From Partying to Parenthood: LGBTQ+ History Month

From Partying to Parenthood: LGBTQ+ History Month

Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth! This February, the Martin James Network is excited to celebrate the lives, legacies and histories of LGBTQ+ people in the UK and abroad. Throughout the month we will be posting information pieces, stories from colleagues across the network, useful links and much more. Kofi Aboagye-Broadhurst,  Director of Kingston Noble , shares his story on raising a family as a LGBTQ+ household.

I would love to say that weekends in my 20s began with raspberry quinoa smoothies and mile-long runs – but they didn’t. Saturdays usually started with a massive hangover after yet another Friday night of partying with my friends. We’d spend the rest of the weekend comparing our hangovers and watching our favourite TV boxsets.

Then the next Friday, we’d meet up straight after work and try to make that weekend’s session even more epic than the last. At the time, this seemed like living the dream. Constant fun, no responsibilities, and the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

But then life reached a point where I wanted more. Was the highlight of my week always going to be downing ten shots and getting a shout-out from the DJ? There had to be more to it than that. It had to be possible for all of us to get more from our lives…

In 2021, life is completely different. My husband, two wonderful children, and fun family days out fill days that I used to waste doing nothing. Adopting has changed our lives forever. The process was one of the most difficult, but rewarding, things we’ve ever done. Here’s everything you need to know about the LGBT adoption process. If we could do it, then so can you.

We hope that this article inspires a few people to take a leap of faith and give a loving home to some kids who really need their support.

Finding a greater purpose

There was a void in our lives that only children could fill. Surrogacy seemed too difficult, due to the legal complications that can arise during the process in the UK. At any time during the process, the woman who gives birth to the child can decide that she would prefer to raise the baby herself, causing a heart-breaking situation for everyone involved.

In the end, we chose adoption. We wanted to give a loving home to one of the many thousands of children across the UK who are not lucky enough to be born into one and grow up in the care system. Government figures released early in 2020 showed that 78,150 children in the UK were in care.

Although the number of LGBT couples putting themselves forward to become adopters and fosterers has increased annually over the last decade (1 in 6 of all UK adoptions in 2020 were by LGBT couples), many in the LGBT community who would love to adopt don’t put themselves forward. This is often because of fears of being judged, or even being rejected, because they are gay, bisexual or transgender.

Why do so many in the LGBT community avoid the adoption process

This is something that many straight couples struggle to relate to. Imagine having to sit in an interview saying: ‘Hi, please evaluate me against your social norm. I’m totally positive that despite my heterosexuality, you won’t find me incapable of looking after kids. Btw, did I mention that I’m straight? Hope that’s OK.’

Adoption agencies continue to make huge efforts to appeal to the LGBT community. That is evidenced by LGBT adoption statistics above.

However, this fear of homophobia and ostracization still puts many off applying. Questions such as ‘how you would react to your child getting teased for having gay parents?’ Or ‘do you think you would be able to meet the needs of a child in the same way as a mother?’ can be incredibly hurtful. Answering questions like these were very tough. You’re sat there wondering why society can’t see past the fact that you’re gay and appreciate the amazing life that you would give any child who joined your family.

Despite this, going through the process and adopting a child is one of the most worthwhile things you will ever do. Research suggests Parent-child relationships are typically just as strong in same-sex couples as in heterosexual ones. Research published by CoramBAAF actually suggests that gay fathers show greater levels of interaction with their child than other types of parents

How adoption changed our lives

For a start, cutting out drinking every single week does wonders for your health. Before lockdown, our weekends were spent visiting theme parks, zoos, bowling alleys and generally doing the exact opposite of everything we used to do on a Saturday. With two kids to look after, we’re always busy (even in lockdown).

Our children have brought so much happiness to our lives. Helping two wonderful humans grow into wonderful adults completes our lives and gives us the purpose we were looking for. Adoption gives you the opportunity to change the lives of each child you invite into your family for the better, forever.

People often look back on their lives and reflect on their career success, the wonderful holidays they went on, and the amazing things they owned. These are all fantastic memories, but are they all that life has to offer? What if you could look back on giving a child who was facing a hugely difficult life the opportunity to live their dreams? How rewarding would that be?

