26,500 people supported by 12

Today’s blog is by Markus Bell, Marketing and Operations Manager at Nerve Tumours UK

The Neurofibromatosis Association, trading as Nerve Tumours UK, supports those who have been diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NF), together with their carers, families, and wider support network.

Neurofibromatosis, the umbrella term for a group of genetic conditions (Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) and Schwannomatosis) and literally translating to mean “nerve tumour increase” is one of the most common neuro-genetic conditions, causing tumours to grow on nerve endings. It has many associated medical, physical and psychological conditions: 60% of those affected have learning disabilities, and up to 75% are registered as disabled. People with NF live in constant pain, can be vulnerable and are often isolated.

More people are diagnosed with NF than those with Hereditary Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington’s Disease and Cystic Fibrosis combined, yet few, including many medical professionals, have heard of the condition.

Nerve Tumours UK provides support and advice for people with NF, and the medical professionals involved in their care, through a Specialist Support Network comprising of regional nurses and advisors, a national helpline, a fully accessible website, regional information days, medical guidelines and much more. Following on from a regional information day held in Bristol in 2019, we now hope to be able to introduce a Specialist Neurofibromatosis Nurse’s post into Bristol, similar to our other regionally based posts located in other neuroscience centres around the country.  There are more than 26,500 people in the UK diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis, and yet we only have a frontline team of 12 specialists. Therefore, we need to provide more support , and you can help us to do this by becoming a supporter or by making a donation. To find out more, go to nervetumours.org.uk

Shining a Light in 2022 and celebrating 40 years of Nerve Tumours UK

We are turning 40 this year! Founded in 1981 when Trish Green and Clare Pepperell were brought together by a BBC radio programme called “Does He Take Sugar”, both parents had been trying to find other families affected by Neurofibromatosis.

Initially called “Link: The Neurofibromatosis Association”, the organisation was first registered as a charity in 1982, and since then, the charity has evolved to become Nerve Tumours UK, the leading voice and support network for people living with Neurofibromatosis in the United Kingdom. We need to ‘Shine A Light’ on World Neurofibromatosis Awareness Day in 2022, highlighting our work and support services. By joining a global campaign initiated by the Children’s Tumor Foundation, our US counterpart, Nerve Tumours UK has secured over 200 locations across the UK and Ireland to light up in blue, and so help us achieve our goal of raising awareness.

Tonight, Bristol’s City Hall will be lit up in blue to Shine a Light to mark Nerve Tumours UK’s 40th anniversary and World Neurofibromatosis Awareness Day.

Saving lives: Bristol’s drug checking service

We have to deal with the way the world is, not as we want it to be. That especially true at a city level, when we have to pragmatically take on challenges and causes of harm in our communities and look for solutions. That’s why I am proud Bristol will become the first UK city to host a regular drug checking service.

We know we have drug use problem in Bristol, with higher-than-average number of drug deaths. Every one is a tragedy. Last year we sadly saw another fatality and several people hospitalised when using a suspected lethal batch of drugs in the Bristol area. Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney spoke at cabinet (from 36:34) about the loss of his own friends to drug use and how we cannot underestimate the impact of these avoidable deaths.

Drug checking services provide a vital opportunity for people to access accurate, timely, and relevant information to make more informed decisions about drugs. Service users give their substances for laboratory analysis by chemists and then discuss the results as part of a personalised health consultation with a health professional. As Councillor Ellie King explained, this isn’t about condoning drug use, but informing people and keeping them safe.

It’s important that we don’t ignore the fact that drug use is happening and take an outdated approach to this subject. This service doesn’t take anything away from work underway to support those with substance addictions, it will provide communities with access to factual, scientific, evidence-based information about drugs they may consume and that may be in circulation throughout the wider city.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that there are people who will have concerns about this approach, and some may have questions about how it might directly impact their communities. We’ll work with the service provider to make sure they consider local people as part of their approach, working pro-actively to try to prevent drug-related issues compounding for individuals, families, and communities. After all, the dogmatic approach that says drugs can be eliminated from our city, with a “war on drugs” that is somehow winnable through attrition, has been proved unrealistic. This service, alongside the proposed one-on-one trained healthcare consultations, will empower people to make safer, informed decisions which will reduce harm to users and save lives.

Drug checking services have operated successfully across Europe for four decades, and we have already piloted this work at events and know that they protect people. Meanwhile, we continue to lobby national Government to enable us to pilot safe drug consumption rooms in our city.

