Saturday, July 29, 2017

One Third, homelessness, Greater Sylhet Cup 2017

People who see them
Think the homeless have no shame
What they don't realise
Is they are hardly to blame

© Emdad Rahman

On the eve of the much anticipated Greater Sylhet Cup at Mabley Green in Hackney we took to our soup kitchen with homeless friends at Stratford City.

I have the good fortune of managing these boys again this year and I was joined by team captain Abdul Wahid and a bunch of awesome nephews in tandem. The captain led by example and this has inspired lots of others already. This is the greatest benefit in volunteering - You can enjoy doing something and at the same time influence others massively.

My neighbour works at the Royal London Hospital as an NHS manager and he and the missus provided  delicious Biriani. In fact the food was so popular that it was all gone in 19 minutes and we had to share the last container between two homeless friends.

One thing abut our Beanibazar team is the focus we have on community issues. For two years running we have welcomed Beanibazar Cancer Hospital as a charity partner using the Barcelona ethos whereby we raise funds for this fantastic project. Just like the Catalan giants charity and active citizenship is key within our squad and there are at least half a dozen squad members who are seriously active in our community carrying out a number of roles which includes supporting the elderly, those who are disabled and people affected by poverty.

The kids seemed to enjoy the experience and will appreciate the efforts of the adults in future years. I could tell that the interaction with fellow humans who have no home left them all thinking about their own lives and one told me how privileged he was in comparison to the people he served. Billy and Paul were their usual lively selves but there was no Amanda or Rosie today.

The number of families affected by homelessness is expected to more than double in the next two decades, with a further 200,000 households affected by 2041. The numbers of those who are sleeping rough will soar by fourfold to more than 40,000 in the same period, according to research by Heriot-Watt University, commissioned by Crisis, the homelessness charity.

Whatever happens at the Greater Sylhet Cup tomorrow will pale into insignificance when you take stock of the situation and how worse off our fellow citizens are. If we win it I'll bring the trophy to the next soup kitchen and pose with my mates there. If we don't our work here continues regardless and I'll have to do it next year.

The Greater Sylhet Cup takes place at Mabley Green tomorrow so do pop over and say hello. The ususal big boys will be favourites but my insight from refereeing some friendlies tells me that Biswanath and Chattak will be serious dark horses and contenders.

If you'd like to support me with One Third Soup Kitchen then please get in touch via Twitter:  @emdad07

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Seeing out Ramadan with homeless friends

Emdad Rahman

"Helping one person might not change the world but it could change the world for one person."

Half of homeless people are afflicted with diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer or arthritis but do not receive any treatment. It's a piece of information I came across when looking for inspiration on homeless issues. 

Ben Kentish recently wrote in The Independent about how homelessness has surged 34%, with 100,000 more families losing their home compared with 2010. 120,000 children are living in temporary homes as councils illegally place families in unfit accommodation. The situation with the majority of those we serve is so dire that they most probably are not listed on any records or databases. 

The One Third soup kitchen team were as always at Stratford City tonight with homeless guests. 

I had quite a busy day with a Running Down Dementia jog in the morning, watching my beloved Scintilla in action twice (controversial loss) and squeezing in some Eid shopping. We knew beforehand that Eid had been announced in Saudi Arabia for Sunday and even though we were sad to see the end of the blessed month of Ramadan the mood within our volunteer team was high spirited in anticipation of a day of joyful celebration. 

I was joined by Marjan, Amzy and the Splash kids from Poplar who are well known for their inspiring philanthropic activities. Even during Ramadan the kids have carried on with their community activities including visiting and serving the elderly at care homes with delicious home cooked foods. 

Today we had a lot of old faces absent but that's the case in the summer months where the hot weather encourages freedom of movement as our regular guests move about localities. 

I had a good chat with Danny about Ramadan and what Eid means 

Billy was his usual jolly self and Amanda and Rose were missing. 

Fasting is a really good way to empathise with the hungry and homeless with a significant difference being that a lot of us eat a hearty meal at the end of an 18 hour day of fasting. For our homeless friends this is not the case and many struggle to even get their daily nutrition. With added awareness amongst the greater public I'm sure we can all help make things a little better. 

Follow me on Twitter @emdad07

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Umrah update: Day 9: Humans of Madinah:

63 year old Abdullah (right) studied English at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (Newcastle University) from 1980 to 1983. He drove around in a Nissan 280c and lived at 10 Park Avenue.

Abdullah loves Bangladeshi food: "I mostly ate Bangladeshi food as a student. It was the only Halal food available in Newcastle and I loved the taste and texture. I always ate mild curry though and couldn't match the Bangladeshis in their ability to consume hot spicy food."

Abdullah enjoyed supporting the Toon Army and watched Newcastle play once at St James Park against Chelsea where he and 27,000 saw Chris Waddle score the winner.

He's also a big boxing fan and went to watch his friend Paul Tucker in an amateur bout. After a convincing win Abdullah was declared a lucky mascot. He attended a second successful fight in Newcastle. He missed the third which was lost: "You could say I was a lucky charm for the team," laughed Abdullah. The Madinah resident is also a big fan of Nadeem Hamed and even did a little impersonation of the famous ring entry routine which is synonymous with the Sheffield born boxing legend. He did add that he was surprised at how much weight he'd put on since retirement.

