Second Year

Can a man’s best friend really change your life?

Dogs for Good charity fundraiser showcases a community whose lives have been saved by their pet pooches.

By Sophie Cunningham*

With the colours shining through the trees of Heaton Park on a bright Saturday morning, and his best friend by his side, Paul Woodward sits in his chair soaking in the sunshine. Nita, his assistance dog of almost two years waits patiently next to him, ready to serve, completely unaware of how much she has really changed her owner’s life.

Paul, a retired knitting-machine operator, was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) in 1996, a chronic condition which causes stiffness and swelling in joints and motor disability. For Paul, the condition targeted his legs, meaning he could no longer walk or even stand.

“It was awful,” he confessed. “I have always been a very sporty person so I became very depressed.” Before his diagnosis, Paul was an avid cricket player, and enjoyed table tennis too. When he lost the mobility of his legs, he unfortunately could no longer partake in such sports.

However, with Nita’s help, Paul has reclaimed his sporty side and has since travelled the world playing wheelchair basketball and has even played disabled cricket for England and Lancashire.

As he travels through the green landscape with his obedient helper beside him, Paul moves with a smile on his face, alongside the many others that have been helped by the charity Dogs for Good, a national charity that trains puppies into assistance dogs for disabled children and adults, dementia patients and children with autism.

“I come to these events to give something back.” Paul said, as volunteers, puppy trainers and clients have all gathered together to walk, run and wheel themselves along a 5 km route in Manchester’s Heaton Park for the charity’s annual charity dog walk. Founded in 1988, the charity celebrates 30 years of aid this year, having helped almost 900 people across the country so far.

Nita is now fully trained at 4 years old and has been living with Paul and his wife, Linda, in Denton for over 18 months.

Paul, 64, said: “Nita helps me do lots of things like opening and closing doors, picking things up for me that I can’t reach from my chair and she pushes the button on the zebra crossing for me too.”

She even helps take clothes out of the washing machine and dryer.

“We found her with her front half in the dryer this morning trying to get a stray sock out,” said Linda, who works for the Cooperative funeral care service.

But this loyal pup doesn’t just help Paul with physical tasks, she also helps him psychologically and greatly improves his quality of life.

“She gets me active and gets me out talking to people,” he said. “When Linda goes to work, I used to be on my own, but I’m not on my own now.” Nita goes everywhere with Paul, and even has her own seat to watch the Red Devils at Trafford Park.

“The stewards recognise her now,” Paul said. “She even gets a bowl of water at half time.”

Paul has gained heaps of confidence from his pet pooch, attending fundraising events and giving speeches at local schools and centres, such as Barton Grange in Preston, on behalf of Dogs for Good to show his gratitude.

Fundraising events such as the charity dog walk are organised by Alix Davies, the regional fund-raiser for the charity based in Culceth, to spread awareness of Dogs for Good and to create a social opportunity for both clients and trainers – and, of course, the puppies too.

Alix, 30, became involved with Dogs for Good after studying fundraising at Bangor University. After researching the charity and seeing the help they provide, she knew it was perfect for her.

“The puppies give people a new lease of life,” she says. “Not just for the clients but for the socialisers too.”

A ‘socialiser’ is a volunteer that gives the puppies the basic training they need to grow up into a well-rounded dog, ready for specialised training. Duncan Platt decided to become a volunteer after he retired from the Fire Department. He and his wife, Kathryn, train Jade, an 18 month old golden Labrador who is set to become a children’s assistance dog.

The basic training includes commands such as sit, stay and recall – returning to their owner on command. The socialisers also take the puppies to different places, like cafes, shops, and on buses, to make them aware of various environments and desensitise them to public spaces and noise. As the pups get older, the socialisers can specify their training to align with the type of assistance dog they will be.

Kathryn Platt said: “We take Jade to places where a child would go, like parks, leisure centres, and we’ve even taken her to McDonalds!”

The process of training these dogs takes around two years. The puppies start basic training at 8 weeks, and don’t become matched up with clients for another 16-18 months. Although it takes time, the procedure has a 75% success rate meaning 3 times out 4, someone’s life is changed for the better.

Jade is the third dog the couple have socialised, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

“It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye,” confessed Kathryn. “But you give them up quite happily knowing that they’re going to make a difference for someone.”

Dogs for Good has already had 3,822 assistance dog enquiries this year and, despite having opened a northern department only 5 years ago, the charity currently has 76 active partnerships all the way from North Wales, across to Hull, up to the Scottish border.

“The dogs give people back their independence,” said Alix, “they go on to do such wonderful things for people.”

And that is certainly true for Paul and his yellow Labrador, Nita. “Its like having a carer with you all the time,” he said. “I’ll consider going anywhere now.”

