Tag Archives: local organisation

Brixton Fund supported Advocacy Academy organises Bridges Not Walls action in Brixton

An inspiring action took place in Brixton at 5pm on 20th January 2017, at the exact moment Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States. A group of young people came together to drop a banner declaring their outrage, solidarity and hope. The action was part of the global action BRIDGES NOT WALLS.

After hanging the banner, the young people swore an oath:

TOGETHER: At this moment, Donald Trump is being inaugurated as President of The United States.

AMAL: We have come together to mark this moment in another way.

ZHANÉ: As young people from Brixton, we are here to express our outrage at the dangerous politics of hate and division.

MALIKA: And of scapegoating and bigotry.

ILHAN: To say NO to racism, sexism, islamophobia and xenophobia.

AZAL: To stand in solidarity and hope with communities all over the world who need our love and support right now.

PERREIRA: As we speak, Donald Trump is standing on the steps of Capitol Hill, taking an oath to faithfully protect, preserve and defend.

ASHLEIGH: A promise we plan to hold him to it.

SAMANTHA: And so today, we too take an oath.

ELIZABETH: That, no matter what, we ain’t gonna let nobody or nothing turn us around.

CELINE: We’ve been down this path before and we know where it leads.

ERICA: It leads nowhere good..

BRITTNEY: So we’re building a better world.

THALIA: A world of justice, equality and freedom for all people.

TOGETHER: We have built too many walls. Now is the time to build bridges.


The young people are fellows of The Advocacy Academy, a Social Justice Fellowship for young people who are passionate about making a difference in the world. Across eight months, The Advocacy Academy supports young leaders from marginalised communities to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle some of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

In 2016, Advocacy Academy was shortlisted for an award from the Brixton Fund, and came first in a community vote on how to allocate funding. As a result, they received the maximum grant of £2000. Founder, Amelia Viney, said:

“Just like the Brixton Pound, The Advocacy Academy is all about building powerful communities. That’s why we were so excited to win £2000, money which will allow us to run a four-day event designed by our young leaders, exploring how they can effectively challenge systemic inequality an injustice. We are so grateful to all the locals who came out to support us! You are helping a generation of ambitious but underprivileged young Londoners to be heard.”

The Brixton Fund grant was spent on a four-day residential programme in October 2016, designed by participants to address the systemic causes of oppression facing many young people in the area, focusing on race, class, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. The Advocacy Academy works with several Brixton organisations, such as the Black Cultural Archives, TEDx Brixton, Reclaim Brixton, and Brixton Pound.

Read more about the Advocacy Academy’s action on Brixton Blog and in the Brixton Bugle:

And check out Bridges Not Walls‘ video to see more of what was happening in the UK and worldwide on that day:

Big things coming up in 2017: Brixton Fund round 3

The Brixton Fund is B£’s grant scheme started to support grassroots work in Brixton. To date, the Fund has given out just under £10,000 of small grants to 13 local organisations who strengthen and benefit communities, take action for social justice, or increase local employment opportunities. The simple application process, support we offer along the way, and minimal reporting requirements for grant recipients make the Brixton Fund highly accessible even to individuals or groups without many resources.

In 2016, we increased Brixton Fund’s reach and impact massively: in the first round in November 2015, we received 18 applications and gave a total of £2,400 to 4 organisations, and in June 2016 we more than tripled the number of applications received as well as funding granted: out of the 60 that applied, 9 organisations received a total of £7,500. For the second round of the Brixton Fund, we also trialled a more open and democratic voting process, where we invited the public to vote on how to distribute the awards between shortlisted projects.

Brixton Fund public voting event in June 2016. Photo credit: Mike/Brixton Buzz. Speaker is Ciaran Thapar from Hero’s Journey, a youth project funded by the Brixton Fund. Read Ciaran’s recent article about bridging gentrification’s stark divides.

In 2017, we would also like to open the Fund Panel to volunteers from the community. Would you like to join? You would help us score the applications we receive and arrive at a shortlist for guaranteed funding. In 2017, the likely scenario is that the Fund will open for applications in April, and scoring will take place in May. You will be asked to score no more than 10 applications, and we’ll provide you with a detailed criteria and scoring guidelines. We will also ask you to declare any bias you may have, so don’t worry if someone you know is thinking of applying for funding – we’ll make sure you are not scoring their application. Depending on the volume of applications and turnaround, we’d then like to hold the open event where the public can vote on how to distribute funding among shortlisted projects in late May or early June.

