Story writing for blogs

Today was our 6th training session for the Community Reporter Training Course, the tutor was John Baron the journalist. He explained  the difference between writing headlines for printed material and on line publishing, he suggested that whereas headlines for printed material can use word play to good effect, blog headlines are best written succinctly, this increases the likelihood of search engines speedily sorting internet searches.

John pointed out that an introduction sets the scene to a story and is ideally best kept to no more than thirty words. I didn’t quite manage that this time!  After explaining the 5 Ws of good journalistic story telling and reminding us

that journalists

and all writers have to work at their art, having to continually rework pieces, I found this reassuring, as I always have to tweak what I write, we were paired up to collaborate at constructing a story from  a set of random sentences cut from a news story, group feedback and comparison showed we had  differing opinions about ordering the main points.

John and Terry suggested we might like to put links into out blog stories………I will be practising this before our next session as I don’t think I quite got that.

The stimulation of learning new techniques , the social aspect of the training and an increased awareness, between sessions, for observing potential images for photographs or interesting stories has helped me stay committed to attending.every week.

Like many people my enthusiasm for opportunities to learn often sees me over commit while my mood is stable, and as I was already taking part in singing with the ‘Healing Voices’ choir,* (part of the Arts and Minds Network),,  they meet Tuesday afternoon, 2-4pm from 18th September at the Swarthmore Education Centre, 2-7 Woodhouse Square, contact Jane 0775 881131, and a cookery course with Jamie’s (Oliver) Ministry of Food, I was apprehensive about accepting the invitation to take  part in this additional 8 week  free course but I’m pleased I did.

*The Healing Voices choir will be performing in the Light on World Mental Health day, 2nd October.


Eid Eve Celebrations

The Hamara Centre hosted its annual Eid Eve Celebrations, A ladies only event which has become a regular feature on the community calendar.

Shanah Amjad and Sara Keita from Women’s Information & Support Hub were invited by Nasreen Akhtar, Coordinator of ECHO, Hamara’s Women’s support service based in Harehills.

Chand Raath roughly translated means “night of the full moon”, this is a traditional South Asian festival that comes at the end of Ramadan, the Muslims month of fasting. The evening started with a traditional Iftari ”End of days fasting” and continued into the evening, with all proceeding to be given to charity.

The evening Friday 17th August, saw Hamara full of bright colours and lovely scented smells fill the air. Henna, Facials, Head Massage, and traditions clothing and accessories were some of the items available. The evening helped the women of the local community to come together and celebrate this festival.

Young women from the local area had spent the day baking buns and which they were selling to help in this charitable event. The Islamic arts stall had hand painted canvases of excerpts of the Qur’an “the Muslim’s holy book” which went with the Islamic theme of the event.

Shanah Amjad of WISH said;

“Events like this highlighted both women in community and the grass roots economic aspect of the Chand Raath festival. Having events like this, which empower and enable local women to utilise community spaces equally should happen more often”

her colleague Sara Keita commented.

“It was an amazing night were women came together at Hamara, eating together, getting to know one another, having  their hair and nails done, decorating their hands with henna and looking through the clothes and accessories”

The evening was totally devoted to the women of the community and was an important date on the South Asian Women’s social calendar.

Written by: S.Sheikh – Migrant Community Network

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Photos By : S Amjad

Hamara Logo

Going Somewhere New…

Bradford University.

Woow!!, what a summer holiday it has been but back to education in a few weeks (sigh), but this time it’s a new challenge at the University of Bradford to study Media. I’m looking forward to start the course because its something I haven’t really studied but I have a good understanding of the course and I know what’s required of me to pass the course.

Its a bit daunting for me to go University because its a new environment so i have to make new friends and also the level of education is quite high, so I don’t know whether i’ll cope with my new life style or not but only time can tell!

‘Life is not a bowl of cheer….ies’ (Keen) ..sometimes it’s bananas

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Relentless cheerfulness can be a barrier to authentic communication, especially for those affected, by mood ‘disorder’. I doubt the diagnosis of bipolar truly represents the changes of mood I sometimes experience. At times low mood makes it hard for me to plug in to the pursuits I usually find uplifting, reading, listening to music or the radio, all lose their appeal. Only the act of sitting quietly ’eases my troubled mind’.

