READERS’ LETTERS: From the Bury Free Press of Friday, November 13

Remembrance Parade on Angel Hill ANL-150811-230205009
Remembrance Parade on Angel Hill ANL-150811-230205009
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A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, November 13

PROUD OF OUR ACT OF REMEMBRANCE

Our community is reeling from the aftermath of a spiteful attack on our moral standards. Thurston Community College was accused of showing disrespect to the national commemoration of Remembrance Day, by holding our act of remembrance at 10.30am.

This decision was made to ensure that all members of our community were able to participate in a meaningful tribute.

Holding the act during lesson time facilitated intimate gatherings across both of our campuses, where we were able to focus on the purpose of remembrance and reflect on the poignant words of a well-chosen poem. Providing time afterwards to address any issues, including comforting those upset by the event, was also part of our thoughtful plan. Standing, as a united community of more than 2,000 people, was a powerful moment.

I am immensely proud of the way in which Thurston Community College conducted our act of remembrance.

We went to great lengths to ensure a consistent, meaningful and respectful tribute. I have received numerous emails of support from parents who share that view.

In the words of one parent: “You made the right choice, we just choose not to plaster it all over social media!”

However, as always, I shall take time to reflect upon the views expressed about the timing of our event. We are a community dedicated to learning and none of us are immune.

My personal view is that commemorating the event is a matter of principle rather than a specific time. It is about providing time for reflection in a still, quiet and respectful environment, where support can be offered to those who may need it.

Remembering the day, remembering the significance, remembering the importance, remembering those who lost their lives…those are the most important factors, whether it’s 9am, 10.30am, 11.00am or 6pm. I believe that Thurston Community College honoured the fallen.

I feel privileged to be a member of Thurston Community College, a community who yesterday demonstrated an ethos of respect and dignity.

I would like to end with the words of Colin Branch, who has been a member of our staff for the past six years.

“I am a veteran amputee having served with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Croatia and Afghanistan. Last night I was a guest of honour at the Poppy Dinner for the Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent Charity at Queens’ College in Cambridge. During the evening I spoke to many influential and high ranking officers and local business men and women to tell them how immensely proud I am to work at Thurston Community College, especially after yesterday’s act of remembrance. Seeing students and staff taking time to reflect upon the conflicts of the past 101 years was poignant and dignified and that made me feel very proud to be a part of Thurston Community College.”

-- Helen Wilson, Principal, Thurston Community College

A MATTER OF RESPECT

As is usual and respectful, there was an excellent turnout at the parade in Angel Hill on Sunday. The timings were perfect as regards the flypast by the helicopter and the parade of the service men and women most poignant. The youngsters in the various associations taking part reminded us of the next generation to take up arms.

We were standing opposite the Angel Hotel and it is a pity that the service could not have been relayed by speakers to that location. Several hundred people at this point would have felt left out.

As a matter of respect it would have been appropriate for the staff at the Angel Hotel to have paused in their work for the two minutes. Instead, we heard the rattle of work trolleys and bottles during the silence coming from the archway of the hotel.

-- Name and address supplied

THE SILENCE WAS MEMORABLE

As a new member of the town council I was very honoured to attend the service in the Rose Garden of the Abbey Gardens, on Saturday, then on Sunday the service on Angel Hill and at St Mary’s Church.

What stood out was not the pomp, the bands or ranks of soldiers, Scouts etc; the greatest moment that hit home was the silence, in the Abbey Gardens in the pouring rain, the bugle echoing off the Cathedral, then the sun broke through.

Sunday saw massive crowds, again it was the silence, broken only by the cry of a small child, the bugle echoing all over Angel Hill, standards flapping, then the wrump, wrump of the helicopter fly past. All those who marched past the dais were treated to huge applause, especially the young groups who proudly marched by, then the veterans, how grand when they marched past, some with a tear in the eye for lost comrades.

I was very fortunate to meet one gentlemen who works as a volunteer at the Suffolk Regimental Museum and to hear his experiences. My late mother only occasionally spoke of her time in the ATS in London during the blitz.

My grateful thanks to be involved, and to those who served and did not come home, “We will remember them”.

-- Tom Murray, Howard Estate, Bury St Edmunds

APPALLED AT DISRESPECT

In recent years, I have been very honoured and proud to take more of an active role in various Remembrance Tide occasions and this year was no different.

On Friday evening, together with my Mum, we enjoyed being part of the audience of the annual Festival of Remembrance held at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds. It really was the next best thing to what we all see annually on the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall.

The RAF Honington Voluntary Band and Military Wives Choir were exemplary, as were the various other musical displays and presentation of so many Royal British Legion standards. Very well done to all who did such an outstanding job in organising and we look forward to being with you again next year.

