Tag Archives: children

Introducing a new regular event… No Kidding!

This is a guest blog post written by Rachel Segal Hamilton, Brixton creative, journalist, and mum.

Introducing… No Kidding

My dad used to live in Brixton in the ‘90s so, as a kid, I was here every other weekend. I remember Saturday morning trips to buy veg at the market and summer days dancing to reggae at the Country Show. I moved back just over three years ago and just over three months ago I became a mum.

Since my daughter was born, I’ve discovered there are great activities in the area for young children. But the conversations I have at these places always seems to come back to the same subject: our kids. We analyse, in unhealthily obsessive detail, how much they’re sleeping (or not), how frequently they feed, the precise Pantone shade of their poo…


Don’t get me wrong, I love my girl, and I’m as preoccupied with these things as the next parent but I’m also interested in what’s going on in the world beyond my own baby bubble. And it’s all too easy to lose touch with your own identity when your focus is constantly on the needs of a new person.

That’s why I decided to start No Kidding, an alternative group for local parents like me to come along, nipper in tow, drink tea, and speak about more than just our offspring. Whether you want to talk about life in Brixton, life before maternity leave or life on Mars – the discussion is up for grabs.

I’m hoping it will be informal and inspiring, a chance to share your opinions, ideas and experiences with a bunch of friendly fellow Brixtonians, who happen to have kids.

Our first meet-up is 10.30-11.30am on Wednesday 17th February at the B£ Shop (formerly A&C Deli), 3 Atlantic Rd, London SW9 8HX.

See you there!

Rachel x

Any questions? For more info, contact Rachel rachelsegalhamilton@yahoo.com or @rachsh on Twitter 

#BrixtonBonus – Featured group of the month: Media Community Network Limited

Every month the Brixton Bonus provides revenue for the Brixton Fund, our new micro-grants scheme in Brixton for projects looking to create employment, challenge injustice and create community benefit.

Media Community Network Limited, a charity that lets young people speak through film about the issues they face, is the sort of group that would be eligible to apply for funds. Click here to donate to MCNL.

According to founder Laverne Hunt, Media Community Network Limited gives a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard, attracting groups in schools or communities by the excitement of using film as a tool for learning. Using documentary film projects, they aim to engage young people of all types, helping them to explore matters that are of concern to them in a constructive way. Each project facilitates dialogue between peer groups who would be unlikely otherwise to talk openly to each other. The exposure generates an overall positive influence due to the shared nature of the film product – leading to increased self-esteem and improved ‘citizenship’ within a school or community and dispelling prejudices. Comedy adds humour and sets the tone of engagement for both the audience and participants. Valuable skills are acquired: communication, working as part of a team, carrying out research, executing instructions, understanding different people, cultures, viewpoints, making a difference in the community through personal contribution.

B£ caught up with Laverne to hear more about MCNL and the work they do.

“I set MCLN up 10 years ago. I have degrees in sociology and psychology & media, and after graduation completed a Raindance infamous Producer’s Course.  I was inspired by Steven Goodman’s articles on teaching youth media literacy and the ability to change challenged children’s lives through film  – so much so I flew to the EVC head office in New York and did his summer course for teachers. I had two small children at the time and if it wasn’t for the support of my parents none of this would have been possible. Films just bring people together by default. So I took up the challenge to trial this unique model using documentary and comedy – I set it up as a charity, put an ad in The Times, and it went from there…”

“In our programmes, young people contribute from the beginning. We want to empower, not objectify them, so we don’t want to use them as examples or film subjects – they are the filmmakers. We do encourage them to use comedy. Documentaries are so often very serious, and seem to only be directed at “documentary people”, they’re not exciting for people outside of that circle. We also don’t want to make films that are stacked against anyone, but rather ones that bring people together. They are usually short, researched films about issues that matter to the young people involved in the filmmaking.”