During these times I need to filter and limit external distractions. I leave the phone on silent, but welcome email, it doesn’t need immediate attention, and its scope for more reflective content. I like mobiles phones for that quickie text, ….’free to chat’…. ‘how ya doin?   wanna meet 4 cuppa?’

By the second or third day the necessity for food shopping forces me out of the house. There are adequate shops within walking distance of my home in Bramley, and the  local café facilities allow me, shakily, to venture out. This enables me to return to a more at ease frame of mind.The combination of the exercise involved, the stimulation of choosing meal ingredients, help to restore my equilibrium. I’ve been a permanent resident in Bramley since 1988, but my family moved here in the late sixties. and I a visitor for all that time. A shopping trip therefore is also a time to pass the time of day with the ‘locals’.

This last week found me experiencing ‘that long black cloud comin’ down’, but Terry’s reminder for blog contributions , gave me some impetus to think creatively, although I felt practically housebound. I had to rely on subject matter within easy reach of home, some cherries and bananas just bought, and a trip to my local library!

The library was built in 1927 and still retains most of its original architectural features; oak panelling, shelving, parquet flooring and a glass domed roof.  Visits to Bramley library always evoke memories of the similarly decorated, art deco library in Wakefield’s Drury Lane, which had been a ‘hiding place’ or sanctuary in my youth.

Bramley library in Hough Lane has really useful extended opening hours:

10.00 to 19.00 Mon and Wed

10.00 to 18.00 Tues, Thurs and Fri

10.00 to 15.00 Saturday        12.00 to 15.00 Sunday

together with helpful staff.

This week’s trip gave me information about an art exhibition, ‘Story of the Dance’ currently displayed at the Art Library, 1st floor, Central Library Leeds, continuing until 30th August.

A friend knowing my spirits were low suggested we meet for a cuppa at the gallery, we took a look at this display and the Fiona Rae paintings. Karolina Syzmkiewicz, the artist of the images of dancers, was in the gallery and she took time to explain how she manages to depict so expressively, in her sketches, the movement of the dancers.

Other events I noted were Heritage Open Days, 6th to 9th September, this is when the public will be given the opportunity to have free access to buildings not normally open to them, contact: or phone 0113 243 9594 for full list of updates, alongside listings of walks and talks throughout the city,  check out scheduled colourful display of ‘Yoruba Textiles: cloth and tradition in West Africa’ at Leeds University from 5th September through to March.

An art noveau style poster, created by one of the Bramley librarians, attracted my attention to their Steampunk book display, as I’d not heard of this genre I asked the staff what it is…….. ‘futuristic sci-fi’…..A collection of short stories with one entitled ‘The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jala-ud-din Mohammad Akbar’ by Shweta Narayan looked intriguing, so there’s yet another book to peruse on my to read pile………when my mojo rises.

Sue Margaret

Woodhouse Ridge

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I’ve grown to love the Ridge over the last few years. It’s a deceptively big place. On the face of it just a narrow strip of wood between the tightly packed terraces of Woodhouse and Meanwood Road in the valley bottom, it’s criss-crossed with paths, each of which has a slightly different character. I’ve seen a pair of jays here, an owl once, endless squirrels, and because of that maybe, it’s a foxes paradise. Lucy Newlyn’s poem Bandstand is here next to the remains of the old Victorian bandstand. At one end you’re almost at Sheepscar, easy distance to the town centre. At the other you can slip across Grove Lane in Headingley and stay on foot paths out to Golden Acre Park. I’ve walked dogs here in frosty Winter, dug Hannah’s allotment in Spring, recorded birds at dawn in Summer, walked back one dark night in a storm from Wheatfields hospice at Halloween. It’s always the same and it’s never the same. When I read The Wisdom of Wilderness, the book Quaker psychiatrist Gerald May wrote just before he died, I was convinced by his argument that we all need a bit of wilderness to keep us sane. This is the nearest I get to it in my daily life. Terry

….we’ve fired a robot to Mars. Next up, living on the moon?

