(In)Visibility and Art [& suffering]

Today, after 9-10 days of a horrific infection, I found myself feeling human enough to do some actual work. We’re organizing a conference about art and visibility, my PhD friends and I. More info coming soon! So I started writing the stuff we need to move forward today.

But what it made me think about was visibility within healthcare, and illness, and art.

I started thinking about Greenberg ( visibility of the aesthetics of experience), – and then about  the Cubists and other Post-Impressionists perspectives being  particularly poignant for illness and suffering.

But contemporarily, how  are we and can we understand someone else’s pain or convey our own to others? How do we make sense of the nonsensical, whether the chaos of life-as-lived or the inscrutability of dying? How do we answer the questions “Why me?” and “Why now?” when we are diagnosed with disease? How do we paint what we know is there but cannot see?  These are heavy questions which lie sullen at the bottom of every action within my PhD enquiry. Modern medicine, like much pre-Impressionistic art, tried to square this circle by instituting a technical and professional gaze that filters out the ephemera of the individual in order to identify and name what is hidden by opaque bodies (see, of course, Foucault 1994).

But this is not arts aim; it’s not a reductive attempt to discover the building blocks common to all landscapes or buildings or humans or musical instruments. It’s to uncover the essence of a thing, that particular thing, in order to reveal more.

Our representations of disease may actually conceal even as they seek to reveal. We know that socioeconomics and other social determinants (e.g., discrimination, exposure to violence, lack of education and social support, etc.) are tied to health and risk of illness and disease. We also know that socioeconomics and other social determinants affect prognosis and recovery. (Read Michael M’s The Health Gap for more of this)

Although the media love to highlight the enemy on our borders threatening to disrupt our safe worlds insulated from many of the realities of danger and suffering, it is actually our capacity for self-destruction that constitutes our greatest foe: poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to care, neglect of mental illness, climate change, and war, both declared and undeclared. But far easier to wind up a distant epidemic and see a remote danger to ourselves (while thousands die in a distant place) than address our real threats. Despite many genuine humanitarian responses from wealthier “first-world” countries, it is still clear that we have primitive protective responses (at home and abroad) that largely ignore the real wolves at the door.

As the NHS looms on a crisis that was caused my a greedy, beaurocratic , irresponsible government, and Brexit heightens tensions, and Donald Trump’s inauguration starts to truly loom ahead, I got thinking.

Thinking about  all of this, I wonder if art is our tool to help both recognize suffering but also help build bridges with communities we have trouble connecting with due to these issues.  If the digital world fosters isolation, what evokes empathy? Which of our personas do we believe in—our social media portraits or our reflections in the mirror? What are the consequences of a digitally-created society in the psyche of the global community? Art *can* cross boundaries, social class, geolocked nations. It exists in between physical, real and the social-digital world.  It links us through history, makes the other seem friendly, it can hold up a mirror when everything else seems shattered and untrue. Art explores the complicated yet timeless questions of influence, superficiality, and powerlessness.

When I was first an art-student, I remember finding and learning all about this activist art history. From Ad Reinhardt creating “communist” comics under a false name and being investigated by the FBI, to more direct examples such as the Gorilla Girls, and PAD-D groups. They made work with a political edge.  It was so exciting! I wondered about how awesome it would have been, to be growing up in such a polarized and politically difficult time and then being involved in such grassroots political activity and art being the tool, or the process.  Almost a license to get it out there and be archived for the future. But that same political drive, was also given to the artworld too – Gregory Scholette of PAD-D continues writing about art and political activism with his artwork representing his ideals and holding the artworld accountable for its Dark Matter, Reinhardt wrote lots of essays – as published in “Art as Art” with his disgust of the commercialization of art.

Of course, now I found myself, in a much different world than 8 years ago where hope resided, and people were less obvious and less aggressive with their hate. Where politically, things all felt relatively stable and fine. I have since lost my political art naivety that I had then, and I don’t feel the same excitement as I did when I first found it —- but what does remain is my gut feeling that art CAN make a difference, and my passion in the use of criticality esp within a political art canon. Art can be urgent and important and poignant.

I wonder about all of these experiences, and lessons. And I think – yeah, it’s our turn to make the invisible – visible. We are traumatized witnesses, some of us accomplices, groping about in the gap between passive outrage and mobilized action. We are both: perpetrators and victims, objects and subjects endlessly exchanging roles.

It’s our turn to show that mirror to those who can’t see a reflection. It’s our turn to help people practice empathy, to feel less powerless, to make people accountable, to stand up for what is right – and I think it’s about time the artworld got out of it’s comfort zone.

I’m not sure what that looks like for me.  Some artists are already doing it. But our Art is about changing the world, rather than study how it is. It’s not just about making things, but making things happen. There is much proof out there that our common community has not been relinquished.

Is art sufficient to the task of unpacking these contradictions that lie within our society – or should it complicate matters further? Such questions are unanswerable, but we shall see and we shall do.

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Love Is Love Is Love: Working To Make Things Better

Around 5 years ago, my life changed in a fatal kind of way. When I was in America, I was given a diagnosis that made feel like I was looking down a barrel of a gun and made me question everything in my life. This crazy plot twist, that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Tramedy, set off a bunch of things in my life. The past 4-ish years have been personally-health-awful, but yet through this difficult time this happened:

Last night I picked up my crazy amazing big prestigious award from the Houses of Commons, like some kind of rock-star. It was surreal, and I’ll probably never get another opportunity to experience something like it. But it was such an incredible evening and I met so many amazing, talented, smart, giving and generous people who work within healthcare,  specifically within radiography and oncology care. We should be so proud to have these people – and people not acknowledged working day in and out within the NHS just like them – and in our country.

It’s more than anyone could ask for and it’s an absolute rare privilege; To be recognized for trying your best to help others. I’ve never really been acknowledged before,  but I can’t help but feel heavy with gratitude to everyone who got me here, as thanked previously in many, many blog posts previously. Because this award is just representative of everyone who got me here.  There is no greater gift than being able to be part of something bigger than yourself, trying to make things better for others. And so the honour of being part of narrative alone is incredible.

Then I got home, back to the north, anxious about the U.S.A. Elections, fell asleep and awoke to Trump president-elect.

When I fell sick, I had so much angst because I felt like there was so much left to do and so much more love to give in life. I’d cry because I felt sorry for myself. And I felt ashamed even more for behaving that way, for being weak. But then on reflection I realized that the tears  flowed because they needed to. Because things were building up instead of me like a pressure cooker, and I wanted to keep moving forward.

I was crying because I wanted to live, because I was afraid of not being here.  And I was afraid of being forgotten.

So having gone through that, and 2015 UK General Election and Brexist Ref vote – I figured we need a hope-of sorts – a plan of sorts. Here’s what I’ve learnt from my few years living invisibly and wanting so bad to enjoy life again. And how Brexit, and Trump and a million refugees stuck around the world make you feel powerless and everything is lost. But

Trust me when I say this time is short & this life is both terrible & beautiful.

Resentment & anger are inevitable & sometimes are important, temporarily,  but it’s important to not take up residence in that place. I PROMISE you deserve better. Even if you voted Trump. You do deserve better.

I promise you there are people who will leave you in life, but that others will embrace you unconditionally in your brokenness.

So you go out & run fearlessly in the direction of love. You are never alone. Your tribe is out there. GO GET IT. And please keep laughing. Joy is salvation. In the darkest, lowest moments, being able to find something, anything to laugh about can save you.

We never stop. We never give up. We fight for each other and protect each other.

Living and giving kindness is the best revenge. 

The most creative challenge of our lives is learning how to approach our own inner darkness with curiosity, empathy, and friendliness.

And that’s where it’s all going to come together.

Sometimes in life, if you are very lucky, you find the grace in having it all blow up in your face.

Our jobs for the day (life): Tell the truth; Be kind & curious; Love all people with all your heart; Don’t put up with any bullshit. 

Love Is Love Is Love, we’ve had a bunch of set-back but that just means we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us but lets keep working to make things better – for ourselves and for those who are voiceless, victimised, invisible or who can’t say it for themselves. There is so much more that what unites us than what divides us.

Our work isn’t done, and we need each other and others less fortunate than us, who are REALLY struggling need us. So don’t wait to be called, because you’re already being beckoned.

