Sunday, 25 October 2009

Can Lollipopmen Achieve Anything?

Not the best photo in the world, but an important one nevertheless, honest.

While I was cycling around I noticed that by the wiggly "no parking" lines at Newtown School and also Abbey Junior there was a sign advising drivers that there was no stopping. This must make it easier to police and stop drivers making it difficult for children crossing.

I spoke to my supervisor about this and she seems to have taken the hint and ordered a "no stopping" sign to be installed outside Alfred Sutton by where I work as Lollipopman.I came to work on Monday to discover the sign had been put up.

You'd have thought that a sign wouldn't have made much of a difference, however I foundit very useful to be able to point to it when drivers got a bit shouty.

So another, albeit, small step taken in improving road safety and making sure that the Alfred Sutton school children can get to school safety and the lollipopmen don't get squashed.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Richard McKenzie's First Night as a Street Pasty

Spent my first evening as a Street Pastor out on the wet and slightly dank streets of Reading last night.

The Churches of Reading have got together to try and minister to the "Nighttime Economy". To do this you have to be in it, so at 9.30 we all met up for a cup of coffee and a briefing from the Police about what to watch out for.

A prayer session then a kitting out, don't we all look lovely. We hit the streets at about 10.00 or 10.30. Two parties of street pastors armed only with lollipops, yes really it is true what you've read in the papers, good humour and the desire to look out for people, took to the streets. Now we are based at St Lawrence's church and were not due back in to base for a break and further coffee stop until 12.30. How much of the town did you think my team covered. We managed to walk from the church to the corner of Queen Victoria Street and then to the Station and back in that time. This is probably 1/2 a mile. What did we do to fill the time? We chatted to the door staff, asked them how their evenings were, chatted to punters, gave out lollipops. It was very wet and payday is not until next week so the town was reletively quiet, but we still had people coming up to us saying they had heard about what we were doing on the radio and did we have any lollipops?

We didn't encounter any hostility, however we still have some work to do with some of the doorstaff. We also have a lot to learn. However we were in the town, part of that community and fitting in quite well. We wandered throught he station and talked to the security staff their about their problems. They told us that people get quite violent when would be passengers have missed the last train home. I noticed that they were all wearing stab vests so they must have some serious concerns.

On the second session we went as far as Gun Street, an talked to the staff at Sekura and the Purple Turtle. It was heaving here and I think we got in the way a bit, especially when people started asking for lollipops. We will have to find a way of dealing with this. We did find a couple of women here who had decided that their shoes hurt too much and had taken their high heals off. As they had a fair trot to go home we gave them the "famous" street pastors flip flops. By now it was 1am and we headed uptowards Friar St. Everywhere else we had been the atmosphere was very jovial and extremely friendly, Friar St was more agressive and nervous. Infact this is where we saw or first, and only punch up. A seriousish punch up developed over a man who was dressed as a woman in a food shop, you had to be there. We kept out of the way and engaged with a bunch of lads while the Police cooled the fight off and sent a couple of lads away to the Police Station.

So its 2.30am or 3.00pm by then so we walked smartly as far as the cab rank in Station Rd, talking to groups of people and finished off talking to a couple of bar workers who were on their way home for the evening. We discovered that they both went to local churches and had heard about what we were doing. They were pretty positive about seeing members of the church in town so late in the evening. We gave them our last lollies and finished off at St Lawrences for  a debrief. I was utterly knackered. My leg hurt and I could hardly stay awake, but I felt we had made a start at trying to understand how the Night Time economy works. Not on for another month so I hope I can catch up on my kip by then.

I am sure that some will question what we are doing, however if the Church, Politicians and those who pontificate about Reading's Nightlife don't engage with what is happening we have no chance of understanding the town and how it works.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Richard McKenzie thinks living in Park is great

A reflective piece today. I was out on my bike yesterday and it struck me what a great place Park is to live. From my house, I can walk to the river and go Kayaking. Infact the best and most environmentally friendly I ever spent was a Kayaking Course at the Waterside Centre at Kennetmouth. We can cycle up to campus and enjoy the parkland and woodland there. Or we can cycle in to the countryside. I have a great 10 miler which will take you in to the countryside in about 10 mins. Up the London Road to Shepherds Hill, Sonning, Sonning Bridge, Henley Rd. Up Dundsen Hill. At the top of the Hill towards Emmer Green, past the Lodon Brewery, which isn't anywhere near the Loddon. Emmer Green down the hill to Caversham and then Home. Ten miles and lots of countryside.

So I was riding my bike feeling relaxed and cool, thinking, well if I want to go to town, I can push off there in 5 mins, then I fell off my bike, AGAIN. I managed to do this in front of a load of Undergraduates and they were kind enough not to laugh, but I felt foolish.

But if you ride a bike eventually you will, as I did, get to test the ground hugging qualities of your clothes as you bump gently against the ground.

What does this have to do with living in Park? Not much but since I first moved in to Park in 1986 I have always loved the way everything is near and within cycling distance.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Richard McKenzie spends weekend campaigning for PCSO's

Spent a lovely weekend with my children....oh but what about the campaigning?

Well they, strangely enough, wanted to come campaigning with their dad. What were we campaigning about? The Uni's decision to stop funding the PCSO's.

I am really pleased with the response we have been getting. We knocked on literally hundreds of doors and almost everyone wanted to sign our petition to save the PCSO's. Strangely enough the only person that wouldn't sign was a supporter of the Green Party, which was a shame.

On our way we also bumped in to some of the editorial team of the Student Uni newspaper, Spark and talked to them about the issue. So it was a very useful weekend. As is the way with any kind of street work we picked up lots of other Ward work which we will follow up in due course.

