This time last year I was immensely proud to be part of a phenomenal summer project where over 100 local young people came together to honour Jo Cox.
The result of weeks of hard graft was a stunning and emotionally-tinged performance of Jo’s favourite musical, Les Miserables, which included a tribute to her More in Common ideals and left few dry eyes.
As part of the project, along with various stakeholders, we set up the Batley and Spen Youth Theatre Company charity to compliment the numerous amazing theatre groups that operate in the area.
And now I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s back for a second year, with another group of eager local young people learning the ropes from West End professionals.
A two-week Batley summer school led by industry experts is underway and will culminate in three performances where the young people will offer their creative take on the centenary of a unique generation – the heroic soldiers who fought in the First World War and the courageous women who battled for women’s suffrage.
It’s probably not escaped your attention that I’m a huge advocate of the arts and the opportunities culture can bring, the Les Miserables project providing a fine example.
Of last year’s cohort, a number have gone on to top drama schools, universities and into work experience and jobs helped by their unique experience volunteering and learning from top professionals.
But, of course, it’s about so much more than a career in the arts. So many parents and teachers have told me how much their children’s confidence and self-esteem has improved as a result of last year’s project.
Batley and Spen Youth Theatre is about helping our young people, who are too often neglected by this Tory Government in favour of their southern counterparts, gain the tools they need to build their own future.
For tickets for the shows at Jo Cox Theatre at Batley Grammar School on Friday 10th August at 2.30pm, and Saturday 11th at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, with all funds to the charity, visit www.eventbrite.
co.uk/e/deeds-not-words-tickets-48597081178. Tickets will also be available on the door.
Those of you who have had to call Dewsbury, Pinderfields or Wakefield Hospitals will no doubt have noticed the premium rate 0844 number listed on Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospital Trust’s website and correspondence ahead of the significantly cheaper local alternative.
This was brought to my attention by a constituent, Ray, who has been fighting to have the numbers removed for some time.
I have raised this unnecessary and unacceptable use of 0844 numbers with the Trust several times and I also wrote to former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (whose department dismissively bounced me right back to the Trust) earlier this year.
I’m delighted to tell you that the Trust have now swapped the numbers around on their website, listing the cheaper local number first, and have promised to “urgently review” their use altogether.
Considering many NHS Trusts scrapped the numbers almost a decade ago following a national directive, this is long overdue. People very rarely call hospitals out of choice, and they certainly should not be charged exorbitant rates for it.
That’s why I’m calling on Mid Yorks to scrap the use of 0844 numbers altogether before any more nasty surprises on people’s phone bill.