It is official. On September 22nd, I shall be retiring from Bede, where I have taught adults with learning disabilities for the past twenty-five years. Bede is a local community charity that believes that strong, confident communities enable people to flourish. The Learning Disabilities Services is just one branch of the various work we engage in. The photo to your right is a small part of a much bigger picture (quite literally; just click on it to see!). For a number of years now its creator, Kevin Ireland, has produced image after memorable image for us, but this one has to be my favourite. It was the cover of our 2014/15 annual report, and I think it sums up Bede in a nutshell. I can put a name to barely half these people—but that’s all right; we all have one thing in common. We are all part of this amazing community.
Bede was founded in 1938, in the London Borough of Southwark, roughly a mile or so to the east of Tower Bridge. It has historical links with Clare College, Cambridge, and we benefit not only from the occasional recital by their world-famous choir, there is a programme whereby each year a graduate will come to work for us, be it in our Learning Disabilities Services, our Domestic Violence and Hate Crime Project, or our Youth Adventure Project; it’s their choice.
When I first joined Bede I was warned that funding for the Voluntary Sector was notoriously hard to come by, and that I might expect the post to last maybe two or three years at most. Twenty-five years on, the prediction has finally come true. In the past two or three years the Voluntary Sector has faced swingeing cuts in funding whilst it is increasingly relied upon to deliver the statutory services that Councils can no longer provide. Employers are faced with impossible choices and one terrible certainty: they cannot run on a deficit forever.
Severing the “our” when I talk about Bede is going to be difficult for me. I was there when the Learning Disabilities Services was naught but a very modest Cafe Training Project working with a mere three people a day. I was there when the far-right National Front decided to target us on a regular basis. I was there when Bede was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for volunteer groups. When I leave, I intend to join as a Friend of Bede, so maybe the “our” can remain. How do I intend to fill my days? Well, the plan is to write full time, which shouldn’t prove too problematic. I already do.
In other news, this month I’m enormously pleased with myself because I’ve finally joined Twitter. I found the process frustrating, though, because time and again the photos for the page refused to load, I couldn’t have one of the @names I wanted (believe it or not, @seventhrainbow was already taken), and the site kept defaulting to its mobile state where it wouldn’t let me add or change a thing. But I persevered! Oh, yes! I persevered. So now I’m the proud owner of an author account, Michael Gallagher @seventh7rainbow. Gooseberry, you may be interested to know, has his own separate account, @sendforOctavius, which I love to bits. He hasn’t tweeted yet, and still he has more followers than I do! Hmmm. No, I jest. Hurrah!!!
Finally, as a small token of my thanks for taking the trouble to find this page, I’d like to offer you a 50% discount off the list price of The Bridge of Dead Things (The Involuntary Medium #1). Purchase it at Smashwords.com and, when it comes time to pay, use coupon code: CN88B. This offer is available until October 15th, 2016.