After departing Newcastle Abdullah settled in Riyadh for two years to complete his teacher training. He has been teaching all his life and is proud of the fact that education in Saudi Arabia from nursery to university is free. He also mentioned that all students receive a government support allowance and glowed with pride as he described the University of Madinah and its international standing with 220 nationalities represented amongst the student roll.

Recently he also taught English language in Madinah and has now retired. He still remains active and with his best mate of 45 years, 50 year old Qasim (centre) runs a building contracting service as well as a real estate firm.

He took my number: "I would like to call you sometimes and speak to you about your life," he said. "It will also help me revise my English."

Monday, June 05, 2017

Umrah update: Day 9: Humans of Madinah:

56 year old Rudy is from Jakarta, Indonesia and and has been a Telecommunications worker all his life. From 1983 to 1990 he was deployed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the IT sector before he returned home and established himself in his hometown of Jakarta.

Rudy and his wife have two lovely children, a daughter at university and a son who has graduated as a pilot. He showed me pictures of them both and is immensely proud of the excellent adults that they have become.

Rudy very proudly told me about his wife who I also had the pleasure of meeting. She is the main earner in their family and from nothing has developed the Ibu Bandung and Kantin Patria traditional Indonesian eateries in Jakarta. She now proudly owns four very well run restaurant establishments.

They are busy outlets and when Rudy reaches retirement age in a few months time the family will take a four week holiday to recharge before he enrols at a culinary college to train up in restaurant management. "I will then work for my wife," he said. "She has a brilliant business mind and look at what she has achieved. I'm on a middle income government salary and this Umrah trip has been entirely funded by her. After I retire I will work for my wife and hopefully add some value to our businesses."

Anda orang yang hebat dan saya ucapkan selamat berjaya dengan persaraan dan impian anda!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Umrah update: Day 8: Humans of Makkah: Arzoo

Arzoo is from Cox Bazar (longest beach in the world), Bangladesh and has been living in Makkah since 1997. He hasn't looked back nor travelled back home since and is now settled in Makkah with his wife and family. We were delighted to hear that Arzoo has three sons too.

The 37 year old entrepreneur has paid for his parents to complete their Hajj pilgrimage and although he hasn't been able to travel back to Bangladesh for two decades, he keeps in touch with his extended family and financially supports quite a few members too.

Arzoo has worked hard and built up a couple of small businesses. He also has his own taxi and all this combined enables him to earn a reasonable income which helps support his young family comfortably.

The Makkan drove us from our hotel Areej Al Falah to Madinah today. He's a calm, assured driver with a cool temperament (very important in this country) and I would recommend his services. Our journey took under 4 hours, including a pit stop to pick up Zamzam water and some more juicy green mangoes.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Umrah update: Day 8: Humans of Makkah:

Hassan has been selling pigeon food in Makkah for two years. He can usually be spotted in the bird feed area behind the Makkah Clock Tower and sells a bag of wheat for 5 Riyals.

He actually loves pigeons and the way he carries himself reminds me of Everton icon Duncan Ferguson who has a passion for pigeons. Big Dunc was the hardest footballer I've seen and edges Luton legend Mick Harford into second place. People found it strange that the tough Scotsman spent his time with such a hobby but he always maintained that it helped him relax.

Like Dunc, Hassan is big, strong and broody. He stands directly in the blazing heat to earn a living and carries his wares in a wheelchair. Hassan can come across as quite stoic and abrupt but if one takes time to talk to him he's a really pleasant character. It's always better to interact first before passing judgement based on personal radar emissions.

The pigeon hangout is a popular location for visitors and our feathered friends fly in en masse, feed and off they go whilst visitors make a fuss of them and the street sweeps gently clean up after them. It's funny how some pilgrims visit with the belief that eating the bird feed will cure them of illnesses and ailments they may have. Interactions take place between visitors and even the bird sellers to try to address these misconceptions and ensure that the food is strictly fed to the birds. Most people accept the reasoning while quite a few refuse to waver in their beliefs.

Hassan loves pigeons and is just at home combining his love for birds whilst earning a living.

Pigeons have a fabulous history in the Haramain but that's a story for another day.

Hassan is another strand in the rich tapestry that is the great city of Makkah Mukarramah.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Umrah update: Day 7: Humans of Makkah:

The Hajj and Umrah are perfect examples of humanity uniting for a common purpose. There is not a single nation on earth that is not represented and reflected in the ethnic make up of the people who visit and the experience of being amongst such a global family is a magical one. No other place in the world can boast such wonderful diversity and togetherness.

I enjoyed a fleeting and chance encounter this morning at Fajr (early morning prayers).

I don't speak Indonesian, he doesn't speak English but no words were needed. "Indonesia" he proclaimed loudly" and beamed a full moon smile as he sat his good self down next to me. "London," I replied proudly and we shook hands like long lost friends.