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Why the student NHS Bursary is important #BursaryOrBust

The Tory government believe that Nursing students (And I’m sure it will then lead onto other allied health care professional courses such as Radiotherapy, radiography, physiotherapy, ect) don’t need a NHS Bursary to help them fund their course and cost of living.

And  they’re so wrong believing this. It’s just another way to repress the NHS as we know it. And it’s bad for these reasons.

Firstly, I would never – EVER – have had the opportunity to go to university if I got no maintenance grant (for a normal – fine art course). I entered university in the first year  that tuition “top-up” fees came into play. Now, I had no sense of money so the debt didn’t really worry me too much.  And I still don’t have any money.  But I came from a family that had NO money too. I was brought up below the poverty line. No one in my family has any qualifications. There were about 12 out of my 6th form (of 250+ students) who went onto university in the area i’m from. Are you sensing all this lower-social-economic working class, less privileged stuff here?

My mom jumps from minimum wage temp job to temp job. Ruining credit scores after credit scores – but we get by. Thanks to door-step loans and borrowing from my nan  – back and forth.

When I went to university the first time – I kept a bunch of part time jobs, I had the summer to earn more money. I would wire my mom extra money to help her out too. I didn’t get ANY help. I worked in the USA on unpaid internships because I worked in the bookies in my spare time. I left university 4 years later with a debt of around £23,000. That was my tuition fees & living loan. I had also got a maintenance grant and a university bursary. And I can’t believe ‘normal degree students’ won’t get that in the future now either. I didn’t party too much, but I had to go to London a lot as part of my course and art materials and an art degree show is expensive to put on. But I made ends meet and I don’t ever remembering feeling like I was truely money screwed. But I lived in my overdraft. I didn’t care. It was free.

Fast forward to right now.

I’m in my last year of my 3 year Radiotherapy & Oncology degree. And I CONSTANTLY feel like I don’t have enough money to survive.

I’m doing this degree because after a horrific health experience I wanted to both give back to the NHS that has saved my life, and given me so much in compassion and help. It rocked my world-view. Falling sick changed who I was as a person and my old life just didn’t fit in the way it did before. But it was also really important to me to enhance patient care further,  to get rid of those moments of care where I felt misunderstood as a patient and not really listened to. Sometimes we all just need to be listened to, even if there’s nothing you can do about the issue at hand. And there’s so many systems and pathways that can be made so much better.

And so, I thought that the NHS could do with someone like me, someone who had already done work with patient experience, who can empathize what my patients are experiencing, who thrives on doing a great job and helping people, making things, and whose passion for social justice and a better society motivates everything I do.

But falling ill had made me even more strapped for cash. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do my freelance job. I lost work, I lost hope. For a whole year. When I decided that studying radiotherapy would also be good for me as a coping mechanism and as a routine to get me back to functioning in the real world – to make me feel a bit human again and to understand the system that I loved and hated – i knew because my course was funded by the NHS I could ‘afford’ to do it. This was a hoop that wasn’t going to hinder me. I wasn’t discriminated against because I didn’t come from money.  If that bursary wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to do it.

But here’s the thing. The NHS Bursary barely covers living costs anyways. And they want to chop it?

Being a healthcare student isn’t like being a ‘normal course’ student. On my art course, we started late September, had a few essays, researched a lot, constantly worked (though this wasn’t logged) in the studio (realtively stress free) and you’d have a few assessments and shows along the way. You made it what it needed to be. As time consuming or dedicated as you wanted. We’d have a nice christmas break, and a nice Easter break. No exams. We’d break up for the whole summer around May time. And the cycle would happen again. I could work weekends if i wanted to because i did all my work during the week. I could work evenings because – well – i could go and work in the studio whenever it suited me. I had 4 months of potential time to save up from a part-time job and/or get extra experience in my area.

A healthcare course is much, much, much more and very different. We work 35+ hours a week on clinical practice. Helping patients, cleaning and setting up equipment, cleaning up patients,  letting them cry on you. You, as students, do carry quite a bit of the work – that keeps the NHS moving. But you’re being watched, constantly. You have this constant feeling of stress because you know you need something clinical ticked off, or you need to do more case reports, or case discussions/clinical examinations, you’re constantly being stretched and observed and building your professional knowledge, confidence and persona. And it’s not like the art studio, if I mess up – i can’t just come back to it, it’s someone’s life it’s affecting. Add 1-2 hours of commuting to work each way. And then time for cooking tea and tomorrows lunch. Then add on ALL of the academic work that you need to do that night and get up and go to work the next day again.

