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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 30 October 2006

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HOMOTOPIA BEGINS

FROM Bare Bones to Beefcakes and Parties to Premieres, Liverpool will illuminate with the best in Queer arts, film and performance in November.  With the new 3-year funding deal from the festival's key supporter, The Liverpool Culture Company, Homotopia is set to reach new heights and this year has been extended to run for over 3 weeks. From a tiny pilot festival in 2003, Homotopia has grown in reputation and size at an extraordinary pace. The audiences for Homotopia 2005 were breathtaking and this year all the indications show that there will be another box office breaking run. The festival has been expanded with the launch of Queercore, which is giving companies and artists, especially from Liverpool, the opportunity to create and platform new work throughout the festival and beyond.

Festival director Gary Everett said:- "In future years it is our hope that Queercore will become the lifeblood and creative artery of Homotopia. The scope, wealth and sheer depth of artistic talent in Liverpool is a jewel in the city's crown and something that Homotopia is proud to be associated with."

This year Homotopia is presenting over 70 events, from theatre, film, workshops, art, heritage, live music, club nights, dance and cabaret. Also Queer superclub, Federation, are in town to present their inimitable party as part of the festival. Liverpool women's music festival, Wimfest makes a special appearance this year alongside several music nights led by local artists and musicians.

Liverpool City Council leader, Warren Bradley, said:- "We are proud to be supporting Homotopia again this year and wish the festival every success for their many and varied events."

Homotopia is partnering once again with Unity Theatre, Outsiders Film Festival and the newly formed Our Story Liverpool. Our Story Liverpool is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund and the project is researching, archiving and documenting the hidden histories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liverpool.

Also the festival is welcoming back Outsiders - The 3rd Liverpool Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, who are presenting what is set to be Liverpool's best ever film festival. Welcome to the festival's new media sponsors at Gay Times, Q-Soft and Gaydar, Out North West and Real Liverpool.

Southport sees Pink

Wearing it Pink for a good cause: Damart’s retail team bring a touch of colour to Southport.

SHOPPERS at leading fashion brand Damart’s Southport store were seeing pink this Friday 27 October 2006. Dressed head to toe in pink garments, Damart’s retail team have been raising awareness and money for Breast Cancer Campaign’s national Wear it Pink day.

Damart’s Southport store manager Tracey Dacre said:- “Many of Damart’s customers are women who are at risk from the disease, and we are only too happy to help raise awareness for the charity and maybe a few smiles on wear it pink day.

We have been collecting donations from customers all week and hope that our contribution will help fund research to find a cure. The team have all been joining in, wearing everything from pink wigs to tights, t-shirts and trousers.”


Damart designed a limited edition pink vest this year, worn by actress Gaynor Faye and her screenwriting mum Kay Mellor, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign.

Tracey added:- “Our limited edition pink vests have been really popular with our customers because not only do they look great and keep you warm, but all profits from sales of the vest will be going direct to the charity to raise even more money.”

The Southport outlet, which opened at the end of September 2006, is Damart’s flagship store.

It is the first of a new kind of shopping experience, selling a range of women’s ready to wear fashion and footwear and provide personal shopping advice for purchases.

There will also be the opportunity for customers to pick any items from the extensive Damart catalogue that may not be in store and have them delivered either to the store or to their home.

50 PEOPLE A DAY CONDEMNED TO BLINDNESS

16,000 people a year in England are being condemned to blindness because health bodies are refusing to fund a treatment that could save their sight, a report published by AMD Alliance UK shows.  Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are responsible for funding anti-VEGF drugs. These are the only treatments that treat all types of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - the leading cause of sight loss in the UK. Currently, only 1 anti-VEGF drug is licensed in the UK - Macugen, which became available in May 2006.

However, the report, called Left to pay their own way, suggests that 90% of PCTs have so far failed to fund the treatment. Even when a PCT has funded Macugen, the number of patients involved has been minuscule. In a region covering 8 PCTs, for example, out of 450 potential patients, only 36 received the drug.

Steve Winyard, Head of Campaigns at the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and co-author of the report, said:- "This report confirms what we have long suspected and what wet AMD patients have been telling us: that PCTs are refusing to fund a licensed treatment, even though it could save patients' sight. 50 people a day are being condemned to blindness - the actions of the PCTs are simply unacceptable."

Shockingly, the report reveals that most PCTs are waiting until a patient has lost their sight in 1 eye before considering treatment. Others are waiting for guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), due in August 2007, before they fund the treatment - yet the Department of Health advised that patients should not be refused treatment on this basis. 

The situation is leaving patients with the bleak prospect of either paying for private treatment (at costs ranging from 10,700 to 25,000 for a year's treatment6) or going blind.  And the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future, because most PCTs have not made plans to fund anti-VEGF treatments. This is despite the fact that treatment options are expected to grow: Lucentis, another anti-VEGF drug, is due to be licensed in early 2007.

The report from AMD Alliance UK also shows that leaving people to go blind impacts upon more than their physical health - sight loss has a devastating impact on mental and emotional wellbeing too. In some cases, the effect on quality of life is comparable to having cancer or HIV, the report shows. The sight loss associated with wet AMD and the threat of blindness also increases depression and the risk of suicide.

Betty Burgess, 78, from North Devon, a retired paediatrician, was diagnosed with wet AMD in her left eye in February 2006. Her sight deteriorated rapidly and her consultant recommended that she have Macugen.  Betty's PCT and her private health plan refused to fund her treatment.  She currently faces a bill of more than 600 every 6 weeks.

Betty said:- "It's shocking that I have to pay for this treatment. Where am I supposed to find that kind of money? We're always being asked to fund medical research. But what's the use if, at the end of the day, we can't access the treatments? It's most cruel.  I try to be philosophical about the situation but I do have days where I feel very down. If I lose my sight, I'll become dependent on an 85-year-old husband and a son - and I don't like that. I'll have to cope with my loss of freedom and independence. I try not to dwell on the prospect."

AMD Alliance UK is calling on PCTs to expand their services and provide speedy access to anti-VEGF treatments now.

Steve Winyard continued:- "Health officials are only fooling themselves if they think they can save money by refusing to fund anti-VEGF treatments. The cost to the state of supporting someone with sight loss far outweighs the cost of treatment.  We have a real chance now to turn wet AMD, which devastates so many lives, into a largely treatable condition. But only if it is detected and treated promptly."

St Helens lads win cash award to help keep youngsters off the streets

ADAM Duckworth (14), Ricky Murray (15) and Chris O’Neil (17) from St Helens in Merseyside have won the opportunity to turn their dreams into reality and help change lives. Music FP Sound have won a £3,000 4Front Award funded by the Camelot Foundation, which are awarded to young people aged 11 to 25.

The group intend to buy equipment and run a weekly music workshop in an area of high deprivation as an alternative to hanging around the streets and to help the community have a more positive image of young people. At present they only have access to youth facilities once every six weeks.

Chris said:- “At the moment there’s not that much for teenagers to do where we live – this money will help us get more space for our music workshops and mean we can help keep young people off the streets.”

The 4front Awards 2006 are designed and judged by young people and awarded to individuals or small groups who can show that their idea will make a real difference to both themselves and their community.

Martin Brooks, Director of the Camelot Foundation said:- “This year the standard of entries was amazing. We saw an incredible range of diverse projects from around the UK. The judges, who are all young people, were really impressed with the motivation and sheer determination of Music FP Sound. Their belief that they could really make a difference for themselves and other young people, through their own efforts, was an overwhelming factor in our decision.”

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