June 5, 2014 1 Comment
Long before I became a Labour activist I was an anti-racism campaigner. In my teens I joined the Anti-Nazi League, and since I have supported a number of groups, such as Unite Against Fascism and Hope Not Hate. I was therefore delighted to be invited to a Show Racism The Red Card event at St Mary’s Church of England Primary school yesterday afternoon. At some point in the past (probably nearly two decades ago) I owned a Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football tee-shirt, the predecessor project to SRTRC.
A DVD was shown, and then four of us responded to questions from the assembled year 4/5 pupils. Two of my fellow panellists were ex-professional footballers, the third had a community engagement role with Southend United FC. I have had thirty years involvement with local football – I cannot pretend to have got any higher than the semi-professional level, and my current level of engagement is minimal.
The fight against racism goes on. Over the many years of activism I have seen the intolerance and bigotry and it is still there, but the targets have changed. I recall the Ugandan Asians coming over in the early 1970s, and they struggled to be accepted at first. Nowadays it is East Europeans and Travellers than seem not to be accepted by all. However, I genuinely believe that things have got better – certainly the casual racism of the 1970s is a distant memory.
Incidentally, in more than a thousand games of football officiated as referee I can only recall sending one player off for racial abuse. I think most involved in football are tolerant, although I do confess that as a referee an element of deafness is an asset and maybe I did not hear everything that was said.
At the end of the event there were photographs of some of the Premier League teams (none of Aston Villa) given out and the pupils asked us to sign them. Now I can understand that they might want some footballers to sign, but a borough councillor?! I did point out to them that I was only a mere councillor – they still wanted my autograph. Doubtless there are some parents looking at the signatures across pictures of the Arsenal squad, or Manchester City or Chelsea, who must be wondering who this Julian Ware-Lane fellow is.
Later I paid a visit to the public exhibition on the proposed development at the former Prittlebrook industrial estate. This was hosted by Bellway Homes and Havens Hospices. I found it informative and it was good to see the plans. Naturally I had some questions too, and I reminded the Havens representative that I had suggested this site was a better prospect than the Belton Way when I paid a visit to their Chalkwell Avenue establishment a couple of years ago.