Well-versed

Just a gorgeous, very touching experience interviewing Maxine, 85, and her daughter for the Alzheimer’s Society magazine.

A brilliant poet, Maxine’s dementia means she cannot perform even the most simple tasks.

Yet with just a little prompting, the words came tumbling out.

Picture courtesy of Mark Pinder.

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| 15:37 26/04/2017 No Comments |

fashion forward

It’s really fantastic to see that GMB have launched a dedicated campaign to get workers to start demanding decent conditions and pay at the ASOS warehouse in Barnsley.

I first wrote about this issue back in 2013 in both Equal Times and Big Issue in the North; earlier this year it was also in Vice.

GMB union have now started holding recruitment drives outside the warehouse – more info here.

Both the Mail and Mirror have run the story.

When your journalism makes a difference, it keeps you going.

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| 21:38 08/10/2015 No Comments |

charity begins at home

Always great to work with Smoke Creatives on Here, the Shelter supporter mag.

They sent me to one of Shelter’s furniture shops in Birmingham. I was delighted to discover that six members of the same family – over three generations – work and volunteer in the shop, reflecting the dedication that Shelter inspires.

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| 21:09 08/10/2015 No Comments |

journey of faith

I’ve recently returned from the Greek/ Macedonian border, where I was documenting the refugee and migrant crisis.

I was travelling with a delegation of senior UK church leaders, part of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Migrants and refugees queue to cross from Greece to Macedonia at Idomeni

What I will always remember from the trip was the woman in the centre of this picture, Diana.

Amid the squalor and the rubbish, this neat and self-composed young woman stood out.

With her Mango handbag and carton of juice, she looked like she was going shopping, instead of enduring a long, dangerous and uncertain journey across an unwelcoming Europe.

Diana is a lawyer. She told me that she was traveling to Germany with her mother Majida because their house in Damascus had been destroyed and they had nowhere to live.

They were desperate, but very dignified. I think my questions irritated her; I sensed did not want to be treated with pity, or curiosity. She did not want to dwell on her circumstances. She wasn’t interested in talking to me.

She just wanted to get the journey finished so she could continue with her life.

I sincerely hope she has been able to do that.

You can read more about the trip in this piece here.

Christine Elliott talks with Syrian refugee and engineering student Ali IMG_8772 CTBI_Greece-13

 

| 20:21 08/10/2015 No Comments |

I have a voice

It was a privilege to interview Sarah Wilson, a survivor of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal who has waived her anonymity to speak out about her experiences.

An extremely strong and unbelievably brave individual.

The piece is out in this week’s Big Issue in the North.

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| 13:27 10/08/2015 No Comments |

socially housed

I’ve been a busy bee working with Inside Housing, writing a couple of supplements – the first about procurement, the second off-site construction…..

I also covered the Chartered Institute of Housing annual conference, writing features about both the Social Value Act and the ways in which the housing sector uses social media.

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| 12:34 10/08/2015 No Comments |

urban stretch

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Lots of updates due……latest piece for Waterfront, the Canal & River Trust mag, was a lovely day spent with Birmingham photographer Andrew Jackson asking the good people of the Midlands why they love their canals.

 

| 12:16 10/08/2015 No Comments |

locks and lime mortar

The result of a lovely day spent with Anna Moore, heritage skills apprentice with the Canal & River Trust.

The piece was used for the Trust’s Waterfront magazine and website.

Never has restoration been quite so fashionable.

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| 15:47 24/03/2015 No Comments |

riots update

During my time covering the riots of 2011 for the Guardian’s Reading the Riots project, I was tasked with interviewing defence lawyers for their views about the harsh sentences handed out to rioters.

All of them expressed concern about the length and manner in which sentences were handed out; the fact bail was routinely refused; and that magistrates seemed to be playing to the press gallery, making examples of individual defendants to score political points.

There were high profile critics of sentences at the time. Leading criminal barrister John Cooper QC said they were ‘over the top’, while former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Paul Mendelle QC, said sentences were too long and harsh.

Yet politicians justified them, saying that the circumstances were extraordinary – and that rioters needed to ‘understand the consequences’ of their actions.

A recent report from Manchester University, however, confirms the view of those I interviewed at the time as well as critics of the courts’ approach.

By analysing data, they have shown that the sentences were ‘excessive and arbitrary’ – and say the justice system acted like ‘Judge Dredd’

My report for the Big issue in the North is below. Read a version for Equal Times here.

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| 15:04 03/03/2015 No Comments |

Jordan

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A belated few images from a fascinating week spent in Jordan in November last year documenting the British Council’s Active Citizens programme.

We visited some great projects; Jordan’s Deaf Hub, where the country’s neglected deaf population are finally getting the support and training they deserve to be fully integrated members of society.

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The Jordanian National Commission for Women are training, educating and supporting young girls in rural areas to claim their rights and access employment.

And the young people of the Princess Basma Youth Resource Centre are producing their own photography and media to challenge those who abuse power, scrutinise those in authority, and raise awareness about issues that affect young people.