You can support the Brixton Fund in a number of ways:  by spending electronic B£s (1.5% of each transactions goes straight into the Fund), by treating yourself to cocktails at Seven and Three Eight Four bars, the official sponsors of the Brixton Fund, by playing the Brixton Bonus (another round will be happening in the spring), by direct donations. Everyone is invited to come vote on how to distribute the grant money once we announce a shortlist for the next round.

But if you’d also like to be part of the initial selection process, you can now join the Fund Panel.

So, would you like to give your time and expertise to the Brixton Fund application scoring during May 2017? If yes, please fill out this form, or contact us if you have any questions or comments. We would love to have you on board!

Volunteers from Lambeth Council and other Brixton locals bring Christmas cheer to older people

With the help of local volunteers and donors, the Brixton Pound ran a collection and gift wrapping session at the B£ Café to give isolated older people gifts and treats to help warm their Christmas. 

A lunch was hosted at the Vida Walsh Centre in Windrush Square on Christmas day for older people who would otherwise be spending Christmas alone. When we think of Christmas we think of warmth and merriment, family and friends, but that’s not always within reach for everyone, whether because of geography, absence of family or friends, physical or mental disability, or other challenges. Older people in particular can find themselves isolated and lonely at Christmas.

Previous recipient of a Brixton Fund grant, Age UK Lambeth, asked us whether we could help them in sourcing donations of food and gifts to be distributed at the lunch, so we sent out a call to our network of Brixtonites and other loyal supporters.

The response was overwhelming. Thanks to you lovely people, and in particular thanks to staff of Lambeth Council, we received several large bags of fruit, biscuits, chocolate, and assorted gifts.

A group of cheery volunteers transported the donations, sipped teas and coffees and diligently helped to wrap presents at our café on Atlantic Road. Here’s the team:

Heartwarming stuff. Thanks guys!

As well as collecting an impressive pile of gifts for the event, with the help of the Lambeth community, Age UK Lambeth managed to raise more than £3,000, massively exceeding the target of £750. The money not spent on the Christmas lunch will be used to upgrade the services they provide for users in Lambeth.

Age UK research suggests that there are 2,550 lonely older people in Lambeth, and that 1.2 million older people in England are chronically lonely. That’s an awful lot of loneliness that can be alleviated with just small actions from the people around. If you feel you could offer an hour or so a week to befriend an older person, or make a small donation, Age UK Lambeth will match you up with someone. Apply to be a befriending volunteer and help make someone’s New Year here: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/lambeth/getinvolved/

To keep up with any Age UK Lambeth updates, events and developments, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Volunteer at the B£ Cafe!

Would you like to get involved in the first pay-what-you-feel cafe in South London, run by the Brixton Pound? We’re looking for volunteers to help out on weekday afternoons or weekends – be part of a unique local community project!

  • The B£ Cafe was set up in July 2016 at 77 Atlantic Road. From the start, it was operating on a pay-what-you-feel basis: meaning customers could decide how much they want to pay for their food and drink. This system means all customers have an opportunity to be generous, or have an affordable experience.
  • We have partnered up with local organisations and businesses to source the Cafe’s food and drink from local surplus – perfectly edible food that would otherwise be wasted – and turn it into delicious and healthy meals.
  • The Cafe has also become an art space, hosting exhibitions and shows by local artists, as well as plenty of other community events.
  • As with all our initiatives the cafe is a not-for-profit, with all revenue supporting the local community via the Brixton Fund.

Would you like to volunteer some of your time to the B£ Cafe? We are looking particularly for people available during afternoons and weekends who could help with preparing food and drinks, serving customers, and telling them more about the B£. Cafe experience would be a plus, but we provide full training + travel and childcare expenses if you need them.

If you’re interested, come to the Volunteer Welcome Evening on Wed 1st Feb, from 6.30pm at the Cafe. It’ll be a chance to find out more about the opportunity and meet other volunteers.

If you can’t make it on the evening but would still be interested in getting involved, drop us an email at info@brixtonpound.org or come by the Cafe for a chat (opening hours are Mon 8am-5:30pm, Tue-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm).

Please spread the word among your friends and networks!

#BrixtonFund: Local Group of the Month – Hero’s Journey

Over the last nine months, Ciaran Thapar and Rory Bradshaw have been volunteering at their local community centre in Loughborough Junction. Backed by the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s micro-grants scheme, they have established Hero’s Journey – a weekly discussion group for teenage boys. Here, they explain the story so far.

How did Hero’s Journey start?

Our involvement at Marcus Lipton Community Centre (MLCC) began in September 2015, when we were first buzzed through the front door. It is a single-floor building next to the weathered railway arches in Loughborough Junction, resting in the shadows of Loughborough Estate’s huge white tower blocks, whose lights are visible from our living room window at night.

