved it! Fantastic Knika-elastic! x
Poet, artist and campaigner Vince Laws takes over Georges House Gallery, The Old High Street, Folkestone, from February 3-15. Expect visual poetry, text art, protest art, performances, events, and the chance to get involved.
I send greetings and solidarity to Folkstone LGBT History Month. It’s important to reclaim our hidden history and celebrate the huge contribution that LGBT people have made to human culture and civilisation. Knowing our history is crucial to understand who we are and to feel pride in our identity and community. This sense of self-worth is vital for our mental and emotional well-being.
Celebrating LGBT history starts local and goes global. Thank you for helping make it happen in Folkstone.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Trans History Month at 12 noon in the gallery, on Friday 3 February. Those attending include The Mayor, Deputy Divisional Commander of Police Tim Smith, and Folkestone MP Damian Collins who will cut the pink ribbon.
“I think it is important that people are allowed to be themselves in a safe and secure community and I am very proud that this event is taking place at Georges House Gallery in Folkestone to highlight and celebrate LGBT History Month.”
Town Mayor, Councillor Sue Wallace
The Artistic Launch, 7-9pm the same day, will be opened by Tate Modern curator Marcus Dickey Horley, and will feature performance poetry and song from Vince Laws and guests. There will also be a site-specific text installation using coming-out stories and messages of support.
“This is truly a wonderful response to LGBT History Month, we are proud that the month calls forth such creativity and support. We can only hope that such work eradicates homophobia and transphobia and enables everyone to learn and celebrate the wealth of talent and diversity of our community.”
Sue Sanders Co Chair of LGBT History Month
On Saturday 4 February, from 1-4pm there’s a Human Library in the gallery, designed to combat prejudice, come and borrow a human ‘book’ and chat together for 20 minutes. Previous book titles have included HIV+, Blind, Bipolar, Wicca Priestess, Gay Christian, etc.
On Thursday 9 February, from 6.30pm there’s an invitation only performance of Vince’s poetry play The Small Frayed Knot.
On Saturday 11 from 12 noon there’s Pop-Up Pride, everyone welcome, poetry, song, speeches, and who knows what else. Queer calypsos guaranteed.
Finally, on Tuesday 14, there’s the St Valentine’s Day Poetry Massacre, details from the gallery.
All this, plus Adopt a Pansy, the Marcel Duchamp chess challenge, and Badger the dog, who will be exhibiting his homage to Tracey Emin!
All events are open to everyone. As Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t have to bat for us to admire our balls.” Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, (later for special events) all events are free.
I’ve had two pieces selected for a 6 month long exhibition in Nottingham called 'Diversity'. It's been put together by City Arts, Nottingham and The Institute of Mental Health and aims to make visual the experience of mental health difficulties. I proposed, and the organisers commissioned, My Mental Helmet. It’s the only 3D piece in the exhibition.
My Mental Helmet is safer, darker
Heavier, harder to communicate
Here I am alone, protected
Isolated, insulated from the throng
Crying in carparks, round and round
Ripples in a goldfish bowl
But you can’t sleep
When you think about it.
I’ve been thinking how depression is like being in a crash helmet. The exercise of painting text onto the helmet helped me edit the poem down to what was most important. I wanted to write MY MENTAL HELMET across the visor, with YOU THINK ABOUT IT underneath, and the rest developed as I painted. The drop shadow on the text really brought it to life. I like that it looks like a giant snail. Someone said it looks like an Easter egg. I’m looking forward to getting it back in 6 months time!
Institute of Mental Health, Sir Colin Campbell Building, University of Nottingham, Innovation Park, Triumph Road,
9th November until May 2012, Monday-Friday 9-5.
Full details, parking and directions at www.city-arts.org.uk
All the best, Vince x
I’ve just had two works selected for the Facing Hard Times exhibition, which launches in Kings Lynn on Saturday 1st October, 2-7pm. (I hope to be there from 2-5pm!)
EAT THE POOR is a limited edition A1 print, the visualization of a set of 7 EAT THE POOR recipes I composed earlier in the year. I had fun making the text while keeping one eye on the dogs! The other piece accepted, HOPE LESS, is a one off response to the recent riots.
The Out-of-the-Box independent curators have selected work from international artists dealing with the current global economic downturn. I’ve gone international. Grin.
Facing Hard Times is at the Greyfriars Art Space, 43 St James Street, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 5BZ.
Gallery open 3-15 October, Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm.
I’ve just sat for a portrait by Tanya Raabe. I'm not going to lie, I had a blast. There I stood, an HIV+ depressed queer performing poetry in the Tate - how did that happen? I want to do it again!