Inspiring others

After hearing about what we did, one of our good friends also decided to adopt. He is now father to three siblings with his partner. That’s the course of another three young lives transformed from a negative pathway to one filled with love and happiness (and two more immensely proud LGBT parents).

Sometimes life gives us great opportunities that look like opportunities. On other occasions, huge opportunities are hidden behind bigger challenges. The size of these challenges often mean that a lot of people never seize the opportunity. This is often the case when it comes to adoption in the LGBT community.

Adoption is one of these hidden opportunities. The process can seem particularly difficult for LGBT couples, but these difficulties are just temporary. The fulfilment that adopting will give you and your newest family members will last forever.

Keep an eye out on more stories to come from the Martin James Network as we celebrate and remember LGBT History month. Follow our social media pages to find out more.

EPIC Youth and Beatfreeks form exciting new partnership

EPIC Youth and Beatfreeks form exciting new partnership

An exciting new partnership has formed between two Birmingham organisations that offer young people opportunities to change their own futures.

EPIC Youth, part of the Martin James Foundation, recently donated a sum of money to Beatfreeks project Fuel. The partnership has a natural synergy with both organisations currently supporting young people through grants, mentoring and support.

Beatfreeks, an engagement and insight agency, connects young people to brands, funding and government. Fuel is a pot of money for those aged 18-30 in the Beatfreeks Community to use to react to important social issues. Eligible young people can apply for up to £500 by sending a WhatsApp voice note answering a number of questions. A panel of young people who are paid to sit on the panel for one year, decide whether or not the applicants are successful. Decisions are made within 48 hours and the money will land in their account to kickstart their idea within 2 weeks.

Amy Clamp, General Manager at Beatfreeks says:

“We are super excited to be working with EPIC Youth to give Fuel funding a further life after 2 years of great success and obvious need. Firstly, because our organisations have such similar aims and values. But also because we feel that by working together, we can grow the impact of our work for young people by offering more opportunities to access micro campaign funding.”

Fuel aims to break down the barriers young people often face when applying for funding for social action work. Both organisations are excited about the prospect of young people who are funded by Fuel, turning their ideas into companies with EPIC Youth.

EPIC Youth provides those aged 14-25 with a business idea, with grants, mentoring and business coaching. The funding to Fuel will allow young people to trial ideas with lower stakes, and the partnership provides a natural pathway for development.

Lindsey Hyde UK Programme Manager for EPIC Youth says:

“EPIC Youth is delighted to be partnering with Beatfreeks. We have such similar visions and we look forward to developing our relationship. Together we’ll be able to help one another reach more young people, whether it’s through Fuel funding or through business development with EPIC Youth. We’re two very passionate organizations and we are excited to see what the future holds for us.”

Martin James Network founder marks National Poetry Day with city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his experiences of Covid

Martin James Network founder marks National Poetry Day with city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his experiences of Covid

To mark National Poetry Day (Thursday 1st October), Birmingham poet – Basic Existential Boy – has installed a city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his own experiences of Covid.

Basic Existential Boy, or Jim Cockburn as he’s also known, launched his collection of Covid-19 poetry last month after falling ill with symptoms of the virus back in February.

Now, as we approach National Poetry Day, Jim hopes to inspire others and share his love of the written word with this thought provoking ‘clean graffiti’ art trail.

The trail aims to highlight the importance of art and poetry at times like these but also analyse how the pandemic has radically altered our society, rendering everyday life virtually unrecognisable overnight.

Showcasing excerpts of the poet’s work, the graffiti can be found in a number of locations throughout Birmingham such as Moseley, Harborne, Digbeth, Broad Street and New Street, as well as Moor Street and Snow Hill.

Speaking about his Covid poetry collection, Jim says: “Lockdown created time and space for me to reflect and writing this poetry has been a cathartic experience, helping me to deal with the mixed emotions the pandemic has brought about.

“The Coronavirus has disrupted every part of our lives in profound ways and no one has been immune from the effects. Within the pages of the collection, I have tried to capture some of these momentous times, good and bad.

Available to purchase on Amazon, Jim’s collection – called Covid Spring – features 17 poems reflecting on the world we’ve come to witness during the pandemic.

All proceeds from the collection go to EPIC Youth – a project set up by the Martin James Foundation to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success.

For more information visit www.basicexistentialboy.com or to purchase the Covid Spring anthology, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/Covid-Spring-Basic-Existential-Boy/dp/1527268446.

Follow @BasicExistentialBoy on Instagram and use the hashtag #BEBTHEPOET if you spot his work across the city.

Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham business expands with VR acquisition

Birmingham-based business, the Martin James Network, has expanded its portfolio further with the acquisition of VR company, VR Simulation Systems.

Headquartered in Edgbaston, and employing over 1,200 people globally, the Martin James Network is formed from a variety of organisations ranging from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.

The network has gone from strength-to-strength over the last two years, having started as a team of ten in rented offices in October 2018.

This latest move sees the network expand its mental health group, TalkOut, as it looks to help businesses navigate new ways of working and support staff wellbeing following the coronavirus outbreak.

Headed up by CEO, Jill Mead, TalkOut will now be able to offer workplaces across the country access to the best employee mental health support using the latest technology, in addition to its existing training and consultancy services.

As well as the new VR offering enabling employees to better understand and manage mental health through simulated environments, TalkOut has launched an app to help businesses connect and engage with teams as the nation adjusts to home working.

Rigorously tested for 18 months, and developed to work across countries and continents, the app helps businesses encourage collaboration, boost engagement, break down silos and provide crucial mental health support and counselling through a specialist chat function.

Ayyab Cockburn, chief operating officer at the Martin James Network, says: “We’re an ambitious network of businesses and we’re always looking at ways to diversify and grow, whilst keeping an eye on emerging trends.

“This latest acquisition is our response to what is a global issue. We’ve all been forced to work remotely, and whilst flexibility is an attractive benefit, this way of working can lead to isolation or silos.

“Businesses now more than ever are faced with both emotional and physical barriers that can and will impact on their success. Accepting that we need to change how we communicate with our employees, will be key in driving businesses forward during this challenging time.”

For more information about the Martin James Network, visit www.martinjamesnetwork.com or www.talkout.com.

Holy Moly teams up with FoodCycle to donate meals each week

Holy Moly teams up with FoodCycle to donate meals each week

Birmingham-based restaurant, Holy Moly – home of the ‘Proper Mac’ – has teamed up with national charity FoodCycle to help the charity support vulnerable people in the local community each week with hot meals.

FoodCycle combines surplus food, spare kitchen spaces and volunteers to create three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation, whilst helping those who may not be able to afford to feed themselves or their children.

Holy Moly donated its first selection of its vegetarian cheesy ‘Proper Mac’ to the UK charity in January and will be providing hot meals each week.

Justin Powell, Regional Manager Midlands at FoodCycle, said: “We are thrilled to have Holy Moly onboard supporting us in feeding people who may be struggling with hunger or loneliness. The backing of local food suppliers and restaurants is vital to us in order to provide free community meals; we can’t thank Holy Moly enough for their ongoing assistance each week and what is the start of a fantastic partnership.”

Paul Elliott, Head of Business at Holy Moly, added: “FoodCycle do some incredible work supporting the local community. The charity is made up of amazing volunteers who provide so much to those in need and being able to play a small part in helping means a lot to us all here.”

Holy Moly opened its doors back in 2018 as Birmingham’s first ever Mac ‘n’ Cheese restaurant. Located in Grand Central, the Harlem-inspired soul food heaven, is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a light bite, dinner with the family or a drink with your mates. Offering a delicious range of macs, burgers, chicken, cocktails and much more.

Established in 2009, FoodCycle runs 42 volunteer-powered community projects across England, with five in the Birmingham area, the latest of which launches at the Falcon Lodge Community Centre in Sutton Coldfield on 27th January.

If you would like to find out more and see how you can get involved, head to the FoodCycle website.

Bookings are not required at Holy Moly. For more information about the restaurant or menus available, visit here.