bristol city council

After birth abortions, my first half marathon and more!

Amidst the hectic life am trying to make some regular inputs into the blog on happenings in the ivory towers and outside of it – particularly Bristol life and all else. If you want to avoid the work and politics just go to the end headed ‘fun stuff’!

Genetics Work

On the work front life continues to be hectic, with all our interview data collected for our genetics and Deafhood project, we are now at the stage where we’re able to analyse data and the website, in BSL by Clive Mason, is up and running – hope people will contribute to the discussion forums to help with data collection on genetics issues 🙂

There’s only just over 6 months of the project left! Sociological research on genetics and Deafhood were put into perspective by the news that two geneticists who specialise in genetics and deafness won a prestigious ‘brainprize’ award of one million euros. [Thanks to Alison for this information.] Eh?? They will receive their award from none other than our Liz, the monarch. Their work includes the use of mice to carry out research experiments. It would be interesting to see what the one million will be spend on and a video has been released of the details of the award – a sign language version of this should be available soon.

I attended an interesting conference on the development of attempts to protect the use of genetic information via the use of anti-discrimination legislation at the European Level, which was held in Brussels. The key lead has been taken from the USA where they have already a law in place called the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). There was a lot of overlapping with Disability Human Rights legislation and I found it striking that the lawyers and academics were looking to laws that have been developed thanks to the disabled people’s civil rights movement, and this includes Deaf activists.The law is chiefly to prevent discrimination against people in employment and insurance.

However, I am still trying to get over the concept of ‘after-birth abortion’: a euphemism for killing a newborn baby that was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal and received a strong reaction in defence of the original article. As the journal editors explain, this is not a new concept, but has been addressed by philosophers such as Peter Singer. This issue is a hard one to stomach coming as it does from self-confessed liberals.

Bristol Deaf Centre Issues

It’s good to be able to write positively (for now) following a meeting at Bristol Deaf Centre by Bristol City Council’s Health and Social Care department, last Wednesday 7th March. It was a cordial and frank exchange of views on the future of the departments services to the local Deaf people.

My summary of the meeting is that the Council recognise their actions could lead to the closure of the Deaf Centre that would leave Bristol Deaf people in a crisis situation (by the sudden withdrawal of funding that should have happened last November, plus the departure of staff who are under Avon Pension fund). So there will be the appointment of a Development Worker (over a period of 9 months) that represents, to me, a ‘stay of execution’.

Hopefully the local Bristol Deaf community will combine and communicate to spend that time with the new Development worker, developing a vision and future for the Bristol Deaf community – whether it means retaining the Deaf Centre or a different vision.

A lot of people have been working really hard to bring about this situation, including those who work at the Deaf centre as well as the Interim Working Group, legal advisors, and many unnamed individuals. There remains a lot to do, but there is a bit of time to sort things out. The Board of Directors, in particular, needs urgent support, which may become apparent in the next few weeks and months.

This news follows on from the news that hard campaigning has helped to save Elmfield Deaf School – so campaigning does work and massive waves of hands for those who worked hard to save the school!

Lighter stuff! running, football and rodolfo

I completed my first half marathon in Bath in the time of 1.59.21!! I’m well pleased. It was, unexpectedly, hot! Making for a tougher challenge, but fun and enjoyable, especially taking part with friends Pascale, Alison and John (cheered on by Naomi!), and taking in the Bath scenery.

£145 was raised for Bristol Deaf Football club, who are doing extremely well and have decided to enter a hearing league from September 2012! Then BDFC can show the world what they are really made of!

Rodolfo, from Mexico, had been on a visit to the Centre for Deaf Studies for two months and we had a leaving do for him last Friday – first a meal at Browns and then a drink-up at Woods. It’s been super having him with us and hope to make a visit to Mexico one day!

I’m back in the swimming pool, continuing my efforts to learn to swim – trying to get to grips with the breaststroke at the mo.

