Month: December 2016

End of Year 2016

Well my bags are packed…I’m ready to go. The taxi’s booked to take me to the station…though I’ve had no joy trying to check in online. But hopefully…as the song says…I’ll soon be leaving on a jet-plane. In my case, however, I do know when I’m coming back…even if all has not gone to plan. This morning I discovered I had booked the wrong dates at Melbourne YHA…but the guy on duty responded to my emailed plea for help and sorted things out. Another setback was finding out I won’t be able to play the organs at Auckland Cathedral. The magnificent new organ in Holy Trinity  (new Cathedral) won’t be completed until June…and it will be March before the restoration of the organ in St Mary’s (old cathedral) is finished. Shucks!


Maybe a complete break from organ playing is what I need. I certainly need to recharge my batteries after a recent series of respiratory infections…no doubt aided and abetted by over working. On the bright side…there are many positive things to look back on as the year approaches its final moments. My term as Chair of the North Staffs and District Organ Society has brought me into close contact with some wonderful musicians like Donald MacKenzie and Kathy Lamb. We have had some splendid outings and played on many remarkable instruments…meeting a host of fascinating, dedicated people in the process.

The LGBT Older People’s Group has also been a source of pride and enjoyment. As well as our annual narrow boat trip on the Caldon Canal which is always enjoyable…this year we even managed a trip to the seaside. A bunch of us had a great day out with a coach trip to Llandudno…where we took the cable railway to the top of the Great Orme. Stoke Pride was also great fun…not only did we have our regular stall with tombola…but we also took part in the first parade. True…it was inside Northwood Park…but it was a start. Another first was a Pride fringe exhibition ‘Proud to Be Me’ organised by Quin and friends.


I guess that acting and the theatre are in my blood. One of the highlights of the year has been my participation with the Ages and Stages Theatre Company based at the New Vic Theatre. We prepared a presentation for this year’s Live Age Festival…which engaged with speakers and audience in a presentation that challenged assumptions and stereotypes of creativity in later life. More recently we augmented and re-staged last year’s production of ‘Our Lives as Art’ as part of the Back to the Drawing Board exhibition at Keele University. From railway carriages to labour wards, through art galleries and a circus, New Vic Theatre’s Ages & Stages company took the audience on a memorable journey, exploring relationships with creativity, art and their own memories. Magical!

Of all the exciting things that happened this year…my encounter with elephants comes high on the list…as does my scary flight on a paper aeroplane both in Chiang Mai, Thailand


Of course, I mustn’t forget the inspiring (and exhausting) British Council International Study Visit to Morocco…where I experienced a glorious desert sunset in the company of some quite friendly camels.


I wonder what 2017 will bring.



World AIDS Day 2016


Whilst there were no television interviews for me this year; however, I was delighted to see the Prime Minster outside 10 Downing Street speaking about her pride in wearing a red ribbon, the problem of serious mental health issues experienced by many people living with HIV  and the government’s commitment to tackle HIV stigma. Surprisingly…or perhaps not…the NHS, having lost its case against the National AIDS Trust at the Court of Appeal,  issued a statement a day or so after the Prime Minister’s speech, indicating that they would be making PrEP available to high risk groups by means of a three-year clinical trial involving at least 10,000 people. We already know that HIV+ people on treatment with an undetectable viral load do not pass on the virus. But PrEP could be a game changer to reduce the high rates of new infections  driven by those who do not know their status and are not on treatment.

In a short interview on Radio Stoke, I responded to the funding cuts imposed by Staffordshire County Canother that have significantly affected the services that Staffordshire Buddies offers outside of Stoke on Trent. This World AIDS Day was a sad one for the staff who have lost their jobs and the clients who have lost their support.

It was uplifting to hear the voices of Lizzie Jordan and Tom Hayes on Radio 4’s Today Programme. Both spoke clearly and passionately about the need to address HIV stigma and discrimination. Personally, I felt good to witness people from younger generations taking up the  challenge. All in all, there seemed to be much more positive coverage in the National and Social media.

There was a good turn out too at the Hanley Candlelight Vigil organised by Staffordshire Buddies. A lantern procession by Gaylife Stoke was accompanied by real live music…a first! The event closed with the release of red balloons into the night sky.