Saturday 29 June 2019

#FreeNazanin #Hungry4Justice #Kids4Nazanin New global Children's campaign launched to address the failure Boris Johnson & Jeremy Hunt to take on responsibility

As the Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt roadshow hits a town near you, it is crucial that the questions they face are not only about #Brexit, and, before they can secure the keys to Number 10, they should certainly have made  a stop at London’s latest tent city whose existence is a direct result of an international crisis that they have both failed to resolve. Outside the Iranian embassy in Knightsbridge, one of London’s finest neighbourhoods, a desperate father until today had been on hunger strike these past two weeks.

Wedged between the car of the Iranian ambassador, Hamid Baeidinejad, and the iron railings of the Kensington mansion block that houses the embassy, sits Richard Ratcliffe, who in the second week of his hunger strike in support of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is also on hunger strike in an isolated Iranian prison cell. He was  surrounded by small tents and a blanket of flowers, while behind him loomed  a giant metal screen which was erected in front of the railings by embassy staff and which has become a huge noticeboard bearing messages of solidarity, love and goodwill from the steady stream of visitors Richard constantly received , people from all walks of life, ages, faiths and nationalities, including many Iranians and MPs from across the political spectrum, all horrified that an ordinary family on holiday could find themselves ripped apart by opaque international politics they do not understand. 

Meeting Richard to interview him for this article had something of a spiritual pilgrimage about it. He is really no different from any of us, just an ordinary man caught up in circumstances beyond his control, and yet a tangible and distinctive energy radiates from this deeply loving husband and father that impresses, humbles and inspires everyone who meets him. Some of these people, recognising how extraordinary he is and horrified by what has happened to this family, have stayed and have formed a small support team around him, the main focus of whose activity on the afternoon of my visit was pleading with the crowd not to touch, lean or even breathe on the ambassador’s car. As Richard and I begin our interview, the embassy staff decide to start painting the railings, for no obvious reason.

Both candidates in the race to be our next prime minister, Johnson and Hunt, are implicated in this tragic situation. While foreign secretary, Boris Johnson not only failed to secure Nazanin’s release but managed to make matters much worse when he told a parliamentary committee that Nazanin was “simply teaching people journalism,” a statement which the Iranian government seized on as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”. Utterly and disastrously wrong! Nazanin worked for an international charity, but her visit to Iran was an entirely private, family affair; she was taking their five-year-old daughter, Gabriella, to visit her Iranian grandparents. Mr Johnson is always very quick to distance himself from the fallout from his disastrous, cavalier and incompetent intervention, especially when the Tory-leadership race was underway, and this has outraged Richard. He was particularly upset by Johnson’s comments during the BBC debate that attempted to minimise the significance of his gaff. Richard insists that Johnson’s laziness had certainly aggravated the situation, and feels even more betrayed as he had genuinely believed, on the basis of assurances given to him by Johnson, that the foreign secretary would eventually have been able to bring his family’s nightmare to an end. 

I doubt that Johnson will take the time to come and meet again with Richard as he keeps his campaign going in a fresh direction ,  Shielded from any proper scrutiny or questioning by expensive PR and media gurus, he is keen to push to one side the mess and embarrassment he caused the government and the foreign office by spectacularly failing in his duty of care to this British family, and to have people focus instead on his supposedly highly successful time as Mayor of London. He would be more than happy for the plight of Gabriella, her mum and dad, and her grandparents to fade into complete obscurity. I sincerely hope that we will not allow this to happen. It is precisely by giving his tired “do or die” mantras a rest and by meeting Richard, and engaging humbly and honesty with his family’s situation and the part he played in it, that Johnson could begin to display something like the moral fibre we should require of our prime minister.

It is Jeremy Hunt who, as foreign secretary, is now responsible for dealing with this situation, and the way in which he goes about securing Nazanin’s release must surely be regarded as one of the most important tests of his fitness to be our prime minister. The first responsibility of any government, and of the prime minister who leads it, is the safety of British citizens, and yet the two candidates very much give the impression that they have not been and still are not taking seriously enough the fact that a five-year-old British citizen, Gabriella, has had her British passport confiscated and is being prevented from returning to Britain and being reunited with her father while her mother’s mental and physical health continues to deteriorate as she is held captive by the Revolutionary Guard. What has happened to this ordinary family could happen to anyone of us who wishes or needs to travel in this increasingly unpredictable world, and we would certainly like to think that our government would do everything in its power to look after us.

We can all do something to help the Zaghari-Ratcliffes.Almost 3 million people so far have signed the Free Nazanin Ratcliff petition on the website ( and a new global Twitterstorm campaign will be launched on 4th July 2019, 8-9pm GMT, and will then take place at the same time on the first Thursday of every month, the same time slot that was used for the enormously successful Twitterstorm campaign that secured the release of the Yemeni civil-rights activist Hisham Al-Omeisy. Please join us and use the hashtags #FreeNazanin, #Hunger4Justice, and #NazaninKids4Justice. 