Of course the fight to retain the funding for the PCSO's goes on, you can still sign Anneleise's petition at: . I urge all residents and students to sign, no matter what political party you are. This is something that the Uni really should think again about.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Street Pastors Are Go

The first Street Pastors take to the streets tonight.

I won't be with them because my shift is next week, however I will be there in spirit. It is great to see the churches working together in the centre of the town. It is also good to see that we are well supported by the politicos of the town. You can see our Tory MP supporting us, as  I said to him, this will be the first time that he as a Tory has supported Richard McKenzie a Labour man. I won't repeat what he said.

In fact the picture, borrowed from the Evening post shows all the Street Pastors that could be there that evening, with the Police and Politico's that were showing their support for us.
As a competition can you spot the Parties that didn't have Councillor or local activist representation? Clue: LD, G

To read the whole story click here

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Education, Education, Edukation

This week has seen the Ofsted Inspectors at Alfred Sutton Primary School, where I am a Parent Governor.

The staff have all looked stressed and strained. I have been talking to the staff as I am in every day to try and assess their stress levels. They seemed to be bearing up well.

As a parent education is very important to me. My youngest daughter has just finished at Alfred Sutton and her year managed to post spectacular SATS results. I understand that her year's results were amongst the best ever. This is a testiment to how hard the school had worked over the last few years to build up the layers of knowledge that she needed to go on to Senior school. I have always been a fan of Alfred Sutton. It really reflects the community in which it is based and seems to give all children a good education.

My eldest daughter has just finished at Maiden Erlegh, where I have been less happy. She decided that she wanted to do her A Levels at Henley and I can understand her reasons. It seemed to me that Maiden Erlegh did not really capitalise on the good grounding that my daughter had received at Alfred Sutton.

So good luck to Alfred Sutton, ok I am biased as a Governor and Parent. I hope that the strain is bearable and that all the staff get to celebrate once the experience is over.

If you don't know anything about Alfred Sutton here's a link to the school website.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Richard McKenzie Pastor

These are not words that you expect to hear in one sentence, Pastor and Richard McKenzie.

On Saturday I with the other Street Pastors was pastuerised and comissioned. So what is a Street Pastor? It is  a group of people from the churches in Reading who want to spend time in the night time throng looking out for vunerable people, people who are lost or emotional. We want to spend time working on the low level Anti Social Behaviour and helping the police with the more emotional problems that the Police can't deal with effectively.

Will it work, well we will find out soon. We have a lot of work to do to establish ourselves and to gain the respect of the night time economy.

At the Service we were joined by members of the local churches, police and some local politicians. Cllr Gul Khan, Deputy Mayor, spoke and even Rob Wilson MP turned up. Rob is a Tory and I was pleased that he was supporting an initiative that I was working in. A bit dissappointed to see that none of the Lib Dem or Tory Councillors turned up.

I hope to have some photo's of the event soon, but until them we are all excited to be going out to work in the town. The first group goes out on Friday. I am in the second group going out next Friday. Can't wait

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A Fine Day For Campaigning

Been out this morning talking to residents in the Ward. Its a busy busy day, sax lesson, campaigning, a family celebration and a church service establishing the Street Pastors group in Reaidng. Thank goodness I went to bed early last night.

Talking to residents was really useful. I picked up a couple of issues to take up with the Council. More of later. It was a great morning, talked to loads of people and a good mix of students and residents. They were telling me about their concerns and the things that they want for the area.

Also talked to them about the Uni and its decsion to stop funding of the PCSO's Everyone I spoke to was against the Uni, I told them about our campaign and they were very supportive.

So off to church tonight for the commisioning service for the Street Pastors, wish me luck.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Please Sign Our Petition

Have spent the day trying to create an online petition to protest about the Uni's withdrawal of funds for the PCSO's to discover that Anneleise Dodds, Labour Party Spokesperson for East Reading has already done one.

Please sign Anneleise's petition. It is so important to show the Uni that we want the PCSO's to be properly supported.

The link to the petition is here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

No PCSO's Today

Have read in the paper that the Uni has withdrawn its funding for the PCSO's am exceedingly cross. Not only have they helped reduced Anti-Social Behaviour and the fear of crime in the area, they have been extremely helpful to me while I am lollipoping.

The PCSO's have worked with me to ensure that no one threatens me and also to reduce the amount of illegal parking which makes it dangerous for the children to cross the road.

I am writing to the University to demand that they review the decision and will also be writing to the Council asking them to support the PCSO's. I also urge all Park Residents to write to the Uni. The more people who write the more pressure the Uni will feel to take in to account locals' and students' feelings about the issue.

Please write to Vice Chancellor Prof Tony Downes c/o Reading University, Whiteknights, Reading.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Street Pasty?

Some people know that I am training to be a Street Pastor. What is a Street Pastor? It is a group of people from the various churches around Reading, who will be going out on Friday nights to care for and calm the people enjoying Reading's night time economy.

What's this todo with Park Ward? Many of us in Reading's churches want to be involved in caring for the centre of town. Infact in one of this week's free papers was talking about the licensing committee's concerns about what goes on in the night clubs in town.

We aim to be walking around the town between 10pm and 3am on Friday night, minstering to Reading's Party goers, looking out for the vunerable and dealing with low level anti social behaviour and allow the Police to do their job. We want to show that the Church cares for all the young people and party goers in the town. I hope we will be able to do this in an open way, with humour and wit and without preaching at people.

So what will being a Street Pastor be like? Got to say I have an idea at the moment, but ask me in a couple of weeks to find out more about Street Pastors follow the attached link.

Who are the Street Pastors? They range from 25-70, men and women, and people from all sorts of backgrounds, teachers, business men and other sort of jobs.

We are having a service next week in Greyfriars to dedicate the Street Pastors, if you are about at 19.00 come along.