I was deeply saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Sir Henry Brooke. In recent months, Sir Henry had become a good friend of Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC).
I was in regular contact with Sir Henry in the run up to HCLC’s most recent Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was only held in December. Sir Henry praised the HCLC annual report I wrote and, on the day of the AGM, in an email exchange with him to confirm his taxi arrangements, I was pleasantly shocked and surprised to also read the line: “I have just transferred £1,000 gross to (HCLC’s) bank account, with best wishes“.
Sir Henry Brooke was witty, funny, brilliant, kind and clever and cared so much about access to justice for the poor. He also really “got” race equality at the Bar. I so enjoyed reading this excellent blogpost he wrote about the work he carried out as Chair of the Bar’s Race Relations Committee. I wish I had known him then.
HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone has paid tribute to Sir Henry on behalf of the team here.
We will miss Sir Henry Brooke very much.
Giving a thank you speech on Tuesday 5th December at the 2017 LawWorks Pro Bono Awards where Haringey Law Centre and Debevoise and Plimpton LLP won the Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership award for our disability benefits appeals project (photo credit: Matt Cetti-Roberts).
I recently had my first cello lesson in 20 years!!!
From a young age, I had
been extremely musical. I began piano lessons at 5, the recorder at 7, the cello at 9 and the steel pans at 11.
Alongside my school studies, music was my whole life until I moved to Germany to become an au pair in 1996 and stopped playing.
In the 20 plus years that passed, I always missed playing the cello especially. To me, it is an instrument that is almost human. The fact that its range of notes span as a low as a double bass but as high as a violin gives the cello a versatility that is so interesting, stimulating and exciting for those who play it. I may be biased but I also think that string instruments are the most beautiful and, out of the string family, the cello comes out on top.
When I began my lesson (after such a long time), I was terrified. I wasn’t sure whether I would remember how to hold the bow and I certainly didn’t think I would be able to sight-read. To my astonishment, within a hour of playing, I was sight-reading again and playing Bach duets with my teacher (a wonderful professional cellist I met at university who now plays with the Chineke Orchestra).
I now feel like a major part of me was asleep for 20 years and I’ve now fully woken up. I feel happy, alive and joyful. Now that I have started playing the cello again, I don’t plan to stop.
I spent a wonderful afternoon in Parliament on the 18th of July, leading a delegation from Hackney Community Law Centre to the House of Commons for the launch of the issue 3 of Proof Magazine – ‘Why legal aid matters‘.
The publication, produced by The Justice Gap (for whom I am a commissioning editor) and The Justice Alliance – a coalition of charities, community groups, legal campaigners and trade unions who campaign against Government cuts to legal aid – tells the story of why legal aid matters promoting the campaign to highlight the devastating impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), which was introduced by the former coalition government in 2012. The magazine was funded through a crowdfunding campaign I ran in June 2016.
It was wonderful that Julius Holgate, a Hackney Community Law Centre client, came up to Parliament with my colleagues and I to speak about his terrible experience with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Julius is a double amputee with no legs who had been assessed ‘fit for work’ by the DWP. The DWP had argued that because he had arms, he could use them to ‘climb’ stairs and so had ‘mobility’. When his benefits were cut, Julius fell into debt and had to pawn his jewellery to survive. It was only when Hackney Community Law Centre got involved – despite there being no legal aid funding to do so – that the DWP overturned this decision. Continue reading “Proof Magazine Launch in Parliament”
I was delighted to attend a recent ‘Abbott Appreciation’ evening in honour of my friend Diane Abbott, the Member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Shadow Home Secretary.
During the 2017 general election campaign, Diane was subjected to misogynoir and abuse that went beyond even the high levels she normally receives.
Distressed and disgusted by the situation, a group of switched on ‘woke’ young black women decided to hold an #AbbottAppreciation evening for Diane to show solidarity and thank her for breaking through the glass ceiling and entering parliament as the first black female MP on June the 11th 1987.
I was pleased to be at the event to show my own personal appreciation for Diane who has been a loyal and supportive friend to me. In 2007, when I went through a terrible political and personal time, she (unlike some other politicians with whom I’d been close friends) never abandoned me. I only survived this horrible period because of friends like her.
Well done to #AbbottAppreciation organiser Stephanie Ouzo and her kick ass friends for holding Diane up to the light. Still she rises.
Read more about the wonderful Abbott Appreciation event HERE.