Bristol is leading the way in this public health approach to keeping people safe around drugs and shows that, as a city administration, we put our people’s wellbeing at the forefront of pragmatic decision making.

Foster Care Fortnight

Today’s guest blog comes from Sarah Parker, Director of Children’s Services at Bristol City Council.

Fostering makes a tremendous difference to a child’s life. In Bristol we have 335 children who are in the care of our city’s foster carers. There are a myriad of reasons why children cannot live with their birth families, but when that does occur, we have the most wonderful people who are willing to step in and help.

For the next two weeks (9-22 May), we are shining a light and celebrating the amazing people across our city, and across the UK, who open their hearts and their homes to children who need a nurturing and loving home. Every year, we pause to recognise and thank our foster carers for the opportunity, support, and happiness they create for our children in care.

This year’s theme is #FosteringCommunities to celebrate the strength and resilience of fostering communities and all they do to ensure children are cared for and supported to thrive. Our Bristol fostering community is a big supportive family in itself. Our city carers – also referred to as our city ‘VIP’s’ not only care for our children, but also support each other and share skills and expertise across the network, like an extended family would. Our city carers also know how to have fun! Only last month our carers arranged a big city wide foster carers afternoon tea, and earlier this month was the annual foster carers dinner.

Our carers are a very diverse group – single men, same sex couples, retired people, black carers, they all represent the diversity of our city – and we are tremendously proud of each and every one of them, not only in how they support our children but also how they support each other as a community

Foster care is at the heart of our communities, enabling our city children to stay with foster families, local to everything they are familiar with already; their school, friends,  routine and their city.  

Whether you’re a foster carer, a social worker, young person or supporter of foster care you are part of a community making a real difference to the lives of young people, and we want to celebrate the impact you all have. 

So, thank you – to our foster carers, during this fortnight – in celebration of you all, in your care and love of our children and each other.

If you are considering fostering and would like to have an informal chat with our Fostering Team, please call 0117 3534200 or visit our website for more information.

Enough: Be Part of the Change

Today’s guest blog is from Chief Constable Sarah Crew reflecting on last Friday’s summit on Violence Against Women and Girls, which was attended by members of the Bristol Women’s Commission, Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig, Cllr Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities and Cllr Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Integrated Care System.

On Friday 6 May we were joined by organisations and individuals united in one aim – to eliminate violence against women and girls in Avon and Somerset.

The one day Summit, Enough: Be part of the Change, marked an historic milestone for our region, bringing together partners to agree an action plan to make the vision that women and girls living in our communities can go about their lives free from crime, abuse, harassment, intimidation and fear into a reality.

It is an ambitious vision, but it’s clear we cannot delay action any longer. 

Cllr Asher Craig signs the #ForHerFuture pledge at Avon and Somerset Police's "Enough: Be Part of the Change" summit

It’s estimated that one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime. Crimes such as rape, female genital mutilation, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyber-flashing, ‘revenge porn’ and ‘up-skirting’ are taking place every day.

Of course we recognise policing has a significant role to play in any change that needs to be made. Recent events have severely dented the trust and confidence of those we most need to protect, and we must address this as a matter of urgency.  We are already committed to tightening our grip on offenders, but we understand this must also be a time for both reflection and action within our own organisation to ensure we are upholding the standards vital to providing the service our communities, and our own people, deserve.

However the impact of this goes beyond just victims of crime; it seeps into every area of women’s lives, at home, in our communities, at school and in the workplace. Women and girls are living with the fear of, as well as the reality of abuse, intimidation and violence. And that has to change. 

Which is why, in October 2021, we wrote to a number stakeholders in Avon and Somerset to propose a strategic summit to not only ask people to share their own actions and progress but to also establish joint commitments through a series of agreements, covering areas including Criminal Justice, media, culture and sport, places, transport, children and young people and the workplace.

At the Summit we came together to discuss these agreements and to set out the next steps on our journey to delivering the change we need to see.  

There is no doubt that this is a complex problem with no quick fix but we firmly believe, as we have shown through our work over the years with Bristol Women’s Commission and many other stakeholders, that coming together to work in partnership is the only way we are going to achieve real and sustainable change.         

We now, more than ever, need to demonstrate our collective commitment to creating the conditions where women and girls can go about their lives free from crime, abuse, harassment, intimidation and fear.

Changes Bristol – Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Today’s guest blog comes from Alexandra Henden from Changes Bristol

This week (9–15 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is Loneliness. Loneliness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or social-economic group. You can feel lonely when in a relationship or with a social circle around you.

