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

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 rosie.hemming@sussexbeacon.org.uk or by telephone 01273 694222.

Staff and volunteers zip across Brighton beach to raise £1600 for The Sussex Beacon

On Saturday 16th September a team from local charity The Sussex Beacon took on a 300 metre zip wire on Brighton beach, raising over £1600 to support people living with HIV.

At 300 metres long, The Brighton Zip is the longest zip wire on the South Coast. Sixteen staff, volunteers and supporters from The Sussex Beacon took on the challenge, aiming to raise as much money as possible for the charity.

Jason Warriner, Clinical Services Director at The Sussex Beacon said “Thanks go to the team for taking the plunge on the zip wire and for their fantastic efforts getting sponsorship. We had a real laugh and the money raised will go towards our vital work, supporting people living with HIV in Sussex. Everyone enjoyed it so much, it might become an annual event!”

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 September.

Local businesses raise over £4,600 for The Sussex Beacon during Pride week

Money has been counted and local businesses raised over £4,600 for The Sussex Beacon during Pride week at the beginning of August. The total raised so far is £4675, with a few more donations still to be submitted.

A team from The Sussex Beacon joined the Pride Parade in an open top bus, taking the opportunity to thank local people for their support.

Some of the fundraising included:

  • A Disco Lovers Pride Street Party which raised £55
  • The Duke of York’s Picture House on Preston Road charged revellers £1 to use its toilets raising over £130
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland customer care centre raised £100 with more still to come
  • OS Barber Shop donated takings of over £430
  • The Railway Tavern raised over £250
  • The Amsterdam Bar & Kitchen raised £500 selling glittery Brighton Pride T-shirts in aid of the charity.
  • The Grosvenor raised approximately £95.
  • The Sussex Beacon’s shop on James Street raised over £3000.

Simon Dowe, Chief Executive of The Sussex Beacon said, “We are so grateful to all the fantastic organisations and individuals who raised money for The Sussex Beacon during Pride. What a generous lot! The donations will make a huge difference to our work, supporting people living with HIV across Sussex.”

The Sussex Beacon provides specialist support and care to over 500 people living with HIV a year, offering both inpatient and outpatient services to improve health and promote independence. Those using the charity’s services may be facing serious HIV related illnesses, dealing with mental health issues or struggling to cope with the side effects of new drug regimes. Recently rated ‘outstanding’ by the independent health regulator, The Sussex Beacon provides first class care and support to those in need.

Brighton Based HIV charity is seeking Trustees to join its Board

HIV charity The Sussex Beacon, is seeking new Trustees to join its Board from September onwards.

Trustees are charged with helping the charity achieve its mission, setting strategic direction, checking progress against strategy and ensuring that the organisation is financially sound and compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. The Board meets formally six times a year.

The Sussex Beacon is looking for up to six new Trustees with experience in any of the following areas:
• Experience/knowledge of HIV
• Marketing, communications, fundraising
• Law
• Human Resources
• Financial control
• Building/facilities management
• Multi-site retail operations

Trustees would be expected to commit five to six days a year, including attending the six, two-hour board meetings, a half day retreat, plus relevant committee meetings. They are also strongly encouraged to attend public and fundraising events during the year.

The Sussex Beacon has had a difficult year after funding cuts put services at risk. Local support, grants secured from non-statutory funding bodies and a restructure have put the charity in a better financial position. The charity is now in the process of being re-designed to become more sustainable and less reliant on NHS funding.

Lynette Lowndes, Chair of Trustees at The Sussex Beacon said, “The Sussex Beacon is a fantastic charity, recently rated ‘outstanding’ by the health regulator. As Chair, I’ve seen first-hand how it has saved and changed the lives of many people living with HIV. We’re now hoping to recruit some new Trustees who are passionate about what we do and who can lend their skills and experience to help secure the charity’s future. If you think you fit the bill, please get in touch, we’d love some new additions to our dedicated team.”

The Sussex Beacon provides specialist support and care to over 500 people living with HIV a year, offering both inpatient and outpatient services to improve health and promote independence. Those using the charity’s services may be facing serious HIV related illnesses, dealing with mental health issues or struggling to cope with the side effects of new drug regimes. Recently rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, The Sussex Beacon provides first class care and support to those in need.

Those interested in applying to be Trustee should contact Simon Dowe for application details: simon.dowe@sussexbeacon.org.uk

Local businesses proud to support The Sussex Beacon

A number of businesses are raising money for local HIV charity The Sussex Beacon, in the run up to and during Brighton Pride this week. A team from The Sussex Beacon will be on an open top bus during the Pride parade, to thank local people for their support.

Some of the fundraising efforts going on across Brighton for The Sussex Beacon include:

  • A Disco Lovers Pride Street Party at Brighton Rocks Kemptown is raising money all weekend. A percentage of money raised from a special drink ‘the disco lovers drinkie’ will be donated, a glitter T-shirt stall will also raise funds, alongside a bucket collection.
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland customer care centre in Brighton is fundraising all week.
  • OS Barber Shop in George street, Kemptown, will be donating Friday’s takings.
  • The Sussex Yeoman pub is donating 10% of its brunch takings on Saturday.
  • The Railway Club is running a Pre-Pride fundraising party on Friday night.
  • The Duke of York’s Picture House on Preston Road has a unique way of raising money for The Sussex Beacon during Pride, it will be charging revellers £1 to use its toilets – £1 a pee!
  • The Amsterdam Bar & Kitchen is selling glittery Brighton Pride T-shirts in aid of the charity. T-shirts are £12.50 and they have samples at the bar for people to try before they buy.
  • Fundraising T-shirts are also available to buy from ‘The T Chest’ on Gardner Street.