You have ePortfolio, exams, assignments after assignments, clinical competencies, IPE, dissertation, more exams. And you work ALL summer too. No Camp America for you. This is all on top of 35+ hours. But guess what, if you was doing a business degree, or a marketing or computer science degree with a work placement – You’d be paid for your work placement. What about us?

What about this Bursary?

Unlike normal degree students – healthcare students get sent across the region and the country for their clinical practice. They can be in Doncaster one placement and then in Sheffield the other. On my course people can be placed as far as Newcastle and Leister. Commuting from your house in Sheffield to Newcastle is probably going to be a no go. So guess what, you have to pay for 2 rents – often UP FRONT – out of your own money. But get this. That NHS Bursary barely covers your Sheffield rent anyways. Where are you going to get this extra cash from? How are you going to eat? How can you afford the bus to work? Sometimes it’s just cheaper to rent a place then it is to actually take public transport (which is pretty horrific) If like me, you’re just a poor kid from the Donx, whose mom can barely pay her own rent anyways, where do you get this extra money from? What happens if you’re a parent? What do you do then?

Then lets consider all this academic work on top of your clinical placement rota. Each 20 credit module equals 200 hours of study or teaching. Since you’re on clinical practice, that 200 hours is your own study time. But you’ve already worked 8 hours that day, you get home around 6-ish if you’re lucky. You need to do that work. What employer is going to be that understanding of your dodgy work pattern? And you’re probably going to be REALLY tired after finishing a whole day of clinical placement ontop a whole shift at Boots,  then go home and try to do some ePortfolio and do this ALL again. And people DO IT. That’s not the debate. But could you do it if that bursary wasn’t there at all? i don’t think so.

When you get a NHS bursary (which FYI is at the most around £380 a month) you don’t get any extra help from the university like you do on a ‘normal course’. You’re exempt from quite a few hardship funds in place within the university. And student loans will only lend you up to £2,200 a year – max. You have to work clinical placement all summer remember too.

Then lets consider all these extra costs which you won’t think about.

Your uniform has to be clean on each day. That’s 5 days of washing straight up. It’s white – that’s an extra load of washing. If you’re living in student accommodation – your washing is going to run you around 5-10 extra pound a week. You’re working all week,  and there’s something about clinical placement which makes you WAY more hungrier than in real life. And hospital canteen food is ridiculously expensive – so you have to plan ahead and pay extra in your food shopping to run the costs of a decent packed lunch to get you through the working day. There’s all the extra things too. You want to be ahead of the game for ePortfolio and job hunting – you need to go to conferences – often way expensive – even for students. But that’s part of your professional conduct and identity. Then you have your normal course costs. Really expensive course text books.

Then if you’ve survived all of this, and get to the end of the course and want to get a job. You have to pay for a licence to practice and a membership to your college of your profession to ensure you have insurance – before you’ve even got a job, a pay-check. This is around £380 before you’ve even started. I have no idea at this point where my money will come from to pay for that. We’ll see.

I’m lucky because I’m poor I get the full bursary. Others aren’t but their parents don’t help them out because they can’t afford to either. Many student accommodations are over £4000 a year rent now, which is more than your years bursary.

I work as a freelance artist so most of the time i can work within my own time-frames. However my health still sucks balls. I struggle with fatigue like you wouldn’t believe. So often I get home, and all I do is sleep. It makes doing my school work even harder on top of trying to do freelance work too. But I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

Others aren’t that lucky. Despite having my bursary and working my freelance jobs – i’m talking many jobs too – I barely make ends meet. I’ve ruined my credit score on this degree even further than before. I’ve got to the end of my over-draft and even had my card declined. That never happened to me before. But it’s because I’m paying up front for rents, for train tickets for clinical placement. For food that’s not covered by my loans.

Healthcare students don’t fit your normal format. Most enter the degree much older than your average student population. Many have children and family. They need this bursary. They too probably already have a degree like me. Their story is probably similar. They saw a loved one close suffer dilibertating illness that inspired their calling into healthcare; after having children they wanted to become a midwife; or sometimes they just needed time to mature to discover their true calling.