Loneliness can be linked to low mental wellbeing and finding a service that can help ahead of time can give you the support you might need and help prevent mental health problems in the future.

Mental Health services in your city

A group of people sitting on a sofa talking.

Changes Bristol has been running for almost 20 years, supporting over 1,000 people a year in and around Bristol who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Over the last two years, we have seen twice as many people get in touch asking for support with loneliness and isolation being a symptom of feelings such as anxiety, depression and stress. Many of our members have reported indicators in their lives being disrupted, such as working from home, not having face-to-face interaction with others and the loss of social environments like community groups, social clubs and religious centres.

Although many of these spaces have now reopened, we continue to grow our services to offer our community different ways to meet others and speak about anything they may be going through. These range from online and in-person peer support groups to weekly walk and talk sessions in Bristol and telephone befriending for one-to-one support.

Access for specific groups of people

A group of people sitting in a circle listening to somebody speak.

Due to member demand, just over a year ago, we opened weekly peer support meetings for specific groups of people; these four meetings are open exclusively for women only, men only, women of colour and anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+.

Safe spaces are vital as they provide a secure, non-judgemental and confidential space for our members with similar life experiences. These meetings for specific groups of people mean members don’t feel the need to explain their life experiences because these will be shared by the whole group, something that is important in not feeling alone.

Hannah, one of our volunteers who attends the Women of Colour group explains: “I think it’s important to have this group because it is a space where there already is some level of understanding between each other, and you don’t need to explain yourself as much”.

The stats speak for themselves in terms of the need for men to talk about their mental health. Men are three times more likely to take their lives and men aged 40–49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK. Loneliness is a key factor in this with many of our male members feeling that they can’t speak to anyone around them.

Let’s talk about Mental Health 

Being a stigmatised illness mental health can be a difficult subject to broach with loved ones and having access to support services is crucial in making positive changes to wellbeing.

Peer support services that we offer at Changes Bristol are vital right now because they give people an opportunity to meet others who have similar lived experiences of mental health difficulties. This allows for spaces for people to speak about their lives, feelings and emotions in an environment that is safe, inclusive and non-judgemental. This creates a community or network of people who they can turn to for support, creating resilience, confidence and higher self-esteem in day-to-day life.

Anyone 18 or over is welcome to join any of the free services that Changes Bristol has to offer which are run by a team of highly trained volunteers who all have lived experience of mental health difficulties. Services are online, over the phone and in-person, and it is self-referral, so you don’t need a diagnosis to come along.

Changes Bristol will be running a stall at the Mental Health and Wellbeing Fair at The Galleries from 11–13 May. Come along to say hello or find out more about our mental health services on our website.

Spreading light for International Day of the Midwife

'100' is superimposed onto a light blue background to celebrate that many 'years of progress' thanks to the 'International Confederation of Midwives'. The '1' includes an image of a pregant woman, the first '0' of midwifes, and the second '0' the world.
Today’s blog is by Naomi Havergal, Digital Content Editor at the Royal College of Midwives (@MidwivesRCM)

International Day of the Midwife (IDM) is celebrated every year on 5 May to recognise the dedication and commitment midwives have to their local communities, and Bristol midwives are no exception.

Over the last few years midwives have faced unprecedented challenges to deliver high quality and safe maternity care to women, babies, and families. This year’s IDM will be the first time since 2019 that our midwives can come together and celebrate and receive the recognition they deserve.

IDM was created by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) to bring together midwives’ associations from around the world. This year we celebrate ‘100 Years of Progress’ to coincide with centenary of the ICM. What a long way we have come since midwifery became a recognised profession in Britain under the Midwives Act in 1902.

IDM provides an opportunity for midwives to be in their own spotlight. That is when the idea came to the Royal College of Midwives to light up Bristol City Hall in the colours of the only trade union dedicated to supporting midwives. We are here for you.

Many midwives in Bristol will be on shift during IDM, which is why we contacted the Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees to see if he could help us celebrate. We were absolutely delighted by his enthusiasm to ensure this happened. When midwives are walking home after their shift, or student midwives walking home from their placements, City Hall will be illuminated in honour of them.

Midwives aren’t just simply there for the birth. They are present throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. Across Bristol we have specialist midwives and research midwives, and even midwives who have become lecturers to teach the next generation. All of these people provide some of the best maternity care in the world.

On Thursday 5 May 2022, Bristol City Hall will be lit up at sunset in support of IDM. If you’re in the area, please share your pictures using the hashtag #IDM2022. We would love to see them!

