Away Day

Well, that was a busy few weeks culminating in the SAND Away Day for the Action Group.

Once again, we went to Westhope College for our Away Day – this has become something of a tradition in a bit of a haphazard way – we never think about it until Spring and then one way or another we have a whole load of things to discuss at a more qualitative level than we can manage at our monthly meetings and so a full day in the glorious surrounds at Westhope recharges our batteries and gets the brain cells fully functioning!

This year saw a 100% turnout (pictured). the day started with our AGM and a big thank you to Les Woods, one of our Directors who stood down. Les was offered a new role as an honorary member of SAND, which he has happily accepted!

We all took part in a Dementia Friends Information session delivered by our own Dementia Champion, Heather. This is really important for us – and timely – as we are having an increasing  number of conversations about dementia – and indeed will be hosting an acclaimed play: The Purple List in September, which was supported last year by Skills for Care. Do click on the link and book your ticket here – we are delighted to accept support from FBC Manby Bowdler Solicitors and Coverage Care to help this event to happen, and welcome further support if you are interested.

More to follow ……


Can’t shut us up!

Typed in ‘tired bunny’ and got this!

Tonight’s meeting just showed how many different people and agencies we are suddenly talking to! This includes those we are plotting with for future engagement – research and discussion: University Centre Shrewsbury; some who are asking us for information: Alzheimer’s Society and those we are chasing: Centre for Ageing Better – all for starters on our list of Matters Arising.

Continue reading “Can’t shut us up!”

Tardy festive wishes

2015-11-06 16.25.13We are distracted – not only by this amazing rainbow spotted from Shrewsbury Station, but by many things – which is a good thing and which means this post is a little late – apologies for that.

Many of the SAND Action Group members work full time in the paid work environment, others pack their time full of voluntary activity, others pack their time full of other joy. Basically – we are a busy busy bunch and recognise that we are not the only ones. This time of year offers some of us a bit of a break to catch up – for others it is still full on and we are particularly mindful, and appreciative of, all of those people who work in care services. We also want to ensure that those same care providers are equipped to respond to older and old LGBT people in the most appropriate way possible – that is part of what we are about.

We are very excited about our upcoming work with service providers specifically focussed on their practice when working with older and old trans people in the County. We have started meeting to develop our own work plan and will be contacting service providers in  the new year to start the first round of interviews. This is a ground-breaking piece of work in Shropshire and we are chuffed to bits to get a Healthwatch Shropshire research grant to undertake it and look forward to getting started ‘proper’.

Shrewsbury_logo_hires_no_borderWe are also a little occupied by our involvement in the National Festival of LGBT History, due to take place in February 2016. Shrewsbury is the Hub for the whole of the Midlands region and some of the SAND Members are heavily involved in its development. The Festival offers a full weekend of presentations, films, entertainment and more, as well as an exhibition at the new Museum & Art Gallery in Shrewsbury. Much of the weekend is free to enter (tickets may be required) – check it all out here: History Festival. There will be contributions Allthenicegirlsfrom International Human Rights Campaigners Stuart Milk and Peter Tatchell; entertainment from All the Nice Girls; presentations from a whole host of academics, story-tellers, activists and authors. Also joining the festival is Stu Maddux – Stu is the Director of Gen Silent – the film that was the inspiration behind SAND’s development – it was screened by the Rainbow Film Festival in February 2012, followed by a panel discussion and questions from the floor. People in the audience then said they wanted to do something to find out about, and improve the situation for, older and old LGBT people in Shropshire. Come and meet Stu and ask him some questions – he is totally delighted about our SAND story and we are so looking forward to sharing it with him – you can book your seat to watch his new film ‘Reel in the Closet’ followed by a discussion on Sunday 14th Feb here: Reel in the Closet.

Onto other news and – one way or another (disco, auction and donations mainly), SAND now has a bit of money in the bank once more which makes it more possible to carry on with our work. We work to a modest budget and keep a (monetary equivalent) track of the volunteer hours contributed to SAND, which we started counting at the start of April 2014 – these volunteer hours now value in excess of £28,000!

Well 1In our last post we made a plea for people to contribute to SAND via our Well-Wishers scheme where individuals give a small amount each month. At our last meeting we had some lengthy discussion about this and would really like to encourage lots of people to contribute the price of a cup of coffee a month. Obviously this differs depending where you buy your coffee from but we thought between £2 and £3 per month. Imagine the difference that ten of these would make to the work that SAND can do! To join our existing valued Well-Wishers just click this link and complete the form: Well-Wishers (if that doesn’t work for you, please try this PDF version) and return it to us.

