Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Focus on films

ONE of the many things we're proud about here at Carlisle Mencap is our film-making capacity. Yep, that's right - we make films.

Not your Batman Returns or Indiana Jones-type epics you understand, but films that are a lot shorter but which still pack quite a punch with the serious issues they tackle.

The films are the work of the staff and service users at our Independence Studio in the Grace Little Centre for children here in north Carlisle.

In the past the Independence Studio has created short animated films on important topics such as voting and healthy eating. But it has also tackled the issue of sexual exploitation - Is It Ok? - and recently it has also come up with two films confronting two other very serious issues – Hate Crime and Mate Crime. These films are created in order to help educate others on topics that may be difficult to understand and also to warn of the dangers out there in the modern world. Take Control was the name of the film regarding hate crime and was funded by the Home Office. 
Carlisle Mencap prides itself on being at the forefront of tackling hate crime and in March this year, Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner  Peter McCall joined  representatives from the Home Office at Tullie House in Carlisle for the launch of Take Control. And it was the Police and Crime Commissioner who also this year funded the film on Mate Crime. These two films were a big reason why Carlisle Mencap was chosen this year to be  involved in the annual nationwide #No2H8 Crime Awards which celebrates 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.
So these films that our Independence Studio come up with are very useful to other organisations and agencies and I would certainly recommend you take a view of them because they are available to watch on Youtube. But these films are also vital because, as Dan Campbell of the Studio told me, they all start off with input and ideas from our service users, and then the films take the service users'  own experiences and issues in real life and show how people can cope with them, tackle them, and most importantly deal with them. Experiences in the past have made some service users too frightened to use public transport on their own. A sad indictment of our society but just one reason why these films are so important to be seen by as wide an audience as possible.
On a lighter note, a film on the theme of our 50th anniversary is due to be launched next month at the Carlisle YOuth Zone. More about that in a forthcoming blog, but for now, the Youtube link to the Is It Ok? film about sexual exploitation is and the Take Control film on hate crime can be viewed at

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Children in Need's vital support

THIS Friday Carlisle Mencap staff, support workers and service users will be at the Brampton Road University of Cumbria campus for BBC Children in Need.

The university's Institute of the Arts was chosen as the base for BBC North East and Cumbria's contributions during the nationwide fundraising marathon which has raised millions and millions for good causes over the years - including thousands for Carlisle Mencap to help us provide holidays and trips for our service users.

Now Children in Need seems to have been around for many years and has to be regarded as a complete success story. Each year the appeal appears to break new records for amounts raised.

But it got me thinking. When EXACTLY did it start? (I should have kept this as a question for my Big Festive Quiz night on December 3, shouldn't I? Silly me. Anyway, don't forget - Teams of four. The Old Fire Station, Monday December 3. 7pm. £20 per team payable on night. Should be great fun. Let me know if you want a table by November 23. Be there!)

Well, children fundraising appeals on the BBC actually started way back in 1927 with a five-minute radio appeal on Christmas Day which raised a staggering - for the times - £1,143.
Then, from 1955 to 1979 there were televised Christmas Day appeals which over the years raised more than £650,000, but the Children in Need format that we've come to know and love didn't really kick in until 1980 when Terry Wogan, Esther Rantzen and Sue Cook presented the marathon fundraiser.

Pudsey Bear didn't put in an appearance though until 1985. According to the BBC - and they should know! - he was created by a graphics designer at the Beeb, Joanna Ball. She came up with a brown, not yellow, cuddly bear mascot and named him after her home town in West Yorkshire - Wakefield. Only kidding - she was born in Pudsey, obviously. The following year he returned as a yellow bear with the spotted bandage.

Over the years, Children in Need has raised more than £800 million. A staggering amount. So tune in this Friday and make sure you give a donation. Who knows? All being well your donation could help to send one of our service users on a much-needed holiday.

And speaking of fundraising - boy, have we got a challenge coming up next summer for all of you with a daredevil streak.

Have you got a head for heights? Well if you do we'd love to hear from you. Because Carlisle Mencap, in conjunction with Extreme Sensations of Penrith, will be organising Sponsored Bungee Jumps to take place on Sunday, June 16 in Carlisle at a venue to be confirmed (though it looks certain to be Creighton RFC who are set to very kindly agree to host the event).

It will be part of a major weekend of fundraising events for Carlisle Mencap, of which I will tell you more after the festive fundraisers have taken centre stage, but the bungee jumps will be a highlight, with sponsored  fundraisers leaping from a crane at a height of 40 to 45 metres (that's 131ft to 147ft in old money).

So if you're up for it - literally - don't forget to keep an eye on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Carlisle Mencaptivate.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Walking wonders - but more challenges ahead

WELL we did it! Four of us - Sheila, Krysia, Morag and yours truly managed to get round the Watchtree Nature Reserve's 5km nature trail 6.4 times to complete the '20 Miles For Carlisle Mencap' sponsored walk.

We're keeping the special JustGiving page open for a number of weeks yet, but all in all we are confident to have raised more than £1,500 for our charity. We all felt it the next day - some more than others! - but we're all very chuffed to have done it.