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Ira, Ciaran and Rory outside Marcus Lipton Community Centre. Photo credit: Tristan Bejawn

We spoke at length with Ira, the warm, pragmatic man in charge. Over a series of visits, he told us stories about growing up in Brixton, from the 1970s to the present day – the gangs, police, raves and racism.

That month, the Evening Standard launched their regeneration initiative, ‘The Estate We’re In’, aiming to drive attention towards London’s housing estates. The first article was written by a journalist who had spent a week living in Angell Town estate, and the consensus at MLCC was that the voices of the people interviewed had been misrepresented. It was seen as another case of the British media perpetuating negative stereotypes about black young men in the inner city.

Tragically, in the same few weeks, a 16-year-old boy, Jarrell (who we unfortunately never had the chance to meet), was killed on the road outside the centre. The flowers arranged on the pavement in commemoration, weathered and untouched, are still there today.

It was a sensitive time, and whilst welcoming our interest in volunteering, Ira warned us that we would not become embedded overnight. Sure enough, the first few months mainly involved just hanging out at the centre, building trust, reassuring everyone that we were neither journalists (the Evening Standard had made people paranoid), nor undercover policemen.

In November, with help from Jacqueline Gomes-Neves, the former youth mayor for Lambeth, we won £1000 from the Brixton Fund to develop the ‘Brixton Youth Forum’. This is an umbrella term for all youth activity at MLCC (including the pre-existing girls’ group), within which Hero’s Journey functions.

What is Hero’s Journey?

Every Friday evening we hold an hour-long session (a ‘journey’), each time sparking a conversation about a selected topic. Our simple aim is to get the boys (‘heroes’) to talk regularly, openly and critically about things that relate to their lives. We frame each discussion around a cultural resource – such as a book, item of food, photograph or newspaper article.

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In one journey, we brought Asian snacks – pakora, sushi and a bright selection of Indian sweets – and discussed London’s cultural diversity, challenging the heroes to compare and contrast their own respective eating norms at home (most the boys are from Jamaican households, some West or East African).

During others, we used photography books Don’t Call Me Urban (Simon Wheatley’s documentation of the roots of grime music amidst London’s council estates between 1998-2010) and the Great Brixton Photobook (a collection of images depicting moments of local history), to spark discussions about topics such as stereotyping, ‘stop-and-search’ and gentrification.

In our most recent journey, we held a debate about the EU referendum, which inspired some insightful commentary on the pros and cons of immigration, as well as some less concrete reasoning – “apparently if we leave the EU it’s gonna cost £35 for a trim!”, one of the boys claimed.

Week after week, we encounter new, curious faces, eager to participate and voice their thoughts. The group is always different (it’s size ranges from 3 to 12); most heroes attend different schools, some claim not to attend at all. Some come from stable homes, others from more challenging circumstances. Although the sparse room the group occupies each week might not have the sheen of polished oak and the comfort of green leather seats, the debates that unfold offer a more acute window into the perspectives of ordinary young people than those in the Commons Chamber ever could.

We are using the bulk of our £1000 funding to run a three-day programme in August (we have already used some of it for refreshments and attendance rewards at each journey). Our plan is to visit different places across London, enabling the heroes to engage in new experiences around the city. As part of the programme, we are also working with the Black Cultural Archives on Windrush Square to develop a journey about local history.

What problem are we trying to solve?

On top of giving the heroes space to discuss their ideas, Hero’s Journey also allows us, as newcomers to the area, to learn from, and become part of, our local community. In other words: it’s as much about our own learning curve – our own journey – as it is the boys’.

Our view is that some of the current unease with gentrification stems from the way that gentrified areas become split across the fault-lines of class and race. If you walk along Coldharbour Lane, from the backstreets of Loughborough Junction towards central Brixton, you will notice an obvious shift in atmosphere as the feeling of neglect evaporates. The various eateries in Brixton Village and Pop Brixton now appear to exist for a particular type of customer: (predominantly) white, monied twenty-and-thirty-somethings – not those who are likely to ever set foot in MLCC, even though it is just up the road.

The reality is that many of our fellow newcomers to Brixton are leading detached lives from the longstanding communities around them. They socialise at different bars and restaurants. They buy their fish, meat and vegetables at Sainsbury’s instead of the market. And in the week, they commute to and from jobs across the city, barely engaging with the civic space they live in. Through Hero’s Journey, we have been trying to disturb this status quo.