Linking all this together, we also talked about the presentations that SAND makes to organisations – somehow there can often be an assumption that we can/should do these for free. This is totally untenable for an unfunded group – especially one trying to operate more as a social enterprise! Hence, we have made the decision that we just cannot do ‘free’ – it would ultimately be the downfall of SAND to survive on nothing when offering a service to organisations which employ salaried staff. Of course, there will always be exceptions but as a general principle we do need service providers to value what we offer and contribute to our ability to provide to others in the future. SAND rates are very reasonable – between £75 and £250 for a 90 – 180 minute presentation and facilitated conversation. This feels like a very healthy and helpful discussion for us – and absolutely in line with our longer term planning.

Our annual stats for social media 

Mailchimp Newsletter 60 (Dec 2015 this was 57; Feb 2014 this was 34)

Twitter 182 (Dec 2015 – 126; Feb 2014 – 22)

Facebook 176 (Dec 2015 – 129; Feb 2014 – 76)

Here’s looking forward to 2016.

This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.

Doing and dancing

November is nearly over which means that the fabulous SAND fundraising disco and auction #sanddance15 is over and what a night! Once again the event raised over £2,000 which is just fabulous! Huge thanks go to Jeremy from Hall’s who once again did such a good – and hilarious – job with the auction and, of course to everyone who gave items – you are total stars and we are so appreciative.

As well as a fundraiser, the disco aims to raise awareness of SAND and, sure enough, we have a few more followers on facebook and twitter as a result, so keep sharing and spreading the word.

At the moment we are working on our membership – as more people express interest in getting involved with SAND, we need to work out how they can do that and not be left high and dry. We want people to be able to put their talents to good use and to find their work with SAND rewarding and a good use of time – hmmmm. So – we are looking at some form of volunteering scheme, we’ll be making notes on that as we go along.

We are also delighted to report that we have once again secured a small grant to take forward one ofHURRAH the recommendations from our last Healthwatch Shropshire funded research – namely to talk to health and social care providers about their responses to older and old Trans people in the County. We have drawn up our research plan and will start any day now.

This research, the planned care home visits and building connections with other groups is the mainstay of our activity at the moment and – bearing in mind that every member of the SAND Action Group is a volunteer, we are doing pretty well!

Oh, and we are planning an event for the Spring – this will be about bringing our own communities together to update on what we are doing and encourage more involvement.

Of course, SAND is operating in a given environment and we unclear about the implications of the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group going into special measures – we had hoped for their engagement too, in the issues we are raising, but it now looks like we may have to wait!

Saturday Disco and fundraising auction

Doors open at 7.15pm this Saturday at the Darwin Community Centre in Shrewsbury – just over the Welsh Bridge, turning left and next door to the chip shop! Tickets selling well and available on the door (£10 or £7 concessions). We’ll be starting with a fabulous line-dance lesson from Jane Hoy – imagine that later in the night when Saturday Night Fever comes on!! The auction starts at 8pm – items listed at – and you can place bids in advance – just contact us via our website ‘contact us’ page to pledge. Jeremy from Hall’s will be with us once more – and there will be another chance to get that bargain champagne!

DJ Mike is back spinning the vinyl with Hattie – we just cannot wait!Publicity

SKA Night cancelled

Hi folks, just a quick post following on from today’s SAND Action Group Away Day which we will be reporting on later, but it feels important to let you know this bit:

Sorry for any disappointment but we are cancelling the SAND SKA Night gig with the BC All SKAs, scheduled for 25 July. We love the idea but realise that we are totally snowed under with grant applications and core work and just cannot give this the attention that it deserves. We are very grateful to the BC All SKAs for being willing and marvellous and are sad about the decision but sure it is the right one.

Next up – 21st November when we shall definitely be hosting the 70s Disco. Thanks for all your support and enthusiasm and more soon from our Away Day.

One giant step

Here we go – heading heartily for exciting times in 2015.

Our slow move to Company registration is now on a trajectory – we just need to nail the business plan and financial forecast and we’ll be away. I imagine this is quite hard to believe after all this time, but it really does feel like the final straight (no pun intended). We have written and agreed our Articles which ensure we can continue to operate pretty much as we have been, with ownership and decision-making by the whole Action Group.

We have identified a Sector-savvy accountant to help produce the approved accounts we will need in 12 months and are looking into insurance providers, calling on those in the know for suggestions – it would appear that Social Enterprises are that little bit different (of course!)

The bank balance is inevitably looking a little low these days so we are going to have to applyRainbow_cake ourselves to income generation, fundraising and grant applications – preferably all in line with our Action Plan! In terms of income generation we provided some training for Shropshire Fire & Rescue which went down so well they have asked us back for more. We are also in conversation with some local solicitors and all this will become much clearer when we dive into the business plan stuff (we’ll try to add some cheer to the process – perhaps cake will help!