The NHS treats a population as diverse as you can imagine, and it needs staff that represents the population it is treating. We don’t want a select few who can afford to take on the debt or that their parents will pay everything for them. We want them as well as the people who know what it’s like to be down and out on your luck, who know what it feels like to suffer in constant pain, who have children and know what a parent may be thinking, who know how tough times are. We need people who are compassionate, and creative and passionate and brave. And I don’t want them to be priced out.

My mom has always brought me up with the belief that I shouldn’t make money a barrier. This has hindered me in different ways  – like buying things I shouldn’t have because I can’t really afford them – but not everyone is brought up with that belief and some people don’t have the emotional or financial support to be able to take a leap and do a course without any Bursary help.

You wouldn’t expect a kid to pay for their apprenticeship- you give them a terrible wage (which FYI- apprentices need to be paid more too). Nursing students, like all healthcare professionals DESERVE a LIVING WAGE. The bursary isn’t a living wage. But it’s something. Taking that away is disrespectful, it doesn’t acknowledge the hardwork and the goodwill that comes with the healthcare courses. The NHS does benefit from students. We don’t ask for much because we’re passionate about making the system better, about caring for society. It’s NOT about money. EVER. But this is forcing people not to have an opportunity, and potentially change the face of the NHS.

The consequences of not  having a NHS bursary in nursing are SO much bigger than you’d ever think on first inspection. We’ll loose our social mobility of the profession, the career progression, the mentorship, we’ll loose people applying for the course, and have a shortage ina  time that’s already suffering a shortage.

It’s bad news. And it’s not what the NHS stands for. That’s why I am standing with Nurses and all healthcare workers – for both the junior contract and the student nurses bursaries. We’re all one in the NHS. We work across professions and care for our patients and their carers and we need to look out for one another too. To the future of nursing, and all healthcare professions, and our care and the NHS.

 

 

A Story of forgiveness, learning to trust again & my 10 years with Ed Miliband as my MP.

Now, I don’t want to preach, or tell you who to vote for in this upcoming election. Some of you have probably already voted by mail too. But I want to share with you a story of such, and hope that if you were feeling disillusioned, that you will use your vote for the better – and really vote!

I believe that everyone has the right to vote how they believe is right for them, and for their country.  Of course we all see and experience the world in many different and unique ways that our voting system often doesn’t come close to reflecting this – and can it truly do so? ever? Probably not. But it can try. Additionally, what is important to me (education, NHS, equality, social justice) may not be as high for on your own personal agenda.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time we’re mislead by a massive media elite that, as Marxists would put it, keep the working-person down for their own personal gain.  We see this with Rupert Murdoch acting as the Dark Lord sending tweeted threats to a Tory government failing to get a majority – because they work in favour of him and his $$$ million empire.

They (the elite) don’t want us to be equal, really. They plot us against ourselves, tricking us, lying to us, twisting the truth. Mashing up the narrative so much that we don’t even know what’s really going on, and what we believe any more. Who can be trusted? Our enemies become ourselves, our neighbours; immigrants (the majority of us are immigrants somewhere down the line); people who are on benefits; students; old people; people who work on minimum wage; mothers/fathers/single people; women; workers of all kinds; teachers, doctors, HCP, politicians, bus-drivers- whatever- you name it – they disguise the real issues,  hoping that we will never see past this vail of insecurity and fear that they continue to instil into us. Twisted pieces of the truth, so far from the truth it is a fabricated lie. Sold to you, as if it’s in your best interest. Now, not all media is evil – but a good huge chunk of it can be if it believes that it’s own interests are at risk. Media is probably the best-est social control agent that we have in society.

It is at the juncture that I have to admit that I too am majorly skeptical of politics, politicians and their hunger for power and unkept promises. However, we do need to trust people we’re not sure we can trust all the time – taxi-drivers, hairdressers, dentists and doctors, people on twitter, ect. It’s the bare-fabric of humanity being able to trust, and working in the greater good for all. And if someone breaks your trust – then shame on them, but we must be able to trust a vision we believe in, and we can rebuild trust. Forgiveness can be one of our most important tools in living.