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Ira, Ciaran and Rory outside Marcus Lipton Community Centre. Photo credit: Tristan Bejawn

Since our initial contact with Ira, we have formed strong, organic relationships with other staff members and many of the young men and women, boys and girls, who treat MLCC as their second home. To them, the centre is a safe haven: they know they can spend their Friday nights there, under the wing of Ira and his staff. For the Hero’s Journey boys in particular, they also now know that both of us will be there each week to hear them out.

We believe that our achievements so far, more than anything else, demonstrate that with the right approach it is possible for people like us – young adult graduates, moving into an evolving urban area – to become part of our local community. The bonus is that each journey is the most enjoyable part of our week.

Ciaran and Rory

Please get in touch with Ciaran and Rory at herosjourneyml[at]gmail[dot]com if you would like to support Hero’s Journey in any way  (e.g. with ideas for the summer programme, to tag along for a session, or host a session!) or if you just want to meet up locally to discuss it in greater detail. 

Hero’s Journey’s logo was designed by Benjy Nugent, who kindly did it for free. It’s inspired by a tribal mask using the aesthetic of inner-city life. The photos were taken by Tristan Bejawn who will be tagging along to the next few journeys and on the summer programme to get portraits of the participants – so watch this space for more visuals from Hero’s Journey!

Ciaran talking about Hero's Journey at the Brixton Fund event in June. Photo credit: Mike Urban / Brixton Buzz

Ciaran talking about Hero’s Journey at the Brixton Fund event in June. Photo credit: Mike Urban / Brixton Buzz

In November 2015, Brixton Youth Forum / Hero’s Journey received £1000 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales, sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping to fund local groups like Hero’s Journey.

Brixton Fund gives out grants for the second time!

On Tuesday 7th June we held the first ever public Brixton Fund event at Brixton East 1871, and together with Brixton’s community made the final decisions for this round of grants. Our idea was to make the grant-giving process more transparent, participatory, and democratic, so the public’s involvement was absolutely crucial! Thank you to everyone who came along, supported the event, spread the word, or got involved in any other way.

Out of all 60 applicants to this round of funding, with the help of our Fund Panel, we shortlisted nine. Representatives of these were present at the event and everyone had a chance to speak to them about their project and the work they do. Then, each person was given 10 chickpeas with which they could vote for the projects – all were guaranteed some amount of funding, but the public vote helped decide on its distribution between the projects. After we counted up the chickpeas, the final results were:

Keep an eye on our blog and Funded Projects page for more information and features about this cohort of Brixton Fund grant recipients, and check out the projects we funded previously too.

Photo credit Mike Urban/Brixton Buzz

Advocacy Academy got £2,000 to fund a 4-day residential programme for young leaders. This one and above photo credit Mike Urban/Brixton Buzz

Brixton Buzz and Brixton Blog both published nice write ups about the event and the feedback we got from community members was overwhelmingly positive (if you were there on the night and would like to let us know what you thought, please do fill out this short survey!) More pictures are on the B£ Facebook page. If you took photos on the night we’d love to see them too!

The future of community activities in Brixton

Photo credit Charlie Waterhouse / This Ain't Rock'n'Roll

Photo credit Charlie Waterhouse / This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll

While we were busy counting up the chickpeas, the main floor was given to a discussion on the future of community activities in Brixton. The Panelists included:

  • Binki Taylor (chair) – Chair of the Brixton Pound
  • Cllr Donatus Anyanwu – Lead Member for Community Relations, Lambeth Council
  • Rebecca Trevalyan – Head of Partnerships, Impact Hub Brixton
  • Mike Urban – Editor of Urban75 and Brixton Buzz
  • Sue Sheehan – Green Champion, Lambeth
  • Kwesi Shaddai – Regional Organiser, London, Edge Fund

With many questions from the audience the discussion was very lively, and we all agreed it needs to continue. That’s why we wanted to point you in the direction of Open Project Nights which happen every Monday 18.30-22.30 hosted by Impact Hub Brixton and Transition Town Brixton. The sessions are free and open to all, and can be used for working, networking, holding meetings, themed events, and you can experience the immediate benefit of engaging with inspiring community projects and enterprises. Current projects include Bank of Lambeth and The People’s Fridge, a community fridge that Impact Hub and TTB are currently crowdfunding for. Get involved!

Join the Brixton Fund Panel

As we asked on Tuesday night, we are looking for community members who would like to join the Fund Panel who scores applications to the Brixton Fund. It would require scoring up to 10 applications (2-4 pages long) twice a year. If you or anyone you know would like to get involved in this way, please email us on info(at)brixtonpound(dot)org with your or their name, email, and phone number.