A new, global children’s postcard-writing campaign is also being launched, in the hope that the gentle and wise voices of children will be able to succeed where the often inappropriate and careless words of adults have failed. Parents, teachers, youth workers, and everyone who works or cares for children, can tell them about what has been happening to Gabriella and her mum and dad, and help and encourage them to write a postcard to Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, expressing in loving and gentle words their concern and support for Gabriella and asking him to do what he can for her and her parents. Postcards should be sent to:

President Hassan Rouhani 
c/o The Embassy of Iran in London,
16 Prince’s Gate,
London SW7 1PT. 

It is hoped that he will very soon receive over a million postcards and that they will remind him of what he swore to do in the oath he took when he first became president: 

I, as the President, upon the Holy Qur'an and in the presence of the Iranian nation, do hereby swear in the name of Almighty God to safeguard the official Faith, the system of the Islamic republic and the Constitution of the country; to use all my talents and abilities in the discharge of responsibilities undertaken by me; to devote myself to the service of the people, glory of the country, promotion of religion and morality, support of right and propagation of justice; to refrain from being autocratic; to protect the freedom and dignity of individuals and the rights of the Nation recognized by the Constitution; to spare no efforts in safeguarding the frontiers and the political, economic and cultural freedoms of the country; to guard the power entrusted to me by the Nation as a sacred trust like an honest and faithful trustee, by seeking help from God and following the example of the Prophet of Islam and the sacred Imamspeace be upon them, and to entrust it to the one elected by the Nation after me.

Ray Barron Woolford latest book is The Last Queen of Scotland the biography of most important UK & Scot born  LGBTQ Civil Rights activist  of the past 100 years , Kath Duncan . 
Published by Austin Macauley  

The Last Queen of Scotland
Learn more:

Sunday 23 June 2019

Poor doors ; Deptford & Lewisham residents fight back .

This is the link for the News Programme i am interviewed about #PoorDoors.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Ray Woolford Ray Barron-Woolford . 2019 Bio of work & activism

Brief Summary of my work & Activism as i seek something interesting & Challenging to bring me out of retirement  in any of these sectors ;

Interesting Chief Executive Not For profit. Charity. Civil Rights . LGBTQ . Not For Profit .Food poverty -Waste.  position sort full or part time . Civil-Human rights. Media .  

Is my CV what you are looking 4? 

I believe that I have a wide range of skills, talents, and experience that especially suit me to this extremely important public role.

All of my adult life I have been involved in campaigning for civil-rights and social justice as a businessman, a politician, and an activist, and I would like briefly to tell you something about what I have done in these three areas. 

As a homeless gay man, I established the first social-enterprise estate agency to enable gay people to find decent and safe housing at a time when, during the peak of the AIDS tragedy, gay men especially were facing terrifying social isolation and being abandoned by their own friends and family. My efforts and successes in this area have been recognised in a variety of ways over the decades. I have won the Pink Paper award for the best UK LGBTQ business and the London Chamber of Commerce award for the Best Business for Innovation, and I have been a finalist for the award for London Business Person of the Year. 

I have also been a director of The Residential Landlords’ Association, in which capacity I have advised the government, the GLA, and The Labour Party on housing issues and policies, and, when still a very young person, I set up and ran some of the biggest and most successful gay night clubs of the early 1980s. It was also at this time that I was the manager of Julia Grant, whose transition from George to Julia was the subject of a ground-breaking series of BBC documentaries (‘George: The Big Decision,’ ‘Julia: The First Year,’ and ‘Julia: My Body, My Choice’), the airing of which on primetime television was certainly one of the most significant turning points for trans people in Britain but also exposed Julia to an intense and often very negative reaction that first brought fully into the open the issues that still prove so controversial today. In any event, I feel that this wide-ranging experience as a socially and politically engaged business person will be a particularly useful resource as  the CEO of any Charity. LGBTQ . Civil Rights . Housing . 

The concern for private and public spaces in which everyone, including gay people and other marginalised people, can be safe and flourish that has informed so much of my activity as a business person has also been central to my political activity. I was one of the first fully out candidates for the Liberal Democrats to be elected as a local councillor on Lambeth Council. The high profile generated by my campaigning on LGBTQ and minority issues brought me to the attention of the far-right terror group Combat 18 which eventually won me the unenviable distinction of being the first out LGBTQ politician in Britain to be shot in public office. Several years later, as Vice Chair of the Conservative party, I worked under John Major and David Cameron on establishing new policies and procedures that led to people from the LGBTQ community and from other marginalised and underrepresented groups being selected as parliamentary candidates and which did much to lay the groundwork for civil partnerships and gay marriage. 

