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goldthorpe update

13:09 29/07/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Again, some more images from the forthcoming series on the impact of austerity for the Big Issue in the North – this time from Goldthorpe.

I met Cllr May Noble two and a half years ago to talk about exactly the same issue. Sadly, although time has moved on, Goldthorpe hasn’t. Apart from a very well-publicised and somewhat tragic mock funeral for Thatcher – for many, a sad way to celebrate this once-proud mining community’s industrial heritage – the town has stood still.

The apathy of increasing deprivation seems to have stopped people from being able to fight back. And although the long boarded-up houses of the town centre are due to be demolished, what replaces them – a new school and supermarket – will be a drop in the ocean compared to the huge job creation and training schemes the area needs.

The only growth industry is the foodbank.

linking learning

12:24 29/07/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Spent the day in sunny Norfolk two weeks ago gathering material for a case study for the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms programme, which supports teacher exchanges between the UK and the developing world.

Pictured above are partnership coordinator and St Mary’s Primary teacher Laura Hodgetts, Gambian teacher Mustapha Ceesay, Ugandan teacher Mukasa Kaweesi Mathias, and St Mary’s headteacher Vicki Long.

stoke

18:33 18/07/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

some images from last week’s trip to stoke to find out how cuts are impacting on the city – an update from my visit two and a half years ago.

to be used for a piece in the big issue in the north, part of a series on austerity.

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self-build in burton-on-trent

17:54 18/07/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

harder and harder times

13:32 22/05/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Piece from this week’s Big Issue in the North about the sorry case of the closure of Salford’s Narrowgate shelter; a confusion over whether night shelters should receive housing benefits led to a tragic situation where dozens of rough sleepers were left with nowhere to go. Thankfully a public outcry has led to a semi-reprieve – more in next week’s Big Issue in the North.

The ruling that led to the Narrowgate closure may have implications nationally; already hostels in London are closing as local authorities there review whether shelters should receive housing benefit. More local authorities are in the process of making a decision.

The situation for Greater Manchester’s homeless population is bad enough.

Many are facing eviction as a result of the bedroom tax, and a recent reclassification of those eligible for sheltered housing in Salford means only those with a local link can get accommodation in council-run hostels.

The No Second Night Out (NSNO) initiative – which this year funded housing association Riverside ECHG £200,000 to stop homelessness in Greater Manchester – has been criticised by many, including Narrowgate manager Phil Brown, who say shelters like theirs are crucial to house men and women Manchester’s No Second Night Out scheme cannot.

These include, according to Brown, failed asylum seekers, anyone found sleeping rough more than once, and many with drink and drug problems evicted from NSNO accommodation. Nor can people self-refer through NSNO.

Added to this depressing mix is the recent demolition of Manchester’s centrally located 113-bed Wilmott Street Salvation Army men’s hostel -  replaced by four houses with a maximum of 60 beds – a loss of 53 hostel beds for some of the city’s most vulnerable men. I’m not clear what facilities exist for homeless women.

Yet it is not just Greater Manchester. Leeds is now facing a shortage of beds as hostels are closed in favour of ‘self-contained’ accommodation.

Which sounds great – but the anecdotal evidence is that there isn’t nearly enough of this to go round.

Homeless projects tell me that they are increasingly having to rely on private accommodation, but their clients just don’t have the money required for deposits.

Certainly, it’s difficult to ignore the growing number of people begging on the streets of Manchester.

sudan’s agenda for change

19:43 14/05/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

How the British Council aims to empower ordinary people in Sudan – some words from my recent trip to the country to see the work of the Active Citizens programme.

small steps

20:29 13/05/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Active Citizens, the British Council programme I’ve been documenting, recently took me to Gedaref and Kassala, in the east of Sudan.

There, Active Citizens has been used to train communities on how to design and implement their own ‘social action’ projects.

These include tree planting programmes; gas canister rental schemes; renovation of youth centres; installation of improved water tank technology; and health and FGM (female genital mutilation) awareness classes.

If approved by the British Council, all projects will receive €2,000 seed funding.

The idea is that by engaging people in changing where they live, development becomes more sustainable, participation increases, and civil society is strengthened.

We visited Aroma, a town on the outskirts of the eastern state of Kassala, where 30 people have received Active Citizens training.