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How you can support the Brixton Fund

The next round of funding is planned for autumn, and we’d like to make it even bigger than this one! If you’d like to support the Brixton Fund, you can do so in a number of ways:


Once again, thank you to all involved for your trust, enthusiasm, and participation in the Brixton Fund. The next round opens in October and we hope that with your support it can be even bigger and better!

Brixton Fund – shortlist for round 2, and how to get involved

The Brixton Fund is the Brixton Pound’s local grants scheme, introduced last year to increase the resources available for community and socially-minded activities in the area. For the current round of funding we have received a huge and unprecedented number of applications from people wanting to do good things in Brixton, which shows how crucially needed this kind of support is in the local area. All of the applications were scored by members of the Fund Panel, who voluntarily give their time to help us decide which applications to take forward.

Though we are not able to fund everyone, we endeavour to stay in touch with all applicants and facilitate support from other avenues, either through using the Brixton Pound shop space or the Pop Brixton Community Investment Scheme.

Nine projects were shortlisted, which means they are all guaranteed to receive some support from the Brixton Fund in this round:


 This is where you come in!

We want to bring people together to help us decide how the Fund money should be distributed between the shortlisted projects: please join us on Tuesday 7 June at 6.00pm (6.30pm start) at the beautiful Brixton East, just off Coldharbour Lane.

At the event, you will be provided with information about each shortlisted project, and given a certain amount of tokens to “fund” the projects according to how you think they should receive support. At the end of the night we will count up your votes and allocate funding to each project accordingly.

We’ll also hear from people who we’ve previously funded, as well as present the Brixton Exchange – our social programme which, in addition to the Brixton Fund, creates new resources for community activities in Brixton.

We will also be hosting a panel discussion that addresses the question: how can community activities exist, let alone thrive, at a time when London’s development creates increasingly difficult conditions for it. It is a big question that is worthy of proper debate, and we hope to have a frank and hopefully productive exchange of views, reflected by the panel we have put together:

  • Binki Taylor (chair) – Chair of the Brixton Pound
  • Cllr Donatus Anyanwu – Lead Member for Community Relations, Lambeth Council
  • Rebecca Trevalyan – Head of Partnerships, Impact Hub Brixton
  • Mike Urban – Editor of Urban75 and Brixton Buzz
  • Sue Sheehan – Green Champion, Lambeth
  • Kwesi Shaddai – Regional Organiser, London, Edge Fund

Among music, nibbles and drinks (Brixton Fund sponsor three eight four will be joining us for the evening) we’ll also be running a raffle where someone will be going home with a highly-coveted limited edition David Bowie Brixton Pound print. The first one went for over £1000, so this is a seriously hot piece of property!

Register for a free ticket here: brixtonfund.eventbrite.com Please share the invite with your friends and networks!

Brixton Fund: Local Group of the Month – AGT social

Located in Loughborough Junction, AGT Social was set up by Karl and Vicki after running a computer repair clinic at the Lambeth Country Show. They aim to provide much-needed affordable/free IT services to lower income communities as well as offering training, with the aim of increasing social, employment and educational opportunities.

In November 2015, AGT Social received £250 from the Brixton Fund, the Brixton Pound’s local micro-grants scheme. The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales (our monthly community lottery), sale of B£ merchandise in the Brixton Pound Shop, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So – whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping fund local groups like AGT Social!

Vicki: AGT Social has been incorporated as a social enterprise for nearly three years alongside AGT UK which is our commercial company.

Karl: We are like the one stop shop for people looking to cover their IT requirements. We host websites, run off-site back ups, host cloud conscriptions, all kinds of stuff as well as repairing broken screens installing servers and so forth.

Vicki: Our ethos is that we don’t want to chuck things away. We want to reuse.

Karl: We are very conscious of consumerism and the impact it can have on the planet the economy and the community.

Vicki: And we have a big community we can tap into here. The Lougborough Junction community is crying out for new things, for people to fix their computers and opportunities for apprenticeships and training.

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Vicki: The idea behind AGT Social came about in the first year you (Karl) were running AGT.

Karl: So I had already set up AGT and I had an idea to promote the business based on a free bike repair clinic I saw one year at Lambeth Country Show. In fact I got my bike repaired there and had to queue up for a long time. I thought: OK, this is a good idea, and wondered, could this work for computer repairs? So the following year I decided to get a pitch at the Country Show.