The sun is hot for an early October afternoon and a certain little pup has tired out her paws. Paul sits in his chair, his wife on one side, his best friend on the other, purely content with his new lease of life, all thanks to dear old Nita.

 

*NOTES

This feature was handed in as part of an assignment for which I was graded a first for (78%)! 

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Second Year

MY MENTAL HEALTH AND ME

The story of 21-year-old Christa Peascod and how she copes living with depression and anxiety.

By Sophie Cunningham*

Have you ever lied in bed, unable to find the will to get up without knowing why? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks for no reason? Have you ever found yourself thinking: “who would really miss me if I was gone?” Living with mental illness can be a lonely life, and those who haven’t experienced it don’t always understand it.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Sufferers can be of any age, any race, any background, and the things we experience as we grow up can cause us develop these kinds of disorders. In fact, according to a study brought forward by the NHS, ‘one in ten 5-16 years olds are living with a diagnosable mental illness’, be that depression, anxiety, personality disorders or body dysmorphia.

Christa Peascod lost her dad at 15 years old, opening up a whole different world of suffering for the Liverpudlian. Now 21, she’s ready to share her story, in hopes it will help others cope too.

Christa’s father was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2012, as she was starting her GCSE’s. He passed away just two months later, leaving a large whole in his daughter’s heart.

“My dad was my best friend, my everything,” Christa said. “Losing that dominant male figure really affected me”.

To be exposed to the loss of a parent at such a young and important age can have a huge impact on the way we grow up. A study carried out by several danish psychologists showed that people who have lost a parent at a young age are ‘more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and substance-use disorders’, and often adopt behaviours like self-blame and emotional eating.

Unfortunately, musicianship student Christa is included in that percentage, and struggles with her depression and anxiety on a day-to-day basis.

She said: “If I’m walking on my own I feel like everyone is staring at me. Even though I know they’re just going about their every day life, it sets my anxiety and makes me short of breath. It’s horrible.”

Self-blame and self-worth have also been an issue for Christa, now living in Salford. She believes this is due to her relationships with men, how they’ve treated her in the past, and how she relies so much more on relationships to keep her happy after the loss of her father.

“After losing that dominant male figure, I would always try and fill that hole with a boy.” She admitted.

But putting young, immature boys on a pedestal as high as your father is not always a wise idea, and these boys didn’t always stick around, often taking advantage of her devotion.

I can’t say that any guy I’ve been with has made me feel important or even treated me like a proper human being. I’ve never been respected and that’s why I have such major trust issues,” She said. “But even so, when it ends, I take it a lot more to heart than I should because it gives me a reminder of losing that important man in my life and completely brings me down.”

It is often underestimated the impact a breakup can have on your mental health, however relate.org.uk suggests that: ‘over 60% of those with depression consider relationship problems to be the main cause of their illness’. 

At the beginning of last year, Christa began a casual relationship with someone from work. After sleeping together for the first time, she fell pregnant. When she confided in him about her problem, he quickly turned sour and accused her of sleeping around, denying that the baby was his. Three days later, downstairs at the bar they both worked at, Christa caught him kissing another girl — someone he had promised her was just a friend.

“I had a mental breakdown on shift,” she confessed. “I had to watch them, rubbing it in, knowing I had his kid inside me”.

She added: “It makes me think that people have zero regard to how I feel whatsoever, and it just added to the worthlessness that I’ve always felt.”

A few weeks later, Christa suffered from a miscarriage.

“I was at the flat completely on my own and I just started bleeding. I got this severe pain in my stomach, which turned out to be tiny contractions every minute. I cannot describe how painful this was.” She said.

For the next five days Christa had to visit the hospital consecutively, taking temperatures and blood tests until both arms were blue. What was already a traumatic experience became worse when the doctor suggested her staying the night in hospital.

“I’m petrified of hospitals ever since seeing my dad there when I was younger,” she said. “It’s the only place I ever saw him cry”.

To have to go through that alone, while still simultaneously coping with heartbreak, is an enormous chore, and a very large strain on someone’s mental health. However, Christa insists she came out the other end a stronger person, and she has also developed coping mechanisms to help her when things start to worsen, and she feels herself slipping into one of her low moods.

“I just try and distract myself. Films, TV programmes, anything. I need to find something to zone into and that’s usually Harry Potter for me.” She said. “No matter how bad I’m feeling it seems to help in some sort of way, because it gives you that place to escape to when reality in your own world is too hard to deal with.”

The young student is also currently on medication, which insists has had a positive impact on her.

“If I wasn’t on medication, I don’t think I would’ve gotten as far as I have,” she confessed. “It doesn’t make me numb, but it stops me from getting too low. It kind of balances everything out and helps me deal with it.”

