Interview with Team Beacon 2018 Runner Howard Middleton

Against the backdrop of bright winter sunshine and temperatures around the zero degree mark, the 28th Brighton Half Marathon took place on 25th February 2018. The event, one of the biggest fundraisers for organising charity The Sussex Beacon, was considered a huge success. Out of the 8,811 people who finished the 13.1 mile-long race, the charity was proudly represented by 135 dedicated ‘Team Beacon’ runners. Their support and fundraising is an important source of income for the Sussex Beacon every year, which offers specialist care and support for men, women and families living with HIV.

Over the last three years, more than 500 Team Beacon runners have raised in excess of £80,000. Team Beacon 2018 featured a variety of loyal, established runners as well new members. One of Team Beacon’s newest recruits was Howard Middleton, former contestant on The Great British Bake Off, who put on his running shoes for this year’s Grand Hotel Brighton Half Marathon. We caught up with Howard after the event to find out all about his first ever race.

Q: Congratulations on completing the Brighton Half in 2:06 Howard! How are you feeling today? Have the legs recovered?

H: I’m feeling fine, thanks! Much better than I did on the Sunday after the race when we were heading out to a cafe for some food, and I thought I was not going to make it there with my sore legs.

Q: What made you sign up for your first ever half marathon?

H: We are usually in Brighton in February for my niece’s birthday, and stay in the Grand Hotel. I went out for a morning run last year and got caught up in a crowd of people gearing up for the half marathon. When I returned to the hotel, the receptionist asked me I was doing the run today and I sheepishly said ‘no’. From that innocent conversation, I rashly resolved to do it next year.

Q: Why did you decide to run for Team Beacon this year?

H: My sister lives in Brighton, and was quite concerned last year when she heard that the Sussex Beacon was going through a difficult time. She posted a campaign which caught my eye, and we both felt strongly that local charities and organisations should get the focus and support that is needed for them to carry on. The Sussex Beacon has historically been such a major player in organising the Half Marathon and is such a fantastic cause to run for, so it felt like a very natural choice for me to run for Team Beacon.

Q: Talk me through the race – what were the best/most challenging bits?

H: I was quite nervous about the incline towards Ovingdean, but I surprised myself and really enjoyed it. It was just such a beautiful part of the track, the view over the hills and sea was stunning, and I felt like I was achieving something by getting up there. I did find myself flagging a little bit on the way back to Hove, however, which was when my time started to creep up.

Q: How did you get on with the chilly but sunny weather conditions on race day?

H: I really didn’t mind the cold too much, it meant that we didn’t have to worry about overheating. I did appreciate how cold it must have been for the spectators though, I saw quite a few people holding up ‘Hurry up, it’s really cold here’ signs which kept us going. My partner Peter insisted that I put on some gloves, but I got too hot after 3 miles so had to take them off and then obviously carry them with me for the rest of the race. I actually finished the race clasping my gloves across the finish line!

Q: Have you got the running bug now? Will you do it again and try to beat your PB? Team Beacon 2019 is looking for runners!

H: I thought about it for a couple of hours after the race, and then decided that I definitely did want to do it again. I’ll have another go at beating my PB next year and see if I can finish the race in under 2 hours.

Team Beacon 2018 runners
Team Beacon 2018 runners

Volunteer Gardeners

About the opportunity

The Sussex Beacon is looking to recruit enthusiastic Volunteer Gardeners to join our experienced team on Friday mornings. Candidates should be interested in helping to look after The Sussex Beacon’s beautiful well-established garden.  You will be required to carry out general gardening tasks under the management of our professional gardener.

Successful candidates will receive

  • Subsidised lunches
  • Basic travel expenses (up to the current price of a Brighton & Hove City Saver Bus ticket)
  • Free onsite parking
  • The opportunity to be part of an award-winning team of volunteers.

How to apply

If you would like to apply or find out more out this volunteering position, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator by email: or telephone 01273 69244- Ext 244

The Sussex Beacon supports people living with HIV. We have a 10 bedded inpatient unit and offer a range of community services.