In 2016 I sold my estate agency to concentrate more on my social and civil-rights work and activism, for the most part in the Borough of Lewisham. I set up and ran the UK’s largest independent food bank that pioneered the mode of operation that the majority of food banks in Britain now use. Also in 2016, after the London Bridge terror attack, I set up the #ChrissySentUs project, which gives support to street outreach projects for the homeless in honour of the memory of Christine Archibald, a young Canadian woman who was one of the victims in the attack and who had dedicated her short life to supporting homeless people in Calgary. 

In 2017, after the closure of the borough’s last law centre, I organised a highly successful legal advice centre to provide guidance and assistance to people experiencing difficulties with issues such as housing, changes to their benefits, and immigration status. I worked closely with a group of young postgraduate law students, and I myself took on and won several cases as a peoples advocate and managed to prevent several unjust evictions and deportations. 

In the same year, using the resources of the We Care food bank, I was instrumental in founding SELCE, the South East London Community Energy project, a green energy company that uses the roofs of local churches, schools, and community centres to generate energy, the profit from which is used to fund projects that address poverty issues in South East London. The company has been a great success and we succeeded in raising hundreds of thousands of pounds through two share offers. 

Essential to the success of all of these projects was my ability to create a good, well-functioning team, to keep a tight control on budgets, and to work respectfully and effectively with people from a great variety of social, economic, cultural and faith backgrounds.

In 2016 I also founded the Deptford Heritage Festival to draw attention to local histories that had been ignored and were facing oblivion in the face of encroaching development and gentrification. As a result of this first festival, I was presented with a medal by the Russian government for my ability to look beyond politics and use history and heritage to forge links between Russia and Deptford.

Since selling my business, I have also been able to dedicate more time to writing and journalism. My experiences with the food bank led me to write the book ‘Food Bank Britain,’ and I have written numerous articles for ‘The London Economic’. I have also made regular appearances on Talk Radio Europe, LBC, and RT news to discuss pressing matters of economic and social justice.

I was able to make full and effective use of the profile this media activity had given me in 2017, when my friend Hisham Al Omiesy was abducted by the Houthis in Yemen. Using the power of digital social media, I was able to establish and mobilise a global network of activists to lobby the governments of the USA, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, and other powerful interested parties. This pressure eventually led to my being able to liaise with Al Houthi directly, and so successfully that Hisham, against all the odds, was released and we were able to secure his safe passage out of Yemen. In some respects, my campaign for Hisham was one of the most dangerous pieces of activism I have ever engaged in, but securing his release is without doubt one of the greatest achievements of my life.

In 2019 my first play ‘Liberty’ was staged as part LGBT history month, with funding from the Harvey Milk Institute. This play sought to tell for the first time the true story of how the fight for full civil rights for all, including LGBTQ people, was fought and won in 1930s Britain. It attracted a wide variety of audiences and was received very well by the critics, who unanimously gave it 4-star reviews. 

My latest book, ‘The Last Queen Of Scotland,’ is the biography of Kath Duncan, a little known but in many ways one of the most important LGBTQ and civil rights activists of the past 100 years. It was finally published this March, after five hard years of research, to very positive and enthusiastic reviews, which is very gratifying. When I first heard of Kath Duncan and what she had achieved, I was shocked that she had almost been completely forgotten and decided that I had to do something about it. Our LGBTQ history and heritage can far too easily be pushed to the margins and then slip into oblivion and it is part of our responsibility to the past and the future to do all we can to prevent this from happening. 

I hope the skills that I have developed and the experience that I have accumulated from the various positions I have held and the various projects I have led and been involved with in the course of an eventful and rich life qualify me in your eyes as an appropriate candidate for this role in 2019, and I would relish the opportunity of being able to continue effecting positive change in our society as the chief executive officer or other in any sector that reflects my passion . 

Scottish History does not get less awesome with Kath Duncan, The Last Queen of Scotland

Women in History they don't get as amazing as Kath Duncan, The Last Queen of Scotland

Great Women in History. The Last Queen of Scotland the new book - biography of LGBTQ Civil Rights activist Kath Duncan

Book of the month The Last Queen of Scotland the book biography of LGBTQ Civil Rights activist Kath Duncan

Kirkcaldy History - The Must read book biography of Kirkcaldy Civil Rights activist Kath Duncan The Last Queen of Scotland

The Last Queen of Scotland biography of Kath Duncan , great Hackney Gazette feature

Deptford History ; Great reviews of the book Biography of Kath Duncan The Last Queen of Scotland

Hackney History great press coverage Kath Duncan biography The Last Queen of Scotland

Kath Duncan Biography book The Last Queen Of Scotland ; review from The Canary writer Steve Topple