Thank you to our midwives at Bristol Royal Infirmary, Southmead Hospital, and our student midwives at the University of West of England for their dedication to midwifery.

Firefighters’ Memorial Day 2022

Today’s blog is by Tam McFarlane, National Officer at the Fire Brigades Union (FBU)

The people of Bristol can be rightly proud of their firefighters, who, for generations, have been willing to risk their lives on a daily basis to serve the city and protect its citizens from the devastation that fire can bring. From high profile incidents like the recent fire at We The Curious, through to the everyday jobs of dealing with house fires, road traffic collisions and a plethora of other incidents, our firefighters can be relied upon to protect us in times of need.

The service that they bring should never be taken for granted, and neither should their sacrifice. While others are running away from danger, firefighters are running towards it and tragically, the nature of our job has meant that over 2,300 UK firefighters have lost their lives whilst serving their communities. The names on this role of honour include many from Bristol and the surrounding area, from the heroes who fought the infernos of the Bristol Blitz, through to Fleur Lombard, the young firefighter who lost her life fighting a supermarket blaze in 1996.

The Fire Brigades Union is committed to ensuring that no matter how much time has passed, firefighters who died protecting their communities are remembered and honoured. That’s why, working with the Firefighters’ Memorial Trust, we helped instigate Firefighters’ Memorial Day.

Firefighters’ Memorial Day falls on 4 May every year and is an important day for all serving and retired firefighters. The day honours the sacrifice of firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty, acknowledging the courage and dedication of generations of firefighters, including those who serve our communities today.

On Firefighters’ Memorial Day, firefighters stand outside of their stations at midday and hold a minute’s silence. A wreath-laying also takes place at the National Firefighters’ Memorial by St Paul’s Cathedral with representatives from the FBU and the Firefighters’ Memorial Trust.

In previous years, Firefighters’ Memorial Day has been a public event and we encouraged members of the community, local politicians, and families of fallen firefighters to attend local fire stations and participate in the minutes silence. Obviously, the pandemic stopped this participation, but, now that restrictions are lifted, we hope that people can once again consider showing their solidarity, even if from a distance. Contact your local fire station if you want to know more.

You can also help us honour fallen firefighters by supporting our Red Plaque Scheme, which aims to recognise the sacrifice of firefighters by mounting a special plaque near the scene of the incident where a firefighter lost their life.

The Red Plaques take inspiration from English Heritage’s Blue Plaque Scheme, which marks the homes of influential historic and cultural figures, and our aim for the Red Plaque scheme is to recognise and honour as many fallen firefighters as possible for their selfless commitment to protecting others. You can explore and view Red Plaque sites across the UK honouring fallen firefighters and nominate a fallen hero for a Red Plaque on their website.

The scheme is funded entirely by the Firefighters 100 Lottery and, by joining up to the lottery, you’ll also be helping support the families of firefighters who have been lost in the line of duty.

Firefighters’ Memorial Day is a hugely important day for all of us in, and associated with, the UK Fire & Rescue Service. I know from experience the powerful impact that Firefighters’ Memorial Day has on the public and all those who witness it. I hope that all of you reading this feature will be able to participate and to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of all firefighters who have been lost in the line of duty.

International Workers’ Day

Today’s blog is by Sadie Fulton, Policy and
Campaigns Support Officer, Trades Union
Congress, South West Region

May Day is unique among the holidays as it commemorates the actions and legacies of ordinary people as a collective. Indeed, much of history’s progress was fought for and won by ordinary people rather than the elite. For those who aspire to change the course of the future, May Day is your day.

Our voices are needed now more than ever; and today invites us to take a moment to reflect on the past, present, and future of our movement. It is great to see Bristol’s History Commission leading work to understand the fullness of the city’s history, including the contribution of the working classes, trade unions, workers, and strikes.

The Haymarket Affair

Earlier this year I had the privilege of visiting the Haymarket memorial in Chicago, the site of a barricade in 1886, where trade union activists stood to demand the 8-hour workday. During the Haymarket Affair, a grenade was thrown into the police line opposite, which detonated, killing several police officers. The leaders of the protest were arrested, tried, and sentenced to death despite lack of evidence connecting them to the grenade. They were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, but most had already been executed.