Caroline Lucas visits the Sussex Beacon

 The Sussex Beacon was delighted to host Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavillion and Co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, who visited the charity on Friday, 9th March 2018. This visit was a valuable opportunity for the Sussex Beacon’s Executive Director, Bill Puddicombe, to meet with Ms Lucas for the first time, and to provide insights into the charity’s plans and future projects for 2018 and beyond. 
The meeting also highlighted the importance of the Sussex Beacon’s Inpatient Unit and Health & Wellbeing services, which are available to its service users. It was followed by a tour of the facilities, where Ms Lucas was able to meet the medical team working in the Inpatient Unit.
Ms Lucas said, “I am delighted to visit the Sussex Beacon today, and am inspired to see the strong commitment and dedication from its staff and volunteers. This is an exciting time for the charity going forward”.
Caroline Lucas visiting the Sussex Beacon

A heart of gold and a nose for business

Meet Wayne Stone, Trading Manager at the Sussex Beacon charity shops, who runs a business with a difference that is about to go digital

Combining social care, retail management and the Sussex Beacon

Wayne Stone is everything but your typical shop manager. In his role as Trading Manager at the Sussex Beacon, Wayne’s responsibilities are to ensure that his staff provide great customer service, monitoring the financial performance of the charity stores, managing budgets and donations, and supervising his staff and volunteers. Rather unusually for a retail manager, Wayne is also a trained support worker for adults suffering from mental health problems. After working in social care for seven years, Wayne decided that it was time for him to get back into retail in 2012. He still wanted to use his social work experience, which motivated him to work for a non-for-profit organisation.

“When an opportunity at the Sussex Beacon came up, it was perfect because my end goal was to work in the retail industry again, but I also wanted to carry on helping others”, says Wayne. He gradually worked his way up from a zero hours manager role, to his current position as Trading Manager at the Sussex Beacon’s busy charity shops in London Road and St James Street, Brighton.

Volunteers at the heart of the business

The shops are an important source of income for the Sussex Beacon, and many staff and volunteers are needed for the day to day runnings of the store. What makes the Sussex Beacon charity shops different from many other retailers is the strong emphasis that is placed on recruiting, training and supporting their voluntary workers. Current volunteers come from many different paths of life, and include former service users at the Sussex Beacon, new and established local residents, retirees, students, as well as vulnerable adults and people living with mental health disabilities. The charity shops have been recognised by the UK Volunteering Forum and Skills Training UK, a leading provider of apprenticeships, traineeships, work-based training/ learning and employability solutions, which has awarded the Sussex Beacon with the ‘Investing in Volunteers’ Award for two years running.

For many participating youngsters, volunteering with the Sussex Beacon charity shops marks a turning point, especially if they come from troubled backgrounds and have experienced problems at school. “New volunteers can feel very insecure and often struggle to communicate when they first start with us”, says Wayne. Every volunteer is treated as part of the team from day one, and spends the first two shifts shadowing Wayne. During this time, Wayne tries to find out about their strengths and interests to allocate interesting tasks that  “encourage skills they might not even know they have”, he explains. This can include learning how to use the tills and card machines, process stock and deliveries, list items for auctions and specialist buyers, and develop customer service skills, which are useful skills for career progression later on.

One of Wayne’s favourite stories is of a young volunteer at the London Road store who had failed his GCSEs and was bullied at school, which made making new friends extremely difficult. After volunteering at the Sussex Beacon for six months, his confidence had grown steadily, he enjoyed coming to work and was especially good at answering the phones. Eventually, he asked Wayne to help him with a job application for a position in the hospitality industry, where he has been working ever since. There are no guaranteed success stories as each case is different and there is not always a happy ending. The success stories do, however, always outweigh the negatives. “As my grandmother always used to say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” laughs Wayne. “If you are nice to people, you will get the most out of them”, he adds.


Digital retail beginnings in 2018

This year is the start of new beginnings for the Sussex Beacon charity shops. Both stores will undergo refurbishments and revamp their branding “so that people know that they are in a Sussex Beacon shop the moment they walk through the door”, says Wayne. One of the most anticipated changes is the shops’ online presence. This includes the launch of four new social media accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Shpock that will feature current promotions, stock and products, and enable the shops to reach out to the community directly. “Charity shops are not what they used to be, we face a lot of competition these days and cannot afford to miss out on engaging with customers in this digital age”, explains Wayne.