That’s why I’ll be voting Labour in 9 days. Even though I voted Labour in 2010 (my first ever election – which was very exciting) it didn’t feel as right as I had hoped. The last Labour government, Blair et al, had strayed way far too neo-liberal capitalism-middle-of-the-road for my liking. If I wanted that, I would have voted Liberal Democrats. But still, I knew – despite many wrong doings over the 13 years Labour were in power – that in the heart of it somewhere, the real every-day struggling person was there in the value-system. Not just big media and corporation businesses and banks. I benefited hugely from many policies as a poor working class kid from Doncaster.

When Ed Miliband won leader of the Labour party I was very excited for a number of reasons. And so my story begins:

My background is – I was born and raised in Doncaster, a small ex-mining community. My mom fell pregnant with me whilst still in her mid-late teens, and she decided to do it all on her own. School was never her thing, a rebel in her own right, she left school with little qualifications. She fell in love with a bad-boy: my father – who turned out to be pretty violent and lazy (he was prison a bunch of times). Needless to say, I was brought up on council estates, hand to mouth poor, debt collectors and everything you can imagine. And it was miserable. My mom couldn’t escape this domestic violent relationship for the fear of not being able to afford to raise my bro & I on her own ( also lets not ignore the emotional and psychological tricks that get played into making the person believe it will be different next time, even though it’s not). They were never married. So little rights between my mom and father existed. We we’re made homeless when we did escape a dangerous situation, because – like – housing crisis. Duh. More shitty stuff happened, but I go on. I tell you this because it represents my struggle, past, present and future. It represents what is important in acknowledge what every-day-real-life living is like for the majoirty of people in the UK.

