Monday, 14 August 2017

Free From Fear Night: Maze - August 18th

On Friday night, at the Maze on Mansfield Road, Nottingham, there's a gig in aid of Nottingham's Women's Aid. I've been invited and I'm going. Tickets are a fiver and all the money goes to charity.

And what a charity. Let me tell you a story.

Just recently, I've been working with a young Muslim woman I met on a college course. 

She's one of the nicest women I have ever met, but more importantly, for the work I do, also one of the most determined. 

She wants to be a trainer, or work in the (currently becalmed) employability market. She wants to help others, as others have helped her.

I'm happy to help, even though all she really has is her determination to succeed, her enthusiasm and natural effervescence. 

Ten years ago, she left her native Yorkshire, at midnight, under the cover of darkness, with Police protection, after her husband attacked her and her two young kids with a claw hammer.

This was just one day of it, one tiny incident in a campaign of catastrophic terror which began on the fourth day of her honeymoon and lasted a decade. 

She had been hospitalised on many occasions and abused daily. She couldn't even go to the shops to buy a packet of fags and a pint of gold top without being followed by a friend of his, who reported back her less-than-nefarious movements.

In the days following his beatings, his belts and punches, his cigarette burns and barking dogs, he didn't even offer bitter tears, dog-eared flowers, heartfelt apologies and steadfast promises, in the time-honoured fashion of the repentant domestic abuser - it was just the way he was. 

She had to escape.

That winter night, her choices were limited. She couldn't stay. She couldn't escape to her family because, in Muslim culture, there are matters of honour to consider and a stigma that the word divorce rides all over, so she would have been asked to go back and conciliate. That wasn't going to happen.

Nor could she go to the local women's refuge, as all the rooms were full. 

As were the rooms in every women's refuge in Yorkshire at the time. 

So through a worker at her local Housing Aid, and a friendly Police liaison officer, she found a place with a Nottingham refuge. 

Part funded by Nottingham Central Women's Aid. 

She had never driven on a motorway before, nor did she know where Nottingham was. So the Police escorted her on the left hand lane of the M1, one car in front, one car behind. 

From their seats in the back, her kids watched every move their mum made, her gear changes and manipulations of the steering wheel every inch as interesting as children's TV. 

They knew what it meant - none of them were ever going back.

Suffice to say, ten years later, she's on her way. Working hard and trying her best. Step by step she's fought her way forward. I'm proud to help her out.

But without having that inner-city refuge open to her, and also willing to help, funded by Women's Aid (and organisations like Children In Need and the National Lottery), she would probably have had to stay where she was.

And she would be dead by now, she knows it. I know it. You know it.

That's just one example. 

I once worked with a man whose speciality was protecting sex workers from their psychopathic pimps. He has saved at least two young women from having their throats cut. 

Once, in scenes reminiscent of "Assault on Precinct 13", he single-handedly defended a sex worker in a Radford refuge from a pair of angry pimps and their henchmen who were desperately trying to break in. He succeeded and probably saved her life.

He was one of the few men allowed inside one particular Nottingham refuge, for sex workers and other seriously abused young women, which shall remain anonymous here. 

I worked with a woman recently whose jaw was broken in three places by her boyfreind for the crime of being late home from sixth form. She spent six weeks in hospital. 

Again, that assault was the tip of the iceberg, so she escaped her mining village at twenty one with the help of a family friend and thanks to that refuge in Hyson Green, she's never looked back. Nor has she returned.

You all know stories like this. 

What you don't know, is that many of these refuges are not publicly funded, or if they are, they cannot survive on that alone. 

They are absolutely essential asyla for women escaping shameful violence and serious, repetitive abuse that even a writer like myself couldn't conceive on a dark night. 

These refuges need funds and donations and ongoing cost to survive.

On Friday night, there's the afore-mentioned charity gig at the Maze. 

My great friend and colleague, Phil Pidluznyj and the New Apostles are playing, along with BBC1 playlisted Nottingham rapper, Alice Short, who I also know and like. 

I'll be reading something from the stage, as will my friends Nick Mann and possibly up and coming YA author, Carla Eatherington, if we can persuade her. 

There's an open mic so come along and join us. Poets welcome. Most of all though, pop in, give us a fiver, or give me a fiver and I'll pass it along. 

If you cannot be arsed to come out on a Friday night, let me have a fiver and I'll go out for you. 

It's needed: The whole country's women's refuge network is on its knees because of Tory cuts. 

The network needs your fiver.

Incidentally, on average, 85% of donations benefit the abused clientele. I know one famous, lavishly patronised and nationally advertised charity where the figure is more like 20%, so your money on Friday night will make a huge difference.

Come and see me on Friday and I'll give you more info or buy you a half. But, please - try and make it. These refuges make a huge difference to people's lives. 

The life of my Muslim friend is owed to that Nottingham refuge, and those who tirelessly keep them going.

Thanks, Wiz


1 comment:

  1. What a fabulously worthwhile charity and event to support. Excellent post Mark, my ticket money is in the post to you. I hope the reading goes well - you'll have to let me know what you read :-D