Front page - "Save the unit that helped my son"

I recently visited Leeds General Infirmary children's heart unit to interview a family there that would be affected if it was one of the units to close as part of the NHS's review of children's heart surgery provision across the UK. I went back for another issue of the Asian Express to speak to mother Nasreen Akhtar Suleman whose 14-month-old son Shayaan Ali is being treated there. Nasreen is another parent that is campaigning to stop the unit from closure. She travels from Halifax every day to be with her son and if she was forced to travel any further it would be very disruptive to her and her family's lives.

"It has been a very difficult time and the doctors have said he is not going to make it many times. Adding to this with the worry that unit may close has not helped and there are many families in the same situation that come here every day to visit their sick children," she told me.

To read the full article, click here and read the front page and page 4. Read more »

Rising star

Business profiles make up part of the Asian Express newspaper and each one focuses on a different Yorkshire-based company. For a recent profile I interviewed a Chapeltown-based dancer, actress and model Deeba Amin. Alongside writing the text for her business profile, I photographed the multi-talented entertainer (which can be seen in the shots below).

The 22-year-old rising star has been busy holding physical theatre and dance workshops for children and women in the local area. She is also preparing to go travelling at the end of the year when she will volunteer in India and incorporate some of her physical theatre and dance experience. Thanks to her unique style of dancing, which is a mixture of Bollywood, street and classical techniques, Deeba has attracted a lot of attention and is preparing to compete in the semi-finals of an international dance competition.

Keen to continue dancing at events such as melas and share her knowledge with others through workshops when she returns from travelling, Deeba is currently promoting her brand Miz Diva. Read more »

Becky Flower - fashion/beauty shoot

Pixel 8 Studios in Leeds held a portrait day recently during which they offered people the chance to have a free photo session. I was lucky enough to be able to take some fashion and beauty shots of one of the models on the day thanks to fellow photographer Dauson Bermtay.

Becky Flower is a 21-year-old model from Wakefield. Looking to expand her portfolio, she came down to Pixel 8 Studios' portrait day. Becky was not only great at listening to directions, she is skilled in striking poses that give a shot real impact. Due to her distinctive look and vibrant hair, a low key lighting set-up was perfect for the shoot. For more information on Becky, take a look at her Facebook modelling page. Read more »

Temple appeal

Earlier this month, I wrote an article about the Hindu Temple Project, which is aiming to raise money to acquire a building to turn into Oxford's first Hindu temple and community centre. Gyan Gopal, Chairman, Oxford Hindu Temple & Community Centre Project Executive Committee, told me that the first aim is to be established as a charity and raise awareness of the lack of a temple in the area which means Hindus in Oxford have to travel as far as London, Birmingham or Slough.

So far the project has generated £60,000 in under three years from activities such as Holi events, Summer Mela and Diwali dinner dances. However, they have not raised as much money as they had hoped and are urging others to donate to the fund.

For more information and to read the full article, click here and select page 16. Read more »

Gathering the views of the community

Sometimes a particular story comes along that is best covered by getting out into the community and seeing what their opinion is. I recently heard that Pendle Council was proposing to introduce a new dress code for its taxi drivers in which men would be required to wear a smart shirt and trousers to work and women would have to dress in a similar smart manner. Some Asian taxi drivers in the area were angered by the suggestion of the new laws being put in place and felt that as they would not be able to wear the traditional dress (shalwar kameez), they were being discriminated against.

Due to the objections from members of the Asian taxi driver community, the changes did not go ahead but I went out and about in Leeds to ask people if they agreed with the proposed dress code. Some of the views, which were gathered from a range of ages and from taxi drivers themselves were surprising and the overall findings were that 64% of people believe it is not acceptable for Asian taxi drivers to wear traditional clothing during work hours.