I don't think he caught my name and I certainly didn't get his. We sat next to each other for the next 30 minutes just exchanging smiles - It was enough and I felt energised and full of life as I formed a very powerful human bond in the with this stranger.

After Fajr he gave me the tightest hug and kissed both my cheeks. I returned the favour by placing a smacker on his forehead. I had underestimated the extent of the lingual skills of this benevolent gent and he said "thank you" to me. We then turned around and submerged into the huge crowd with our families.

It's Friday and the sheer mass of the crowd was beyond crazy as more visitors and also locals crammed into Makkah to pray Jumuah on the most important Muslim day of the week in the most auspicious of months. In fact things were so tight it took us 45 minutes to get back to our manor on Ibrahim Khalil Road.

I think it's safe to say I'll never see this uncle again in my lifetime but I feel a warm glow and feel all the better for meeting him. This is life in a nutshell. We may know people all our lives or meet them for seconds but only some will positively imprint on and impact our lives.

Aku dah buat kawan seumur hidup aku! 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Umrah update: Day 6: Humans of Makkah:

It's a huge challenge cleaning the world's biggest Mosque and each days thousands of dedicated cleaners like Muhammad, the Burmese Rohingya gentleman beside me are employed to work round the clock to maintain the cleanliness of the holy Mosque.

The role of a cleaner is never easy and it's not just about using a stick to clean the bog or mopping up wet patches. Take a look at their job description and you'll see the finer details their thankless role of cleaning up after the rest of us have had a dump. Amongst a trillion duties it involves some the following on an industrial scale:

- Sweeping and mopping floors.
- Emptying waste bins.
- Polishing the minarets, handles, tiles, gates, stairwells, bridges and doors.
- Cleaning toilets, ablution basins, sinks, baths, and drinking fountains with cleaning detergents 5 times a day. The toilets themselves have approximately 20,000 visitors a day and cleaners are stationed continuously to clean and maintain hygiene in the general WC areas.
- Picking up tonnes of dropped and discarded litter.
- The Mataf (area around the Ka'bah) is washed using hi tech equipment.
- Last but not least, 30,000 bespoke rugs undergo a 5 step cleaning process 3 times a day, which involves dusting, washing, drying in sunlight and mending.

To give you the reader a general idea, the estimated cleaning surface on a daily basis measures approximately 1 million square metres, and will extend to 1.8 million square metres after the completion of the extension project.

Just like the street sweeps the toilet cleaners are amongst the lowest paid and many are in huge debt after having paid the equivalent of 7-10 thousand pounds to secure paid work in Saudi Arabia. They are not paid sick leave and the only benefit available is free accommodation. Despite this the cost of daily living means little is saved to support their families.

A typical shift for these guys lasts 10-15 hours of non stop cleaning duties with small breaks for food and prayer. They are a contented lot and I enjoy observing them in a semi quiet spot, resting, smiling or consuming their food with their colleagues. It's nice to see them relaxed for a little while.

Again, despite their circumstances they are a really friendly bunch who are proud of the role they play in welcoming the world to Makkah, and dare I say it - they are ambassadors for Saudi Arabia for they mix closely with the millions of visitors at first hand and this interaction helps form a rather positive image in the mind of the visitor. In fact the Saudi authorities should up their wages based on this free PR alone.

Again, I can't stress how important it is to offer a tip and the best way to do so is change your designated amount into 1 Riyals and then distribute as you see fit as you wander the Haram complex. If you can't get change at the shop or the bank staff are ignoring you in their customary way then ask the beneficiaries directly - They'll have change from tips or will club round quickly and stump up the amount you require.

They are very needy but also proud and upstanding and the generosity of visitors goes a long way towards supplementing their meagre wages.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Umrah update: Day 5: Humans of Makkah:

Meet Abdul Karim who is Rohingya and hails from the Indo-Aryan people from the Rakhine State, Myanmar. The Rohingya are the most persecuted people on the planet and face scenes of widespread persecution, torture and death on a daily basis mainly at the hands of Burmese Buddhists.

The Rohingiya have zero recognition as Burmese citizens and receive little help from neighbouring countries and the global community. There are a small number of human rights organisations which advocate on behalf of these people.

In Saudi Arabia the Rohingya live in their own confined communities within the slums of Kudai and Naqqasha and can be found selling fruit and veg amongst carrying out other manual tasks. They have heritage and have been living in Saudi Arabia for almost 100 years. A few years ago they were able to apply for an Iqama permit which has provided a little security in a country where foreigners cannot be naturalised as citizens. This does however present the challenge of securing stable employment to pay for their increased costs in relation to their day to day living.

Karim is happy with his lot and grafts hard and long all year round as a fresh fruit purveyor in Makkah. He's a really jolly old chap and his smile permeates and brings radiance to his whole face and demeanour.

Compared to his country folk his life is one of ease. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Umrah update: Day 3: Humans of Makkah - The biggest Iftar gathering in the world

It is likely that at least a quarter of the world's population will be breaking their fast after an approximate fasting day of 16 hours. (We've just broken ours).

In Makkah the weather is scorching at 42 degrees and with not even a slight threat of rain, breeze or shade on the horizon. Yet we have found it easier to observe the fasting in such intense heat and maybe part of it is because we're carefree and not bogged down by daily rituals and chores.

Today we completed our Umrah (non-mandatory lesser pilgrimage which unlike the Hajj can be completed at any time of the year). Despite the heat we neither felt overly thirsty, tired, and lethargy hasn't set in as after a shower I sat in the hotel lobby writing this blog. I did however have to outrun a bevvy of female beggars who started manhandling me before a tug of war and lots of screaming ensued amidst a mild cat fight. I did feel rather special but eventually had to be bailed out by my missus and a Good Samaritan decoy.

One of the main features of the day is observing the setting up of the Biggest Iftar food spread in the world food, which stretches to almost 15 kilometres, taking in the new Haram extension and spilling way into the neighbouring streets including Ibrahim Khalil Road. The daily table spread itself is close to 20,000 metres and is rolled out and rolled up with military like precision by an army of workers, volunteers and scouts.

The food pack to break fast is provided by wealthy dignitaries and no mention is made of their name, nor is any beneficiary required to provide their email in exchange of these delicious freebies. This daily cost of this gesture sets the kingdom back a cool 1 million Saudi Riyals a day. An official told me this is small change when compared to the benefits and rewards of providing food, drink and nourishment to a fasting or needy person.

A delicious Iftar food pack consists of dates, Zamzam water, cake, cheese puff pastry, a croissant and orange juice. There's so much to go round and absolutely no one goes hungry. I timed the whole process from setting up, serving, to cleaning at 30 minutes all in. Inside the Haram complex these packs are not allowed in order to maintain cleanliness due to the larger volumes of people inside. They can only partake of dates, water and coffee there.

The only downside for me is the waste at the end where good food is discarded. I spoke to an official and encouraged better practise in terms of collecting all the waste (unpacked good foods) and transport them to the deprived neighbourhoods and homeless citizens on the outskirts of the city. I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest this and would make the whole thing just perfect and totally sum up the spirit of Ramadan.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Emdad Rahman
THE THINGS WE take for granted someone else is paying for. 

We had a new team at Stratford City with my mate Mosh and nieces Mariah and Zahra and Nadia all clubbing together to support homeless friends. Nadia in particular is running a project called “Humans of Tower Hamlets”. This centres around an exhibition which highlights the excellent achievements of individuals living, working and being schooled in Tower Hamlets – a borough often viewed through negative goggles. Nadia and her team aim to use this exhibition to demystify negative stereotypes and celebrate the excellence within the community.

Mosh and the missus had cooked up a stupendous two full pots of Biriani and the smell emanating from the back had wafted into the car during our journey and left me dazed by the team we reached Stratford.

Mariah and Zahra are both at school and were superb throughout as they took control of serving food along with Nadia. There were lots of smiles and positive interaction with the guests, and a few commented on how genuine the kids were: “Looks like they’ve had great tutoring and mentoring”; “Who is that person?”

It was nice to be a full on supervisor tonight as Mosh led the clean up at the end and even treated the girls to ice cream and me to a full whack Sprite.

•If you’d like to help interact with homeless London, tweet me: @emdad07
•Humans of Tower Hamlets takes place from 1st May 2017 at Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Thrills and spills galore at Base Jump Essex

Emdad Rahman: If you love being airborne then trampoline parks are a sure fire way to get the adrenaline levels rising rapidly. 

Upon arrival we were greeted by the terrific Tracy at reception and this really set the tone for our visit. Despite the computers being non compliant Tracy was a picture of efficiency and her fabulously affable character immediately got us liking Base Jump even before we'd taken that first athletic leap. 

On site there are 76 interconnected trampolines and the park can host days out and children's birthday parties a as well as other social events. 

It was certainly not our trampoline debut so all of us were looking to get airborne and nail those awesome manoeuvres. The boys commented on my enthusiasm and I even heard a whisper at the back about how dynamic I looked whilst bouncing off the walls and floor. I explained that level of agility does not come by chance with many trying but few actually being blessed in those disciplines. 

Back to reality and the venue is fun and safe for all visitors be they kids, or big kids in my instance. Visitors are surrounded by safety mats and there are plenty of friendly staff and court monitors around to enforce safety, assist and guide.

For frenetic and fantastic fast pace thrills look no further than the dodgeball arena where everyone can enjoy an energy sapping and hugely fun game or three. 

From fierce rivalries between friends to more casual games with your family visitors can step into one of three different dodgeball courts and take on the challenge. 

For the Ninja Challenge you are required to leap, swing and climb across the course without falling into the surrounding foam pit. 

If you fancy beating your foes into submission then joust poles are the way to go. Face your opponent and strike out. Avoid falling into the treacherous foam pit to be victorious. 

The Half Pipe uses the six interconnected trampolines to help you bounce your way left to right on and off the walls all the way to the end and back. Bouncing from your feet to your bum and back, there’s more than one way to run the Halfpipe and no two runs will be the same. 

