March 26th, 2012

Raks New Profile Pic Square

All Souls Winter Shelter and Croydon Minster Floating Shelter - Closing Night, Sunday 25 March

Stuart (Tom Hardy) and Alexander (Benedict Cumberbatch)
Photo credit:

Stuart: A Life Backwards will always have a special place in my heart, for reasons I will be disclosing in the not too distant future.

Stuart had multiple challenges in his life, but one of the key ones was that he was homeless. This year I have been doing something that I had always intended to do but in the past I have always been "too busy". I have been helping out at two shelters for the homeless, both Church-run, the All Souls's Winter Shelter and Croydon Minster's Floating Shelter.

To cut to the chase, I have enjoyed the work immensely. I enjoy the befriending aspect but also serving others. I have made good friends amongst the other volunteers and I hope to have connected with some of our guests. For the first time in my life, after a public service career of over 20 years, I have felt that I am doing something that is worthwhile and that helps others. It has been amongst the most rewarding work I have ever done. I have now decided to commit to helping out at a Day Centre for the homeless on a regular basis.

Tonight, Sunday, was the closing night for both the All Souls and the Croydon Minster Shelters as they only operate during the winter months. I wanted to be at both venues, but even I can't be at two places simultaneously! In the end I went to Croydon because I had committed to be there, but I missed my own Church's shelter too. However, I realised I had made the right choice when we had an impromptu birthday party for one of our guests and one of the curates treated us to a rendition of "roll out the barrel" on the piano!

The strong message that I wanted to convey was that homeless people are just normal people like you or I; they just do not have a roof over their heads at this point in their lives for a myriad of reasons. At the end of the day, I myself would be on the streets now were it not for my parents providing me with some much needed financial help.

If anyone is thinking about doing this sort of work, I would definitely encourage them to give it a go. For me personally, I got more out of the experience than I put in and I found the work very rewarding.

My feature on Stuart is here:
Raks New Profile Pic Square

Black ephemera, Depictions of people of African descent, 4 July 2012

The study day focuses on the ways in which black people from the African and Caribbean diaspora have been represented in ephemera over the last two hundred years.

Photo credit:

Beginning with images printed before the abolition of slavery, ephemera have provided a wide range of opportunities for advertisers and others to depict black people unfavourably for their own ends. The graphic and verbal stereotyping that has resulted from such practices will be discussed in relation to particular forms of racial bias and different kinds of ephemera (trade cards, sheet music, advertising, packaging, postcards, greetings cards).

An exhibition of ephemera will document some of the most common forms of stereotyping over the years and provide a backdrop to discussions.

Contributions will be made by historians of black culture, ephemerists, and those concerned with racial equality and community relations.

The one-day symposium starts at 10.30 am for 11.00 am until early evening and the fee, including lunch, is £50.

If you wish to attend please contact:

Diane Bilbey
Centre for Ephemera Studies
Department of Typography & Graphic Communication
University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AU
tel 0118 378 4324
Raks New Profile Pic Square

Walk for Life 2012 on behalf of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Sunday 20 May 2012

Walk for Life: Supporting people living with HIV in poverty

Join us for a royal good time on 20 May 2012 and help raise a King's ransom ...

Cut and pasted from a letter from the Terrence Higgins Trust:

Walk for Life, Terrence Higgins Trust's annual 10k sponsored walk through central London, is back for its 23rd outing on Sunday 20 May 2012 and this year there's a very regal feel in the air with a right royal Kings and Queens theme. The Kings and Queens theme means that I will probably do the easy thing and go dressed as an Indian Maharaja or Maharani. I have not yet decided what I will be wearing but it will be very regal!

Walk for Life is always a lot of fun, a community celebration of life and love, courage and determination and a great excuse to get all dressed up, but most importantly it raises money for a vital service which offers a lifeline to people living with HIV in poverty. As of January 2012, Terrence Higgins Trust re-launched the Hardship Fund with national reach across the whole of the UK.

All funds raised from Walk for Life go towards providing vital grants for people living with HIV in severe financial need through our Hardship Fund. The Fund will offer invaluable support to some of the most vulnerable people with HIV, allowing them to afford basic necessities like warm clothing, healthy food and the fare to get to the hospital - helping them to keep their dignity and stay healthy despite severe financial difficulties.

Raks's says

This is the only fundraiser I am doing this year, and it is for a cause that is special to me and is very close to my heart. This will be the fourth time I am doing the Walk for Life (I did it in 2008, 2009 and 2011). I know money is very tight for everyone at the moment, but I am hoping that people can still find it within themselves to give a small contribution (or a large contribution!) to those who need the money more. Please please please, if you can afford to do so, sponsor me here:

And finally, last but not least, this is an open invitation for all my friends, colleagues, stakeholders and customers to join me on the walk if they wish to do so - the more the merrier!

You can register for the walk here:
Or call the Royal Hotline on 020 7812 1665
Or email