One of the films we did was with a special needs school in Kent. The school got in touch because they felt like their students were not represented enough in the community. We did a brilliant film with them called “Butt Out” about the smoking ban, where they were interviewing their teachers about smoking and health. But they also wanted to include this surreal sequence in which an alien is landing on school grounds, smoking a cigarette. So effectively there was a film within a film! It was really hard work for the participants, but everybody was useful in some way, there are so many things to do around the film – music, design… And they absolutely loved the final product and wanted to show it to everyone. And it’s not just them – NHS wanted to use the film in colleges. It’s really amazing to be able to show just how much you can learn from children, particularly those with special needs who might not be given as many opportunities as they deserve.”

Another film we did was with the Latin community on the Aylesbury Estate. We did a film about regeneration, but also a mini film inspired by Charlie Chaplin and his quote: “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.” Another one was about peace and cohesion we did with Peckham youth. The best part of it all is to see how these experiences change the young people’s lives. If I was growing up in London now, I’d be scared and intimidated. And so much can be gained from digging around culture. We’ve had so many other ideas, but lacked funding to get them off the ground. We wanted to make a film with young Muslim men telling their stories, another one with deaf children about their lives and challenges, or a project on faith and identity in Tower Hamlets against the backdrop of the Olympics. It’s all different from the stuff you’d see on TV. And all of films we do are about a resolution of some kind.”

Helen Lederere and professor George

Helen Lederere and professor George

“The film we’re promoting right now is called “Cool To Be Kind”. It tackles low-level bullying in primary schools. There aren’t any bullying prevention or detection programs, so we want to look at that, but also change the culture in the classrooms. As an antidote to bullying, we want to actively promote five acts of kindness per day, all chosen by participants and achievable, and for which they get non-monetary rewards, like a school trip or plain clothes day. We hope it will help us explore issues of friendship and conflict, particularly between girls. We’re forging support from lots of people, including comedian Jo Brand, former Labour cabinet member Tessa Jowell, Prof. Rosalyn George, who researched bullying at Goldsmith’s university, as well as a Harvard medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis who believes that kindness is contagious. I’m meeting him in November to develop a toolkit to measure the outcomes of this project.”

Bullying V4 export smaller (1).mp4 from Laverne Hunt on Vimeo.

“The video of the experiences of the girls at Brunswick Primary School is available to watch online now, and I would like to use it as part of an awareness campaign in schools. Comedian Helen Lederere participated in the film for free, whilst Ninder Billing, Executive Producer at the BBC organised music and music editing for free too. The film is founded upon my original methodology and directed by Marshall Corwin (Award winning Panorama Director). It was partly inspired by Bernadette Russell’s book Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy and her project 366 Days of Kindness where she pledged to be kind to strangers every day for a year, as a response to the 2011 riots. If we’re successful this could be huge! We’re raising funds to turn it into an app to promote the five a day acts of kindness in other schools. But we need a solid prototype to get the kids excited about it. That’s our biggest challenge – to make it something interesting, something the kids will want to use. Part of the funds would go to focus groups for young people so we can get it right.”

“This project is important for MCNL, and could be a turning point for our credibility if all goes to plan. We are about local projects of national interest, but like so many small charities we suffer because infrastructure is weak as the charity is reliant on donations and volunteers, the big organisations take up all the resources while they could be brilliant mentors for small charities, particularly where there is synergy.”

“We have a big fundraising event coming up – so watch this space! – but even before that I’m trying to do as much fundraising as possible: I’m running a half marathon in October, and will be doing a fundraiser quiz at work. In my day job I am a secretary in an investment bank – I have two teenagers, and I was funding MCNL films myself, I needed a proper job. So I somehow manage to run the charity in my spare time – it’s a miracle. I grew up in Stockwell, but we live in Sydenham now. My daughters are 14 and 17. The older wants to be a human rights lawyer, and she’s already rocking the boat at school, always advocating for those who need support.”

MCNL is much more than just making films, what we do is about the human condition and human rights, and about integration and integrity. We’re not “film people” who treat people as subjects and don’t give anything back – we want to build communities of like-minded people, increase representation, have young people tell their own stories. The reason we’re using film is because it’s a way of seeing yourself in everyone and anyone.”

To support Media Community Network Limited, go to https://www.justgiving.com/Laverne-Hunt1/ or get in touch with Laverne via Laverne@mcnltd.org.

Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, you will be contributing to the Fund, which will then support groups like Media Community Network Limited. One more reason to get involved!


#Brixton Fund – Local Group of the Month: Ebony Horse Club

Every month the Brixton Bonus provides revenue for the Brixton Fund, our new micro-grants scheme in Brixton for projects looking to create employment, challenge injustice and create community benefit.

Ebony Horse Club, a youth club and community horse riding centre based in Brixton, is the sort of group that would be eligible to apply for funds.

Ebony Horse Club uses horses to improve the education, life skills and aspirations of young people growing up in some of the most disadvantaged communities in south London. They teach riding and horse care, take groups to outdoor events and on residential trips, and mentor children experiencing significant challenges in their everyday lives.

met up with Letty Porter, EHC’s Engagement and Funding Manager. Letty grew up in Lewisham near a riding school, but her interest in horses didn’t connect with her background in charity work until 2007: “One day I woke up to the news of a murder of a young man in Brixton. Later that day on my way to Brixton station, I happened to walk past a police cordon and realized it was where the tragedy had happened. The experience really stayed with me. I found out the young man was Nathan Foster and that he was a member of Ebony Horse Club – that’s how I first heard of it. I got in touch, said I had a horse grooming kit I hadn’t touched for years, and also that I had seven years’ experience in charity work and fundraising. Eventually I joined the small team as Campaign Officer and, save for a break to do a Master’s Degree in 2014, I’ve been at EHC ever since, working on engagement, fundraising, and social media.”

Ebony Horse Club started very small, it was first created on the Moorlands Estate in 1996 and initially had about six members. There are people who are now in college who started here when they were 8 years old! By 2010 we had 50 members, and launched a fundraising campaign to build the community riding centre. We raised £1.6 million and opened the current premises in October 2011.”


“Really, it’s a youth club with horses, not only a riding club. We teach horse riding and care, but also do all sorts of other activities for young people, like workshops and trips. The access to horses and riding teaches key life skills such as teamwork, commitment, respect, and empathy, and the contact with animals is very beneficial, particularly to young people on the autistic spectrum.”

“In terms of riding we have classes on all levels, and as sports equipment is expensive we try to provide everything that’s necessary, like boots and hats. For individual members, that is young people from the area who either sign up or are referred to us and attend weekly classes throughout the year, group lessons run evenings and weekends according to ability: usually beginner classes on Saturdays and intermediate ones on Sundays. Monday is a rest day for the horses, and between Tuesday and Friday we do a mix of member classes in the evenings and daytime classes for school groups.”

“We usually offer schools 6 week series of classes, and if the kids enjoy them they can sign up as members. Ebony Horse Club specialises in accommodating young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, and welcomes those with special educational needs and some medical conditions. We are not a Riding for the Disabled centre, but we do have a specialist instructor who is RDA-qualified. The majority of those with special needs are fully integrated within our regular classes.”

“Young people find us through their schools – most of them primary schools as secondaries are less keen to let their students off during the day to do things. We also work with social services and Lambeth Council who can refer young people to us. But a lot find out about us through word of mouth, or simply passing by. We’ve got more of a profile and a stronger presence, especially compared to the time when the club didn’t have the current premises and was just tucked away in an office on the Loughborough Estate. And we are still in a place that feels very peaceful, not hectic like a lot of Brixton. It’s a blessing and a curse, meaning that probably even more people could know about us if we were located somewhere more visible, but it would be overwhelming, both in terms of interest and the feeling of the place. Where we are now, you can just walk in and feel safe.”

“At the moment there is a waiting list to become a member, and as a community organisation we prioritise membership for young people who live within Coldharbour and the Brixton area. The minimum age for riding is 8, and we accept new riders up until the age of 19. But because more support is needed for those with needs and from unsettled backgrounds, in the transition from school to college or employment, if you’re already a member you can ride with us till the age of 25. At the moment our oldest member is 21. We have a relatively low turnover so we get to know our young people really well. Many of those with special needs are actually in mainstream education, so their needs are often not met. And a lot come from difficult backgrounds and deal with problems such as parental drug and alcohol abuse and neglect. Many are dealing with bereavement, the loss of family or friends. Through the horse riding and other activities we really get to know them well, and can intervene when we notice problems, put support in place for them and their families. So it’s really not all about the horses.”

