Last night Brook Milton Keynes went 'back in time' to celebrate 50 years of brilliant Brook work with young people. The fancy dress costumes were absolutely phenomenal (except I let the side down because I couldn't find enough paisley in time). Equally phenomenal was the energy and effort that had gone into organising the party. It was undoubtedly a team effort led with enormous energy by Antonietta Moch (Toni) with boundless support from Hayden Tennant.
To kick off the evening professional dancers tried to help us master a few steps. Learning some new dance moves was a (bit of a) struggle for me, and certainly gave everyone including myself lots to laugh at. When did left become right, and when did 'pull towards' mean 'push your partner away and stand on their feet'? The tutor saw me struggling and came to help. She had a proper twirly dress and deftly took the lead - from then on I felt fantastic and we looked a bit more expert.
The team had pulled together a fantastic rolling projection with pictures and images showing Brook's 50 years. It showed just how critical the role Brook has played in transforming attitudes and developing knowledge and best practice for young people both nationally and in Milton Keynes specifically. We will get it on our website soon. It shows just how much has been achieved in 50 short years and just how much more there is still to be done.
Until we confidently talk about sex, orgasms, masturbation, sexual abuse and exploitation, until we talk about pleasure and all young people know violence is never acceptable in relationships, until everyone knows that gender and sexual bullying is wrong, and until we have a culture that ensures that horrific sexual abuse like that exposed in Rotherham this week cannot happen again we are still swimming upstream and have a huge amount of work.
Against the backdrop of how much there is still to do, it was an honour to see some of the teams, volunteers and community partners working in Milton Keynes. I was so impressed by Jaydun one of the young volunteers who is doing great work to provide young people with no nonsense information as part of his O2 Think Big Social Action project, and the Boots The Chemists team who were absolutely delighted about how the partnership with Brook has helped them to improve their sexual health support in the community.
It was of course wonderful to be in a room full of people who care about and trust young people and value their developing sexuality enormously. All of them do so much day in day out to ensure all children and young people grow up confident about their gender and sexual identity, about who they are and able to navigate their way through puberty, adolescence and into adulthood.
In 50 years much has changed. We will need so much more change over the next 50 years if Brook's mission to enable young people to enjoy their sexuality without harm is to be realised.
In 25 years Brook in Milton Keynes has gone from a part time service providing a limited range of services for young people to a big service that sees many thousands of young people each year and works in partnership with schools, colleges and other organisations in the community. All of Brook's work in Milton Keynes operates from a fantastic building that sends a clear message to young people and our partners that we take young people's sexual health and well being really really seriously.
I raise a glass to Brook being 50, to the team in Milton Keynes doing extraordinary work day in day out with young people, and to Toni and the organising team for a fantastic party.
P.s If you want evidence of dancing, there are some photos on my twitter @simonablake which will probably find their way to the Brook charity website over the next few days.