Within the launch arena there are two different landing options: Soar through the air into the 4ft deep soft foam pit or take a leap of faith onto a giant air bag which will cushion a drop from the air.

Base Jump also offers adult fitness classes in the following sessions:

  • Fit & Fun
  • Bounce Ex
  • Box Bounce
  • Military Assault
  • Extreme LBT

There's also High Intensity Interval Training which is the most efficient effective form of training to increase fitness, burn fat and improve muscle definition. It consists of intense bursts of exercises followed by periods of active recovery allowing you to get the most out of the session and burn the maximum amount of calories.

Base Jump Essex is located in Rayleigh, Essex, and is not far from Southend and is thoroughly recommended, especially as part of a day out to the area. One thing guaranteed is plenty of fun for everybody, including corporateand team building days. 

Address: 26a Brook Road, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 7XL.

Larbi Ben Mbarek: The forgotten genius

The first to strike gold in Europe
Was that famous Black Pearl
Fondly known as Benbarek 
To others the Moroccan Earl

El Ouatane aged fourteen
Honed the Black Pearl's stealth
Two Spanish titles for El Prodigio
Order of Merit after his death

Forty three goals for Stade Français
As Larbi walked the walk
Fifty six as Spain's Perla Negra
La perle noir du Maroc

From twenty Francs a day
An Iberian prince at Marseille
The first ever "black pearl"
Very high praise from Pele

Eight goals against Southend
A first French cap against Italy
War loomed and Larbi went home
With the arrival of the Nazi

French journalists raged in despair 
When Atletico signed a cheque 
One wrote; ‘Sell the Eiffel Tower, 
But not Ben Barek'

Idéal Club Casablanca and US Marocaine
Stade Français adding spice
Atlético Madrid Los Rojiblancos 
Where Larbi won La Liga twice

Nineteen caps for Les Bleus no myth 
Danced on dictator Franco's deck
Bel-Abbès and a stadium named
For Haj Abdelkader Larbi Ben M'barek

number7
© emdad rahman

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Homeless London is alive and kicking

By Emdad Rahman

We focus so much on the "homeless" part we forget the "people" bit... #TheWanderingLondoner

Tonight at the soup kitchen we had a mixture of the kids and new volunteers stepping in, including Dr Mohammad Hassan from. Queens Hospital, Romford, who came along despite a late shift on the job. Here is a gentleman making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people yet he commits time to working with us on voluntary community service. The likes of Dr Mohammad are proof of the impact big hearted volunteers have on their communities. 

It's nice to see the weather is improving and this is very much reflected in the glow of the faces of our homeless guests, local shoppers, tourists and even the volunteers. 

West Ham played away to Bournemouth so the crowds around Stratford were a little subdued. The food was provided by Halima, her husband and the gorgeous twins Amna and Hamdan who even joined in to serve. The Biriani went down a treat and was very popular with our guests. We served lots of elderly friends tonight. One was clearly in distress and was seen to by paramedics. 

The kids were excellent and I usually like to observe them as they get on with their duties. Although I don't stand there with a clipboard i's a bit like the head coach observing his players as they go about strutting their stuff. I had given them a little briefing on smiling while serving, engaging in small talk, being attentive and not swapping personal details. I then let them take over and asked the adults to play support roles. In my opinion customer service is even more essential in voluntary service and I like to set a positive example myself by telling youngsters and newbies that it is irrelevant that homeless guests are not paying to eat from our hands. The fact that they chose to come to us to be served is the ultimate blessing, privilege and honour in the first place. Amanda and Jim stayed to the end and shared some banter. 

The thing about kids is nothing about what they do is put on and every action is genuine, sincere and no holds barred. They are not politicians and they cannot lie or mask their emotions. They may speak in sweet tones, harsh tones, ignore you, grimace or even hug you - sometimes in succession. What you see is very much what you get. 

In my opinion it is hugely important to bring the kids along and supervise them whilst they run a soup kitchen and serve fellow human beings who are in a vulnerable position in comparison to their lives. What are the alternatives on a Saturday night? Play Station? XBox? Social Media? Hit the town? Lets be honest and agree that lots of kids on a Saturday night are either on their consoles, getting up to no good or struggling to find things to do. The team at One Third soup kitchen offer a great activity. I encourage families to join in and not cancel Saturday night plans as we have a fine tuned system which enables us to set up, serve, tidy up and get back to what we were doing in no time. 

If you'd like to support the work of my team at One Third Soup Kitchen then follow and contact me on Twitter - @emdad07

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ArcelorMittal Orbit - One attraction; many memories  

Emdad Rahman: We admired the ArcelorMittal Orbit at London 2012 during the Paralympic Games and at the time thought of how great it’d be to one day climb and survey the surroundings from a vantage point on the UK’s tallest sculpture. My recent trip sure didn’t disappoint. Upon taking the lift to the second floor we were treated to breath taking views of up to 20 miles across London’s famous skyline and the iconic sporting venues of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

In 2009, a design competition was held to create an iconic landmark that would become the centrepiece of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and commemorate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The winning concept was a creative collaboration between world-renowned artist Sir Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond. 

