Better to light a candle than curse the darkness

These feel like dark times. It’s true that humans have often felt this; after all wars and famines and forced mass emigration and demagogic politicians have always been with us. Yet nowadays – through the media – we are exposed to ever more detail of the terrible sufferings of our fellow humans. And what is new and different is that over us all hangs the spectre of irreversible climate change and species extinction.

It’s easy to feel powerless, demoralised and worried. How vital then to cleave to what is wholesome and positive.

We founded BNHC in 1982 as the charitable arm of Infinity Foods. Its devotion to promoting health and wellbeing has been steady since those times, but my own experience is that it has become even more of a positive force in the last few years. There is something wonderful about a centre that is full – from morning to night – of committed teachers offering equally committed students their knowledge of ways we can be healthier, happier and more truly human.

This rich feeling of positivity has been enhanced by the growth of our community programme, for however well meaning BNHC is, it risks being elitist if it doesn’t reach out beyond its four walls. We have found new ways of doing this with our various free or low cost community classes and talks (see http://www.bnhc.co.uk/community).

Our last community talk (on the history of yoga by Jim Tarran) was held at Brighthelm Community Centre (BNHC wasn’t big enough for all the people who wanted to come). As I sat listening to Jim, I was struck by a new thought – one that seems important in these days when international politics seems to be moving dangerously towards the far right.

That thought – or rather memory – was that both BNHC and the Brighthelm Centre in North Road were built on the ashes of fires that were almost certainly set by fascist groups in Brighton.

The site where BNHC now sits used to be a rambling wooden building that housed storage space for Infinity Foods plus a variety of small workshops. At that time Infinity, along with other small independent businesses, sold Brighton Voice, an alternative newspaper that – among other things – was devoted to exposing fascist activity in Britain. The Public House Bookshop in Little Preston Street – which also sold the paper – was firebombed and Infinity’s shopfront was holed by an iron ball fired from a catapult. A ‘friendly warning’ letter from the extreme right 11th Hour Brigade warned of further repercussions if we continued to sell the paper. In the days between Christmas and New Year that year (1978), a mysterious fire destroyed the warehouse building. Arson was the probable cause though nothing was proved. But by good fortune the building was fully insured and from the ashes we were able to create a purpose-built health centre.

And what is now Brighthelm Community Centre sits on the site of the Hanover Chapel, whose church hall was used by the Brighton Resource Centre. This was burnt down in 1980, again almost certainly by local fascists and also because of its association with Brighton Voice. And like the BNHC, the Brighthelm building is now home to a fabulous range of community activities and organisations.

So there is a moral here. Keep faith and out of hatred, new and bright and vigorous enterprises can arise.

One of these enterprises is this new BNHC blog. In the coming months our teachers and trustees will be posting news, thoughts, musings and information about health and wellbeing, so why not sign up and become part of our ever-growing community.

Peter Deadman (chair of BNHC trustees) peter@jcm.co.uk

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