Future events upcoming

BSL debates at Bristol Deaf Centre are all set for this Thursday 15th March, and the BSL Symposium on Monday 19th March that I’m attending – there’s a banquet too on 18th March but cannot make that one.


The brand new blog the limping chicken is looking good so far! Would be good to see more entries in BSL…which reminds me…!


Bristol CC Health and Social Care Meeting with Deaf Community

For your information: a chance to have your say/sign and see what Bristol City Council’s Health and Social Care dept have to say about the future of services to Deaf people in Bristol and also the Bristol Centre for Deaf people : information below is being passed on…

Date:              Wednesday 7th March

Time:             6.00pm

Venue:           The Centre for Deaf People, King Square, Bristol

Access:         BSL interpretation, Speed Text and Deaf Relay will all be available to enable access to the meeting

This meeting gives Deaf people in Bristol the chance to meet with senior managers of Bristol Health & Social Care:

Alison Comley (Interim Strategic Director of Health & Social Care)

and Netta Meadows (Head of Strategic Planning & Commissioning)

We know that there is great interest in the future of social care services for Deaf people and we want to talk to Deaf people about our plans for making sure that they get good quality services in the future.

We want to hear from the Deaf Community about the issues that are important to you. What helps you live your lives to the full and what would you like to see happen differently?

We hope that any Deaf People in Bristol who have an interest in adult social care services will come along to the meeting.

If you need to get in touch for any reason beforehand, please email Ian Popperwell –


Urgent: Bristol Deaf Centre sale and closure imminent!

So it’s official re: the seriousness of the situation of the Bristol Deaf Centre, which faces imminent closure, as reported by the Evening Post just before Xmas. This follows an article by Charlie Swinbourne recently on the woes being faced by Bristol Deaf people – which is, to put it metaphorically, a large pair of scissors.  Cut, cut, cut. Cut the school, cut the Deaf Studies courses, cut the Deaf Centre.

Bristol Deaf people are now faced with the problem that unless a solution can be found within the next few weeks, there is a possibility that the Deaf Centre will become liable to Avon Pension Fund so as to meet a debt (£700k) that was not of local Deaf people’s making.

It is now known that as far back as Nov 2007 that there was a pension debt of £300k, and yet there was no pressure then on the Centre to sell to pay off that debt. More importantly, there was no known discussion with local Deaf people about what to do about such a growing debt in 2007 nor has there been up until now. [Click this link will open into a PDF Document.]

Ok, so there are obviously issues related to the past that come into play here; and these should be looked into.  And, also, let’s be honest: the pension issue is not one that only affects Deaf people’s Centre – there was a huge strike on November 30th about cuts in people’s pensions.

Yet as people were pointing out at the meeting, this is the Deaf Centre we are discussing: just take a look at what it has to offer Deaf, hard of hearing AND hearing people. For 127 years Deaf people have had a meeting place, to socialise together, to build networks with local and national communities, to teach sign language classes, to ensure the more vulnerable Deaf people had support and companionship. But, above all, where hearing parents of deaf children could take their young people and introduce them to the world of Deaf people, show them role models for their future, enable them to develop an identity.

On that note a personal detour. I myself, mainstreamed (like 90-odd percent of deaf children in the UK today), still vividly recall memories of attending the annual Deaf Centre Xmas parties, to which my mother took me. Vibrant, happy, full of fun, and Deaf adults who I never had an opportunity to see daily.

So whatever the situation, the politics, the pension, the council, the services, etc, this issue is about a community, a people, a culture, a way of life, a contribution to Bristol’s history – and the Centre itself is based in an area known for it’s local community diversity: Stokes Croft.

So the question is always: what is to be done to regenerate or save the centre? Now?

I’m heartened by the turn-out of numbers of people at recent EGMs (23rd September, 2nd November and 21st December) – one just 4 days before Xmas woah! All meetings were totally packed out, spilling out of the main hall, and the depth and extent of the passion in the air is a clear indication of just how much people value the Centre and want to see the continuation of a central meeting point, a hub, a club, a pub, call it what you want.

