Seagull Weekly Briefing 12/06

Caroline Lucas stepping down at next election, Brighton Uni occupiers ejection, Brighton Carnival licence rejection and more.

Seagull Weekly Briefing 12/06
Source: The Brighton Seagull 

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. We hope you stayed safe during the heat over the weekend—especially those of you who participated in the Naked Bike Ride—and that you're careful in the coming week: slip, slop, slap!

Our latest feature is Team Seagull's reflections on the Fringe and Festival and the way they open up and change the feel of the city:

Warm Hearts, Wide Open Spaces
The Seagull team reflects on Fringe and Festival Seasons and how it changes the city.

Also, Fringe and Festival season is now over for another year! Thanks so much to all of our wonderful contributors and, of course, all the performers, many of whom were recipients of our Seagull Fringe Awards 2023. This year was even better than last year, and we didn't even get COVID midway through this time.

Fringe Friday 2023: Week Five and Awards!
The fifth and final week of Fringe reviews, and the Seagull Awards 2023!

News This Week

Young writers launch anthology on World Ocean Day

A creative writing anthology full of work from young people in Brighton has been published by Little Green Pig, a charity that runs free creative writing workshops for children, where they experiment with all kinds of writing, from poems and stories to journalism, script-writing and comic books.

The anthology, Ocean Wonder, is 'an ode to our oceans', with work by more than 100 children and young people aged 6-18. On Thursday (World Ocean Day), 40 local children and young people met at Jubilee Library for the launch of the anthology, along with 40 guests, including author and illustrator Nick Sharratt, a Little Green Pig patron, who gave the anthology 'five starfish out of five'.

One of the young writers featured in the anthology, Eden from Longhill High School, aged 13, said:

Seeing this book come to life is a very gratifying feeling and I'm sure I can speak for all of the young writers when I say this is an excellent opportunity.

The children’s writing has been illustrated by Brighton-based design agency Sherlock and created thanks to project funding including Arts Council England. To help inform their writing, children took part in beach schools and litter picks with local environmental group Wild Coast Sussex and Rampion Wind Farm, and workshops with professional writers and story mentors throughout spring 2023.

A parent of one of the children said:

Being part of Little Green Pig clubs and this project has helped her confidence grow so much. Seeing her perform her poem on stage today in front of all these people was amazing. I’m so proud of her!

The children of Little Green Pig’s four after-school clubs across Sussex helped host and design the launch event too. From creating upcycled underwater decorations to a seascape soundtrack, every part of the event was infused with the children’s imaginations.

Guests were welcomed by bubbles blowing outside of the library’s entrance, before enjoying a creatively curated menu of ‘anemonibbles’ snacks and magical changing-colour blue to purple ‘mermaid mocktails’. The gathered audience (including teachers, families, local councillors and writers) enjoyed live performances on stage by the children and young people of the writing featured inside the book.

Copies of the Ocean Wonder anthology will be available for free to pick up from local libraries and online via Little Green Pig’s website later this week. To request copies for your school/community group, to volunteer or sign up a child to a Little Green Pig after school club, visit their website.

BIMM students protest over restructuring

Students at BIMM staged a protest on Friday at BIMM's central office amid ongoing restructuring at the university, and are set to protest again today.

They've also started a petition with more than 1,500 signatures, in which they call the restructuring a 'big cost-cutting expense'. They said:

BIMM is enforcing a restructuring process on all  staff, they claim that this is for the benefit of the students and a ‘Reflection of our new University Status’.

By doing this, it’ll reduce the number of staff at local level who have been supporting you throughout your entire time here. We want justice for us, as students, and for the staff, who have been supporting us for many years.

We have more power than we think to help drive positive change at BIMM.

We have emailed BIMM for comment.

BBC Radio Sussex journalists on strike

Journalists at BBC Radio Sussex in Brighton went on strike last Wednesday and Thursday, in an ongoing dispute over proposals to reduce their output. This was part of a national strike, in which 80% of NUJ members backed the walkout. Journalists at BBC South East also took part.

The proposals would see BBC Radio Sussex's weekday afternoon show linked with BBC Radio Surrey and BBC Radio Kent, likely broadcast from Tunbridge Wells, with evening and weekend programming either regional or national—except for news bulletins and sports.