Vicki: The idea was to set up a free laptop repair clinic for people to be like, oh, who is AGT, maybe if I can’t get my laptop repaired there this time I can phone them up and this would bring business in for us. Purely commercial.

But it was soon apparent that people started to anticipate we would be there for the following year and people that couldn’t afford to get their computers fixed were waiting for the next year to bring them along for something as simple as removing a virus.

That inspired us to turn it into something bigger than an annual laptop repair clinic. It led to us turning it into a social enterprise (AGT Social).

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Karl: The whole point of AGT Social really, as Vicki said, is to provide trustworthy and affordable services to communities and individuals who may not otherwise be able to access these services. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to go down to the Apple Store and part with £300 to get their computer repaired. Also what you realize is that those who do not have much disposable income are the ones that need their computers most in the first place. To look for jobs, manage finances and communicate with family aboard.

Everything we have done in the arch has been self-funded so far. And that’s been really difficult. We approached Lambeth Council to get some support but didn’t get much and submitted some applications for a few local grants and again we didn’t get anything from that.

Vicki: Even with the Brixton Fund money, we are going to have to raise some more, but it does show that we can be successful in applying for funding. It boosts our own confidence in applying for funding and shows that there are people out there that recognize the value of what we are doing. It means we can now go to other people and get them to help us out in building our training room.

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Karl: We feel a sense of obligation of pride to not let B£ down and show that their investment, no matter how big or small, was entirely justified. We want to prove that we know what we are talking about and provide solutions.

We have already run some training courses with a few local charities. One of the courses we put on was called IT essentials and it basically was a course designed to give anyone and everyone the confidence to be able to repair a machine. So right from the basics to switching between operating systems, removing viruses and how to diagnose and fault find. Really, we are teaching the logic, not the solution to every problem out there, because that’s impossible. As soon as that student grasps that knowledge, their confidence and ability multiplies. So that’s what we are going to be doing here, running courses for professionals and for people that are looking to improve their skillsets. 

Contact 

For more information on apprenticeships, training and repairs head to over to AGTsocial.uk.net

And for business and personal IT support, AGT.uk.net have got you covered.

 

Oh! You pretty thing: our unique David Bowie print raises money for community projects in Brixton

UPDATE: The prints are now available for sale at bit.ly/bowieprint and at the B£ Cafe at 77 Atlantic Road.

We’re delighted to announce the sale of a unique piece of Brixton history: the Brixton Pound has published an A3 print featuring the iconic Bowie B£10 note to raise money for the Brixton Fund.

The edition of 300 – of which 250 will eventually be offered for sale – went into production in December 2015, with David Bowie’s full approval (check out the news story on the official website). The very first print, numbered #001, is being auctioned to raise money for the Brixton Fund, our community grant scheme.

The auction is live on online auction house Paddle8, as part of their Legendary sale.

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Both sides of the note are displayed, featuring David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust guise from the cover of Aladdin Sane, as well as a detail from the Nuclear Dawn mural on Brixton’s Coldharbour Lane. The A3 print is produced on the same diamond-patterned security paper as the circulation notes, and features several of their original features such as orange fluorescent ink and die-cut metallic & holographic foiling.

The print is titled ( –2016 ) in pencil, numbered in both black and metallic ink, and blind-stamped by the designers. The print will also be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Brixton Pound.

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B£ note designer Charlie of This Ain’t Rock’n’Roll said:

“The print looks absolutely stunning. The fluorescent ink leaps off the page and the foiling has been die-cut to incredible detail. It really has been produced to an incredibly high standard.”

“We’re quite emotional about it. The Aladdin Sane cover image has always been melancholy, but to see it now in conjunction with the ascending dove from Nuclear Dawn is incredibly poignant. We got Bowie’s permission to use the image for this print in December. It’s as if it’s his parting gift to Brixton.”

Don’t miss this opportunity to bid for a unique item of Brixton (and Bowie) memorabilia.

The auction will be live until March 31st, and after that the remaining limited edition run will be made available for sale. All proceeds will go directly into the Brixton Fund, a grant scheme managed by the Brixton Pound to support community initiatives in the area.

UPDATE: The prints are now available for sale at bit.ly/bowieprint and at the B£ Cafe at 77 Atlantic Road.

Brixton Fund – Local Group of the Month: Skills Network

Brixton Fund is a micro-grants scheme for projects that create community benefit in Brixton. Four organisations were funded in the first funding round in November: Healthy Living Club, Young People Matter, AGT Social, and Brixton Youth Forum. We’ve already featured two of them on the B£ blog (just click on the links above, or search the tag local organisation), but in March we wanted to have a special spotlight on Skills Network, a group who would be eligible to apply for funding from the Brixton Fund. Skills Network are currently holding an exhibition at the B£ Shop showcasing some of the results of their report “In Work Poverty: Stories from South London Women”. The posters and listening stations are available in the shop during opening hours: 10am-7pm on weekdays, 10am-6pm on Saturdays, and 11am-5pm on Sundays.