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Finally, the beautiful Wadi Mujib Gorge.

| 14:41 03/03/2015 No Comments |

active citizens

In 2014, I wrote the Active Citizens annual report for the British Council, which documents a year in the life of this social leadership programme.

It features stories of social action from Syria to Pakistan to the UK;  and describes the way Active Citizens is delivered, through case studies, photographs and interviews.

See the full document here.

 

 

 

| 19:20 29/01/2015 No Comments |

Pakistan

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I have recently returned from Pakistan, where I was documenting the work of the British Council’s Active Citizens programme, together with social leaders from six different countries.

We visited the Christian village of Shanti Nagar to see inter-faith initiatives being run by local pastor Abdul Masih and Muslim leader Zahid Bashir.

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On February 6, 1997, Shanti Nagar was destroyed by a Muslim mob after a resident allegedly desecrated the Quran.

Churches and schools were attacked, around half of the village’s houses and shops burned down and looted, fields destroyed and livestock looted.

Relationships between Shanti Nagar’s Christians and their Muslim neighbours are now characterised by mistrust and paranoia.

And with the introduction of notorious blasphemy laws creating an increasingly intolerant Pakistan, Christian communities like Shanti Nagar fear for their future.

But the Active Citizens work is providing some small rays of hope; residents told us that relationships are gradually improving.

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| 17:47 29/01/2015 No Comments |

‘our language is fighting for survival’

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A fascinating debate – as Welsh slowly declines as a community language, should Welsh speakers be given preferential treatment on housing waiting lists? And should private developments be halted if they are unaffordable for locals?

| 20:38 28/01/2015 No Comments |

making childhood matter

The Big Issue in the North asked me to write a supplement, in partnership with the international charity ActionAid, to publicise their work tackling child poverty and encourage people to become child sponsors.

I wrote and sourced all the articles and case studies, and worked with a designer to create an engaging format for the information.

The supplement was inserted in all editions of the Big Issue nationally.

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| 13:26 06/10/2014 No Comments |

global dimensions

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In 2010, I was commissioned by the Lancashire Global Education Centre to edit and write their Global Dimensions magazine, featuring stories of how schools can include international issues and learning in their teaching.

The magazine was used as a resource for schools throughout the North West.

| 13:00 06/10/2014 No Comments |

leading by experience

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My contribution to the latest edition of Here, the homelessness charity Shelter’s supporter magazine.

You can read all about the project covered in the piece, Inspiring Change Manchester, here.

| 18:26 01/10/2014 No Comments |

legal issue

Legal Aid cuts force the 37-year old South Manchester Law Centre to close…..latest from the Big Issue in the North.

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| 15:46 23/09/2014 No Comments |

rent check

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An update from August – wrote these two cheery pieces for youth information site, erm ‘The Site’ about help with rent & what to look for before you rent a property….

| 14:14 23/09/2014 No Comments |

stories against stigma

I was commissioned by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam to train a group of people on benefits to talk about the reality of life lived at the sharp end of welfare reform.

These spokespeople would then powerfully challenge the current scrounger/ skiver narrative.

As well as receiving coverage in the Independent newspaper, the group were featured in Salford Online, the Salford Star, the Big Issue, and the Daily Mirror.

The group have been interviewed by BBC Radio Manchester and Salford City Radio; four documentary companies, including one from Channel 4′s Cutting Edge strand, want to tell the group’s story.

The group are still regularly meeting, and are in the process of becoming a formally recognised organisation.

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| 10:37 23/09/2014 No Comments |

church action on poverty

I wrote, edited and researched the ‘Drowning in Debt’ report for Church Action on Poverty (CAP).

Drowning in Debt

The report focuses on the little known buy-as-you-rent sector, whose shops sell white goods and appliances with interest rates of almost 70 per cent.

They sector is increasingly dominating some of poorest high streets in the UK.

Almost 80 per cent of BrightHouse’s 271 shops are in the top 30 per cent most deprived areas of the UK.

People use them because the weekly repayments are so low – a washing machine from BrightHouse costs just £6 a week for 156 weeks.

But at a final cost of £936, this hardly represents a bargain.

The report outlines is what the sector needs to do to change – offer lower interest rates, better rates for better payers, transparent costings, free debt advice, no default charges, and share credit data – so that their customers can eventually get themselves out of debt and wean themselves back on to normal credit.

The Observer covered the report well here, using much of my research in an infographic.

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I also developed a series of case studies in July 2011 as part of a joint anti-tax evasion campaign by Church Action on Poverty and Christian Aid.

The Seedley and Langworthy Trust was first created in 1997 to support the regeneration of a deprived area of Salford.

After receiving a three-year £390,000 Lottery grant in 2009, SALT was able to develop a number of innovative projects.

However, following the end of their funding, SALT is now facing an uncertain future.

Here, members describe how they feel about these cuts – and why tax evasion is unacceptable.