In 1890, in honour of these martyrs and their cause, a committee in Paris declared 1 May to be International Workers’ Day. The site is still commemorated by many plaques sent by trade unions from as far afield as the Philippines, Turkey, Sweden, and even Colombia (the most dangerous country on Earth to be a trade union activist). Indeed, International Workers’ Day is celebrated in the UK and across the world, with over 150 countries declaring the day a public holiday.

It is a day to honour the struggle for workers’ rights to date, the victories and sacrifices of workers who secured such victories as the weekend, minimum wage regulations, parental leave, an end to child labour, and more. Such victories are often repackaged as a benevolent gift from leadership, but as every historian knows, ‘power concedes nothing without a demand’ (Frederick Douglass).

Workers’ struggles in 2022

We are now living through a time where many of our victories need to be revisited – the minimum wage was intended to be a living wage, and the cost-of-living crisis is tearing through our communities with countless families left wondering how they can hope to heat their homes when the winter comes back around. Yet with it comes an upturn in struggle, as with the Clarks workers victory late last year.

Indeed, many industries and employers once seen as impenetrable or untouchable have recently been successfully targeted for union organising, with the objective of securing better working conditions and the right to collectively bargain.

From Impossible to Inevitable

In her book Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit commented that social and economic advances are described as ‘impossible’ until the moment they are won, and henceforth called ‘inevitable.’ In one fell swoop this phenomenon erases the blood, sweat and tears of countless thousands of ordinary working people who dared to dream that they could join arms to secure a brighter world for themselves and the generations to come. It ridicules unsuccessful movements and dismisses successful ones.

It is critical to remember that the victories that have been won for economic and social justice were neither impossible nor inevitable. They were the culmination of the hopes and demands of those who came before us. To win a change, we need strategy, and we need hope to back up our anger. Researcher Brene Brown describes hope as “not a warm fuzzy emotion that fills us with a sense of possibility. Hope is a way of thinking – a cognitive process.” She argues that hope can consciously be cultivated through the trio of realistic goals, pathways to reach them, and the agency or capacity to take meaningful action.

In 1886, the 8-hour workday seemed out of reach to most, and Chicago activists lost their lives for it. Nowadays it is standard in many industries,  alongside a climate of precarious contracts and bogus self-employment; best practice continues to advance, while loopholes are further exploited to circumvent it. We have our work cut out for us.

Many people working together can accomplish what one alone can only dream of. This is how, working together, we can recultivate that hope that we need to overcome the unique challenges of today, including the ones that currently feel impossible. We need each other more than ever; only people power will turn the tide. The brighter future we need and deserve is neither impossible nor inevitable; it is in our hands, collectively.

Happy International Workers’ Day.

Easter: hope in a broken world

Today’s blog is from Paul Langham,
Vicar of Christ Church Clifton,
and South West Regional Director for New Wine

In 1989, Bob Dylan wrote a song called Everything is broken.

33 years on, those words still resonate. From Afghanistan to Ukraine, Syria to Yemen, cities and people lie broken. In the West, the contract of trust between people and leaders is at breaking point. Fake news threatens the power of truth. The gap between rich and poor is growing, not shrinking. Women continue to live in fear of violence. Black & Minority Ethnic people still face discrimination. Too many children’s mental resilience is buckling. While these realities prevail, can we deny that our society is broken? And if we fail to avert climate catastrophe, we will leave future generations a broken planet…

Of course, Dylan was exaggerating for effect. Not everything is broken. Across the world, individuals and communities (of faith and none) are doing what they can to mend what is broken. You can read – and contribute – local inspirational stories at https://bristolthreads.co.uk/

Churches too are playing their part: running foodbanks; supporting children struggling for wellbeing and resilience; seeking creative solutions to our housing crisis; encouraging fostering… to name just a few among hundreds of initiatives.

Christ Church has recently brought the SPEAR Programme to Bristol – mentoring disadvantaged 16-24 year-olds into work or further education. We’re also preparing to become one of ten Welcome Hubs across Bristol to support Ukrainian refugees and the families who will be hosting them.

Christians find our inspiration for all we do in Easter. God’s extraordinary answer to a broken world was to enter it, and allow himself to be broken. Easter keeps me going through my struggles and my doubts. I see my God, hanging nailed and broken on the Cross, his death paying the price of my – our – brokenness.

And there’s the rub – are we willing to accept the reality of our own brokenness? To acknowledge that it’s not only tyrants and tanks that cause destruction? That our thoughtless words, our selfish actions, our hateful thoughts, all contribute to this world’s brokenness?