“Horses are a big part of Ebony Horse Club though! We’ve got nine of them: Zigzag, Rocky, Blue, Archie, Joe, Shaney, Beau, Buddy and Pedro. Two are ponies, and they all range in size from small to tall. That’s important to have a variety so that we can accommodate children of different ages and heights. It’s a difficult task to source the horses: we can’t have any young ones, they need to be mature enough – minimum 6-9, ideally 10 years old. They have to be reliable but also have a spark, to engage our more experienced riders. Zigzag is a rescue horse, and she’s acclimatised really well here. Blue is the tallest one. Pedro is our Shetland pony. The other pony, Archie, just started growing a winter coat – he’ll be twice his size soon! We’ve got a standard riding arena, and we treat riding seriously, it’s not so that the kids can simply sit on a horse… We want them to get something out of it, we expect them to commit and progress, prepare them to ride outdoors. Once they get advanced they can learn jumping, too. We organise residential camps, which for some are the only opportunity to go on holiday, and other trips – not all of them related to horse riding, like a recent one to the Sky Academy. If we see young people developing other interests, we nurture them. We talk to them about their aspirations. This year ten members of Ebony Horse Club will have accessed higher education through the Club. Recently, two young people have started their studies at Hadlow College, University of Greenwich. One is based in Greenwich and the other near Tonbridge. At Ebony Horse Club we also run workshops relevant to young people, like one about healthy relationships, where they can learn to respect and support each other, and be able to talk about things that are important to them that they don’t feel they can bring up in school, like sexuality, or dealing with misogyny. We have a new youth worker who is organising those and she is full of ideas, so we expect this aspect of EHC to develop.”


“Following the raising of funds for the community riding centre, I think we suffer from an unfair perception of being a rich charity, when in fact we’re not. We run an incredibly tight ship, but consistently raise less than our average annual cost of £360,000. We are a team of six staff members and 40 volunteers. The revenue from our very reduced fees doesn’t even cover 10% of our total budget. We offer classes at a rate of £7 for 30 minutes, while the commercial rate is £20, because we think it’s crucial that the classes are accessible to the young people in the local area. We waive fees for those who can’t afford even that reduced fee – we never turn anyone down. Currently we have 12 young people who have assisted places and we expect this to rise.”

“Any additional funding goes towards supporting young people. At the moment we don’t have means to develop, to take on new horses, and our waiting list is between 6-12 months. We need money to feed the horses, to buy riding equipment, to continue running volunteer programs and activities. We greatly appreciate donations – you can sponsor a particular horse if you like. Recently we got a call from a man whose wife loves Shetland ponies, and as a birthday treat he wanted to arrange for her to come round and pet our Shetland pony Pedro. People appreciate the contact with horses, it’s really calming.”

“Horse riding is not an activity that’s associated with Brixton, and many people don’t even think it’s possible here. And yet we see so many people come here and feel safe, nurtured. Many say this is a place where they belong, a refuge. This goes for the staff and volunteers too. We’re all family.”

To support Ebony Horse Club, donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/donate/makeDonationForCharityDisplay.action?charityId=1000730

Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, you will be contributing to the Fund, which will then support groups like Ebony Horse Club. One more reason to get involved!

#Brixton Fund – Local Group of the Month: IRMO

Every month the Brixton Bonus provides revenue for the Brixton Fund, our new micro-grants scheme in Brixton for projects looking to create employment, challenge injustice and create community benefit.


The Indoamerican Refugee Migrant Organisation (IRMO), based in Brixton, is the sort of group that would be eligible to apply for funds.

IRMO is a migrant-led organisation that has provided support to the Latin American community in London since 1985.

Its main aims are to combat poverty, to defend its community members’ human rights and to empower them to build a stable life in the UK.