Using social media to build strong links with the local community is a matter that is close to the Sussex Beacon’s heart. The charity has always thrived under the support from local people whose generous donations have helped to raise important funds that are needed to support people living with HIV in Brighton and Hove. Wayne adds, “We are very lucky to have so much local love and support, and are excited to use social media to take our shops into the 21st century”.

You can now follow the Sussex Beacon charity shops on Facebook ( @SBcharityshops), Twitter (@BeaconShops), Instagram (beaconcharityshops) and Shpock (Thesussexbeaconcharity S).

If you are interested in volunteering opportunities, please contact Wayne directly at, or pop into one of the Sussex Beacon charity forms to pick up an application form.

28 years of Brighton Half Marathon fever

Oisin McKeown, Operations Manager at the Sussex Beacon

Meet the man behind the scenes who helps to make it all happen

On 25th February 2018, The Grand Hotel Brighton Half Marathon will take over Brighton and Hove for the 28th time. The race is among the first major halfs in the running calendar and a hugely popular event in the UK with over 13,000 runners taking part. It is the biggest annual fundraiser for organising charity The Sussex Beacon to support its essential health and care services for people living with HIV, alongside many other worthy charities and causes. One of the event’s longest-serving organisers, Oisin McKeown, gives his unique insight into what happens in the run up to the big race.

Racing from the Sussex Beacon to Madeira Drive

Oisin McKeown
Oisin McKeown Operations Manager at the Sussex Beacon

Originally from Blackrock, Republic of Ireland, Osh settled as a Brightonian in 2005 and has since become one of the Sussex Beacon’s most knowledgeable and experienced crew members. Working in his current role as Operations Manager is a hugely diverse role in itself, making sure that the staff and facilities are looked after so that the charity’s services continue to run smoothly. There is a definite shift in Osh’s workload every autumn when he starts to prepare for the Brighton Half Marathon as part of the events core organising team. 2018 will be Osh’s fifth year as Site Manager since getting involved as a volunteer in 2011.

Due to his long-standing history with the race, Osh has become a walking encyclopaedia of each and every detail of Madeira Drive. “I could tell you in my sleep the exact length and width of Madeira Drive, how many lamp posts there are, and how far apart they are”, he laughs, running through a long list of objects that one might never notice on a Brighton seafront stroll. With the race growing in popularity every year, it now takes the team a full 10 days to build and take down the race village, after several months of careful planning.


The calm before the 08:59am storm

For Osh, Half Marathon day starts with a rather early wake up call. “I arrive on site at approximately 3am, have a quick brief with security, and most importantly, put the kettle on”, he laughs. The main contractors arrive on site from 3.30am, and there is a lot of activity at Madeira Drive. The weather at this time of year is always a consideration, and finishing touches to marquees need to be completed, banners and barriers set up, the power has to come on, “and before you know it, the sun is up”, Osh adds. By 6am, runners’ essentials such as drinks blankets, snacks and goodie bags are ready to go, and by 07:00am, staff and volunteers arrive, and the roads start to close down. Then comes the exciting part, with buses arriving and thousands of runners filling the streets of Brighton. In what feels like no time at all, the clock strikes 08:00am, and the big countdown begins.

In the final minutes before the runners take to the streets, there is a short moment when time slows down for Osh. “I experience it every year, about 15 minutes before the race, when the runners are warming up, the music plays, I listen to the radio for final updates, and then there is nothing more you can do except to enjoy this great buzz and excitement”. If you want to catch Osh at this time, you’ll probably find him at the start line. Waiting for the starter horn to go off, and seeing streams of people run together, “it makes the hair stand up at the back of your neck, it is such a massive adrenaline rush”, he states.

As soon as the first runners have set off, the events team prepares for their return. Drinks and medals need to be ready, first aid is on standby, the radio is constantly busy, and everyone works hard to make sure that the race stays enjoyable, safe and clean. Seeing the runners come back, and their emotions at the finish line, is what makes it all worthwhile for Osh. He says, “It is inspiring to see people from all walks of life taking part in this challenge, and watching runners share the last 100 metres with their children really makes you feel that you’ve done something special”. And as quickly as the race has started, it is over, and the team begin the three day clean up operation.


With the excitement of the race still fresh in everyone’s mind, it is back to business as normal at The Sussex Beacon, where staff are looking forward to a busy year of providing vital support services for people living with HIV, and engaging with Brighton and Hove’s vibrant community.

New year, new beginnings?