The Gerry Stone transcript is available here, the Irene Travis transcript here.

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| 09:52 23/09/2014 No Comments |

ctbi

This report, toolkit and website, www.agoodsociety.org, was commissioned by Churches Together in Britain & Ireland (CTBI).

The project used my photography, audio and words, and I worked with a team of web and graphic designers.

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The project documented the UK’s ‘Good Society’; the thousands of people who are committed to ensure that those on the margins are included, cared for and supported.

A copy of the full report is here, while the toolkit is available here.

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Working with a researcher, I travelled to seven very different UK destinations – Cornwall, Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Belfast, Newcastle and Swansea – to investigate the views of those working at a local level.

All are working to tackle different social issues; be it homelessness, worklessness, conflict, mental health problems, religious and ethnic tensions, poverty, lack of access to services, old age or merely loneliness.

I also organised a launch event, gaining media coverage in the Guardian and Christian Today.

www.agoodsociety.org

 
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| 16:53 22/09/2014 No Comments |

the british council

I have been documenting and photographing the British Council’s Active Citizens programme since 2013.

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Active Citizens is a civil society leadership training scheme which works with thousands of volunteers, activists and development workers across Europe, Asia and Africa.

I have visited training programmes and community development projects in eastern Sudan, Jordan, Pakistan, Serbia, the Outer Hebrides, Sri Lanka, Cardiff and London.

My images, blogs, case studies and articles have been used in annual reports and the website; some of my Sudan pieces can be read here and here.

| 14:03 22/09/2014 No Comments |

child’s play

A bit of a departure from my normal areas of expertise – but pleased to contribute words and pictures to a new e-book about children’s technology.

The piece is about the success of Playtime, a CBeebies app which has been downloaded an enormous 3 million times….

special apps

| 12:43 22/09/2014 No Comments |

Inspiring Change

All too often, when I’ve interviewed ex-offenders, drug addicts and rough sleepers, they seem to be suffering as much from society’s inability to listen to their needs as they do from the consequences of their own actions.

So I was excited to learn more about a project – Inspiring Change Manchester – that aims to put those it helps at the heart of what it does.

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At Inspiring Change Manchester, ex-service users act as peer mentors; interview staff; advise on service design; and will eventually become employees themselves.

The project is part of a £112 million national programme to change the way society thinks about how it treats its most vulnerable and chaotic members.

By including them in decisions made about their lives, it is hoped services will not only become more practically effective – but will also empower clients to really change.

The piece is due to appear in the next edition of Here, Shelter’s supporter magazine.

 

 

 

 

| 17:23 05/08/2014 No Comments |

more from inside housing

In between training people and organising events, I’ve also been fitting in some pieces…… a trio from Inside Housing, on housing awards and a new job swap scheme.

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| 17:00 05/08/2014 No Comments |

stigma stories

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a project to train a group of people, all on benefits, to speak out against the stigma of poverty.

The idea behind the course, commissioned by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam, was to create a network of spokespeople who could talk about the reality of life lived at the sharp end of welfare reform.

These spokespeople would powerfully challenge the current scrounger/ skiver narrative.

stigma_stories

As well as running six workshops with the group, I set up a website, www.stigmastories.com, to tell the stories of individual members.

I organised an event to introduce them to the community, which included a panel debate to discuss some of the issues they raised.

Listening to the panel discussion at the NICE event

The project has been a huge success. As well as receiving coverage in the Independent newspaper, there were also articles in Salford Online, the Salford Star, the Big Issue, and the Daily Mirror.

They are being interviewed by BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio 5 Live; four documentary companies, including one from Channel 4′s Cutting Edge strand, want to tell the group’s story.

The group are still regularly meeting, and are in the process of becoming a formally recognised organisation.

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| 15:31 05/08/2014 No Comments |

after a fashion

Latest from Inside Housing – a feature about how and why a Merseyside housing association is funding local apprenticeships.

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and another – how Greater Manchester housing associations are uniting to fight crime….

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| 21:10 14/04/2014 No Comments |

ASOS update

Following my investigation into exploitative conditions at the Barnsley headquarters of online fashion retailer ASOS here, Unite the union have now launched a campaign to recruit workers at the site.

They hope to get forty per cent membership so they can formally open negotiations with ASOS – and achieve better conditions for the warehouse’s hundreds of workers.

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| 20:45 14/04/2014 No Comments |

sri lanka

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In January I visited Colombo, Sri Lanka, to photograph and write about the work of the British Council’s Active Citizens programme – with whom I have previously visited Sudan, Serbia and the Outer Hebrides.

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| 18:36 04/03/2014 No Comments |

fashion fail

ASOS is a huge success story. With over 13 million registered users, the online fashion outlet is set to turn over £1billion by 2015.

But my investigation into working conditions at the factory told a very different picture to the glossy, trendy image the company portrays.

To read my Big Issue in the North piece, click here. This piece also appears in Equal Times.

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| 11:42 18/12/2013 No Comments |