Monday, 24 September 2018

Losing pounds while gaining - pounds!

I'VE lost eight pounds. No, I've not been careless with cash - though that has been known. I mean I've lost eight pounds in weight in nearly three weeks since I gave up alcoholic beverages and started going to the DW Fitness gym in Carlisle in a (some would say desperate) bid to get fit before the two sponsored walks for my employer, Carlisle Mencap.

I had hoped to lose more but hey, it's a start. The fitness training I did the other evening for 45 minutes while still recovering from a chest infection was pretty gruelling and it may have been easier and less painful to have chopped off one of my legs and lost eight pounds-plus that way but I survived to sweat another day.

So my boss and CEO Sheila, and colleague Morag, supported by chairwoman Christine and her husband part of the way, are planning to walk 20 miles around the 5km trail route at Watchtree Nature Reserve on Sunday November 4. This will seem like nipping to the corner shop compared to what Sheila and I plan next summer - for Sheila a walk along Hadrian's Wall trail and for my good self a sponsored stroll (!) from Ulverston to Carlisle. Wish us luck - we'll need it!

Meanwhile, tickets go on sale this week for our Limelight Live 2018 extravaganza due to take centre stage at Harraby Community Campus Theatre in Edgehill Road on Sunday December 9. Organised in the main by Damien Baglee - an enthusiastic supporter of all things Carlisle Mencap and member of the Blues Flames band - this musical feast has already attracted welcome sponsorship from the likes of David Allen Financial Services, Thompson Accident Repair Centre (who Damien works for), Arnold Clark, Purdham & Waugh, and Uber Creative Designs. There will be 11 acts - 10 bands and Eden Dance - and for just £7 a ticket it plans to be a fantastic night's entertainment and great value - and a major money-spinner for Carlisle Mencap - we hope! Tickets on sale at the community campus and Damien and myself also have some if you want to contact us.

December promises to be magic again - to paraphrase the title of one of my favourite Kate Bush songs. Not only have we got the Limelight Live concert, there's the Big Festive Quiz at the Old Fire Station on Monday December 3 - so get your teams of four organised! - and the Christmas Fair, on Wednesday December 12. Much more about these events and other fundraisers - including a Halloween Disco - in the weeks to come.

Keep up to date with all things Carlisle Mencap on Twitter at @carlislemencap and our website - - and Facebook
And all donations/support gratefully received - email me at or cal 07341 865382/01228 674393 for more details about all Carlisle Mencap events, to register a team for the quiz, for tickets, for more info on what we do - you get the picture.
Back soon! @HarrabyTheatre

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

We can work it out

WELL, it's life, gym, but not as we know it...

To look at me, you'd think I am to gyms, fitness regimes, workouts and long-distance walking what Theresa May is to break dancing - and you'd be right.

But I'm giving it a go - and mainly for the good cause that is Carlisle Mencap. I've joined the DW Fitness centre in Carlisle and have been going there three times a week since early this month, including sessions with my own physical trainer (a PT for PT, if you like!). I've not had an alcoholic drink since August 31, and I've quit eating marzipan. (Actually, I've never liked marzipan so that's a bit of a con - sorry.)

I'm doing all this for two reasons. Firstly, I was 2 stones 2 lbs overweight for my height, and my BMI was 29.4 when it should be 25. Not sure what all that is about, but it concerned me nonetheless. Secondly, in May next year, I am to do a sponsored walk from the Carlisle Mencap Hart Street children's centre in Ulverston to our Grace Little children's centre here at Kingmoor Park North - a distance of 79.8 via the M6 (but not allowed, apparently...) - but a mere 65.7 miles as the crow flies - or in this case, as the overweight bloke staggers.

Any road up, at the end of the first week I'd lost a staggering two pounds in weight. A lot of sweat for not much gain. But heyho, it's a start. I may add to my fitness regime by joining some our staff and service users every Sunday between 4pm and 5pm at the Border City CrossFit gym (see picture at top of this blog). It's a really popular session and all credit to those at the Lorne Street facility for their support.

So a big part of my role sees me try and come up with and then organise fundraising events for Carlisle Mencap. I try and get the great British general public, companies, organisations and individuals to give us money to fund our vital work. Therefore it is only right I do my bit. And likewise our CEO Sheila Gregory is putting her best feet forward too.

As I head up the country on foot next year, she is planning to head across it - tackling the Hadrian's Wall Trail. And as a warm-up, on November 4 we and others are planning to do a sponsored 20-mile walk to mark the 20th anniversary of Sheila joining Carlisle Mencap.

The other day in our local convenience store I was disheartened to see they had, on prominent display, packs of festive tube of sweets. Fruit pastilles, Smarties and the like decorated with penguins in scarves pictured in snow next to Christmas trees. It's only the middle of September!

But that was pretty hypocritical of me because at the end of August I'd started to come up with our festive fundraising programme. So I can hardly point the finger at confectionery giants, can I? (And no doubt, very soon, those 'order now for Christmas' adverts will appear on our TV screens. Though I have yet to meet anyone who has been prompted by those said ads to go: 'Crikey! We'd better get ourselves a brand new sofa for Christmas, love, and quick - on top of all the presents, booze and grub we have to buy as well!')