To read the full article at the Asian Express site, click here and go to pages 12 and 13. Read more »

Rabbi criticises proposed free school

A Maidenhead Rabbi has voiced his concerns over a proposed Sikh school in Slough. If the plans go ahead, the Slough Sikh Education Trust will set up a Sikh faith secondary school to help cope with the problem of a shortage of school places in the area. However, Rabbi Jonathan Romain believes that the Sikh community would become segregated if such a school was to open. But Rabbi Romain points out that he is in favour of faith but not of faith schools. In their defence, the Sikh Education Trust explained that the school hopes to attract half of its pupils from non-Sikh backgrounds.

To read the full story, click here to visit the Asian Express newspaper site and select page 26. Read more »

Pillar of the community

The generosity of some people is truly remarkable. Furhan Mustafa is one individual I interviewed recently who goes the extra mile to help others without expecting anything in return. The 21-year-old student from Manchester devotes his time to improving the lives of others in many ways such as organising days out for disabled children and influencing the development of local services.

Furhan, who was nominated for the Good Neighbour award at the Manchester city council's Be Proud Awards, began volunteering at Trafford Carers Centre after he cared for his nephew who is in a wheelchair and need round-the-clock care. Margaret Clarke has shown her gratitude for the support Furhan has given her in caring for her sick husband Bill by writing a letter to the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In the letter, Ms Clarke pointed out the incredible difference the help had made to her and her husband's life.

Furhan is preparing to launch a not-for-profit independent, voluntary organisation called Sahara that will provide support for ethnic minority parents, carers and former carers of children with special needs. To read the full story, click here to visit the Asian Express newspaper site and head over to page 28. Read more »

The only way is up - lifestyle article for Leeds City Dweller

For many people, their home is an extension of their personality and a way to express themselves. When writing and taking the photographs for a recent lifestyle article for Leeds City Dweller magazine I met a couple that have invested a lot of time into their city centre penthouse apartment. George and Diane have developed the property extensively since they purchased it. Stylishly decorated throughout, the apartment has a contemporary feel; from the elegant spiral staircase through to the stunning Italian artwork hanging on the walls.

The view from the rooftop terrace is breathtaking and I can't think of many better places to enjoy a summer BBQ with friends and family. As George and Diane are a sociable couple and enjoy entertaining, making sure their home could accommodate this was important to then. This is why, after working on the decor and making the outside space a pleasure to relax in, the couple decided to apply for planning permission to add another level to the property. Read more »

Sikh Leisure Centre receives funding

In the same week I had been reporting on cuts to council funding resulting in the closure of a local youth programme, it was uplifting to hear that cash had been awarded elsewhere in the region. The Sikh Leisure Centre in Huddersfield received a boost of over £25,000 from ethical funding organisation the SITA Trust and I went down to chat to the centre director and chief executive and the president of the nearby Sikh temple.

The money has been used for new energy efficient heating and cooling systems to allow users to benefit from a more comfortable environment. In order for similar systems to be installed in its smaller function room and bar area, the centre is continuing to fundraise. To read the full article, click here to visit the Asian Express newspaper site and flick to page 26. Read more »

PC Kashif Ahmed cleared of fraud

In the regional edition of the Asian Express I cover some of the goings on in courts in areas of Yorkshire. The recent case of Bradford police officer Kashif Ahmed caught my eye so I decided to get in touch for more information. Mr Ahmed and his co-accused Shamim Khan were cleared of fraud and deception in March by a judge at Bradford Crown Court. The pair faced charges under the Theft Act and Fraud Act but Mr Ahmed, who had served at the Leeds North-West division of West Yorkshire Police, had pleaded not guilty to all charges. Judge Benson decided to dismiss the allegations made against the police officer due to the case being tarnishes by a significant irregularity at the centre of the investigation.

ACC Mark Gilmore from Wet Yorkshire Police responded by telling me that reporting of the Judge's comments elsewhere in the media had been selective and that the investigation was conducted professionally and a decision to prosecute was made independently by the Crown Prosecution Service in Police Force area.

Mr Ahmed has issued legal proceedings against West Yorkshire Police and a number of officers to prevent a similar situation reoccurring. To read the full story at the Asian Express newspaper site, click here and and go to page 31. Read more »