Is there anything different that spectators can expect from this year’s race? “Having the Grand Hotel, one of Brighton’s most iconic local businesses and historic buildings, as new sponsor this year is fantastic”, says Osh. The course layout has changed too this year, which will give onlookers at Marine Parade a great view of the start, and the chance to see the runners go past three times. With less than 4 weeks to go, the anticipation and excitement ahead of the Half Marathon is growing, as Brighton prepares for what is sure to be another memorable sporting event.

Team Beacon Brighton Half Marathon

Volunteer Receptionist Wanted

About the Opportunity

The Sussex Beacon is looking to recruit a Volunteer Receptionist to join our dedicated front desk team. This is the perfect opportunity for a candidate with strong communication and telephone skills, who enjoys working with people from a variety of backgrounds, and wants to support The Sussex Beacon’s mission to help people living with HIV.

Duties will include meeting and greeting visitors, answering the telephone, taking and relaying messages, and overall ensuring the smooth running of the reception area. This is an important volunteer position, and interested candidates should only apply if they are willing to commit for a minimum of 6 months.

The successful candidates will receive:
  • Substantial front desk training
  • The opportunity to be part of an award-winning team of outstanding volunteers
  • Subsidised lunches
  • Free on-site parking
  • Basic travel expenses (up to the current prices of Brighton and Hove City Saver Bus tickets)
How to apply

If you would like to apply, or find out more about this volunteer position, please contact Reception Coordinator Jan Selwyn-Davis either by email, or telephone 01273 694222 Ext 244.

Join our Team of Peer Mentor Volunteers!

Are you HIV+ and confident in living with your diagnosis and managing your health?

The Sussex Beacon delivers a dedicated Peer Mentor Service for people living with HIV and we are currently recruiting for new volunteers to train as Peer Mentors.

As a trained Peer Mentor, you can pass on your knowledge and use your experience of living with HIV to support those who are either newly diagnosed or in need of support.

As a mentor, you receive:

  • Accredited Training
  • Skills development
  • Knowledge through shared experiences
  • Connection with others living with HIV
  • Ongoing supervision and training as a mentor

If you would like to discover more and / or help and support someone living with HIV, please get in touch:

Mentor training will be held at the Sussex Beacon on Friday-Sunday 16th, 17th, & 18th March 2018

If you would like to volunteer at The Sussex Beacon, please download the Volunteer Application Form and return it to

Team Beacon Needs YOU! Places still available to run The Grand Brighton Half Marathon.

Every year, Brighton-based charity The Sussex Beacon organise and deliver The Grand Brighton Half Marathon, a hugely popular event that features a beautiful seafront course and amazing crowd support, and is one of the first half marathons on the running calendar. The Sussex Beacon still has places available for this year’s Half Marathon and Corporate Relay races on Sunday, 25th February 2018, and is looking for more runners to support the charity. Running a half marathon is an enormous challenge, and The Sussex Beacon is incredibly proud of its team of runners, who have fundraised £66,000 over the last two years of The Grand Brighton Half Marathon. Thanks to their dedicated support and generosity, The Sussex Beacon has been able to continue offering specialist inpatient and outpatient treatment for people living with HIV. These support services are vital for the community of Brighton and Hove, and cost over £2 million a year to maintain.

Executive Director Bill Puddicombe said, “Here at the Sussex Beacon, we support people who are finding life with HIV tough or even unmanageable. Team Beacon runners play an important part in our work. The effort and sponsorship put in by Team Members means that we can provide care and support to people who need it. Our services are just as important and vital as they have ever been. When you run for us,you make a real difference.”

The Sussex Beacon organises the Grand Brighton Half Marathon every yearTeam Beacon runners are required to fundraise a minimum of £150 in sponsorship. In return, they receive plenty of training and fundraising support, a vest and fundraising pack, and access to an exclusive marquee in the race village with separate baggage and toilet facilities. To join the amazing Team Beacon, registrations need to be complete by Friday 26th January via The Grand Marathon Half Marathon Website. Alternatively, runners can divide the distance by entering The Sussex Beacon Corporate Relay in teams of five to enjoy exclusive race day perks. Full details about The Sussex Beacon Corporate Relay are available here. There are also plenty of volunteering opportunities on the day for those wanting to be part of the incredible atmosphere of race day without running 13.1 miles, such as cheering for Team Beacon runners on the course, or helping the team in the race village.