B£ met up with Jeannine, IRMO’s Project Manager for Family Learning and Children’s Education. Before joining IRMO as a staff member Jeannine volunteered for 8 months for their women’s project, then called El Costurero (the sewing box), whose aim was to create an open and free space where people from different backgrounds could share their thoughts on issues that affect them such as maternity, domestic violence, female representation, as well as topics about community empowerment and the arts. El Costurero had a subtly feminist ethos and covered a range of activities, from Spanish language workshops on prejudice, sexism, and racism, to women’s history themed trips around London. Jeannine is Venezuelan and moved to the UK aged 5. After graduating with a BA in architecture and working in the conservation sector, she went travelling to Colombia and Ecuador, which made her want to be more involved in the Latin American community in London – and that’s why she joined IRMO.

“IRMO was set up 30 years ago by a group of Chileans, and at the time was predominantly a refugee organisation, particularly for people who were fleeing the Pinochet regime and other dictatorships in Latin America at the time. Today we still give support to refugees and asylum seekers, but there are less of them, and so our focus has shifted to migrants. The biggest migrant groups these days are Brazilians, and also Colombians and Ecuadorians. We have 6 members of staff and 90 volunteers. About 5,000 people use IRMO’s services every year – mostly latinos and latinas, but our doors are open to everyone. Our focus is to help people get out of poverty, to give them the skills they need to make their lives better. Their ideas are crucial for us – we give them as much lead on the projects as possible. We want to facilitate them to help themselves, rather than impose any solutions. It’s important that we too come from the community: many of our volunteers are Latin Americans, some are recent migrants themselves.


Latin American Youth Forum

Our advisers run drop-in services: immigration advice on Tuesdays, social welfare and housing advice (including taxes and benefits) on Thursdays, and employment rights advice on Fridays. We do have to charge a small fee, but we never turn people down – if someone can’t pay the full price we’ll ask for a smaller donation, and even if that’s too much, we find a way to fit them in – we never just say no. We also provide interpreting services and publish booklets in Spanish about employment rights and other issues relevant to the community.

IRMO Family Project at the Horniman Carival

IRMO Family Project at the Horniman Carival this year

Apart from that we run a number of projects. I work on the Family Project which is funded by BBC Children in Need. We give advice on schooling, housing, anything the families need. Accessing education in Lambeth, and in London in general, can be a long and complex process, and increasingly you need all sorts of documents, like a proof of nationality or a housing contract, which weren’t compulsory before. Lots of applications are rejected. There’s a shortage of places in schools, so children wait from 1-2 months minimum, and up to half a year, which is a really long time for a child to be out of school. A new extension of this project is bilingual support that we provide in 3 schools in Lambeth: we run a homework club, and help students and parents to communicate with the school.

IRMO Family Project on a trip to the Horniman gardens

IRMO Family Project on a trip to the Horniman gardens

We also run English classes for kids, organise creative stuff like a theatre club, and do trips around London, to show the kids around and to point parents in the direction of free things they can do with their children. There’s an additional layer of difficulty beyond the price of things though: a lot of parents work very anti-social hours (for instance as cleaners) so have very little quality time with their children. Housing is also a huge issue. Rent in London is very expensive, so even though a lot of families can pay, they don’t have enough to rent a two bedroom flat to themselves. They want to rent a room in a shared house, but many landlords won’t accept them, claiming they would be too crowded in one room – but often the reason is that it’s harder to evict tenants with children. So many people are forced to sublet or rent without a contract. If people are eligible for council housing, we help them apply, but realistically often all they can get is emergency housing. Many are caught in some bureaucratic catch 22 situation – in order to get certain benefits like housing benefit you have to have a record of employment of something like 6 months, so in the case of recent arrivals we often feel quite helpless. If you can’t afford a house, you aren’t entitled to benefits, and your child is not in school – what do you do? Nobody takes responsibility for these people. They contribute, they pay their taxes, but are treated badly. We’ve had increasing numbers of people turning to us for help. When this project started we used to accept everyone, and now we can only help people whose children aren’t currently in education, and even with that the waiting list is so long. A lot of the people we help came from Latin America to Spain 15-20 years ago, but because of the acute crisis in Spain right now are forced to move again. And it doesn’t look like that process is going to slow down anytime soon.