And special mention must be made of support workers Kelsey and Becca and service user Sarah, who uses a wheelchair. Those three stuck with us for the whole 20 miles, even though they weren't sponsored, giving up a big chunk of their Sundays! 

So now I'm starting to plan my big walk for next year. For to be honest, the Watchtree event was a gentle stroll in the park compared to what this 'fifty-cough ahem' person is planning next April. I'm aiming to walk from our Hart Street children's centre in Ulverston all the way to our children's facility at the Grace Little Centre in north Carlisle - following the route of the 84-mile Cumbrian Way. You're mad, a few people have said to me. Well, lots of people in the past have said that to me, not necessarily about the sponsored walk plan, but bizarrely I'm actually looking forward to it.

And anyway, our CEO Sheila Gregory, who is 61-years-young, is planning to complete the Hadrian's Wall Walk next summer/early autumn and that is not much shorter than the Cumbrian Way. So hats off to her big-style. And with that in mind I can hardly back out now, can I, even if I wanted too!

On a more serious note, today I represented Carlisle Mencap at the annual general meeting of the Cumbria Council for Voluntary Services at Rheged, Penrith. Two of the speakers were Jane Ide, of the National Association of Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), and Mike Wild of MACC - Manchester's voluntary and community support group. And both did not mince their words about the difficult times ahead for the Third Sector.

Austerity, uncertainty over Brexit, lack of leadership - someone would say action as well - from Whitehall, falling wages, and a new generation who aren't just happy to give but expect something back in return, mean that all charities, voluntary groups, and care organisations will, as Jane put it, "face worrying times ahead, with it likely to get tougher before it gets better." Jane said that foodbanks were facing very uncertain futures too, as donations fall as people continue to tighten their belts.

They weren't being the prophets of doom - just telling it as it is. As Jane and Mike both said, over the last five years the numbers of people volunteering to help the Third Sector Network is actually up, but the total hours worked by volunteers is down. That is why myself, and others at Carlisle Mencap and the Royal Mencap Society, are so keen to get a band of reliable volunteers together so that we can hold bigger and better fundraising events that try and draw in the public to help us raise much-needed cash for our vital services.

So please - if you can spare a few hours a month, or you know someone looking for a new challenge in their spare time, tell them to contact me on or on 07341 865382. Thanks!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Trivial pursuits

WHY did the submarine blush? Is Google male or female? Why has an elephant got big ears? and What happens to a frog's car when it breaks down?

These are just some of the questions that WON'T be being asked at the Big Festive Quiz taking place at the Old Fire Station in Peter Street, Carlisle, on Monday December 3 to raise money for, yep, you've guessed it - Carlisle Mencap.

Before we go on, because I know you are dying to know, the answers to the above questions are: Because it saw Queen Mary's bottom; Female, because it doesn't let you finish a sentence before making a suggestion; Because Noddy won't pay the ransom; It gets toad away.

And also before we go on about trivial matters...I'd just like to remind you that this Sunday, November 4, my good self will be joining fellow Carlisle Mencap staffers Sheila, Krysia and Morag as we trek 6.4 laps of the 5km nature trail at Watchtree Nature Reserve. Yes I know I know, why didn't we make it 20 or 25 kilometres for Carlisle Mencap rather than '20 Miles For Carlisle Mencap' to make life easier but hey - it's an extra challenge, chums, so there! And the sniffles that I reported on last week are just about on the way out so that's a bonus.

If you are in the vicinity of the nature reserve between 9am and 4pm, come along and cheer us on. And feel free to go to our JustGiving page - - and give generously!

Anyway, fingers on buzzers, your starter for 10..."What costs £20 per team of four and should be a lot of fun?" Anyone? No? Well, it is Carlisle Mencap's Big Festive Quiz taking place on Monday December 3 at 7pm at the Old Fire Station in Peter Street, Carlisle. 

Yours truly has come up with the questions and format for this fundraising trivia test, and I'll be asking the questions to. Which makes a change, because like many people I love a good quiz but I'm normally happy to do the puzzling over and the answering, not the questioning.

In fact, for several years I was part of a pretty successful team from Cumbrian Newspapers which every January used to enter the annual Sands Centre Quiz, organised every year by the Trivmeister Geoff Haugh. Often more than 100 teams would take part, and I'm quite proud that we won it three times, and came in the top three on another couple of occasions.

I'm hoping that those people who often enter the Sands Centre quiz will see our Big Festive Quiz on December 3 as an opportunity to go along as a warm-up for January's Old Grey Matter Test. The questions range from general knowledge to movies, music to sport - but all with a Christmassy or New Year theme.

If you do fancy entering a team, drop me an email at or call 01228 674393 before Wednesday November 28. The £20 per team will be collected on the night.

Right then, unless this Sunday I fall victim to trenchfoot, or get ambushed by a vicious gang of pygmy shrews, or trip over a snail and break my leg, I will be back next week with more news from the fundraising factory that is Unit J3 on Kingmoor Park North.


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 ...