I’ve been following Ed Miliband’s political career for some time now. He’s been my MP for about 10 years? He won’t remember this but my friend and I went to visit Ed at one of his surgeries in his first year, maybe few months of being our new MP. My friend and I were 16/17. And had just applied to go to university (the very first in our families)- but UCAS had received our schools (NDTC, now Adwick-Outwood ) applications, cashed the cheque but not processed the applications – for months – making our applications super late, after the deadline.
We were so worried that it was going to affect our chances, already underdogs in the process. I’m not sure why we decided to go and see Ed, seemed like a good idea at the time – and I can’t remember  what he said. But everything turned out just fine – but I remember feeling like he really listened to us – and took our issue seriously. This had a profound effect, and one of the reasons why I know we can trust him as our leader. He asked us if we could help him come to our school because  he was new to the area. I think it’s really special & incredibly important how he acknowledged the younger voters and tried to get them interested in politics, genuinely – this wasn’t near any election at the time.
I went on to study Contemporary Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam. It was a dream come true & many of the best-est years of my life so far. I was able to do so much more than I ever thought was possible as a super poor, working-class kid from Doncaster. I got to work in a world class art gallery in Chelsea, NYC – so rare since the artworld is much like politics – you often have to either know someone, have a silver-spoon or grassroots your way up. I  worked in Chicago, scouting out social-engaged art practices, and political gatherings. I also worked for many summers for the YMCA of greater Boston, USA (This makes me a huge Boston Red Soxs fan too 😉 )
I tell you all of this because I think it’s so important that kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, like I was, to have a stable and good opportunity for a great education & then if they so wish – can afford to have the opportunity to go to university (£9,000 a year + living is just an insane amount of money). That all subjects – whether art or science, media or engineering – are worthy of the same merits. Things like EMA when I was at school made such a huge genuine difference, I was able to pay for my school dinners, and buy things for my classes since my school couldn’t afford them. AimHigher was also an important element in helping me have the right tools to know how to apply to university. Today, education is disjointed. Free-schools and academies run however they like – some amazingly, some absolutely poorly doing a disservice to students.
I believe and hope that Ed will help to restore the education system so it can help students believe in and reach their potential, or at least have the funding to do so. To re-invest in SureStart – which makes HUGE differences to struggling communities. And I believe he’ll  help to invest in the cultural, creative and technology industries in our country – because I believe that these are some of our most strongest areas as a nation, and not supporting or investing in them is hurting our economy as well as our nation. Take the British Film Council funding that the Tories cut for example. Film is a HUGE part of our industry, and a Tory government thinks it’s not worth it.
I  met Ed again when I attended his wedding reception party event in Bentley that he hosted for the area. Which I thought was an awesome idea, he is always putting on events (and has always way before he was leader of the Labour party – again prooving he really listens, wants to engage and wants to help local people).
In 2011 I was 22 working in Boston, USA when I  fell pretty poorly and got told some pretty messed up things about my health —- and my medical insurance at the time wouldn’t cover it. I was alone, 1000’s miles away from my family. I had a bit of an existential crisis.  My USA work-friends at the time covered my medical costs. So I  (eventually – I was in denial a bit) came home to receive some of the most compassionate and excellent  medical care I have ever seen and witnessed. My GP – still – gives me so much of his time, and i have great continuity of care. The experience of being in the privatized medical world of USA compared to the NHS of the UK made me appreciate what we have and proved just exactly why we can not allow the NHS to be privatized. Not only does the NHS save many lives – but also improves people’s quality of life – I would have been bankrupt if I was in a system where you had to pay for each appointment/treatment.
From this experience, I am now back at SHU retraining in Radiotherapy & Oncology. (I’m still working as a freelance artist!) I feel this undenying need to give back to a system that gives so much. I want to continue to give the best compassionate care, that I’m given, to everyone. I want to develop new research and tools that can help save lives, and my creative background has really helped me to do this. As a student working clinically at in Leeds – I see just how amazing the NHS is, what profound differences it makes to people & I can also feel and see the repercussions of this Tory government on the NHS. This is one of the main reasons why I want Labour to succeed in gaining leadership. Because the NHS means so much to everyone and Labour seem to be the only one willing to stand up and save it.  I know there’s the NHS Party, and the Greens have a pretty great NHS budget – but realistically – in terms of majority win – Labour is our only hope.
Additionally I met Ed again in 2013, outside Morrisons. I was helping out with Food Bank collection and he came to help and show his support. I thought it was necessary because he was acknowledging that local people are struggling so much to just put food on the table, whilst the Tories will pretend it’s not even a problem. Even stopping the official statistics of use of Food Banks because they don’t want the blood on their hands.
So, guys. After 10 years of Ed Miliband being my MP – having gotten to know him before it was super cool – I’ve grown up with him – he’s a bit like your family doctor. See him when you have problem; he always tries to fix it – and you both slowly get to know each other. I believe he really – genuinely cares about the gaps of inequalities we are all straddling and how we’re constantly tricked and decieved by corporations and the media. And we ALL deserve better. Especially better than what we’ve currently got. And he knows this. I think we can really call on him to be there for us.
 I just wanted to say thank you to Ed for his awesome 10 years of being our MP – and thank himfor running to be our future Prime Minister, because it was time to leave New-Labour behind. Sometimes it’s the most subtle differences, experiences, meetings that make the biggest of differences. The people of the UK need someone to believe in – need someone who understands what these services need and how necessary they are – and how people are struggling – and i think it’s Ed that we need. especially out of all the main running candidates.
And what’s even more impressive? Is that I wrote a similiar E-Mail to Ed a few weeks ago now. I didn’t actually think he’d read it – especially so close to the general election. But lots of the Labour Party Campaign people read it, the Doncaster Mayor read it, and they all made Ed read it. And he wanted to meet me again at his local campaign launch. It was awesome. There’s a charisma that sometimes doesn’t translate on screen thats genuinely caring and warm when you meet him in person. Everytime I meet him, he remembers that I’m an artist – now that’s pretty awesome you have to admit? 10 years running.
So guys, I’m hoping we can have Ed as our leader on 7th May. I hope you do too and will help me to try and get these votes. I know people are concerned mostly with the economy and are worried that Labour is not the party for this — but it’s a complete lie (again) that the Tories are competent at doing it. Our debt has massively increased, whilst our economy is barely moving and the most vulnerable and struggling are paying for a crisis caused my insane bank-lords, world-wide that exasperated the deficit of the UK. Not Labour. I will state again that the previous Labour Government did some shitty things and made some big mistakes-  but they’ve admitted their mistakes (which is good practice!) and we all benefitted to some degree with some  of their better policies. I can’t even name 1 policy under this Tory Government that actually benefits US?
And yeah, let’s save the NHS!
To learning how to trust again. Forgiveness and investing in the values that we really believe in: equality and compassion
Ed Milibae
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