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…you’ll love it.

‘Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century’ – Fiona Rae

Taking a quiet hour or two for yourself and visiting an art gallery, or maybe a local museum exhibition here in Leeds, is something I recommend, if like me, you sometimes struggle with those niggly blues. Looking at other peoples’ ideas – for me – really takes me out of myself.

Big canvases, bold paint strokes, bright, confident colours, and an amazing range of different brush spatters and strokes all clamour for your attention when you stand in front of one of Fiona Rae’s paintings. It’s like stepping into someone else’s head for a while.

Fiona Rae’s head looks like a busy, dynamic and most important of all, a FUN place to visit!

It’s busy stuff alright. Bright. Dark. Colourful. Quirky. Odd fluffy pandas floating about amongst digital shoot outs and video games and flowers. Dramatic colour clashes but also little corners of quiet delicate beauty, as well.

What I like is how absorbing each different picture is. I find myself standing in front of each one for ages, getting lost in all the detail.

Picture titles like ‘As I run and run, happiness comes closer’, ‘Side by side, I’ll be yours forever’ and ‘My favourite puppy’s life’ just make you all the more intrigued as to what the stories are here. I like that. ‘What on earth is she thinking here?!…’

And the great thing? there is no right or wrong answer to that. Fiona says as much in an interesting video which you can watch about her and her work. The Art Gallery are playing this video for you to help you find out more in the corridor alongside the quiet exhibition space.

We all have our stories inside of us, and we all have special moments of dark and light that make us the special people we are. This exhibition reminds you of that.

Art galleries are undemanding, restful places, where you can wander about at your leisure, and just see whatever it is that takes your fancy. Leeds Art gallery is great for this. The staff are friendly and helpful if you have a question about stuff. And it’s FREE! And if you get bored of being stimulated by all the art in there, you can always go grab a lovely cup of tea and a cake in the Tiled Hall tea room next door. Nice scones. ; )

a small pleasure. and it’s the small pleasures you give to yourself that can make all the difference.

The beautiful Fiona Rae painting exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery this summer, runs ’til 26th Aug. Be quick though, because it ends soon! Take yourself to another place and go visit: it’s well worth a look. ~ Stuart Petch

Link: Leeds Art Gallery

Public Art, good for the soul: Crown by Faith Bebbington

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Leeds has some beautiful and striking public art, which adds elegance to city.  The photographs capture one such piece of public art created by Faith Bebbington after being commissioned in 2002 by Nuffield  –  and standing outside the Nuffield Hospital, entitled ‘Crown’.  Four figures stand in a circle to create a crown, each statue is made out of fibreglass and stone resin.  The sculpture is based upon  Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing: ‘Human figure in a square in a circle’ and transforms a traffic island into a work of art.

It was a beautiful day for photography, as the sun had finally started to shine, with a backdrop of blue sky and few, but interesting clouds.  (No rain!)  Taking photo’s in the city can be a rewarding activity, not only is it  creative and fun, but it also encourages you to stop and take your surroundings in, to attend to detail and to learn about the city.

Public art and pleasing architecture is good for the ‘soul’; I believe.   Bebbington describes her art as ‘humanising public spaces’  and I think that is an apt way to describe it. Sculpture and art in public can transform an otherwise mundane environment into one which is  asthetically pleasing and interesting.

The Human Spirit measured by reflections!

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Peter Reffel, tutor for the third week’s training,had so much enthusiasm for photography that it was infectious, his suggestions about not worrying too much about the conventions of image composition or attempting to make sense of what we are shooting appealed to me, therefore when we went out I thought it would be interesting to snap through subjects……by reflection…..the window of a tailors shop and a pub.

Reflecting on all manner of images, music and reading has been and remains a key factor in assisting me to maintain a useful mental attitude. I find  plenty of scope in Leeds to nurture these interests..

Coming across the spectacular ‘Human spirit’ sculpture  outside the Nuffield was a bonus, it’s location down a side street with little through traffic seemed to emphasis the drama and dynamic energy of the four figures, it put me in mind of the determination and spiritual reserves humans draw on when facing challenges to their health and how vital the support of other people is.