On Sunday, I was immensely proud to join fellow parish council colleagues in leading our village of Ixworth in our Remembrance Day commemorations with the traditional annual parade through the village with the Boys Brigade Band. I find it an immensely humbling and honourable occasion, tinged with a feeling of sentimentality as relatives of mine no longer with us also participated in the same parade in years gone by. It was also wonderful to see our community line the parade route and support the efforts of the village’s branch of the Royal British Legion which saw standing room only during the Remembrance Service in St Mary’s Church.

This year was all the more poignant for me having recently been extremely honoured to accept the position of Branch Treasurer and Officer of Ixworth’s Royal British Legion where the fundamental ethos of the organisation is to “Live On” ensuring that we never forget, and honour those, who gave their today for our tomorrow. Earlier this morning, I stood at Ixworth’s War Memorial in the grounds of St Mary’s Church with fellow Ixworth RBL comrades where we were joined by Years 3 and 4 from Ixworth Primary School to observe the nation’s two-minute silence and it was superb to see those youngsters understand the meaning of what was occurring and observing in that traditional, annual mark of respect so impeccably which for me, rounded off the highlights of the past few days.

However, you can then imagine how I, and clearly many others going on the reaction on the Bury Free Press website and on social media, felt when we learnt of the news in your article ‘Three generations criticise Thurston school for 10.30 remembrance ‘disrespect’’. Upon reading this article and learning of what occurred at Thurston Community College this morning, I am absolutely outraged and appalled at how the headteacher of this school could go against the fundamental definition of today’s mark of remembrance – to be observed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month just as it has for the last 97 years since the act of armistice was signed marking the end of the First World War. This is a charade that is disrespectful and if I were a student of that school, I would have shunned her mentality, which seems to be entirely fuelled by not disrupting break-time in the staffroom, and observe this act of respect in line with the rest of the nation. Clearly, taking time out of the school day half an hour earlier than any other was more important than disrupting the school’s break time.

-- Ben Lord, Ixworth

A LAPSE IN JUDGEMENT

I am writing to express my deep concern at the choice of music played by local radio station RWSFM 103.3 at the fireworks display in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday, November 7.

While waiting to support several of my students performing in Voice Squad’s excellent rendition of selections from Adieus, Songs of Sanctuary, I was horrified to hear RWSFM play Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. The very fact that this was played in a public event open to a range of ages including children was distasteful enough. However, what made it worse was that the DJs had decided to play this song as the children from Voice Squad were coming on to the stage. And, with its deceptively fun rhythm, the teens and pre-teens were bopping and singing along to the song quite happily.

Blurred Lines features lyrics such as ‘I know you want it’ following the words ‘you’re a good girl’. A common social attack on survivors of sexual violence is to suggest that they were flirting or giving mixed messages which made the perpetrator unsure about consent. Such a lyric suggesting that a ‘good girl’ definitely ‘wants it’ teaches young people that women are validated by their sexuality and that flirtation is some form of contract. Other lyrics suggest that painful and abusive sex is commonplace and normal; another dangerous message to send to both young men and women.

Not only does it send a dangerous message about consent, but it could have a huge impact on survivors of sexual violence. With a statistic of one in every five women in the UK experiencing sexual violence, there is a strong chance that, at an event of thousands, there will be many survivors who may suffer from hearing a song that undermines and derides the serious nature of sexual assault.

After the University of Edinburgh banned the controversial song in 2013, many more student unions have followed suit. This is because the song is not only degrading and offensive to women but it condones and apologises for rape and sexual violence. The very title Blurred Lines suggests that there is a blurred line between yes and no, challenging the important message for young people that a woman or a man only consents to sex with a resounding ‘yes’.

When I sent a Tweet to organisers of the fireworks event, Bury St Edmunds Round Table to say I found this distasteful, I have had no response.

This is a song that has been banned by over 20 Student Unions in the UK, features topless women dancing in its video and has caused controversy the world over. To play it as young, impressionable schoolchildren go on stage shows a staggering lapse in judgement from Radio West Suffolk and Bury St Edmunds Round Table.

I think it is time for Bury to come into the 21st century of gender equality and reject popular culture that victim-blames and apologises for rape: particularly at family-friendly public local events.

-- Megan Reynard, via email

SHOW BROUGHT THEATRE ALIVE

I wanted to congratulate the Irving Stage Company for their recent production of West Side Story – once again their standards are superb and their enthusiasm and talent brings the theatre alive (despite the Theatre Royal’s famously uncomfortable seats and severely limited views!). This follows on from the excellent production of Fiddler on the Roof by the equally talented Bury Operatic and Dramatic Society a few weeks ago. Well done to all involved.

Now if we could just persuade the theatre management to charge sensible prices for their drinks (£9 for a G&T and pint of IPA, anyone?).

-- Jackie Chubb, Rede