During a chance meeting with Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal the world’s largest steel company, the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, secured his support to provide the steel necessary to create the sculpture. Construction began in November 2010 with the structure reaching its full height of 114.5m by November 2011. The ArcelorMittal Orbit was revealed to the public on 11 May 2012 and around 130,000 people visited the sold-out attraction during the Games. 

Following a period of closure after the Games, the ArcelorMittal Orbit fully reopened to the public on Saturday 5 April 2014 when the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park once again welcomed guests.

In July 2015, planning permission was granted to add a slide to the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Anish Kapoor invited German artist Carsten Höller, well known for his slide installations, to create it. Work began on The Slide in early 2016 with the first piece being lifted into place in April of that year. The final piece was lifted into place in early June 2016 and The Slide opened to the public on 24 June 2016. The opening weekend sold out in advance of the attraction opening.

To explore London’s extraordinary skyline visitors must ascend 114.5m into the clouds to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit before experiencing the city’s landmarks from the outside observation walkway suspended 80m above the ground. 

There’s a lot to see from the ArcelorMittal Orbit’s two viewing platforms from St Paul’s Cathedral, the O2 and Wembley to a birds eye view of the iconic London 2012 venues. You can even get up close to London’s landmarks with innovative and interactive touchscreens that allow you to zoom into the view and learn more about the city.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit perfectly combines awe-inspiring city views with fun and contemporary art. Visitors can interact with the sculpture itself, experience the thrill of The Slide designed by Carsten Höller, flip the horizon in Anish Kapoor’s two huge concave mirrors and enjoy the gentle descent of the 455 steps that wind their way around the sculpture and immerse you in a recorded collection of distinctive London sounds such as church bells and local markets.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit is the UK’s tallest sculpture, 22m taller than the Statue of Liberty and six times taller than the Angel of the North. The upper viewing gallery is 80m high and the lower is 76m high. The staircase is made completely from recycled steel and takes about 12 minutes to walk down. The sculpture is made from 2,000 tonnes of steel, made by leading steel company ArcelorMittal, which is the equivalent weight of 1,136 London Black Cabs. It took just over two years to build and contains over 35,000 bolts.

The Slide is the world's tallest and longest tunnel slide at 178m long and 76m high. In the exhilarating trip, riders slide on a specially designed mat and hit speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. Visitors are also able see out through polycarbonate 'windows' for some of The Slide.

It’s not for the feint-hearted and you are advised to grip tightly as you descend like a bullet through a myriad of twists, turns and drops of the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide as it weaves its way through the iconic red steel frame of the UK’s tallest sculpture. To be precise it’s an exhilarating 34 second descent down the 178m long slide as brave souls meander through light and dark sections at speeds of up to 15mph as The Slide loops its way around the ArcelorMittal Orbit 12 times taking visitors through gentle curves, thrilling drops and a tight corkscrew named ‘the bettfeder’ – bedspring in German. 

The Slide is a unique collaboration between two of the world’s most renowned contemporary artists.  

With breath-taking views of London, the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide and the UK’s highest freefall abseil, the ArcelorMittal Orbit is a viewing experience like no other.

Camping Pods at the Brighton Caravan Club

By Emdad Rahman: A few days out of London are always a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of living in the frenetic pace of the world’s greatest city. And so we packed the car and set off to Brighton to live it up in a nice caravan site not far from the Marina in the South Downs and in close proximity to the attractive tourist destinations the town has to offer.
 
Apart from boasting a pleasant stay at the caravan site the Caravan club team have introduced wooden pods, which enable visitors to enjoy the great outdoors.
 
We visited the Brighton location and spent an evening in the pods, an experience which was pretty unique. It was nice to get away from the helter skelter of city life and this is a fun and value for money stay for both camping enthusiasts and novices alike. 
 
We spent the whole day in Brighton with a totally packed schedule and the Brighton camping pods are situated perfectly to allow exploring this dazzling seaside city and the beautiful Sussex countryside.
 
The pods are a great way for both members and non-members to experience the fun aspects of camping life irrespective of the season and the state of our great British weather.
 
Each of the pods on location fit two people. The beds are basic yet comfortable and if you are tall in terms of height it is advisable to discuss this beforehand and decide space requirements prior to visiting.
 
The pods are also eco-friendly and come fully equipped with power points, a table and an electric kettle. Clothes can be hung up inside too and snacks along with milk and tea/coffee can be purchased from the site reception.
 
During our visit to Brighton we spent most of our time outside and came back to sleep in our pods. The atmosphere within the caravan park is serene and fellow campers are polite and friendly, There is a catering van serving freshly fried fish and chips all day long.
 
Our wooden pods were a great opportunity to experience and savour the great outdoors without getting wet or cold. The pods are sturdily built, well insulated and clean.
 
There is space available to park right next to the pod and the toilet block and wash facilities are a stones throw away. Small children can be accommodated in a pod but readers are well advised to make enquiries about requirements prior to booking up.
 
If you don’t drive then there are regular buses to take you into town as well as the historic Volks Railway which runs along the prom.
 
