For Community Care Magazine May 2005.
There was a time when advocacy was something one could find being practised in a few progressive places in the UK. Now of course, with the introduction of the government's white paper 'Valuing People', advocacy abounds as a way to sustain development. It is assumed that statutory funding should be sought. However it seems that the statutory sector views advocacy as a means to let service users know what the local authority has already decided to do. Advocacy service level agreements are popping up all over, a fact that in my opinion is contrary to the advocacy ethos and one that compromises advocacy's independence and ability to fully and openly support the service user.
Another development in the fundraising strategies is to go for larger amounts and in collaboration with other fund seekers. This joint working approach is what funders want to see and it also reflects the growing need for this service. All very well in theory but I believe that there are inherent problems in this approach for both smaller and larger advocacy organisations and most importantly for service users.
Firstly. Advocacy organisations are in danger of becoming as unwieldy, bureaucratic and institutional as those that they are so often in dispute with. This is unlikely to be good for neither advocacy or the service user. Advocacy is not about numbers; it is about individual people's needs and having them addressed appropriately and in a culture of transparency.
Secondly. Advocacy umbrella organisations which seem to be springing up, ostensibly as a result of imposed funding criteria, are in danger of a) losing sight of and potentially alienating their service users; b) setting up a cross or neighbouring borough conflict of interest; c) risking bringing advocacy into disrepute by setting up what is tantamount to a monopoly; d) being perceived by statutory organisations and service users as knowing too much over too wide an area and putting smaller often extremely successful advocacy groups out of commission.
If an advocacy project has its 'birth' within a statutory body or 'gets into bed' with one at a later time, how can it meet the needs of service users? The answer is that it can't. It will always become a 'hostage to fortune' because it compromises itself by being a large organisation in the mistaken view that it can somehow control its service delivery sustainability in this way. A result of this is that the service is likely to become less user-focussed because of business constraints on its practice and service user disillusionment.
Bigger is most definitely not better especially when people with learning difficulties are involved. Wasn't that why we closed the institutions? Lets not create another one in advocacy.
Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde'
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and Oscar Wilde (1854-1905), were two greats of literature and both a kind of Gay Daddy. Whitman’s seminal work ‘Leaves of Grass’ expressed for the first time in American poetry, a discernment of homosexuality, described in what he called the ‘body electric’, a strong sexual charge. This raunchy collection brought him notoriety. Alternatively, Wilde who was born only a year before the publication was to go on to merely discuss same-sex love in terms of something that ‘dare not speak its name’, a kind of Greek love between an older wiser man and a younger but willing student. This bashful approach to sex may have been brought about by changing sexual morals and laws in place in late 19th century England. However, both men expressed in their art, and their own way, a sensibility to homosexual love and relationships.
Of course, in terms of Modern day definitions of homosexuality, it is hard to pin down the sexual orientation of either, their emotional and sexual lives are shrouded in uncertainty, and the age in which they lived filled with sexual hypocrisy, respectability being the most important tenet in life. Wilde was from a wealthy family and his first conquests, sexual or otherwise, came from similar circles to his own: young men used to expecting to get what they wanted, and by no means the innocents that society would have had us believe. The last of these, Lord Alfred Douglas, was to introduce Oscar to a circle of rent boys, with whom he had friendships or, as was alleged, sexual relationships. Oscar, by his own admission paid for the young men’s company, often with gifts or money, whilst maintaining respectability as a married man with children. After his fall of course, his love for Lord Alfred Douglas became common knowledge and they lived together abroad, for a time, until financial constraints imposed by the estate of his ex-wife forced them to separate. It is interesting to note that up to his trial Wilde was the darling of the literati and the theatre going public, but even this adoration did not save him from the law’s and society’s view of homosexuality, exacerbated by the fact that Wilde was viewed to have ‘corrupted’ younger innocent men.
