Sunday, 11 December 2016

Reflections of 2016

So at this time of year it’s good to look back see what we have achieved, what worked, what we could have done better and what we have learned. Well for me this year has been a hectic one with some real highlights and lots and lots of learning.

I started off the year only having done 3 months of acting classes but I must have learned enough to go for my first assessment because there I was by the end of January going for it. I learned a 2-3 min monologue of Miss Trunchbull, from the musical Matilda and later in Feb the other part was a day filming. Feb was not only assessment filming day but my first proper audition for a TV pilot, called Swords of Scavelia; this was to become the start of something very special but more on that later. I also did my first lot of filming – a couple of student films. March was a hive of activity with auditions, more short films and networking nights. I got to do my showreel and assessment film too, plus I started the Northern Star Acting 4 week programme and had the first rehearsal for Scavelia; I’d been given the part of Chancellor Magatha (later getting an upgrade to Queen Magatha). As well as doing all the things to do with acting, I was also helping on the committee organising a huge event in my local village, ready for the Tour De Yorkshire; Northern Star Acting were hosting Sherburn’s Got Talent so I was attending meetings and helping get the acts together. The end of March saw me attending my very first film premier. It was for My Jewish Auntie – I’d played an office worker.

April found me doing some more filming & attending, alone, a networking night with the Leeds Indie Filmmakers group and having an audition to join their list of actors. I was also to have an audition for my first stage production – The Deformed Transformed, which just happened to be the last, unfinished, play by my great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather, Lord Byron so I was extremely excited to be offered the parts of Bertha & Philibert. We only had 2 rehearsals as this was to be an on-script piece, something I felt happier about but still nerve wracking all the same. I needn’t have worried because it went well. Then on the 27th was an audition for a production that was definitely going to be one of the highlights of the year – Barnbow Canaries. It was for the community chorus but seeing as my great grandmother and several great aunts were Barnbow Canaries during WW1 then this play held a very special meaning to me. The end of April was the Tour De Yorkshire day and the committee had done Sherburn proud and that was proved with an attendance of over 8000 people.

May was more auditions, costume fitting, the start of rehearsals & an outside broadcast with Radio Leeds for Canaries. I also got my headshots done and filmed another short film, this time for the Leeds Indie Filmmakers group. June was basically more and more rehearsals, interviews & 16th June was the opening night of Canaries – me on stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds! All in all I did 18 performances and would have happily done more. 
Non-acting related highlight was the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers conference in Birmingham. The start of July saw the end of Canaries and I was so sad to leave it behind, everyone wanted to take it on tour but it just wasn’t possible due to various reasons. I had a great day with my jewellery business at Pontefract Liquorice Festival; one of the few craft events I did this year. Also did more filming and because we all missed each other, two weeks after the end of Canaries we had a reunion. This happened to cause a chance meeting with a local councillor, who invited us to attend the Crossgates Christmas lights switch on in Dec. 23rd of July was the Northern Star Acting awards night and what a night that turned out to be! Not only had I passed my assessment with a distinction but unknown to me I had been chosen by the academy as Actor of the Year 2016. I couldn’t believe it – I’d only been acting for less than a year. How could I be better than some who had been acting for years? I was so proud of what I’d achieved in such a short amount of time. 
The end of July was my first presenting role for an educational video all about the mill industry and the railways – 2 subjects I knew nothing about.

1st August was my very first audition for Nicci Topping, in Manchester and I was very nervous. I didn’t get the role I auditioned for but did get another non-speaking role so I was really happy that I’d shown her what I was capable of doing. By now it was time for a holiday so a camping trip to Norfolk with the family was booked. Coming back refreshed to another audition – this time for a play. My first speaking role on stage! I was to play a 70yr old lady in a production called Feet, First Class. More auditions followed too. In September, I did more filming, including being part of the feature film 2 Mile Under, joined a local contemporary choir - Harmonize, had more auditions, did a directors’ workshop with Daniel Coll and started rehearsals for the play. Oh and how could I forget to mention the Northern Star Acting actor’s bootcamp in Wales? What a weekend that was – mind-set, positivity, great people and filming with Laurence R Harvey.

October was the start of rehearsals & production of Wizard of Oz, filming a short film, at my house, with clowns (something I hate), more rehearsals for Feet, my first night shoot with the very talented Lynn Lowry and I had my first role as producer – helping the other tribe members with their showreels. I also went to my first acting conference, Surviving Actors, with Eirian and had the first read through for Scavelia. I got my first paid role for Nicci Topping – Real Gods Require Blood.
November 4th was the performance of Feet, First Class and I was very nervous but we all did a great job and the audience loved it. 11th Nov was the Crossgates Christmas lights switch on and the Barnbow Canaries had been specially invited by Councillor Graham & the Lord Mayor of Leeds. There was another read through for Scavelia and more choir practices. I had another theatre audition and took part in a performance art event as part of the Compass Festival, at Trinity centre, Leeds. The end of Nov and I was doing more filming – this time I was the victim of being hit by a car, cue lots of fake blood and stunts.

And so to the end of the year and what a way to start the end of it – filming Swords of Scavelia at Fetherstone Castle. What an amazing experience and such a great bunch of people. Then it was literally straight onto the Barnbow Memorial – 5th Dec 1916 saw the night of the explosion, killing 35 (mainly women) and injury so many more. We were to sing at the memorial and then go and meet the Lord Mayor, Gerry Harper. We spent over 2 hours with him in the Civic listening to stories of his childhood and information about the civic etc. truly fascinating. I’m not sure how the year will end – parties and celebrations with wonderful friends and family probably but it’s been an amazing year and I can’t wait for 2017! ūüėÉ

 Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2017

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Potty Training Charlotte - Day 2

Thanks to Mummy Central for the Potty Training In A Week

So we’re onto day 2 and I wasn’t sure if Charlotte would want her pants on or not but after breakfast I asked her if she wanted a nappy on or pants and got told most definitely “pants”. The timer has gone today and it’s just remembering to ask her every 15 to 30 mins. She wanted to sit on the potty every 5 mins though but quite often said no when I asked her. Suddenly she came running to me holding her bits so I said come on let’s sit on your potty, she said “no” so I didn’t push it but I thought she did want a wee and yes I was right. Next minute she was crying and was having an accident. I reassured her it was ok and quickly sat her on the potty explaining that’s where she should sit when she wanted a wee. Cleaned up and carried on. I think she understands what to do, it’s just learning to put it all together and get to the potty when she needs to. I have to go out to the doctors later (my stupidly swollen tonsils) and not sure what to do. She’s not quite ready to tackle potty training while we’re out and would hate it if she had an accident while at the dr’s but don’t want to put her back in nappies just so I can go out.
Decided not to bother with the dr’s. I’ve coped with the sore throat/tonsils for over a week now so another few days won’t matter. Not having much success today. She’s had 2 accidents so far and been quite upset afterwards so knows she should go on the potty. Each time I calm her down, telling her it’s ok and then just carry on as normal. Supposed to be helping at breastfeeding caf√© in the morning but don’t know if I can risk it, partly because of my tonsils and partly because of how potty training is going.

Today was a bit of a disaster with every wee and poo being an accident culminating in a total meltdown from Charlotte telling me she wanted a poo and finally asking for a nappy back on (no poo though). Had she had at least 1 wee on the potty then it would have helped. I know she will get there but thought we might have had a little bit more success on day 2.

Have to go out tomorrow and Fri so have asked hubby to get me some pull ups and see if she manages better with those. I’ll keep on asking her but I think it might take some of the pressure off.

Potty Training Charlotte - Day 1

Thanks to Mummy Central for the Potty Training In A Week

We’ve had the potty out in the bathroom for a few months now and we let Charlotte use it before bed, usually with her nappy still on without any results but it was getting her used to sitting on it. Last week we went out and let her pick out some pants (well lots of pairs of pants actually, hope it’s enough) and some waterproof shoes for days out.

I had planned to potty train Charlotte this week because it was the first week of the school holidays, all our clubs were shut, plus Isabel was going away for the week so I would be able to give Charlotte my full attention. However both girls and myself have been ill. Isabel got better fairly quickly but Charlotte is still poorly and my tonsils just aren’t getting any better so I decided to put it on hold. So Monday came and went and Charlotte was still in nappies. Tuesday I was going to do the same and put potty training on hold until next week, would be harder with 2 around but at least we should all be well by then and more able to cope. However by mid morning Charlotte had other ideas and asked to go upstairs to the toilet. Her nappy was still dry from when I changed her at about 8am.

Day 1
So today (Tuesday 26th July) is day 1. She picked out her pants; we got the big potty out for downstairs and got out the changing mats for under the potty and on the sofa. I printed out a Potty Training Sticker Chart and showed Charlotte her stickers and explained how she would get a sticker for every wee or poo on the potty. Not sure if she gets that yet but we'll see.

The training says set the time for 5-minute intervals but Charlotte thinks every 5 seconds is about right. That last for about half an hour until she realised that she only needed to sit on every 5 mins or if she needed a wee. 1st accident and she looked so shocked but I just reassured her and cleaned up. Carried on with the timer and kept trying to distract her to do other things as well. She was sat watching a film when she got up and took her pants off. I asked her if she wanted a wee – “no” was the reply but she kept trying to sit/squat and stupid mummy didn’t get the signal and accident number 2 on the carpet. I felt so bad that I hadn’t realised what she was trying to tell me. She was fine and I cleaned up. By this time she was getting tired so I put her nappy back on, gave her a feed and she had a sleep. When she woke up she was still sleepy so nappy ended up staying on until almost bedtime when she asked for pants on again. So no successes but definitely not a failed day at all. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Breastfeeding Flashmob Leeds - challenging low breastfeeding rates in the UK

Well last week was Breastfeeding Awareness Week and seeing as the Government had deemed fit to cut the funding for any organised events, I decided to organise one of my own, after seeing an event that was being organised in London – a breastfeeding flashmob. What an excellent idea!

I set up a group on facebook, sorted out a press release and tweeted like mad. After the first couple of days we only had a few members and I didn’t think it would happen but over the weekend and the following few days an amazing 200+ women joined the group and so things were looking good. Media were informed, as were local newspapers. I wasn’t sure who would cover the story and when I didn’t hear anything back I had my doubts anyone would.

The day of the flashmob arrived and I “reminded” all the media and sent them my contact details. Luckily, Leeds Television & a lovely lady from BBC contacted me. Unfortunately though, I didn’t realise they needed permission to film in the venue – Leeds Station, which had been kept a secret and so couldn’t actually film anything but Yorkshire Evening Post were there and I heard we made page 2 of today’s edition.

I arrived at the station and there were a few other mums so because we were early decided to go for a quick drink. Went to the main meeting place in the station to be greeted by about 60 mums and a reporter from RealRadio. I could have cried. All these ladies were here to support something I feel so passionate about.

At 2pm we all sat down and had a lovely breastfeed, much to the amazement of the public. We didn’t get on negative comment or stare and that was lovely or maybe they just didn’t dare. We wanted to get across the message that breastfeeding in public is fine and mums shouldn’t feel self conscious or embarrassed to feed their children. We certainly weren’t there to have a dig at bottle-feeding mums. It was breast v society not breast v bottle and I hope this is what we achieved.

These are a couple pictures my daughter took on the day but there are more on Real Radio Yorks facebook page.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Breastfeeding Flashmob Leeds - challenging low breastfeeding rates in the UK

Friday  24th June, central Leeds.

Breastfeeding mothers will all nurse their infants together in a flashmob, organised by a breastfeeding mother from Sherburn In Elmet.

The mothers want to celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and call for a more breastfeeding-friendly UK.  The flashmobbers also want to highlight our country’s shockingly low breastfeeding rates.

Many women feel inhibited about breastfeeding in public despite the equality act passed in 2010 that protects women, allowing them to breastfeed their baby anywhere regardless of the baby’s age. The sight of a nursing woman is rare in the UK, contributing to the feeling of unease felt by some people when seeing a woman breastfeed in public.

Of the 1,200 women who took part in an online poll run by Mother and Baby magazine and supported by the National Childbirth Trust, 60 per cent felt that the UK frowned on breastfeeding mothers and 65 per cent intended to not breastfeed in public for fear of being stared at.  Two thirds maintained that feeding their baby in public had been a stressful experience, and more than half of these had been asked to move out of a restaurant, cafe or coffee shop when they were feeding.

Mother of three and winner of 2003 Celebrity Mum of the Year Award, Melinda Messenger, says: “The law says mums have the right to breastfeed anywhere but they can be put off by uncomfortable looks and embarrassed stares so we need to challenge British reserve and celebrate the act of breastfeeding in public.”

Overall, only 45 per cent of UK babies are exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and only 3 per cent at five months of age (source: Office for National Statistics). This shows there is something seriously wrong with the breastfeeding culture in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the NHS both recommend exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age. WHO also recommends breastfeeding alongside other foods for at least two years.