Brighton is a classic and lively British seafront town, filled with all the attractions you would expect from a famous coastal resort. The shopping is excellent with many unusual boutiques and antique shops to browse in. The town also has an operational pier, complete with amusement arcades and some of the finest fish and chips on the south coast, and is home to the Royal Pavillion. The site is also well placed for visiting the beautiful Arundel Castle and Gardens in nearby West Sussex, or the historic town of Lewes. With plenty to see and do locally and extensive recreational grounds adjacent to the caravan park, you're sure to have a holiday here that will be hard to forget.
 
In summary, this is a warm, pleasant and cosy stay in the heart of nature. The Caravan Club have introduced pods in Brighton in East Sussex, Abbey Wood in London and Coniston Park Coppice in Cumbria. Each site offers pod camping all year round to members and non-members.
 
Please note that camping pods are pet free.
 
What you can expect:
 
·      a small futon that converts into a cosy double bed (Coniston Park
Coppice includes two single camp beds)
·      an additional camp bed if required
·      lighting, heating and electric
·      two chairs
.      a car space
 
Brighton - East Sussex
 
3 January to 17 March:£45 per pod per night
 
18 March to 31 December: £50 per pod per night
 
A minimum stay at weekends applies.
Book today, call 01273 626 546 or email brighton@caravanclub.co.uk
Abbey Wood - London
3 January to 17 March: £45 per pod per night
 
18 March to 31 December: £50 per pod per night
Book today, call 0208 311 7708 or email abbeywood@caravanclub.co.uk 


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friends FC win Sonali Othith Indoor Masters

Emdad Rahman: Friends FC have won the annual Sonali Othith Indoor Masters Cup for 2017. 

The 6 team tournament for over 40's was played at the Mulberry Leisure Centre over 5 weeks and included Shadwell, Poplar, Shagor, Brothers and Weavers. 

Friends beat off stiff competition from Shadwell and 2016 champions Poplar to win comfortably by six points.

Jamal Uddin, Chairman of Sonali Othith said, "Its been a really entertaining six weeks of action with lots of memorable action. Congratulations to Friends FC who finish as deserved champions."

Friends captain Kamal Chowdhury added, "We played plenty of good football throughout and on the balance of overall play and goals scored I would certainly say we were the best team and fully deserve the title for 2017. Well done to all who played and I'm looking forward to next year."

FRIENDS FC SQUAD:

Luthfur Rahman - Makbul Hussain - Jamil Ahmed - Masum Ahmed - Nasim Ahmed  - Akbal Ahmed - Muzakir Miah - Abdul Mahid - Nazmul Hoque - Kamal Chowdhury (Captain)

Saturday, February 04, 2017

One Third soup kitchen team up with Miss University UK


Emdad Rahman: I didn’t expect to see many regulars today. Winter is different and our homeless friends need to keep coming just to keep the big freeze at arms length. Stratford isn’t very friendly and we have a definite need for more services offered by volunteers at soup kitchens.

For this shift I had 17 Biryanis and a further 30 fried chicken meals to distribute to homeless friends. The cold weather was milder than the treacherous traffic and I arrived thirty minutes. Lucky our location is surrounded by eateries and my team mates tonight had been briefed to enjoy a coffee or three rather than wait outside in the hill.

We set up and were literally done within 40 minutes. I could’ve sworn we only served 10/15 people but by the end of the shift all meals had gone.

There were lots of new faces tonight. Amanda wasn’t there but Billy popped along. He particularly enjoyed the food and enjoyed seconds as did Petr, who took an extra one with him. I remember once when Petr told me at the Saturday soup kitchen that he had not had a proper meal since the previous Tuesday.

Tonight I had Sheuly and the lovely ladies from Miss University who use their talent, creativity, beauty and intellect to serve the wider community through outreach efforts and ambassadorial duties. It was a pleasure to have their assistance and we hope to collaborate on future projects.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Jump Evolution: where fitness and fun collide

The extreme 9ft jump towers are the highest in Essex and so with the Christmas holidays in full swing we visited Jump Evolution in Harold Hill, Essex to check out all the fuss people have been making about this new trampoline park.


The location was very easy to get to and traffic was light. Jump Evolution is nestled within an industrial area and car parking is not a problem with plenty of space on location. The venue itself is a visually pleasing stand out feature of the locality. We were met by cheerful staff and although there was a busy queue, check in was smooth, quick, efficient.
The vision at Jump Evolution was to build a state of the art trampoline park in Harold Hill where thrill seekers would leave satisfied after a few hours of ultimate high adrenalin fun. The park is meticulously planned in terms of layout and great thought has been put into ensuring a heightened and memorable visit through the introduction of many features which are designed to enhance the experience. The 26,000 square ft trampoline park is equipped with some of the most state of the art equipment on the market and can proudly boast of being the only trampoline park in the country which also has a trapeze swing and a main jump arena boasting over 100 trampolines.
Being a brave lad, I sent Dad on a recon mission on the trampoline, followed by my brother and cousin. They passed with flying colours. I even persuaded Dad to do a double take and recorded him from both sides as my brother pelted him with foam bricks. I’m reliably informed that the video has been a hit on Dad’s social media.
It’s inaccurate to label Jump Evolution as just a trampoline park as there’s so much to do. Jump Evolution has been designed with everyone in mind, and the experience can be enjoyed by children from two upwards as the little ones can bounce safely in the under-6 mini jump arena. Toddlers, teenagers, and adults can come and have fun in a safe and exciting environment with plenty of staff on hand to assist and serve if necessary. Once you’re done with all the bouncing and high flying there is the 6,000 sq ft mezzanine, which includes the Jump Evolution Cafe, selling healthy food and drinks with free wifi.
Book early! Jump Evolution caters for 175 humans per hour and I recommend that you book on advance and complete the waiver online in advance of a trip there. Jump Evolution trampoline park was built with you in mind.

