Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month

Leeds GATE

Having a sense of achievement for the things we accomplish, is vital for good health.This month has been an opportunity for the Gypsy and Traveller community to do just that. June is the Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month.

The Gypsy and Traveller community have many valuable achievements to be proud of, and LeedsGATE is a local  project that works towards ensuring that positive profile is upheld.

LeedsGATE also actively promote good health for its members. It is well accepted that good health is a balance of emotional and physical wellbeing. The following old gypsy proverb, additionally names other valuable tenets of good health,

Rollin down the road


good health, aside freedom and love’.

This old proverb sounds like a salutation, or blessing. It reminded me of the expression ‘Peace’, adopted in the sixties  when wishing others well. Continue reading

What is this thing we call peer support?

Interesting post on Peer Support from Arizona.

Gene Johnson is CEO and President of Recovery Innovations, Arizona. This blog post is an extract from Gene’s keynote speech at April’s  The role of peer workers in mental health services conference, jointly organised by the Centre and the NHS Confederation. Changing the balance between traditional mental health professionals and people whose expertise comes from ‘lived experience’  in mental health services is key to the concept of recovery. Peer specialist roles are different from, but equal to,  traditional service roles.

In 1999 I had the idea that what was happening in the peer run services, like the drop-in centres, was really good, but no one was paying much attention to it. It wasn’t very well funded and often times at risk in terms of business or infrastructure.  So I thought:  what if we can team up?  What if the peers could come over and join our teams?

In October…

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A Band in Time

They say you can’t turn back time, and I used to believe that, since no time machine had been invented. Until one day it came to a point when even Newton’s gravity might as well have been disproved; indeed I realised you can turn back time (be it only so far).

What was I supposed to do then, when my entire way of thinking was flipped on its head? Indeed for about 2½ hours just recently I travelled right back to 2002 on a kind of time-machine ferry that had the ability to transport whole arenas full of people, not just once but 41 times over, right across the UK.

I’m telling you, there was something highly nostalgic about being back in 2002 with a stadium full of people at the click of a switch when the lights went down, and hitching a ride back to 2014 on the 11:20pm train afterwards. I can think of only one word to describe such a feeling, and such a remarkable band … Time Machine!

Indeed I was one of those people who in my childhood got up early on Saturday mornings to see the band on chart TV shows for children, and hung onto the band’s list of every “like” and “dislike” like these were each precious family heirlooms. Standing in the arena with every other viewer, I felt the phrase “I remember watching them on television too” written, as if I were in unison with everyone else, in the atmosphere with our sheer energy; a feeling I personally found really comforting. What’s more I was able to answer a woman who commented over the music “they’re really good aren’t they?” with a smile, as I replied “yeah, I saw them 10 years ago first time around”.

Now the setting of a room full of people each wearing out their vocal boxes in the way rain wears down wood, is not for everyone. Though as I say, just recently I was moved to give a reflection of how it personally felt for me to go back to see the same band that introduced me to the gig scene a decade previously. In my own opinion there is only one word for it – nostalgia!

By A

Touched – a visit to Phoenix Health and Wellbeing


It was a tough assignment, but someone had to do it, so on Saturday morning I duly presented myself to sample a free Swedish massage at Phoenix, the “Centre for Wellbeing in the Heart of Leeds”.

Oxford Chambers, with its imposing doorway and position right next to the Town Hall, has always seemed a bit of an intimidating place, but thankfully Phoenix is very easy to find, being the first door you come to when you walk in off the street. I was greeted by Gill Trevor, the Manager, and founder of Phoenix. I’d read from the Phoenix website that Gill’s idea of fun is taking ‘two dogs out for long muddy walks in the hills’ so I wasn’t surprised to find her rosy cheeked and healthy looking.

Gill had a successful career in marketing with O2 before she changed direction in 2007 and completed a Diploma in massage, reflexology and aromatherapy.   She became the Manager at Leeds Wellbeing Centre, and set up Phoenix when that closed last August. There are lots of private concerns cashing in on the stresses of modern life, but Phoenix is different in that it’s a charity, and money made from the various treatments is used to subsidise cheaper treatments for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

The massage itself was rather wonderful. Viv is a French woman who like Gill moved from an unfulfilling career to do something a bit more hands on (sorry couldn’t resist it). I was unsure about whether to have music, but was reassured ‘no dolphins’. In fact the music was really nice and added to the overall effect. I’d like to say more about the massage itself but my mind kind of disintegrated into a mushy pool and now I just have vague memories of soothing pleasantness and wellbeing. I do remember the surprising pleasure of having hands and legs kneaded – those neglected parts of the body that do most of the work and get very little credit were well pleased to get a bit of attention.

Phoenix do a range of related treatments – aromatherapy, reflexology and Reiki, as well as the various forms of massage – remedial, sports, workplace, Indian Head, Swedish back, Swedish full body, Swedish with hot stones (!) An hour’s session costs between £30 and £40 and would be a good investment at that although still out of range for many of us, but you can get reduced costs if you have a physical or mental health problem, by getting a referral from your GP or key worker, or even by asking Phoenix directly. On the evidence I’d say it’s definitely worth trying out. Costs then descend to as low as £7.50 for a session, which is definitely top value for the kind of treatment I had.

Phoenix also hire out their therapy rooms, so if you’re in the business and want a nice central location, check them out.

If you’d like to support the project, Phoenix are having a fundraising Charity Ball at the Hilton Hotel on 11th October – described as ‘Black Tie with a hint of sparkle’. Ring 0113 234 0818 or e-mail  for more details.

As a footnote, according to Wikipedia, archaeological evidence of massage has been found in many ancient civilizations including China, India, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia. Dating from BC 2330: The Tomb of Akmanthor (see above, also known as “The Tomb of the Physician”) in Saqqara, Egypt depicts two men having work done on their feet and hands, presumably massage. So massage has stood the test of time. It’s worth a try.