Anti-depressants help stabilise emotions for those whose brains can’t do it themselves. They give people the push they need to think rationally and not become wrapped up in emotions. But they are known to have a bad reputation.

Like all medication, they come with side affects, and for some patients they can be more severe. However, mental illness is a very complex thing, so what might work for one person, could make another ten times worse.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last summer, the UK Government released a plan to improve the mental health services available on the NHS by 2020, including a £10 million investment across the country.

Christa hopes that this funding will result in shorter waiting lists for counselling and therapy.

“Luckily, I’m fortunate to have the willpower now to stop myself from doing anything stupid, but there are sufferers out there that don’t have that willpower and aren’t strong enough to deal with it on their own, and aren’t getting the help that they need.”

This ‘help’ is so important for those that struggle with their mental health, and sometimes the first step to recovery is just talking to someone about it. If you are feeling low or suicidal, or know someone who is suffering, please seek help.

Samaritans – 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Anxiety UK – 03444 775 774 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 5.30pm) 1229

www.menshealthforum.org.uk

more here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines

 

*NOTES:

This feature was handed in as an assignment, for which I was graded a first for (70%)! Christa’s personal details have been removed, per her request, for publication

Second Year

Tim Burgess of the Charlatans reminisces at Salford Lads Club record fair

Last November – on the 25th, to be exact – I attended a record fair at Salford Lads Club that I had seen advertised on Facebook, in hope for a nice story about the heritage of the club.  And I definitely got more than I bargained for, as among the other local record sellers was none other than Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess!

When I finally managed to grab a chat with him, he was more than happy to let me have a quick interview. The interview, and some info about the fair, was written into a news story and published on Salford Now.

This can be found here!

This post was eventually submitted as part of a portfolio assignment which I was graded a first for (72%)!

Second Year

Salford Church deemed ‘at risk’ by Government

In November, I spoke to Reverend Charlie Gorton about St Luke’s Church in Salford. The church is a Grade 2* building, meaning it is of a considerably high historical value. The interview, alongside other information about the church, was published on Salford Now.

 

This can be found here!

 

This post was written on one of the first Multimedia Newsdays I attended and was also handed in as part of a portfolio assignment, which was graded as a first (72%)!

First Year

BBC2 Newsnight – a comparative study

BBC Newsnight is a current affairs news programme which airs every weekday evening at 10pm. Currently presented by Evan Davis, Emily Maitlis and Kirsty Wark, the show specialises in analysis of the news, rather than just the hard facts, and provides a deeper understanding of what’s going on in the world today. Rather than just informing viewers of daily news stories, the show explains them in more detail and invites guests on the show to discuss the news and the issues raised alongside them. 

As it is broadcasted daily, the programme is able to dedicate its time to three or four key news stories and explore them in detail. This gives the presenters more time to raise a debate on current affairs and ask challenging questions surrounding the issues raised. With more time concentrated on each story, it also allows time for more live guests on the show to deliver their opinions, as well as SOT clips from pre-recorded interviews which showcases the opinions of the public too. This appeals to the audience of BBC2 – which is a broad adult market – as it caters for each political stance by offering opinions form both sides of the spectrum, avoiding claims that the show could be bias to one party or another.

While BBC1 has a wider target market, and has to take into account international viewers, BBC2 appeals to a predominantly adult audience and is therefore able to incorporate more sophisticated lexis into the show. This delivers a more intricate review of the news and provides the audience with more concentrated knowledge of the issues in today’s society. As BBC News at 10 is watched by people of all ages, and not just in the UK, it is more difficult to explore restricted lexis and the stories in more detail as they not only have viewers that may not understand, for example: a younger audience or people from other countries who wouldn’t be able to comprehend some of the language used, but also they have more stories to cover during the programme and therefore cannot dedicate their running to delve into each story individually.

Although Newsnight is able to challenge opinions of the guests featured on the show, and investigate more controversial and topical current affairs stories, the programme is managed by the BBC, therefore the presenters remain impartial throughout. This therefore helps to appeal to a wider range of people, and avoid any uproar that the show may be bias towards a specific political party. ITV News, however, allows presenters to indent opinions into the stories with a more informal presentational style and the inclusion of emotive language. Although this may appeal to some audiences, as it shows that the presenters reporting the news are still real people and have their own opinions, it may cause people to think that they must also share these opinions as it is stated on the news. Furthermore, it may take away the reality and facts from a news story by including opinions into the report as the audience may be more focused on the emotions involved. Newsnight, despite including real discussion over current affairs, remains formal as the topics raised in the programme regard serious issues from around the world and must not be taken light-heartedly.