The flashmob is an independent group of nursing mothers who hope to achieve the following through this mass nurse-in event:

• Encourage mothers to feel confident when they breastfeed in public.

• Help those who do not feel comfortable around nursing mothers to feel more at ease.

• Call for a more open- and healthy-minded attitude to breastfeeding for future generations.

• Remind people of the breast’s primary purpose, a natural part of our existence.

• Get breasts in the media for the right reason.

 The originator and main organiser of the flashmob, Sharon Spink, says “I was shocked and angered that Government funding had been cut for Breastfeeding Awareness Week and felt compelled to do something to make more people aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. The UK has the second lowest breastfeeding rates out of 36 European countries and I find this appalling. If we can encourage even just one more mum to breastfeed then it will be worth it. Unfortunately, society has a very prudish attitude to breastfeeding and yet it should be seen as normal. We are holding this event to show Leeds that we are normal and that breasts are first and foremost designed to feed our children.”

Sharon recruited the breastfeeding mothers through Facebook and by posting on various parenting and pro-breastfeeding websites.

Some of the mums in the flashmob have been made to feel acutely embarrassed by ill-judged comments from staff in hospitals, famous high street stores and coffee shops.

Media enquires to:
Sharon Spink – Flashmob Main Organiser

Additional Information:
WHO Breastfeeding Facts and Statistics

The Office for National Statistics performs its Infant Feeding Survey every five years. The figures from the 2005 survey were published in March 2008.

Mother and Baby survey, carried out in conjunction with NCT.

NCT Document summary: Key Baby Feeding Statistics from the 2005 UK Infant Feeding survey.

National Breastfeeding Week Info for 2011:

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Support Habiba. IMMF Give Her Baby Back

Spanish government authorities removed 15 month old nursling from mother's care due to her refusal to wean her child by force

Nine days ago, on May 31st, a Morrocan mother known as Habiba had her child taken away from her without her consent, allegedly because she breastfed her child on demand. Due to her dire financial situation, Habiba had been living with her 15 month old daughter in a women's shelter in Madrid (Instituto Madrile√Īo del Menor y la Familia- IMMF-, which roughly translates to Madrid's Family and Children's Institute).

In later declarations and radio interviews, Nacho de la Mata, her lawyer, informed the media that Habiba had left her child at the facility's daycare center as usual, and that the child was taken away immediately from there. She was then notified that she could no longer live at the shelter, for this facility only took on the care of mothers and she no longer had a child.

Fundación Raíces, a humanitarian organization, immediately took on Habiba's care, providing psychiatric evaluations, performed by well know birth rights activist and author Dr. Ibone Olza, along with legal services, healthcare and financial aid.

According to anonymous information released in the press, supposedly coming from the IMMF, Habiba's child was taken away from her due to her failure to comply to the center's "Psychotherapy and Maternal Habilities Program", allegedly because she was "a violent person", although there are no records of this alleged violence.

Dr. Olza, the psychiatrist who evaluated Habiba, as well as a psychologist, whose name has not yet been released coincide in their impressions on Habiba:
"I'm under the impression that [Habiba] is a sensible and loving mother, with a healthy attachment to her child." 
"It is obvious that this separation is highly stressful for the nursling and I can easily predict oncoming symptoms of psychic distress if the physical and emotional bond with her mother is not immediately restored"
"Based on Habiba's thorough psychiatric evaluation I have reached the conclusion that this woman does not suffer from psychiatric disorders nor does she have a drug habit. In my opinion, she is a very capable, loving woman who is now suffering enormously from having been abruptly separated from her child."
"As a child psychiatrist, I know that suddenly separating a fifteen month old child from her mother, transfering her to a government facility with no one the child is familiar with present, causes great damage that could have enduring psychological consequences, if not reunited as soon as possible."
Habiba is not only suffering emotionally but also physically. The day Dr. Olza took on her care, she was suffering from engorgement and was on the edge of developing mastitis. Dr. Olza helped Habiba  express her milk and took a half liter of breastmilk to the IMMF. After a lot of persuasion, and arguments about how it would be a crime to waste this mothers "liquid gold", the IMMF accepted the milk although that poses no guarantee upon the child ever being fed it, as Breastfeeding is strictly forbidden in all child welfare group homes

This news appears to contradict the strong support of breastfeeding in Madrid's breastfeeding and parent-child bonding programs for health professionals. Thus the IMMF's attitude on breastfeeding, and their opinion on it, calling it "chaotic and damaging to children" has caused great alarm among mothers everywhere, not only the breastfeeding community. According to declarations in the newspaper, allegedly coming on behalf of the IMMF, the reason for separating mother and child has nothing to do with their breastfeeding relationship, yet after saying that the child was removed from her mother's care "temporarily and the case would be reevaluated", they warned Habiba beforehand that nursing her child during their one hour weekly visit was absolutely forbidden supposedly because "it would be contrary to the child's institutionalization".