Question: can that passion be turned into something that will either save the Centre from closure or see the emergence of new beginnings?

So many people do care and want to act, do something, anything, to try and find a solution: be it through campaigns, meetings, become a trustee, or whatever. But at present, and let’s be honest, it appears the majority are spectators. They see fiery meetings, and are witnesses to a sparky debate. Not always a great spectacle, and a bit like seeing a car crash scene and finding yourself unable to look away.

Worse still is to be left feeling ‘oh what’s the point, the end is inevitable anyway’.

So, what’s next?

There is an AGM on February 8th. Motions need to be in to the AGM two weeks before that time.

Well, it’s certainly an option to sit around until then and wait for yet another fiery passionate meeting, allowing people to get up and have their say, but that is hardly the issue. The fact is that behind the scenes, plans are being put in place to sell the Centre and leave Bristol Deaf people either homeless or in a temporary place. Indefinitely, for all we know, for these situations leave one hard to know who to trust.

I have been active in the Interim Working Group to try and collect information about the situation the Centre finds itself in. [Please see below.] And I’m exhausted from it, especially as it has been almost Kafkaesque in nature – you know those situations where you reach a line, finally, only to find it has been moved forward or sideways…yet again.

The Interim Group suggested it would need a period of 6 or so months (from November 2011) to gather information but all the while it has been doing so, events have moved on.

We may well have reached a point where there is little more we can do in terms of gathering information.

[By the way, see below for an outline that shows what the Interim Working Group was set up for and what shady activities it has been up to…as you’ll see, nothing sinister. Just trying to get information together.]

Now let’s take a look at the Elim Housing offer to buy the building and reconvert the land into a block of flats, allowing the Deaf Centre to rent out the ground floor (at a cost) on a 125-year lease.  But does their offer really represent an adequate or fair ‘option’. How much is the Deaf Centre really worth? What would it sell for? Evaluations reported in the Evening Post are not independent of the sale to Elim Housing, which, by the way, has a church of the same name just round the corner from the Centre – I can’t work out if the two are linked are not…

Should a fresh, new group of trustees be set up to begin a re-building process? If so, who might they be? What might they do? What support would they get?  Would they simply become a ‘mopping up’ brigade of the type we saw after the August riots? And what exactly would they have to build with in terms of money, capital, and people?

I am not writing pretending that I have answers to the situation. But there is one thing I do feel quite strongly about, as I’m sure a lot of people do: The Deaf Centre belongs to Bristol Deaf people: it has that name for a reason. The current Centre was bought in 1973 on that basis and it is through no fault of the community that a debt of £700k has built up. It has been the home of the Bristol Deaf community, the meeting point, the focus of much that happens in the Bristol Deaf Community.

It would be completely unjust and unfair for all of that to be lost, or reduced, to pay a pension fund deficit that is not of Bristol Deaf people’s own making.

entry ends

Statement from Interim Working Group members for meeting of 21/12/11

On Wednesday 2nd November, an EGM of the Bristol Centre for Deaf People was held.

At the meeting, it was voted on and agreed an Interim Working Group would be set up to obtain information for the benefit of the Bristol Deaf Community. The information would be required to help Deaf people make a decision about the future of the Deaf Centre.

On Wednesday 16th November, the Interim Working Group held an open meeting at the Deaf Centre. We explained that we had held a meeting with a very experienced legal adviser and the adviser gave us a list of important information that was necessary before the Deaf community could make informed decisions about the future of the Centre.

We explained that our aim was to try to obtain 8 pieces of information and we will list it here and explain what has happened in response, in bold:

Firstly, we want to express our thanks to people who have agreed and been willing to meet us in the last few weeks

  1. the minutes of all meetings of trustees held during the calendar years 2008 to 2011;

These have not been provided

  1. the accounts to the year ended 31 March 2010 (as recited on the website of the Charity Commissioners);
  1. all draft accounts prepared in respect of any period after the year ended 31 March 2010;

These have been provided and are available – it is now up to the Board to distribute these to you.

