On Tuesday 8th October our Alliance achieved a major campaign win as Brighton and Hove City Council unanimously voted to reinstate an accessible toilet in Hove Cemetery North. These toilets were closed down in 2012 due to cuts and vandalism. The lack of facilities in the cemetery have affected many residents in our city, in particular the elderly and disabled.
One of those affected is Sandra Walker, the President of the Progressive Synagogue. Sandra’s husband is a wheelchair user, and it is physically impossible for them to access the nearest facilities in the cemetery – located over a quarter of a mile away, on the other side of a dual carriage way without a zebra crossing.
Alongside many other mourners, Sandra and her husband has missed funerals of loved ones due to the lack of accessible facilities in the cemetery. Sandra raised £5000 from the Bloom Foundation and brought the issue to City Council, only to be told reinstating the toilet wasn’t a priority.
Building power and listening to our community
Last year the Progressive Synagogue became one of the founding members of Brighton and Hove Citizens, and in the spring of 2019 the alliance held a listening campaign asking our members what issues really matter to our city. A strong voice rose from the congregation of the Synagogue: that of Sandra and her peers telling the story of the cemetery and its closed down toilets.
The alliance agreed to take on the campaign as one of our four key campaign priorities, and in April we saw Sandra Walker and Michael Austin hold the Council Leaders to account at our Alliance Assembly and receive a commitment: yes, Council will work with us to see if we can reinstate the toilets.
Taking Action and getting a commitment
Energised by the commitment we held an action to deliver invitations to Councillors to visit the Cemetery. The invitations were neatly folded into toilet rolls, and over 15 leaders from our membership organisation joined Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah to deliver them to a bemused Council receptionist – wondering what exactly to tell the Councillors to pick up at reception.
From the action the Councillors promised to set a date to open the Toilet building to assess the cost of reinstatement. We brought over 20 alliance members and the local newspaper the Argus to celebrate the day. On this day the Council’s Chair for Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee Councillor Anne Pissaridou pledged her support for the campaign, and promised to take the issue to the committee. Two months later the committee convened and voted unanimously to find funding for the reinstatement of the toilet.
Celebrating our win for social justice
Reflecting on the campaign Michael Austin said ‘the Synagogue has campaigned on this issue for seven years – but it was through the shared power of the alliance we finally have achieved justice’.
Michael is right – the win is truly the achievement of the whole Alliance. By building power together and holding successful actions on Councillors we have turned this campaign from a non-priority to a cross-party supported issue within the Council. Next the Alliance will organise an event to publicly thank the Councillors for enabling the win for this campaign - and working with us to improve our city.
Delivering invitations wrapped in toilet rolls to Councillors.
Alliance members visiting the Cemetery in the summer of 2019.
Alliance delegation celebrating win after the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting.