ACTION IS LOUDER THAN WORDS

The World Health Organisation has suggested that inactivity needs to be tackled at government level; including town planners, transport networks, as well as health and sports facilities. In the 1970’s Finland did just this. Finland’s health at that time was one of the worst recorded with unacceptably high level of coronary heart disease. The then government took extreme measures and began massive community based interventions. They made exercise easy and cheap. Local authorities were given the funds and responsibility for their own budgets. They encouraged competition between towns and villages – giving prizes for the most successful. They spent time with hard to reach groups, for example visiting pubs and clubs, and negotiated what they might be interested in. Schemes were rolled out across the country, and with persistence, they drew inactive people into activity; cycling; walking, Nordic walking, skiing and ball games were made accessible to all. They also encouraged daily active routines such as commuting to and from work, particularly for those who ‘didn’t have time to exercise’. This was supported by the creation of a hundred kilometres of new walking and cycle paths. Money was provided to keep them well-lit and maintained.  Elderly people were given spikes to clamp on their shoes, so they could still go out in winter months. The pavements were kept clear of ice, and individuals who didn’t clear their patch of pavement were fined. Finland’s health was completely turned around to become one of the fittest populations of that time.

The UK today is very different demographically from Finland in the 70’s, but the Finnish policy proves mass change can be made with mass intervention.

Recent research supports the Finland template with evidence that societies who invest in encouraging their population to be physically active, reap financial and human rewards. For ever pound cities across the world invest in walking and cycling projects the returns average £13. 

Initiatives in the UK such as exercise on prescription, bike hiring, and regular park runs are only utilised by a small percentage of the population. If we are to stop this epidemic of inactivity and obesity it is time for a national strategy with environmental interventions. Health promotion and education with current incentives are only touching the tip of the iceberg, when it is too little too late.

GEOFF STEVENS AWARD

Brilliant to have been awarded a 2020 Award from the wonderful Indigo Dreams publishing team. I am honoured and thrilled to have my first collection of poetry due to be published this year. The collection is gathered from a long nursing career, and seems timely given the present covid-19 situation. We are all realising how vulnerable we are, and how valuable and sacred our NHS is.

Please give me your heart to hold: winning poems from the 2019 Winchester poetry prize

HERON

When you left he came.

On water and air, at a distance

still and silent, alone

telling me bit by bit how it would be –

the hurt like water rippling – different every day

but the same shapes and colour

in the blue flow of me to you.

He raises his head high, lifting to fly

wings wide open. I watch his reflection

him there, me here, and you always, skin close.

Some days I can almost touch you.

2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

My entry has been “Commended”

MY DAD WAS A DOCTOR

When he got poorly, I didn’t know he was dying.
My dad never ailed, he was nearly a giant.

I found him in a grey room. He was carved of wood,
sunken and hollow, lined in deep whorls.

He looked up and tried to smile,
but it was too hard.

An international Poetry competition with over 7000 entries from 61 countries.

MY DAD WAS A DOCTOR

When he got poorly, I didn’t know he was dying.
My dad never ailed, he was nearly a giant.

I found him in a grey room. He was carved of wood,
sunken and hollow, lined in deep whorls.

He looked up and tried to smile,
but it was too hard.

He’d sunk to the depths of the deepest ocean,
I could see it in his eyes: bottomless blue.

I sat next to him and our hands touched;
his cool and papery, the knuckles large.

Those hands that healed now shook,
hands that cured were fluttering wings.

We’d had silences before that said everything –
– this dying said nothing.

I looked for something true that goes on forever.
My eyes blurring the horizon where the beginning ends.

I never did get to tell you: I love you.

It sounded too much like goodbye.

Launch of ‘Poems for Grenfell Tower’

Poems for Grenfell Tower was published on 30 March 2018 by The Onslaught Press. The book includes well-known poets like George Szirtes, Michael Rosen, Medbh McGuckian, and Anne Stevenson. Others have links with the Grenfell community, such as the former head of the local nursery school, an Ethiopian exile who lost many of his neighbours in the disaster, a Big Issue seller who plays in the local steelband, and a firefighter who attended the inferno of 14 June 2017. Five of the 62 poets live elsewhere in Europe; four poems not in English have translations beside them.

The Foreword is by David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, and besides English the Dedication is shown in the 40 next most spoken languages of London. The cover features a photograph of the monthly Grenfell silent walk taken by Emily Clack Moulden of White City.

At the suggestion of Grenfell United all royalties will go to the new Grenfell Foundation. Depending on the sales outlet, that will amount to roughly half the cover price of £10. To maximize the money raised, the book will be sold mainly online, either from the publisher (with £3 added for p&p) or from Amazon, where Prime customers can buy it at the cover price. (NB please ignore the ‘Temporarily out of stock’ notice on Amazon, which results from print-on-demand. The book will always be available in a few days from its printer near Amazon.)

Two launches will take place in London: 14:30, Sunday April 15th, Harrow Club, 187 Freston Rd. W10 6TH, and 19:30, Friday April 27th, Seven Dials Club, 42 Earlham St, WC2H 9LA. Admission is free with a collection for the Grenfell Foundation.

After that, a series of Grenfell poetry fundraisers will be held across Britain, with other poets taking part alongside some from the book at Machynlleth, Oxford, Birmingham, Newport, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Manchester. More are being discussed for Bristol, Glasgow, Bradford, Liverpool, and additional London venues. For details see Events on the FaceBook page:

https://www.facebook.com/grenfellpoems/

For interviews etc. contact our press officer Tom McColl: <mccolltom@hotmail.com>

THE SEARCH

Circling days while ash falls,
another white face offers condolences,
you shake your head and want to stab them.

The traffic roars and pavements crack.
From habit, you reach out to lean on an arm
that isn’t there.

Scorched litter memories scatter and whirl,
the voice of a child never sleeps.
You excuse yourself, mind blurring, befuddled,

and barter with God, scrape the earth with
raw fingernails, a red-eyed animal howling.
They step back and give you a contact number.

Beda Higgins is an award winning writer who lives in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.