It was a pleasure to sit for Tanya, she made it very easy, we just chatted away about life, art, disability - then threw the doors open to the public. Friends came and stayed. Strangers - hesitant at first - joined us, and took up the challenge of drawing a portrait too.
I love Tanya's work, her bold lines and her use of colour so I'm chuffed to have been chosen and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished work. Hats off to the Tate for putting disability art right where it deserves to be, and I'm proud to say we didn't look a bit out of place. I shall be living off that day for quite some time to come - inspirational.
Poet, artist and campaigner, Vince Laws, has launched a collection of ‘Atos Kills’ funeral cards in the Tate Modern whilst having his portrait painted. The limited edition collection comprises six cards with hand-written texts in black and red biro.
‘Who gives Atos about the sick?’ asks the first.
‘Atos is a French IT company, paid £100 million a year by the government to take benefits away from the sick’ reads the second.
‘Atos Kills' [allegedly] states the third boldly. ‘Poet Paul Reekie killed himself in June 2010. He left out 2 letters informing him that his Incapacity Benefit and his Housing Benefit had been stopped.’
Card four reads: ‘Last year despite support from my GP, HIV consultant and psychologist – I scored zero points on an Atos medical and my benefits were stopped. I wasn’t even informed. This is no way to treat a mental.’
Card five: ‘Atos has just sponsored the Paralympics in London 2012. The Paralympians must refuse this money – which has been stolen from the sick and disabled.’
The final card reads ‘I went to Atos for a medical last Thursday. Did I get any points? Day of Protest – September 30th – outside Atos offices nationwide.’
Vince has been invited to sit for a portrait by the artist Tanya Raabe as part of the Revealing Culture: Head On Collection. The sitting was open to the public on Wednesday 21 September in the Tate Modern, where Vince’s ‘Atos Kills’ funeral cards were on display.
Vince Laws invites us to Tanya at the Tate...
Well let’s be honest, I’ve had my share of shit to deal with this year - but you know what, from shit springs roses! On 21st September I will be sitting in the Tate Modern having my portrait painted by an artist whose work I loved from the moment I first saw it: Tanya Raabe.
Tate Curator Marcus Dickey Horley explains. “For the last 18 months disabled artist Tanya Raabe has been working collaboratively with Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool to explore evidence of disability in the Tate collection displays. This has led to the creation of a series of live public events: Revealing Culture Head On, in which Tanya has been given studio space at the Tate in order to run live portrait sittings in which a series of disabled people have been invited in to have their portrait painted by Tanya. The session takes place over the course of a day - with the studio open to the public in the afternoon, giving them the chance to chat to Tanya and her sitter, and also to join in the creative activity, as drawing materials are supplied. The completed series of portraits will form a catalogue and essay, and we also hope to display some of the portraits at Tate Modern in 2012. The aim is twofold: to explore the evidence of disability and disabled people’s lives as seen in the Tate Collection, and also to give a high profile platform to disability arts and to disabled people who use art to say something important about their life experience.”
I first saw Tanya’s portraits at Disability Pride in the Forum in Norwich in 2010. I remember so wanting to take one of every postcard home with me, but I wasn’t sure if they were free. I saw my friend Ann, one of the Disability Pride organizers, and rushed over to ask, “Ann, who did these portraits? I love them. Are the postcards free?” Ann laughed. “Meet my friend Tanya,” she said.
Both Tanya and Marcus are keen to include invisible disabilities within the Head On series, and curious as to how the public will react to someone with no obvious physical disability. If you are HIV+, if you’ve suffered mental health difficulties, if you have invisible disabilities, I’m going to the Tate Modern in London to represent you on September 21st – come and join Tanya and I from 2-4.30pm and make yourself visible. And I’m 50 this year so bring me some cake!
Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, warned about riots in April 2010, a month before the last general election.You can see him talking prior to the election in this clip on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YItK1izQIwo “It’s rather a silly thing to say frankly,” was David Cameron’s response.
If I could riot without looting, violence and arson, I would. Oh hang on a minute, that’s peaceful protest isn’t it? I’ve tried that. I’ve written to MPs, made provocative art, blogged, complained about Atos, chased after benefits, contributed to 38Degrees, encouraged UK Uncut – to what effect? UK Uncut representatives who entered Fortnum & Masons in London to protest peacefully at tax avoidance have been arrested and charged like criminals. Peaceful protest up and down the country has been ignored.
The cuts keep coming and those of us on benefit are being made to feel like criminals. We are labelled scroungers, cheats, and benefit thieves and yet the benefit I claim does not cover my meagre needs. Slowly I am slipping further and further into debt, an added stress in itself. At the moment I can’t afford oil, so I can’t have hot water. In the winter this will mean no central heating either.