On Saturday June 4th, Dr. Olza decided to seek public support for Habiba's case, and started a Facebook Group called Que el IMMF permita que Habiba amamante a su ni√Īa YA (IMMF please allow Habiba to breastfeed her child right now). In less than 24 hours, the group grew to over 2000 members, and currently has over 3500 (and continues growing by the minute).

Yesterday, Habiba was allowed to visit her child, for only an hour. After nine days of being apart, they were reunited for only sixty minutes.

Since information on this case became public, other similar cases of women being forced to wean their children upon threats of their custody being taken over by the state have been brought to light. A public petition in Spanish was signed by over 3500 people, and another 5200 have sent personal letters to the IMMF and other Spanish authorities, as well as Save the Children, Amnesty International and other NGOs to express their support for Habiba and request her to be reunited with her child as soon as possible.

This morning, a Spanish newspaper published further declarations by Dr. Olza about Habiba's impression upon meeting her child briefly yesterday:
"My little girl is no longer the child I knew, at first she wouldn't even look at me... she has lost half a kilo, she looks very thin, this is not proper childcare, she had circles under her eyes, she started crying as soon as I picked her up but then she would stop immediately as if she didn't have the physical strength to cry any longer, she didn't seem like my daughter, she looked like a dead child, a doll".
Dr. Olza explained to the Spanish authorities that the child's reaction was perfectly predictable under the circumstances:
"She wouldn't look her in the face, she looked at her as though she was a complete stranger, not wanting to go near her, [another possible reaction could have been] the contrary, not wanting to let go of her mother afterwards." 
"... it was absolutely predictable that the child wouldn't seem happy upon seeing her mother given the circumstances," which is something that an untrained observer could [but should not] interpret as "the child not loving her mother, or that [Habiba] was not a good parent". 
"On the contrary, the fact that she reacted this way is proof that the child has suffered enormously from this deep feeling of abandonment"
Not only has the child been traumatically separated from her mother, but there also aren't sufficient caregivers to provide children with the nurturing that they need. After visiting the shelter at which Habiba's baby is being held, Fundación Raíces told the press that during night shifts, there are only two caregivers for 42 children under the age of six

Minutes ago, Dr. Olza, published the following urgent request, asking all supporters currently residing in Madrid to please protest in front of the IMMF right now:
Less than one hour ago, a representative of the IMMF in charge of Habiba's case has verbally accepted that she sees " her child one hour a week in order for her to maintain their breastfeeding relationship" to which the president of Fundación Raíces has replied that he obviously has absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about breastfeeding. His response was that the IMMF would evaluate the possibility of more generous visitation rights. We ask you all to please go stand and protest in front of the IMMF building right now to request that this institutional abuse upon Habiba is put to an end immediately. The address (in Madrid) is Calle Gran Vía 14. The following is extremely important: please take the picture above printed on paper to use as masks during the protest, Habiba does not wish for her face or anyone else's to be displayed in the media. We will all wear this drawing as masks because We are all Habiba.
I'm perfectly aware that this story seems very much like a hoax, but with well know professionals such as María Teresa Hernández, member of the Spanish Pediatrics Academy's Breastfeeding Commitee, award-winning lawyer Nacho de la Mata, well reknown authors and birth activists Isabel Fernández del Castillo and Ibone Olza, among others backing the information and giving their personal impressions on the matter publicly, things seem greatly believable.

If this story has touched your heart, if you wish to help in any way, please share this post. If you have a blog, please re-publish this information, if you know anyone in the press, anywhere in the world who could help in any way, please do contact them.

If you know some Spanish and would like to read further about Habiba, please refer to the following articles, with more detailed information:
If you wish to support Habiba on Facebook, please join this group in Spanish, or this international page with other translations, including English and French.

Please sign the public petition in Spanish, or in English (rough translation).

Thank you!

Many thanks to Annie, from PHD in Parenting for her help.

Image credits, Louma Sader Bujana,