One year of Jurgen Klopp

Since that start with Rubin Kazan
We've had one year of Klopp
Geggenpressen and a new main stand
And he's still the cream of the crop

There's that four goal Mersey derby win 
When the goals just wouldn't stop 
Magical against Dortmund
Like kids in a sweet shop

United in Europe sent packing
LVG soon left in a strop
Two major cup finals 
Seville caught us on the hop

Nicely posed at the top end
With a bright and talented crop
Herr Jurgen bellows "Boom!"
As the current king of the Kop

number7
© emdad rahman

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Building community spirit through volunteering

Maybe a home is nothing but two arms holding you tight when you're at your worst. 

It's been a busy weekend for us. On Christmas Eve I visited Mujib's Chill & Grill who very generously agreed to donate 50% of the days profits to Ummah Welfare Trust. Straight after that Moklis, Mumidul and all the kids came together to deliver the weekly One Third Soup kitchen at Stratford City. My aunt Shanaz had provided delicious biriani, long with cakes from Maria and  a car load of presents from Nazia, Luisa, Pericles and the generous team at Pearson Old Street, London. I had bags of clothes from Laurain. Everything went down a treat but we were missing some of our regulars in Amanda, Rose, Paul, Billy, Terry and Petr. We used up the whole lot and guess what? We weren't short either. Everything was perfect and nobody went away empty handed or disappointed. We left Stratford with one parcel remaining.

There were plenty new faces though and we let the kids take a more hands on role after briefing them on the journey over to Stratford. They were total stars and each one was a complete natural, interacting with smiles and small talk, handing over gifts, food and spreading cheer. 
We had a talented drummer to keep us company and it was like having our own private performing artist. It made me smile and gave me hope for our communities in the future. If the adults can nurture and instil togetherness, unity and an innate desire to serve those less fortunate then our understanding and tolerance of each other can only get stronger as our relationships with everyone blooms. It is that simple really. That and education too. And also a willingness from all communities to try and get on - Too often the focus is unfairly on a handful. 

Christmas Day was the first time I noticed that the number of immigrant homeless friends visiting the Whitechapel Mission outnumbered the natives. Crisis run their camps so a lot of the regular visitors had spread out but even then we served well over 150 homeless guests. Sue and Tony were on hand as always to guide, support and advise. Ramesh kept everyone in stitches with his pranks and gags throughout. 

The Whitechapel Mission is a unique charity. In 2016:
  • 6941 different people have used the services so far. 
  • 3,714 people have used the advice services during the past year. 293 were women.
  • 10% of people using services are under 26 years of age.
  • 311 people received help in claiming benefits.
  • 30% of people using the services have been in care at some point.

In 2017 I'm proud to announce that I will be running the British 10k for The Whitechapel Mission for the tenth year in a row. It'll be a personal landmark for me if I can make it and I have no intention of stopping yet. 

As part of a drive I had agreed to join Sister Christine Frost and Neighbours in Poplar to help out with a Christmas Day community initiative whereby approximately 130 Christmas meals were prepared and delivered by volunteers to the homes of elderly and vulnerable local residents. 

Neighbours in Poplar came into being in October 1969, when some concerned people gathered together a large number of senior citizens in Pope John House for a Christmas Party.

Because this was so successful and a need had obviously been met, volunteers began to meet regularly, visiting and providing necessary service for people living in the Poplar area of London E14. NIP offers Multi-Faith Care in the community, practical support and care for vulnerable people who are living at home, regardless of their faith, age, race, gender, culture, or disability. The team also provide disadvantaged children with breaks from their normal environment during the summer holidays.

I finished my day with a hearty meal with Robbo at Ariana. I am tired but very satisfied and full of life after my experience today. I did receive lots of messages for friends wanting to volunteer and am sorry I couldn't accommodate one and all. I would thoroughly recommend that everyone signs up for some volunteering and go through the channels by signing up for shifts where necessary. 

With our soup kitchen you could just turn up with some notice though. If you don't find an experience fulfilling or worthwhile then move on and change until you find your niche. It'll boost confidence, keep you happy, you'll be making a significant difference and will make new friends. It's win win all the way. 

Remember, our homeless, vulnerable and needy friends are not a problem - They are a result of a greater problem. It is our responsibility to support them. 

If you'd like to support please tweet me @emdad07