Whitman is different to Wilde in that he was from a family, often in perilous danger of financial ruin and yet with strong Quaker leanings. However, he never married, and he openly lived with at least three young men, through his life. One of these young men a mere teenager at the start of their relationship, Bill Duckett, served Whitman in a variety of roles, aside from any sexual relationship that may have occurred. There is a photograph of Duckett with Whitman in a formal ‘married’ pose, which is in contrast to the artistic one of Whitman and his most notable love, Peter Doyle, although in this image they are made to appear as though seated on a Tête-à-Tête seat. At the very least, such photographs seem to suggest a very close friendship, viewed as somewhat odd by some, since Whitman was known to be famous and apparently comfortably off as a result of his writing success and yet choosing working class young men as his companions. Ironically, Wilde, a gay ‘daddy’, claimed a tenuous ‘daddy / son’ relationship with Whitman. According to Wilde himself, when they met in 1882, when Whitman was 63 and Wilde 28, this meeting of intellectual equals was sealed with a kiss on the lips.
As mentioned before, the relationships Whitman and Wilde had were founded on mutual benefit; undoubtedly Whitman financially supported his lovers/helpers/assistants and Wilde also showered Lord Alfred with gifts and paid the rent boys for their favours. What is also likely for these relationships and for many Daddy/Son relationships now is that they had an intellectual or emotional component, a truly Platonic-inspired alliance.
(on-line article, 2010)
Only ten years separated Verlaine and Rimbaud, two giants of the French poetry scene, and yet I believe that you can call their relationship a Daddy/Son one. It is also clear that Rimbaud the younger man, brought out the older man, giving him the excuse to fully express his decadent nature. Just before Rimbaud wrote to him, he had left his job and begun to drink heavily, but it seems that Rimbaud’s letter sent along with his poem ‘Le Dormeur du Val’ or ‘The Sleeper of the Vale’, a mesmeric and scandalous work, clearly struck a chord with Verlaine. As the more successful man it was Verlaine who paid for the ticket that would bring Rimbaud to him, and occasion the beginning of their affair. They became vagrants and wastrels, their activities fuelled by generous amounts of absinthe and hashish.
Verlaine had been a figure of some standing, attending leading artistic salons of the day. This literary elite which Verlaine had previously been a member of, hated Rimbaud, the enfant terrible, the pervert, as he was viewed. Verlaine was also a respectable married man and father, and Verlaine’s wife, already a victim of his drunken rages, despised Rimbaud - a young, uncouth upstart. She soon realised that her husband and Rimbaud’s relationship was a homosexual one, an indecent connection, by the standards of the day.
Edmund White in his biography of Rimbaud muses upon the young poet’s desire for literary, sexual and mental control of Verlaine. Perhaps he saw in Verlaine a man out of control already and ripe for bending to his depraved ways and to his brand of futuristic abstract poetry, a rarity in 19th century literature. He, being the younger man was perhaps seeking for a willing disciple in the older man, whose work may have run its own course. Whether this supposition is true or false, Rimbaud did succeed in isolating Verlaine from family, friends and literary contemporaries, turning him into a dependent and mercilessly cruel individual and Rimbaud’s near assassin. Verlaine, in a drunken rage, shot Rimbaud twice, once in the wrist. Rimbaud at first refused to report this incident, supposedly because it was only an extension of the bitterness both felt towards each other, but at a meeting at a railway station Verlaine’s behaviour so frightened Rimbaud that he reported the incident to the police. He was arrested for attempted murder and also rather bizarrely underwent a quasi - medical examination, following the police examination of his writings to Rimbaud and his own wife’s accusations about the nature of his and Rimbaud’s relationship. Rimbaud eventually dropped the charges but it was too late for Verlaine to evade imprisonment, purportedly for his homosexuality. The disapprobation of others sealed his fate.
The root of their hostility towards each other, as sometimes happens in other Daddy/Son relationships, may have been because Rimbaud was jealous of Verlaine’s success, and sought to ruin him, or to drag him away from his poetic roots and to make him persona non grata to his old crowd. They were also sexually incompatible: Rimbaud was a highly sexed buck and Verlaine, a passive romantic. Of course grinding poverty also played a part in their wretched life together. They met again after Verlaine’s release from prison, but Rimbaud’s determination to cease writing and his debauched ways, left their relationship with nothing to feed upon. So Rimbaud left for North Africa to work as a merchant, and died aged 37 in 1891. Verlaine, after further success as a poet in England, became a teacher in France where he fell for a young pupil, Lucien Lettinois, who died in 1883, leaving a devastated Verlaine to fall even deeper into drug addiction and alcoholism. However, a brief resurrection of popularity through a re-evaluation of his early work brought him an income and yet he too died young in 1896.
(on- line article, 2010)
church architect, designer and furnisher (1864-1960)