Through Unity Annual Conference October 2011

Through Unity Annual Conference Putting Victims First

Mothers Against Violence Chairperson Ian Swanston attended the Through Unity Annual Conference Putting Victims First, held in London on the 19th October at the Abbey Centre, Westminster. The conference was delivered in association with Through Unity and Victim Support. Victim Support recently supported MAV’s “A Community Counselling & Emotional Support Service” (ACCESS) with funding for the project. The conference focused on those who have lost loved ones as a result of murder and aggression. Speakers included Ann Oakes-Odger MBE who lost her son in an unprovoked act of violence on the 12th September 2005, when he was fatally stabbed in the neck. He had celebrated his 27th Birthday only weeks earlier. Ms Oakes-Odger spoke of the journey she had taken after his death which brought her to a place in which she founded her charity KnifeCrimes.Org in 2006, supporting families bereaved by murder and manslaughter. KnifeCrimes.Org also has an education programme called “Westley’s Weapons Awareness” MAV Chairperson said; I felt extremely moved by Ann’s story. Ann spoke of a time two weeks before her son’s murder, when while shopping she saw flowers laid outside a flower shop, it was strange to her as the flowers were clearly not for sale. She felt compelled to go into the shop and ask why the followers were all laid outside in such away. As she asked the shop assistant about the flowers, a lady approached her from behind, she said; thanks for asking about the followers, there for my son, he died in his sleep after a night out, doctors  think it could have been drugs. Ann replied; I am sorry I can’t imagine what you must be going through. Ann said she was not to know that only two weeks later she would know the loss of a son.      

Another conference speaker was Mark One, real name Mark Walters. Mark is a Bafta Award winning director, and creative Director and CEO of Mark One Group, a motivational speaker and anti gun and knife campaigner. Mark introduced his new film “After Effects” which looked at the impact of receiving the news that your loved one has been murdered. MAV Chairperson said; The film brought me back to the day I received the news of my younger brother’s murder. I felt Mark really captured the impact of hearing the news extremely well through film. I do hope the film will be used throughout schools and youth offending services, helping young people better understand the impact of such crime on families like my own. The night my brother was shot the impact of bullet came through each member of my family and this pain was also felt by many of my brother’s friends. 

There were performances from the amazing singer song writer Camera Fearon better known as MizzCamara.  MizzCamara the proud winner of the Spirit of London Music Award in 2010 preformed one of her own songs. MizzCamara said: we should stand up as people because strength comes through unity.

The Chickenshed Theatre Company preformed their powerful production, Crime of the Century. MAV Chairperson felt the performances from MizzCamara and Chickenshed were the highlight of the conference, he said: I love creativity; and MizzCamara and Chickenshed had stacks of it. MizzCamara song writing and voice was simply spellbinding. The combination of dance and acting from Chickenshed captured the thoughts and experiences of the younger generating. There was also a challenging message for all of us as adults. It was a pleasure to meet and take photographs with the performers. After the conference I got to tell them how much their performances inspired me.

Other Speakers included Dr Terry Ryall Chief Executive of “V” the National Young Volunteers Service set up in May 2006 and Baroness Newlove of Warrington.  Baroness Newlove was appointed by the Government as a champion for active, safe communities. Baroness Newlove lost her husband Garry Newlove in 2007. Gary was murdered by a teenage gang in the street in front of his young daughters.   MAV hope to send a reprehensive to this annual event next year.

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