There I interviewed participant Fatma Mohamed Ali, 27, a widowed mother-of-two and student.

So if we can just start by asking you how old you are and what your name is and what you do?

Fatma Mohamed Ali, 27 years old. I studied until high school, the third grade, then got married…. have two children, Mohamed and Rayan, their dad died and I went back to university. I actually went back before he died. I started the first year but right now I’m doing my fourth level, studying education, at the chemistry and biology department, the University of Kassala.

What motivated you to get involved in Active Citizens?

I want to help the society…know more about its problems and be able to solve some of those problems.

What do you feel are the major issues facing young women in Aroma?

Well, education is a very important issue…most mothers are illiterate….some children do not go to schools because of customs and traditions. The first solution I suggest is to make people aware of the importance of education so we have more schools and that will help solve two problems: the unemployment of the graduates so they can get jobs and the problem of education in general.

What would you really like to be able to use? What are the real important changes you’d like to see happen?

The first thing is the social solidarity…I mean we have known each other before but not closely. People need to learn a way to communicate and understand each other. We need to connect the international citizenship with the local one, for example, by visiting each other so we know about each others customs and traditions and then take the best from each other.

Have you faced any problems participating in the Active Citizens programme?

No, I haven’t faced any problems.

How do you feel that it has benefited you personally in terms of the future?

Well, I will be able to offer something to society and be effective, and know how to run small projects and search for projects that would develop the whole society.

equal exchange

15:03 03/05/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Spent the day photographing and interviewing children and staff at Hambleton Primary School as they welcomed two teachers from Zambia.

The event was part of a Connecting Classrooms exchange, run by the British Council to encourage greater cultural awareness and understanding between schools in the UK and the rest of the world.

Pictured is Muwa Malale, a 29-year-old primary school teacher from Mongu, in Zambia’s Western Province.

making ends meet

14:34 01/05/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Heartened by the comments on my latest piece for the Guardian Northerner about benefits sanctions….click here to read.

Another version was also published in the Big Issue in the North.

 

 

serbia stories

13:38 01/05/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Some pictures (out of the hundreds taken) from my week spent documenting a group of participants visiting Serbia with the British Council’s Active Citizens leadership scheme in February.

This trip was different to the previous months’ visit to the Outer Hebrides; the group were mostly British and Serbian, and all were significantly younger.

Many had already invested much of their time in setting up social enterprises – some are working with care leavers, some are using informal education and drama to teach marginalised youngsters in schools, whiles others are encouraging healthy eating and sustainable food production in their communities.

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‘all this shows what can be done if we own our own assets’

16:29 28/03/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

The Outer Hebrides are three hours by ferry from the Scottish west coast.

They undeservedly have a reputation for being bleak and unforgiving; but when I was there in January with the British Council, the weather was cold, but beautifully sunny and still. The many sea lochs dotting the rust-coloured landscape were as still as mirrors.

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citizen exchange

15:26 12/03/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Some pictures from my week spent with the British Council documenting an Active Citizens event held in Croydon.

As well as meeting activists, students, and community development workers from nine countries, I later visited the Outer Hebrides to see the revolution in social enterprise happening in one of the most remote parts of the UK.

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a home from home

12:54 01/03/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Click here to read my latest piece from Inside Housing – about a beautifully converted former convent in Liverpool turned eco-hostel for homeless families.

One of the residents, a single mum-of-three, said the facility gave her confidence as it showed the authorities cared about her future. “It feels like whoever conceived this project has actually experienced being homeless themselves. And I think people can see that and they appreciate it. They are investing in people. This is not like having your own home, but it’s the next best thing.”

old trafford community garden

12:53 22/02/2013 Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

A little late; some pictures from the launch of the Old Trafford Community Garden on January 12th.

A brilliant example of a very simple idea that will make a huge difference to a community blighted by fly-tipping. I should know – the garden is situated at the end of the street I used to live on. Which once had six mattresses piled up in the alley. For weeks.

Over in nearby Moss Side, community gardens and allotments have done untold good. I’m convinced that the same movement is possible in OT.

Here’s a film made by the lovely Kerry of OT News – and of course, we’ll be tracking the garden’s progress on www.otnews.co.uk.