The Brixton Fund is funded by Brixton Bonus ticket sales (our monthly lottery), sale of B£ merchandise in the B£ Shop and online, and a 1.5% business transaction fee on pay-by-text B£ payments. So whenever you play to win B£1000, grab yourself a snazzy B£ T-shirt, or simply do your weekly shop in B£s, you’re helping fund local groups like Skills Network.

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About Skills Network

Skills Network is a women’s collective based in Lambeth. We offer free, accredited training to enable mothers to support their children’s learning and develop their own skills; training and experience of cooperative working and peer support; work experience through our parent-to-parent ‘skillsharing’ in Lambeth and social-action projects addressing the issues faced by women in Lambeth.

We are a registered charity but we operate as a co-operative; everyone who joins the organisation, whether as training course participant, facilitator, support worker, or anything else, becomes involved in decision-making, and in making our projects happen.

What’s Our Story

What’s Our Story is Skills Network’s social-action work, which comprises community research and campaigning. Our current piece of research is about in-work poverty, particularly women’s and mothers’ experiences of this.

Researchers and media professionals we have encountered have talked to us of their struggle to really access the granular experience, the detailed stories of women experiencing ‘in-work poverty’. They were able to access and analyse quantitative data and policy documents. But the stories were missing. The women in our group saw the importance of what they, and participatory research, carried out by people close to those situations, could bring to our understanding of the experience of in-work poverty.

“We know those stories. Some of us are those stories.”

Here we present some of the stories we found out about in the course of our research.

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In Work Poverty: Stories From South London Women 

This report presents the stories of women we spoke to in Lambeth, south London, about their experience of low-pay, insecure work and the phenomenon of ‘in-work poverty’.

Read and download the full report here

There are some positive stories. There are also stories of exhaustion, frustration, and instability; stories of bewilderment at how after working so hard they get so little. There are stories of blame and recrimination. There are also stories of hope and stories of resistance.

Here’s a short audiovisual introduction to our research:

Extensive research shows in-work poverty, and austerity in general, disproportionately affects women. However, there is more to poverty than money. Lack of choice, feeling stuck in a rut, not being able to plan for the future and a reduced sense of self-worth are all part of the emotional toll poverty can take. Cuts to public services hit women the hardest, as women almost always fill the gaps in care and community services, doing the jobs themselves for free.

Our story, as participants and peer researchers, is that we cannot completely avoid paying the social and emotional costs of in-work poverty. We can only shift around who pays for it – whether children or parents – and when.

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The Impacts of In-Work Poverty

Poverty is the difference between living and merely existing. It is not a metric, it is fluid and shifting.

Some participants were shocked and confused by the lack of difference having a job made in their lives. Financially many felt no better off, or were actually worse off as they had new expenses associated with working, such as transport and childcare. To meet these costs participants sometimes went into debt, borrowed from family members or sought charity.

However, in-work poverty does not just affect a person’s household budget. It also affects their mental and emotional health, their relationships and their ability to plan for the future. Living in debt, juggling bills and time pressures are often linked to stress and anxiety, which both take a toll in the long term. Interviewees described being constantly preoccupied by financial concerns and not being able to meet their families’ needs.

Some of the women we spoke to felt they needed to put a brave face on for their families, but this left them feeling alone and without support for what they are facing. While some thought staying connected to their community was vital, others felt that experiencing in-work poverty made it hard to socialise or spend time out of the house. One interviewee said:

“Only people that have money … have a social life.”

While some of the emotional and social costs identified by our participants would no doubt be familiar to people experiencing other kinds of poverty, there are some that are specific to low-income work. Disillusionment about work, the stress of insecure work arrangements, or the impact of working hours on children can all be difficult to manage.

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Working Women; Working Mothers

“Most women … worry less about being able to break through the glass ceiling than they do about falling through a structurally unstable floor.” Kathi Weeks, The Problem With Work

While it is essential that women have equal opportunities to undertake formal paid work, it is important to recognise the additional pressures on women who perform the majority of unpaid care and domestic work. We are still at an immense disadvantage when it comes to trying to hold down work, be a parent and maintain a sense of individual identity at the same time.