  1. the “governing documents” referred to on the website of the Charity Commissioners, namely the “constitution adopted 24 January 1979 as amended 26 September 1984 and 5 December 1990” plus any documents effecting material changes subsequent to those documents;

These have not been provided 

  1. the original title deeds to the land and buildings at 16-18 Kings Square (now registered under title no. BL38229 – including but not limited to the conveyance dated 16 February 1973 referred to in the Charges Register) ;

These have not been provided, but we understand the land and buildings belongs entirely to the Bristol Centre for Deaf People

  1. any emails or other communications relating to the nature and extent of the pension deficit/liability;

Some information has been provided and the Board will be making this available at the meeting for 21/12/11 

  1. correspondence (including emails) between Bristol City Council and the trustees/centre relating to funding / its withdrawal; and

 These have not been provided

  1. written confirmation that no assets or functions have been transferred to the private company limited by guarantee incorporated on 5 August 2010 under company number 07336999 under the name “Centre for the Deaf Limited”.

No written information has been provided – however we are assured that no transfers have been made.

We have reached a point where we have done everything possible to try to obtain the above information for your benefit; it is up to the Board to provide the information to you and we have done our best and worked hard to try to get them to provide the necessary information.

IWG meetings and legal communication

November 21st – meeting between Elim Housing, Deaf Centre, Bristol City Council

November 23rd – meeting with legal advisor

November 30th – meeting with representative of Deaf Centre board

December 8th – meeting with representatives of Bristol City Council

December 12th – meeting with legal advisor

December 20th – meeting with staff at Deaf Centre

The legal adviser has written two strong letters requesting information from the Board

The IWG has communicated via email regularly with the legal advisor, Bristol City Council and a representative from the Board.

The IWG has met on a total of four occasions since November 16th


Bristol Centre for Deaf People meeting: high passions

I attended an eventful (open public) meeting at Bristol Centre for Deaf People (BCDP) on Friday night. Am not going to do a ‘report’, impossible, cos so much happened, but this is my brief ‘tweets’ timeline as a way of summary:

Emergency General Meeting was called to discuss cuts in services by Bristol City Council to Bristol Deaf People, and was held Friday 23rd September, 6-9pm.

6.05pm: Meeting opens: Chair outlines Council cuts and the effect they will have on Bristol Deaf Centre and services

6.20pm: Deaf members request BSL translation of statement from Bristol City Council’s Health and Social Care dept before discussion continues

6.35pm: Statement suggests a key reason for cutting services is due to BCDP poor management, that Board denies

6.50pm: Ideas for future of Centre put forward by the BCDP CEO, rejected as ‘far too late’

7.00pm: Heated, passionate debate fires off between members from floor and Board, tensions running high

7.10pm: Centre of anger is on Board management’s failure in last few years to act to secure future of BCDP

7.15pm: Several members from the floor critical of the Board’s management, ‘they had been left with a mess but failed to clean it up’

7.20pm: Board have totally lost the meeting but continue to strongly defend their actions, strenuously denying any wrongdoing

7.30pm: Debate continues to be highly charged, personal attacks, inappropriate public naming of people, pleas for calm

7.35pm: Board starts to try to end the meeting

7.40pm: Floor wants to keep meeting going, bitter dissatisfaction expressed towards Board’s behaviour

7.45pm: Board Chair formally closes the meeting and entire Board walks off the stage!

7.50pm: Deaf members urge a break in proceedings for passions to calm

8.15pm: Informal meeting (of majority of those present but minus the Board) reconvenes to discuss the situation

8.30pm: Meeting discusses its options within the constitution and draws up a list of issues to be discussed at a future Emergency meeting

9.00pm: Meeting closes.

One thing is for sure: the meeting ain’t the end of the matter, and further developments can be expected in coming days and weeks ahead.