For further information about The Sussex Beacon, and how to get involved in the Grand Brighton Half Marathon, please click here, or contact our Challenge Events Fundraiser, Rosie Hemming on or by telephone 01273 694222.

Executive Director recruited to lead The Sussex Beacon in 2018

Local HIV charity The Sussex Beacon has recruited an Executive Director, Bill Puddicombe, to lead the charity in 2018. Bill has a wealth of experience in the voluntary sector and a track record of securing the future of small and medium sized charities. He will be joining The Sussex Beacon at the beginning of January.

Earlier this year, funding cuts put services at The Sussex Beacon at risk, but local support, grants secured from non-statutory funding bodies and a restructure put the charity in a better financial position. The Executive Director will be working with staff and Trustees in the year ahead to guide the charity through a period of transition and make it more financially robust. Lynette Lowndes, Chair of Trustees at The Sussex Beacon said, “Firstly, I want to thank our staff and volunteers for their professionalism over the last year, it’s been a difficult time but they have continued to offer first class services to our clients. She continued, “We’re delighted to have recruited Bill. He has all the skills and experience to guide The Sussex Beacon as we develop and implement a new strategy. The outpouring of support we had when services were under threat shows how valued our services are. We now need to make the charity more financially stable, so we can continue to provide that vital support for people living with HIV”.

Bill Puddicombe, newly appointed Executive Director at the Sussex Beacon
Bill Puddicombe, new Executive Director at the Sussex BeacoHIV.”

Bill Puddicombe said “The Sussex Beacon is an amazing charity, doing invaluable work locally. I am looking forward to joining the team and working with staff to guide the charity in the coming year.” Bill has worked in the voluntary sector since 1980 and has held Chief Executive roles at organisations dealing with drug/alcohol dependency, homelessness and mental ill health. He has helped to grow organisations and has worked to improve the financial outlook for charities under threat. Bill is taking over from the previous Chief Executive, Simon Dowe, who was with the charity for five and a half years.

The Sussex Beacon provides specialist support and care for people living with HIV through both inpatient and outpatient services. It helps hundreds of people living with HIV in Sussex each year and was rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission in 2016.

For further information about The Sussex Beacon please visit

HIV – Let’s End It

World AIDS Day, on December 1st is an opportunity for us to remember and to raise awareness. The theme for this year is ‘Let’s end it,’ and communities are working together with the aim of ending isolation, stigma and HIV transmission itself.

2017 seems a long way from the dark days of the 80s and early to mid 90s, when treatments didn’t exist and HIV, in many cases, was a death sentence. We now have effective treatments, which have been hugely successful. People are now able to live healthy lives with a near normal life expectancy. Not only that, but people on effective treatment CANNOT pass on HIV.  This means if we can encourage people to get tested and tackle late diagnosis, we have a real chance of stopping the HIV epidemic in its tracks. We saw a drop in new diagnoses of HIV in 2016, now the challenge is to keep up the momentum and try and reach those people who are currently being diagnosed late.

Although there has been great progress, we still find that some people with HIV face isolation and stigma. Myths still persist – that you can get HIV from a toilet seat or from kissing, that women with HIV will automatically give it to their babies or that it only affects gay men.

Only a couple of weeks ago Avon and Somerset Police announced officers would wear spit hoods to prevent transmission of HIV.  “Each day we face being spat at, putting us at risk of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis” they said. The reality is that spitting has not resulted in a single case of HIV. While they have since apologised and acknowledged their mistake, statements like these only fuel stigma, and demonise people living with HIV.

So in 2017, there is still a lot to be done. Tackling stigma and late diagnosis, educating new generations (and older ones who still don’t know the facts) and encouraging safer sex. You can do your bit on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, starting conversations about HIV or donating to organisations like The Sussex Beacon which support people living with HIV and work to reduce new diagnoses.

I can’t write a piece on World AIDS Day without mentioning those who have died with AIDS both in this country and across the World. Partners, sons, mothers, friends – all taken too soon. Each individual leaving behind devastation and heartbreak. We’ll always remember them, particularly on World AIDS Day, and it will spur us on to keep working tirelessly to eradicate HIV.


Best wishes,

Simon Dowe, Chief Executive, The Sussex Beacon