As a poet and artist I’ve given up applying for funds, so I make my art as cheaply as possible, and display it where I can, or send it out via the web. As the cuts bite there are also less and less opportunities to share my skills in the wider community, even on a voluntary basis.
I’m not a disenfranchised youngster living in inner city poverty. I’m 50, I live in an idyllic rural setting by choice, but I’m sick and on benefits, (trying hard to get off them) and I’m being squeezed and squeezed until there’s nothing left to squeeze. I’m so broke I’ve considered prostitution.
Meanwhile those at the other end of the scale are rewarded with obscene amounts - £7 billion in bonuses paid out to the UK banking industry in February, the very sector that caused the financial crises. Have the powers that be regulated the banks so this can’t happen again? No. They’ve put VAT up and Corporation Tax down – that says it all.
The economic elite in this country must realise that it is to their benefit to live in a more equal society. If they continue to brush less and less crumbs off the top table, more and more people will have no option but to fend for themselves. Learn from these riots, do something about inequality, immediately, or this will be just the beginning. You were warned. By Nick Clegg.
I’ve just stopped taking my medication. Five days ago as I write. I see it as an act of self-preservation rather than an act of self-harm. I’m struggling with my mental health. To be honest, it feels like another man inhabits my body and controls my life, while I am a spectator with no power to intervene.
Because I’m in this place, I’m taking anti-depressants. I have all sorts of anxieties about social occasions but like where I live and feel safe there. To go anywhere further is a push. I’ve felt a stammer coming on, a hesitation at the start of words, a voice that isn’t my own. My mouth is swollen; my lips sensitive. Hot drinks make me sore on the roof of my mouth.
Try fitting those first two paragraphs into the ‘Limited capability for work questionnaire’. It is a tick box form designed to deny people benefit when they most need it. I filled in what I could, and then went to see a volunteer who specialises in helping disabled people fill out forms. He had a book that gave the four possible answers to the questions they asked to assess my mental health, and gave the score values for each answer. I need 18 points, I scored many more by dancing through scenarios that put the fear of god into me and letting David write them down as he saw fit.
Next I’ll be called to Atos Health Care. There’s a scandal waiting to be told. Last time I was questioned by a pleasant nurse who typed my answers into a computer, and guess what? Computer says no. But they saw no reason to inform me my benefit had been stopped. I was opening post in sporadic bursts, when I could dare to deal with it. Paperwork is both daunting and stressful. I found out just before my overdraft went overdrawn. I was fucked. In shock I emailed my MP, filled out an appeal with David’s help, went from £110 a week down to £65, before a woman called from the benefit office and apologised for not informing me they had stopped my benefit. "Where did you send your appeal to?" she asked. "Luton! Oh that’s a shame. We need it in Milton Keynes." Eventually I readily agreed to £95 a week, and to keep taking the tablets.
But on the ‘Limited capability work questionnaire’ it asks what medication you are on and what side effects they cause. So for the first time ever, I got out the patient information sheet for each of my 3 HIV medicines, and my anti-depressant, and looked through the side effects and underlined all the side effects I am suffering. Two of the HIV meds and the anti-depressant include the side effects of anxiety and depression.
I’ve come off my meds because I feel the desperate need to reconnect with my undiluted self. While I’m off my meds I will be monitored and I will I’m sure return to medication at some point. People with mental health difficulties are being dealt with appallingly in this country. Despite the craziness going on in my head I have been working very hard to create a living for myself, setting myself up as a self employed poet and artist, something I can do from home, and in fits and starts when I have the energy.
It is a myth to say there is support for people to get off benefit. It’s all stick, and more stick. I need help with accounts. Get software they said, it’s very easy. Not if you find paperwork daunting. I found a lovely lady who does accounts for me for a very reasonable sum. They told me I needed a website. They couldn’t help me make one, or give me any money towards getting one made. I tried to learn web design just to please them, enrolled on a course of 6 sessions, left after two. It was torture. The lovely lady knew a very nice man who makes websites at a very reasonable rate. I need help to fill in funding applications. They offered me websites to look up and tasks I knew I’d never do before they’d finished telling me. The lovely lady does funding applications too. One day one will come through.
There’s a myth that needs to be axed. Yes there are tablets you can take if you are HIV+, and yes they’ll probably keep you alive. But not everyone gets away without side effects. In some cases they are very serious. I have found it impossible to adhere to my drug regime, deal with the side effects, and battle the benefit system.
GPs and consultants need to speak up loud and clear for patients incapable of doing so themselves, and the benefit system needs to be less of a punishment. If there’s a support system out there, I’ve yet to discover it! Bring on the mental health buddies.