We do plan to set up a regular donations-type scheme but we are waiting until we have our Company details all sorted because we will have to change our bank account at this stage. Thanks to everyone who has made enquiries about this.

Fundraising – we have a couple of benefit nights up our sleeves which we need to work on – the coming month will be crucial if we’re going to get those sorted. We would like a reputation for fun as well as gravity, so these are really important to all the SAND Action Group members – they are a great opportunity for raising awareness as well as generating a bit of dosh.

As for grant applications – they don’t seem to be our best source of income but we are rarely down about it. We spent a good few days this month working out a cunning plan – but we’re not telling in case it doesn’t come off. If it does we’ll be shouting from the rooftops.

Table1Diary date alert – We will be running an event on 21st May (afternoon) specifically for providers of health and social care. Here we will be presenting the findings from the research funded by Healthwatch Shropshire. We are also planning ‘a special turn’ – watch this space 🙂 We will be setting up an Eventbrite page for people to sign up and we’ll send details around as soon as they are ready.

We are also following up on plans to do something around housing options for older and old LGBT people. Severnside Housing is planning an LGBT Drop-in event on 6th June (details to follow) for all age groups and there is some research afoot which we will know more about shortly. This fits well with our own plans to hold some sort of event about Housing options – although we feel we should nudge this along a bit and wait to see what the research reveals before rushing into anything.

Our communications with local solicitors is moving along – we have visited one practice and had some really positive conversations. These look like developing and we are looking forward to seeing what happens next. We are due to meet with a second practice in April. We’re being a bit hedgy right now because we need to have the conversations with them first – before plonking it on a blog!

Diary date alert: coming up in May is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia) on 17th when the Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival will be hosting an afternoon book signing -2pm at the Two Fat Rascals in Shrewsbury’s Riverside Precinct with Peter Scott-Presland and his book Amiable Warriors tracking and celebrating the story of CHE – the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (apologies for the long sentence). Following this, at 8pm at The Hive will be a screening of the road movie: FagBug

This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.

You know when you press the gas pedal …?

Wow, it feels like we have lift off!

SAND is a perpetual growth machine at the moment with more excitement ahead so, whilst the last month saw our latest in a series of failed funding proposals we are not down – we eat too much cake to be down. We are buoyant!

We have completed our research for HealthWatch Shropshire and facilitated a very rewarding20150201_152218 dissemination event for everyone who took part – what a great afternoon we had down at the Two Fat Rascals Coffee House (if you haven’t tried it yet give it a whirl). Hot soup, scrummy chilli bread – and yes, cake kept us all going as we fed back the research findings to the participants who engaged in all the discussions and had a great time to boot – at least that’s what they said! The draft final report has now been written and will be sent off to HealthWatch Shropshire – once it comes back with a thumbs up then we’ll be able to share the key points and our plan for ‘what’s next’.

If that’s not exciting enough, we are in the final stages of becoming a Company-proper (having said that it probably won’t be until after next month’s blog so expect to read that again). This is a major move for us as it confirms us as a social enterprise (that’s a bit scary) on some sort of trajectory. Once that’s all done and dusted we’ll be scrutinising our Action Plan to identify all the income earning opportunities so don’t be shy if you think of anything – chuck it in the  pot.

Our failure to get through to the second round of our latest bid we are, as mentioned, undaunted and are forging ahead with ideas – it’s all a but hush hush at the moment because we are at such early stages but there are 2 things happening and we are ‘in talks’!

LOLSAND folk continue to be out and about, up and down the country doing stuff and talking to people – check that particular journey here – click. We are also supporting a new initiative to encourage old lesbians – over the age of 70 (or thereabouts) to grab a coffee and enjoy a good quality discussion. Click here to see the poster.

We have sniffs (i.e. small – perhaps increasing)  interest in helping out with the development of some sort of network of practitioners – that is people all over the place who are working on similar stuff to us. It feels really important to have this something like this – to avoid duplication, support and encourage each other, share exciting stories and all that jazz. As with everything these days it is the division of labour to make it happen which is the biggest question mark over its future.

Perhaps most exciting of all are the plans up our sleeves for an array of different events in 2015 – now, it feels a bit scary to mention them so early on and they all come with a caveat along the lines of ‘let’s wait a little while to see what happens’ but it was logged here first:

  • Some sort of event for LGBT people around housing options
  • Maybe something a bit digital (is that too cryptic?)
  • An event for service providers to talk about SAND’s work
  • Our second 1970’s fundraising disco in November – following last year’s rip-roaring success
  • A little idea to have another ‘social’ in July to keep people grooving until November

We are also currently doing a bit of research into LGBT aware solicitors practices in Shropshire – watch this space – it is already looking very interesting and prompted some great conversations at today’s meeting.

This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.