Newsnight broadcasts to an audience of more than 600,000 people per episode, which suggests that implications that it is getting beaten in ratings may be false. Despite the demand for television news decreasing on a whole, Newsnight continues to be funded by the BBC and covers some of the biggest stories in the news today, including an extended show discussing the News of the World scandal and the Windrush scandal this year. With 4million viewers a week, the show remains current and topical and leaves the audience feeling informed with a more well-rounded understanding of the world of politics and the current issues.

First Year

Hull arena coming soon…

Since being honoured as City of Culture 2017, Hull has slowly become a more attractive and interesting place to be. New bars and cafes, such as Humber Dock Bar & Grill and Humber Street Distillery Co., have blessed the streets and art exhibitions, food festivals, and events have been popping up all over the place in the last 12 months. The city’s newest arrival, opening this summer, is Hull’s very own music arena: Hull Venue.


image of the venue
Click for copyright

The venue has a capacity of up to 3,500 people and will be open to the public for not just concerts but also conferences, exhibitions and other live shows such as stand-up comedy. Earlier this year, several acts were announced to be performing at the venue, including George Ezra, who’s show on the 10th of November sold out on the very same day tickets were released.



The new area is located on Myton Street, just next door to Princes Quay shopping centre, offering an opportunity for extra parking. Due to its placement in the middle of the city, the arena will be easily accessible by buses, trains and even on foot for those living locally.



The building itself is owned by Hull City Council, and is described to be “a state-of-the-art, music and events complex”, but what do the people of Hull actually think about it?


“Because its a purpose-built arena for music or stage acts, I’m hoping that the acoustics will be better and that we’ll be able to get better acts.” – Gill Hultum, 54, Welton.


However, after interviewing several locals from Hull and the surrounding areas, it was clear that there were doubts about the new arena. With a capacity of only 3,500, can the Venue provide for the more famous acts it requires to bring people to our city? Phil Turner, 69 from Hessle, said “I think that unless they get top line acts, the place will be half empty.”



Josh Stones, 21 from Brough, said: “They’ve built something that we already have, and not necessarily wasted money but it could’ve been spent more efficiently elsewhere and I think they should’ve asked the general public what they thought”. While money has been thrown at places like Humber Street and the Old Town, there are still many areas of Hull, which are home to derelict buildings and places that actually need fixing, which prevent the city from looking modern, attractive and enticing – all the things the City of Culture should be.

Also, with the lack of multi-platform advertising for the new arena, the younger generation of the city have been kept in the dark. Despite having both a twitter account and instagram account,  The Venue has just not been promoted enough and many teens and twenty-somethings are clueless to when the arena even opens.



What do you think? Will Hull follow suit of York and Leeds, bringing huge music acts to our doorstep? Or do you think the council should have invested the money in something else? Take the survey below to tell us what you think!


Take Our Survey!

First Year

Say hello to Indieflicks

Manchester is a city full of wonder and has even been dubbed one of the top 10 most exciting cities in the world by TIMEOUT. The city’s Northern Quarter itself is a hub for creatives and alternative styles, from fashion bloggers to food fanatics. However this one’s for Manchester’s budding filmmakers.


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Say hello to IndieFlicks: a monthly film festival held in the heart of the city, which showcases not only local film but short movies from all around the world.

After having to move venue due to such high demand, the film festival is now located at Texture, however the films are also played simultaneously in Sheffield and London, and then again the following day in Liverpool.



“In a way, you we have a big national audience; if we can get every venue synced together, we could potentially have 1,000 person crowd.” 


The event runs on the first Wednesday of every month and consists of 5 short films from independent filmmakers all around the world. The audience is then given the opportunity to vote for their favourite; when the votes from all of the venues have been collected, a winner is announced,  followed by a Q and A with the directors themselves.



Founder John Pank hopes that people will be inspired by the quality of the films screened at the film festival and will motivate budding filmmakers to recreate the skills they see in the films they create.

“we wanted to make sure we had a film night that people would go to, and be inspired by the quality”

After starting the project three years ago with his best friend, the film festival began to “snowball” towards success, John said, with “100% positive reviews” since it began in 2015.

The festival is certainly entertaining, with different genres of films being played across the night. A bar is stationed at the back which offers a more laidback attitude to the night and also sells peculiar flavours of crisps and popcorn.


 


For those who are interested in getting their short films shown at the festival, follow this link to submit your film for a fee of $3 (roughly £2). The creators sort through all submissions and choose which 5 they think are best to show at the next Indieflicks film festival.

If you are interested in simply attending the festival to watch the films, tickets can be bought on the Indieflicks website and also on funzing for £6.


Have you attended the ‘indieflicks’ film festival?