Many people know that Christians believe that Jesus breaks the power of sin. But few know that the word most commonly translated ‘sin’ in the bible is taken from archery. It means to ‘miss the mark,’ and I find that helpful. I can acknowledge that I miss the mark, even the mark I set myself. And being willing to acknowledge that is the first step in a journey of faith.

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Day. His resurrection is our proof that he has the power to lead us safely through death into new life. As Jesus hung on the cross, one of those crucified alongside him said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:42-43). Putting faith in Jesus can be that simple.

But finding faith is only the start of the Christian journey – Jesus calls us to work with him to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, set captives free, and to comfort those who mourn. All this points to the day when Jesus will return and restore the whole of creation, mending what is broken, and wiping the tears from every eye.

Everything may seem broken now. But Easter speaks a message of hope – not just for this world, but for a new world to come. In that new world, the only thing broken will be the power of sin and death.

Vaisakhi: celebrating the birth of Sikhism

Today’s blog is from Nirmal Bal, Secretary
of Bristol’s Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara

Vaisakhi is a significant event in Sikh history, where Sikh identity and practices were forged. On April 13, 1699, the last living Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, called for Sikhs across India to gather at the city of Sri Anandpur Sahib, in Punjab, North-West India.

Sikhs believe that God is the self-existing light within all, and the ten living Gurus guided us to realise this light within. In 1699, faiths in India were being persecuted. Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked the congregation of Sikhs for a volunteer who was prepared to sacrifice their life for their Guru and faith. All were silent until a man raised his hand to volunteer, a shopkeeper. He was led to a tent. Guru Gobind Singh Ji returned to the congregation with his sword dripping in blood. He then called for another volunteer. The next volunteer was a farmer. He disappeared into the tent and the Guru returned with a bloody sword. He called for three more volunteers, and three men answered from different castes. The congregation was further stunned as the five men came out of the tent dressed in white robes and holding swords.

The Guru and Mata Sahib Kaur conducted the first Amrit Sanchar (Sikh initiation ceremony) where the five men – the Panj Pyare (five beloved ones) – took their vows to practice the central tenets of Sikhism. This is summarised by the term Sant-Sipahi, saint-soldier, where one aims to remember God and act according to spiritual values of humility and compassion for all.

The Panj Pyare were inducted into the order of the Khalsa, the pure ones. The Guru was then initiated by the Panj Pyare himself. He proclaimed the Panj Pyare to be the embodiment of the Guru and that wherever five initiated Sikhs meet the Guru is met as well. This underpins Sikh leadership. Then the caste system was prevalent in India, causing inequality. To establish equality, Guru Gobind Singh Ji conferred the same surname to Sikh women and men that identified them as Sikh and transcended caste and the circumstances of one’s birth. Sikh women are given the name Kaur (princess and female lion) and Men are given the surname Singh (male lion and a popular name amongst royals), denoting grace and courage. The Guru bestowed the five K’s , five sacred symbols worn at all times by initiated Sikhs, that represent core Sikh values. Sikh practices do not discriminate according to gender and Amrit Sanchar is the same for women and men, as are the responsibilities of organising worship. 

Today Sikhs in Bristol all over the world, those initiated and those heading towards it, celebrate Vaisakhi with love and devotion. Sikhs will conduct a procession, carrying the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, through the streets, singing prayers and taking Langar (kitchen open to all) on the road. Vaisakhi is a time to connect with our faith and communities, remember the Guru’s commands and be inspired by the Panj Pyare to practice Sikh values of love and justice. Amrit Sanchars will be conducted all over the world. Many Sikhs will choose to be initiated into the Khalsa, dedicating their lives fully to God and following the Khalsa code of conduct.

In Bristol the four Gurdwaras, Sikh temples, will be celebrating Vaisakhi throughout the week. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji will be recited from beginning to end, continuously throughout the day and night, beginning this Friday morning. This will be followed by a congregational prayer thanking the Gurus and God and for the goodwill of mankind. The congregation will then sing shabads, Sikh holy prayers. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji is written in 42 different Raags, melodic scales, and music is at the heart of Sikh worship. The Nishaan Sahib, the saffron flag pole that stands outside every Gurudwara will be cleaned and a new flag will be erected. Gurdwaras will continue to serve langar, their kitchens are open to all regardless of faith, caste or creed. Sikhs will practice Gatka, martial arts, with competitions held for children. We will remember and discuss important lessons of Vaisakhi and how we can act according to Sikh values. 

For more information please check out these links: https://www.sikhpa.com/campaigns/sikhvaisakhi/; https://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Vaisakhi