It seems pregnancy itself can be the point at which women start the slide into cycles of poverty. This may be due to health problems, difficulties in continuing to work or an end to educational or career  possibilities. Yet despite having caring responsibilities, there is a lot of pressure on women to re-enter the workforce as soon as possible after having children, even if it is to the detriment of their family. Working as much as possible to pay someone else to look after your children can seem illogical and counterproductive. Many of our interviewees experienced conflicting societal pressures, feeling they were failing as a mother, as a worker, or both.

“In Africa, we have less money there, we have less stuff to support ourselves. But on the other hand, we have the privilege of being a mother.” Research participant

Many women we interviewed were worried about passing stress onto their children. Mothers spoke of having to work through school holidays, struggling to keep up with necessities like food and of not being able to provide social outings for their children or even manage school trips. Some worried that not fulfilling themselves as a person, for example through feeling demeaned and exploited at work, would affect what their children thought they could achieve in their own lives. However, some mothers also expressed hope their children would end up more understanding and better able to handle adversity because of their difficult situations.

The women we spoke to were far from passive victims. They identified strategies for coping with the day-to-day difficulties they face. This includes focusing on prospects for a better future, especially providing their children with a better life. Their skills and determination demonstrate an inner ‘resilience’, a characteristic increasingly celebrated over the past decade. But this raises an important question: How far should we celebrate ‘coping strategies’ that result from bleak and unfair working conditions?

The women we spoke to were happy to work and wanted to avoid reliance on state support at all costs. But two demands were clear: (1) better financial and emotional support in order to stay in work, and (2) more autonomy to integrate work alongside caring responsibilities.

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Challenging Prevailing Narratives

An important aim of this project was to examine and challenge the language government and media tend to use around work and welfare. This included looking at loaded terms like ‘choice’, ‘help’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘fairness’. Too often people are falsely separated into ‘strivers’ or ‘skivers’. The idea that you are either a hard-worker or a ‘benefit scrounge’ ignores the reality that many people have to balance paid work with unpaid responsibilities, such as childcare. Current rhetoric around ‘aspiration’ implies people just need to try harder, ignoring systemic constraints and structural inequalities. These types of narratives seek to impose simple identities on complex lives.

Policies designed to ‘help’ families may perversely lead to less family time and poorer family relationships. Policies that could be more ‘helpful’ to parents include shorter working days and flexible working hours. No matter how hard you work, neither families nor individuals can overcome entrenched privilege and structural inequalities. Historically, solidarity and collectivity have been needed to achieve these aims.

The women we interviewed often felt that if they made what the government would call ‘responsible’ choices, it was to the detriment of other aspects of their lives, such as building family relations or engaging with their community in meaningful ways. Many of the women we spoke to felt the only ‘choice’ they had was between bad options. Similarly, the notion of ‘flexibility’, which is often touted as increasing choice, is seen as benefiting employers more than workers, as is the case with zero-hour contracts. Unstable hours and poor work conditions can lead to hardship, stress and insecurity.

Current government rhetoric seems to assume individuals end up living in poverty simply by making poor life choices. We challenge this perspective and instead propose adopting a capabilities approach, developed by economist Amartya Sen. This means focusing on what individuals are actually able to be and do, rather than looking at opportunities that are theoretically available but difficult or impossible to realise.

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A New Way Forward

In-work poverty can mean many different things. How we define poverty and work has far-reaching implications for policy and how we provide support to people. It would be a positive step forward to value different kinds of work more equally in terms of reward and status. Not everyone can ‘contribute’ equally and some people have more needs. It is important to acknowledge that we all rely on each other.

There should be a recognition that other activities beside formal paid work are important and valuable too, such as creativity, social interaction and enjoyment. These contribute to stronger communities, where people can find a sense of belonging and are less likely to feel isolated. We also believe that we need to accept and embrace the different capacities, skills and knowledge present in our society.

Perhaps it is time policy-makers replaced the idea of homo economicus, the self-interested rational man, with homo reciprocans. In this conception of humans, we are viewed as cooperative actors motivated by improving our environment. Fostering cooperation, reciprocity and sharing also bring us closer to realising equality.

‘Aspiration’ is a complex idea that encompasses more than your financial lot. It includes wanting to spend more time with your children, building communities and realising alternative worlds. Let us think more about collective aspirations and how we can balance our needs and desires with those of other people.

“For me, the aspiration would be to think alternatively – what is the best quality of life I can have that supports other people around me? Otherwise people have lost their human value… and I don’t want to aspire to that.” Research participant

To read the full 2015 report on in work poverty, click here

If you’d like to read the previous report, about experiences of the job centre from south London women, click here