Journalists were joined outside their Queens Road studio by MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, where they had a picket on both days. He said on Thursday:

Radio is a connecting factor for many, whether it is those who spend large amounts of time in the car or the elderly who don't have access to the internet. Currently, Radio Sussex provides 100 hours of local content such as news and chat shows. The BBC is planning to merge Sussex with Kent and Surrey, resulting in a significant reduction in broadcasting hours. The combined 300 hours currently dedicated to these areas will be slashed to just 50 hours for all three counties.

I was on the picket line this morning with workers opposing this change, and I also attended an NUJ meeting last night in Parliament. Many people rely on the radio, and it is appalling that the BBC is cutting something that provides such a significant social good.

NUJ members also passed a vote of no confidence in the BBC Local Senior Leadership Team, with 93% saying they do not back the managers.

The NUJ said:

Strike action by NUJ BBC Local members on Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 June had significant impact on programming, with some BBC local radio stations and programmes completely off air and many others taking a shared ‘sustaining’ service containing no local content, or replacing shows with cricket, gardening or auction room re-runs.

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas will stand down at the next general election. Lucas is currently the only Green MP in the country, and after the Greens' significant council losses in May, this could spell trouble for the party at the next general election.
  • Last Monday, after the Weekly Briefing covering their situation was published, the University of Brighton occupiers announced that their occupation was ended when they were forced to leave the building due to a fire alarm. Their full statement can be read here.
  • Brighton Carnival is postponed until 2024. In a letter from the carnival's events committee, they revealed that the council withdrew the licence for the carnival, and that 'over 400 volunteers were ready to give their time and energy, artist rehearsals had taken place, contractors were booked, and time and financial outlay already sunk'. The council said that 'public safety could not be assured', and 'after careful consideration and discussion with partners, we felt we had no choice but to withdraw landlord’s consent for the carnival'. It is hoped the carnival will return in 2024. Organisers ask that if you have any questions, to email them here.
  • The BRZN Arms in Beaconsfield Road is asking fans of BRZN Beer and its pub to help them out: Enterprise want to buy the land around the pub and beer garden, and 'have old diesel clunkers coming in and out of my fire escape and disabled access at all hours of the day'. They ask that anyone who 'wants to help a small beer business face off against a billion dollar corporation' object to the planning permission here, amid worries that approving the planning permission would see them need to shut down the pub.
  • New sinkhole just dropped! It's outside Pret A Manger.
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

More money for foster carers

Photo of Hove Town Hall
Source: The Brighton Seagull

What's happening? The council is set to vote today on increasing the amount of money paid to foster carers.

Exciting! Why? They're doing it to help with the cost of living crisis, a move the council hopes will help attract more people to become foster carers. In the agenda for the upcoming Children, Families and Schools committee meeting, it talked about the shortage of foster carers and ageing population of existing ones—40% of foster carers nationally were over the age of 50 in March 2021. To address this, allowances 'need to be competitive'.

What is the council proposing changing the rates to? They want to:

  • increase the care element of payments for 3- and 4-year-olds by £7 per week to £185
  • increase the care element of payments for 16- and 17-year-olds by £37 per week to £303
  • offer two retention payments of £250 per year to all foster carers, one in July and then one in December.

What challenges do the council face when it comes to foster care? Councils have something called a 'sufficiency duty', a responsibility to have 'enough suitable homes for children looked after'. Rising numbers of children in care, older children in care, large sibling groups, children with more complex presentations including mental health difficulties, spontaneous arrivals of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and a national shortage of foster carers are all challenges to this.

There are other problems specific to Brighton too: it's a small geographical location with high-cost housing, limited housing stock which limits the availability of spare rooms (a fostering requirement). In addition, campaigns like Homes for Ukrainian Families and the increase in working from home had a large impact on the council's foster carer recruiting last year.

What does the committee think? Councillor Jacob Taylor, joint chair of the council’s Children, Families and Schools committee, said:

The city needs more foster carers. Children who are taken into care do much better in a family environment.

We do all we can to make this happen at what is usually a traumatic time for a child.

We avoid using children’s homes wherever possible. So we are pleased to be able to increase allowances for fostering families in the city.

What can I do to help? Consider becoming a foster carer if that's something you're in a position to do, especially for 16+ year olds—an age the council is struggling most to get carers for.

That's all for this week—please subscribe, and forward to friends who might be interested!