Birmingham is somewhere I’ve visited several times, and I don’t mean HMP Birmingham. The city of Birmingham is such an interesting place with so much history packed into what is relatively a small area. From the early 1900s with Peaky Blinders and Major Chester Campbell of Small Heath, sir! to the more modern HS2 complex currently under construction and everything in between, and what went before.
I’m jumping slightly ahead here in the story, whilst also going back in time, because talking of the early 1900s, I had returned home by train from one of my favourite buildings in Birmingham, the Edwardian Moor Street train station which opened in 1909 and if you haven’t been to Moor Street, or to Birmingham, then I’d visit just to see the station I find it that fascinating. You can almost picture the young men boarding trains to the front line of the first world war.
However, I wasn’t in Birmingham yesterday (25/10/22) as a tourist, there were important matters at hand, which also comes with even more history attached. Okay, maybe I did double up as a tourist as well as one of four lived experience team members along with our involvement manager, Emma, from who else but Revolving Doors, presenting at a network event in one of the conference rooms in The Priory Rooms.
There have been Quakers in Birmingham since the beginning of the Society in the first half of the 17th century. As seen from the time line below, the first meeting house and burial ground were where The Great Western Arcade is now. The remains from this burial ground were later interred in the Bull Street burial ground. Quakers acquired the Bull Street site in 1702 and the current meeting house is the third meeting house to be built. There has been much building and rebuilding including the acquisition of land and exchange of land over the years with the final result being the buildings that are there today. This now includes the Peace Hub which is situated at the entrance to the carpark. Our philosophy remains to provide accommodation for a wide range of Quaker and other groups while offering a high standard of conference facilities to the professional and business communities and continuing to serve as a base for Quaker witnesshttps://www.theprioryrooms.co.uk/who-we-are/
At The Priory Rooms, we were in the George Fox room. Mr Fox is none other than the founder of the Quaker Society and the room next door was the Elizabeth Fry room, I’d like to think Elizabeth needs no explanation but it’s all worth further research. Getting back to the here and now, yesterday’s Revolving Doors network event co-presented by Emma and the lived experience team. The event, one of three planned for the remainder of this year, is to promote the work we do at Revolving Doors, our influence and impact on the projects we are involved in with NHS England, the Ministry of Justice, The Probation Service and so on as we want to grow the membership of our lived experience team, aka the LET.
By joining the LET people can use their experience and influence local and national policy to drive system change. Change that is very much needed as are the voices of people with lived experience. Revolving Doors provides free training and workshops to our members and the LET is also an excellent place to develop your skills and experience whilst having a say, and a positive impact, on the policies and procedures of the criminal justice system. Our forums speak to MPs, to civil servants, Police and Crime Commissioners, Select Committees – those who need to hear the impact their choices and decisions have on people currently, and in the future, experiencing, and those with lived experience of, the criminal justice system.
If you or anyone you know have experienced recent repeated criminal justice contact, from police and courts to prison and probation, been arrested and/or have convictions for low-level offences, such as petty theft and/or minor drug offences, a combination of mental ill-health, problematic substance use, domestic violence and abuse and/or experienced homelessness; and you/they want to use the experience(s) to help us change the system then please get in contact with either Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mustafa at email@example.com.
I cannot recommend being a member of the LET highly enough.
Ooh! One last bit of history before I go. On the way up to Birmingham a train decided to take the day off work somewhere outside Solihull, so our train stopped at Leamngton Spa where we had to wait 45 minutes for the next train to Birmingham. The facade at Leamington Spa train station built in 1852 is also a fascinating building and worth the stop off.
Next stop in November, the 22nd, will be Manchester followed by our third and final network event of the year on December 6 in London.
Busy, busy, busy.