The Sussex Beacon has had a difficult year, after funding cuts put services at risk. A campaign to #savethesussexbeacon was launched and local support has been incredible. This, alongside non-statutory grants and a restructure, has meant the charity has been able to keep its doors open. The organisation is now in the process of being adapted to become more sustainable and less reliant on NHS funding.

Simon Dowe, Chief Executive of The Sussex Beacon said, “Local businesses are really pulling out all the stops to support us this week and we’re so grateful. There are loads of ways to help us – buy a fundraising drink or T-shirt, drop a few coins in a bucket or even pay to go to the loo! The money raised ensures we can help those people with HIV who really need us in the year ahead. Thanks so much and have a fabulous Pride!”

The Sussex Beacon provides specialist support and care to over 500 people living with HIV a year, offering both inpatient and outpatient services to improve health and promote independence. Those using the charity’s services may be facing serious HIV related illnesses, dealing with mental health issues or struggling to cope with the side effects of new drug regimes. Recently rated ‘outstanding’ by the independent health regulator, The Sussex Beacon provides first class care and support to those in need. To find out more visit www.sussexbeacon.org.uk

Brighton Based HIV charity calls for volunteers to join its team

HIV and sexual heath charity The Sussex Beacon, is calling for volunteers to come forward and help with its vital work, supporting people living with HIV. A wide range of roles are available and the charity matches people to posts based on their interests, skills and experience.

The charity is currently recruiting:

  • Fundraisers
  • Reception and administration staff
  • Kitchen/dining room staff
  • Event support
  • Gardeners
  • Shop assistants
  • People to collect/deliver items to The Sussex Beacon charity shops

and more…

Simon Dowe, Chief Executive of The Sussex Beacon said, “Volunteers are a vital part of The Sussex Beacon, we simply couldn’t function effectively without them. We’re now looking for more people to join our enthusiastic, dedicated team. A little of your time could make a huge difference to local people living with HIV, so if you’re interested, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.”

The Sussex Beacon’s volunteer team recently won an award for its work with young volunteers. A ‘certificate of recognition’ was awarded by Skills Training UK, an organisation that supports disadvantaged young people to develop skills, qualifications and gain vital work experience with local employers.  A number of young people from the Skills Training UK programme have worked as volunteers in The Sussex Beacon’s shops.

All volunteers at The Sussex Beacon are given training relevant to their role, on-going support and their expenses are paid. As well as helping others, volunteering often helps those doing it to develop transferable skills and can sometimes lead to other employment opportunities.

To apply, go online at www.sussexbeacon.org.uk/volunteer or call Jan on 01273 694 222.

WAGAMAMA CONTINUES TO MAKE IT RAIN(BOW) FOR THE LGBT+ COMMUNITY

Thursday 3rd August: Pan-Asian restaurant wagamama has extended its London campaign #makeitrainbow to celebrate Brighton & Hove Pride this weekend.

The day’s profits from wagamama bun sales (now selling an average of 1,000,000 yearly) will be donated to local charity, The Sussex Beacon, every time a rainbow is spotted in the sky above the seaside destination, from 4th August.

Rain falls an average of 115 days a year on the South Coast and wagamama is calling on the Brighton community to help spot rainbows to unlock the donation by tweeting a picture with the hashtag #makeitrainbow.

To ensure the charity benefits whatever the weather and in case we enjoy 365 days of sunshine on the South Coast (unlikely), wagamama is committed to donating a minimum of £2,500 to The Sussex Beacon, aiding its important work to support people living with HIV.

The Sussex Beacon is at the heart of Brighton’s LGBT+ community, providing specialist care and promoting independence for people living with HIV. wagamama has always internally championed inclusiveness, acceptance and diversity since its launch, its public facing ‘no clone’ hiring policy has always encouraged colleagues to embrace who they are without conforming to a stereotype.

Head of Marketing at wagamama, Andre Johnstone said: “wagamama has always supported its staff when it comes to Pride across the UK but we have wanted to do more publicly to support the LGBT+ community in previous years.

I’m pleased we can expand our support following the success of London Pride and make a wider commitment to the community outside the capital to throw our support behind those who struggle to be who they are.  We are who we are and we want you to just be you. What better way to ramp up our continued support and celebrate Pride than by backing a vitally important charity such as The Sussex Beacon.”

Sussex Beacon, Simon Dowe has said; “The Sussex Beacon has been at the heart of HIV support in the Brighton community since 1991 and we are proud to be associated with wagamama as they look to further embed themselves in Brighton.  Big brands normally support big causes and it’s a credit to wagamama to be a brand in the local area supporting local people.  Make sure to tag a rainbow folks.”

National Treasure, Michael Fish MBE said: “A rainbow is a beautiful meteorological phenomenon caused by light being refracted in water droplets. It is impossible to predict just how many will occur in a specific time period, but British weather being what it is makes the UK a great place to spot a rainbow. This Pride campaign really does prove the adage correct: there is a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow.”

Brighton + Hove Pride is a great platform for everyone in the local community to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and campaign for the freedoms that will allow them to live their lives on a genuinely equal footing. This year hundreds of thousands of people will visit Brighton to support Pride and show unity in support of the LGBT+ community.

For more information and images please contact Sam Wilson at Talker Tailor sam@talkertailor.com

www.wagamama.com Twitter @wagamama_uk Instagram @wagamama_uk

#makeitrainbow