So we have a Big Festive Quiz, a big festive concert night called Limelight 2018, and a Christmas Fair all lined up for early December. But to be fair, it IS still the middle of September so I will go into more details about those events in the next few weeks - suffice to say the Big Festive Quiz is on Monday December 3 at the fabulous Old Fire Station venue in Carlisle and it is for teams of four at £20 entry per team. Phew!

For more news and details about Carlisle Mencap, go to or Twitter @carlislemencap or Facebook
And please get in touch if you want to help Carlisle Mencap. Email me at or call 01228 674393. Cheers!


CarlisleMencaptivate: Welcome to the world of Carlisle Mencap!

CarlisleMencaptivate: Welcome to the world of Carlisle Mencap!: Right then - having been here since early May I feel sufficiently confident and empowered (I hope!) to launch this blog - Carlisle Mencapt...

Monday, 10 September 2018

Welcome to the world of Carlisle Mencap!

Right then - having been here since early May I feel sufficiently confident and empowered (I hope!) to launch this blog - Carlisle Mencaptivate - which is either a stroke of genius and a clever use of wordplay and humour, or a laboured, corny title that frankly does you no favours, Phil. You choose.
Anyway - let's cut to the quick. Carlisle Mencap. Who, why, what, whom, when and, as we're in Cumbria, eh? Read the following, digest, have a breather, go make a cup of coffee, come back, drink said cup of coffee, and await further instructions...

'We are a local charity set up in 1968 and we have over 150 members and provide services for more than 500 people with learning disabilities and their families across Cumbria. Our services include short breaks for adults at California House and for Children at the Grace Little Centre, children’s home based respite, community support, young people’s clubs and holidays, family support workers for young people with autism, holidays, leisure activities and befriending. We also have respite centres for children in Penrith and Ulverston, plus autism help groups in Kendal and Workington.
We are locally managed and funded, not a branch of the national organisation - although we do work closely with them on many of our projects. We are the fourth biggest Mencap group in the UK. We are a membership organisation and have over 150 members made up of people with learning disabilities, carers and other interested parties.
We believe everyone with a learning disability has an equal right to choice, opportunity and respect, with the support they need. 
Carlisle Mencap has been right at the forefront of EPAtS – Early Positive Approaches to Support – which has the full support of the NHS and is set to be rolled out nationwide.
EPAtS sees parents of children, aged from a few weeks to five, come together in a group with trained tutors to learn practical strategies over a period of seven or eight weeks to help them with their child’s development and identify their needs.

Carlisle Mencap’s Grace Little Centre at Kingmoor Park, Carlisle, has been the venue for this pioneering scheme which followed a seven-year study that went into the E-PAtS programme by the universities of Kent and Warwick along with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Cerebra, the charity for brain-injured children. The only other areas taking part in the pilot scheme are Barnet in north London and Belfast.

Carlisle Mencap was also involved in the annual #No2H8 Crime Awards which is now in its third year and aims to celebrate those individuals and organisations countering hatred, intolerance and prejudice because it is the right thing to do and sometimes at considerable risk to themselves.
Other high-profile partners include the Daily Mirror, Kiss FM, Take A Break, Closer and Bella magazines, and the Jewish News.

Carlisle Mencap  prides itself on being at the forefront of tackling hate crime. In March this year, Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall joined Carlisle Mencap and representatives from the Home Office at Tullie House in Carlisle for the launch of Take Control, a film about hate crime, funded by the Home Office. The Independence Studio at the charity’s Grace Little Centre in north Carlisle came up with the film with the help of Cumbria Constabulary. This year the same studio also produced another DVD on ‘Mate Crime’, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner. (Mate Crime is when criminals ‘befriend’ vulnerable people in order to exploit them financially or sexually).

Our main fundraising mission this special year is to raise a further £65,000 needed to pay for the extension and revamp work at California House in north Carlisle.'

And that last bit is where I come in, I suppose. Well, I am the events & fundraising officer after all. I also do other things as well - we're a closely-knit, multi-tasking team up here in the wilds of north Carlisle on the Kingmoor Park North industrial estate - including contacting the press about the myriad of crazy, wonderful wacky things we're up to, and hopefully using my expertise as a journalist of more years than I care to remember to successfully get our activities and - more importantly - our message across to a wider audience.

Phew, this is turning into not so much a blog as a rival to 'War And Peace' length-wise. So before your eyes start to glaze over, and plus the fact I've just had a sneezing fit which probably means a cold coming on which probably stems for the other fact I was stood in the wind and rain of Harraby (a district of Carlisle, for all you non-Carlislelians (?!) yesterday as I looked after our stand at the opening of the new, very smart cycle circuit there, for several hours, I am going to wind up this opening blog with the vow to return very soon to talk more about fundraising for this very well-worth charity. Thank you for your time and patience - and stamina?

In the meantime, find out more about Carlisle Mencap at (website) @carlislemencap (Twitter) and on Facebook at 

Helping the Grace Little Centre

IT is a fantastic facility. The Grace Little Centre is also a vital facility for young people with learning disabilities. But we need ...