English For Work, adult English classes in progress

Another IRMO project is English For Work where we run English classes for adults. 50% of Latin American migrants in London (and there are approximately 120,000) work in low paid jobs, as cleaners or kitchen staff. Often their priority is to earn money, and they don’t have time or resources to learn the language, especially if they have children, which in turn makes it harder for them to get out of low-paid work. We provide free language and IT classes and also further job seeking support like CV advice or talks about workers rights from Spanish-speaking union representatives. People often don’t know their rights, don’t know there is a minimum wage or sick pay, and employers take advantage of that. In October we are starting a new project focusing more on career development, access to conversion courses, and other ways in which people can develop their skills and find better jobs.


Staff, volunteers and management committee at IRMO away day

There’s also the women’s project: The Latin American Women’s Circle (El Circulo de Mujeres Latinoamericanas), which provides mentoring to women who aren’t at work, or find themselves in a rut, or in need of support, and helps them get to where they want to be in their lives. It’s also about them having a space: part of the program is organising group meetings which are led by the participating women, a peer support group where they can talk about their issues and struggles. They often tackle topics like gender roles and domestic violence, but the meetings are strictly confidential to ensure the safety of everyone participating. The women support each other, share news, and meet up outside of the project too. The best thing about IRMO is that it really brings people together and creates communities, which are truly empowered to take control of their lives. IRMO’s role is to connect them, but not spoon feed them – they organise themselves. And there is a word of mouth in the community about IRMO, people tell each other that it exists and is a hub and a support point, which is really great.

IRMO Family Project at work on their gardening project in collaboration with Angel Town RMO

IRMO Family Project at work on their gardening project in collaboration with Angel Town RMO

What’s next for IRMO? This year is IRMO’s 30th, which is very exciting! We’re planning a community event in November to celebrate. And in March we’ll host another event, more focused on other organisations and researchers. There isn’t enough research about Latin Americans in the UK. Standard equalities forms don’t include Latin identities, so no data or statistics can be taken away from that. Only in 2013 Latin Americans were included in the monitoring forms in Southwark and in 2014 in Lambeth. In 2011 there was a report called No Longer Invisible which estimated there were 120,000 latinos and latinas in London, most of them in Lambeth and Southwark, but that’s not nearly enough research. Latin Americans are invisible in the equalities statistics, but they often are also invisible in another sense – because so many of them work in the hours when most of us are asleep. We want to change that. We’re also going to be running a campaign around the mayoral elections, to get Latin Americans to register to vote. Already during the general election we promoted hustings and worked to get people more involved and interested in who is in power, who is representing them.

But to keep up with all that work, IRMO really needs some funding. Any amount of money would be useful, would help to fund more activities, but also simply pay for rent and bills. In February we organised a very successful fundraiser week, we raised over £6,000. Our rent went up loads, and it keeps going up; it’s happening everywhere in the area, like in the Brixton Arches, and it’s happening to us too.


Photography Workshop with Youth Project 

We could do so much more with extra funds. We could provide more funding for drop-ins, we could provide more childcare facilities so more people could use our services without worrying about their children, we could relaunch the youth project which we had to reduce dramatically. At the moment we have a bit of funding to run a one-off event for young people, which they are really doing themselves, they got a budget and are planing and organising it. But we’ve not got much for them beyond that, and with more funding we could have a separate project focused specifically on youth. If they don’t know English they can be the hardest age group. And we’d like them to have aspirations, dreams, perspectives.

IRMO Family Project at the Horniman Carnival this year

IRMO Family Project at the Horniman Carnival this year

We’re always looking for more volunteers, interpreters, translators, English teachers for adults and children (5-12 years old) – so if you could donate your time, please do get in touch with us.

We also really need laptops in good working conditions, bilingual Spanish/English and Portuguese/English dictionaries, arts & crafts materials, school equipment, good English reading books for children learning to read.

We would also be really grateful for any donations to the Family Project, to help us improve English classes for children, put on exciting extra curricular activities and fund exciting family trips that are otherwise unaffordable.”

If you’ve got a B£ account, you can donate to IRMO by texting ‘pay IRMO [amount]’ to the Brixton Pound payment number (07754832867).

Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, you will be contributing to the Fund, which will then support groups like IRMO. One more reason to get involved!