The death of Dr Naz Mahmood last year shocked the West Hampstead community, and as the details emerged around his death, that shock and sadness only grew deeper. On Saturday, Naz’s partner, Matthew Ogston, begins a 130 mile walk in his memory at the cemetery on Fortune Green Road and everyone in West Hampstead is invited to see him off. Matt’s aim is to raise awareness of the issues that ultimately led to Naz passing away, and to raise money to help set up the support networks that could help prevent the same situation happening again.
Naz died after he came out to his family, who rejected his sexuality. There is no better explanation of the story than the extremely moving article in The Guardian last month. It was a piece that took months to write as Matt, who still lives in West Hampstead, struggled to begin to come to terms with what happened. I urge you to read it.
Matt has now set up the Naz & Matt Foundation, a charity that aims to raise awareness of the devastating impact of homophobia within communities that are heavily influenced by religion; specifically he hopes that its work may prevent another young person feeling that the only way forward is to take their own life. Matt writes:
To raise awareness of these issues and to help fund a range of special projects and initiatives with the aim of changing attitudes and increasing acceptance of gay, lesbian and trans young people born into religious families, and to offer support to LGBTQI individuals affected by the issue, I will doing a 130 mile sponsored journey, mostly walked, from London to Birmingham.
“The Journey to Find Acceptance” will be spread over eight days, starting on the 18th of April. I will be joined by friends on the journey, and I am inviting members of the public to join with me to walk part of the route, to help me ‘carry a message of love and acceptance along the way’.
Many of you will have heard or read about Matt asking our parliamentary candidates what they would do to stop religiously-driven homophobia at the recent hustings. It was an emotional moment that cut through talk of mansion tax and public services and reminded us all of what it is to be human; to love and to be loved.
You can be a part of this, and show your support for Matt and this cause.
The walk starts at Hampstead Cemetery on Fortune Green Road, where a bench in memory of Naz was recently installed. Matt wants as many people as possible to turn up (“dress fabulous”). The throng will assemble from 10am and the walk itself begins at 11. By all means join in the walk, but even if you can just turn up to send Matt on his way that would be a huge boost for him.
Over the years that I’ve been running West Hampstead Life, I’m always amazed at how our community rallies around people who need us at the most challenging times of their lives, whoever they are and whatever they need. We saw it after the terrible accident on West End Lane a couple of years ago, lets see it again on Saturday.