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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

#BrixtonBonus – Meet the Winners: Ashleigh and Paul

Stop us if you’ve seen this picture before… isn’t this the September Bonus winner, Paul? Guess what – Ashleigh, who won two Brixton Bonus runner-up prizes before, and who happens to be Paul’s wife, took home the jackpot B£1,000 in February! Congratulations ?

If you think the pair’s luck is a little too good to believe, here’s their secret: they are both “Brixton Bosses” – they each have an indefinite recurring entry for the maximum 10 tickets a month for each Brixton Bonus draw. Which, as evidenced by the results, definitely helps your chances to win! And if you sign up for a recurring entry with any number of tickets, you will receive very special rewards as a thank you from us.

All proceeds from Brixton Bonus go to the Brixton Fund, from which we give grants to local organisations of community benefit – see who we’ve funded so far. You are also supporting the Fund every time you spend electronic B£s (pay-by-text) or buy B£ merchandise at the B£ Shop or online.

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Ashleigh said she was delighted to win, and that the first thing she was going to do with her prize was make a donation to Brixton Soup Kitchen and the Brixton Fund. Amazing generosity, thank you!

The Gills have been regular and loyal B£ users for years. Paul was the first person we introduced in our Meet the User blog series: have a look at a guest blog post he wrote for us in September 2014, where he talks about why he uses B£ and all the personal connections to Brixton traders he’s made through using the local currency.

At the time when Ashleigh and Paul set up their 10 ticket/month recurring entries for Brixton Bonus, the top reward for being a Brixton Boss was a B£ t-shirt and lunch on us, but because of scheduling issues we opted for a breakfast instead, and one chilly October morning we met Ashleigh and Paul at Rosie’s in Market Row. They have been living in Brixton together for over a decade – and Paul, who grew up in South East London, for over two decades now. He told us when he moved here it was because he wanted to live somewhere with a tube station, which he finds amusing now as he cycles to work every day. 

As a regular B£ user, Paul first heard of the Brixton Bonus through our online communication channels: “The idea of the lottery and the message behind it was really inspiring, so we wanted to be a part of it. And it’s so easy to have the 10 tickets bought automatically each month, all I need to do is keep my balance topped up. We appreciate not everyone can afford that £10 each month, so we have donated winnings locally as we have always done via B£, just considerably more than our usual monthly donations.”

“Using B£ is definitely a Brixton badge of pride. Whenever I see the sticker in the window I am confident they will treat me as a regular, that even if there’s a new staff member who may not be familiar with it, the owner will be comfortable taking a pay-by-text payment. And so many businesses still offer 10% off when you pay in B£s. For small businesses working on small margins it’s difficult to do discounts like that, but even if it’s a seasonal or temporary or lunchtime-only promo, it’s hard not to be incentivised. For that reason we’ve always supported Rosie’s, or used to go to the Breadroom (which is now sadly closed) every weekend with our kids.”

“B£1,000 is a lot of money! I was at Market Row Wines and the owner Dave looked at my phone, saw my B£ balance with the prize money included, and was like, “hey, I should get a ticket too!” Knowing someone who won makes it seem more real I guess! I still have my regular standing order for B£s every month. I’ve given some of the prize money to Brixton Foodbank and Brixton Soup Kitchen. We bought some wine at Market Row Wines, we’re going to go out to dinner this week. Other than that the prize means our Christmas is sorted – we’ll buy all our gifts in B£ businesses. I will also definitely spend more at Brixton Cycles now that they take pay-by-text. It’s great that they managed to find a new premises and stay in Brixton, it would’ve been such a loss for the locals to see it go, and especially because cycling is such a big thing now, it’s a no brainer to use your local co-operative bike shop!”

“B£ could expand to a mile radius – there are so many small businesses that aren’t located in the very centre of Brixton. Last Sunday we went on a walk and popped into this coffee shop near Loughborough Junction, Blue Turtle Oasis. We didn’t realise they took B£, but they do, and that was a very pleasant surprise.”

“Our kids love B£ too. They’ve got all the B£ notes which they received as gifts – they are real pieces of art, too beautiful to spend. They see us spending pay-by-text all the time though, and understand that it helps independent businesses, understand the reasons behind the currency. Maybe this is something you could encourage more, to have parents give their children B£s as pocket money, to promote local spending? You could even branch out into schools! Corpus Christi Primary School is listed on your Directory, I wonder how they use B£s. The Parent Teacher Associations could benefit from it, ask for donations, or use it to source stuff locally. I love the idea of local business intersecting with schools, offering work experience. Our primary school PTA produces a school calendar every year with pictures done by children and parents. This year the theme is food, and many pages are sponsored by local food businesses. All the money raised is going back to the PTA to be used for school trips, inviting people for talks… This could definitely work together with B£ somehow.

So many people move to Brixton, and they could benefit from knowing more about the local area, local businesses. And it would be important for them too to support the community assets which have been here for years. It’s so sad to see places like A&C Continental go, although great that the B£ Shop can keep using that space for now. But it’s a shame when business owners who worked so hard on these places are forced to move, like Kaff Bar – they put so much effort into that space. The B£ should be making local businesses more visible – to discover some of them you have to be “in the know”, not every place has a sign. The Brixton Fund could give advice or surgeries, even TEDx format talks, on how to set up a business. You can get small business advice when you open a business account with a bank, but not much independent advice is offered. And this could help with jobs for young people too – right now unless you know someone, you can’t get work experience, and you’re a lot more likely to know a small business owner – they might be your neighbour, or another member of the local community.”

#BrixtonBonus – Meet The Winner: Manda

Brixton Bonus has another winner! On the last Friday of January the Brixton Grand went to Manda Glanfield, a longtime B£ user and supporter, who wrote a very nice guest blog post for us last winter about shopping local for Christmas. Well, she will have even more opportunity to shop local all year round now with B£1,000 to spend!  Manda has told us lots of interesting things about her Bonus experience so far:

“It was my birthday on the Wednesday before the draw, and I was planning to have some friends over for dinner on Saturday, but instead I took them all out to Negril for a celebratory dinner on me! I used to live close to Negril, I love it. So that was a very nice thing to do, but I also want to start using B£s a lot more in my everyday.”

“But first of all, I want to thank everyone who plays Brixton Bonus, and say – it could be you next time! I had been playing since the lottery started in the summer, I was at Lambeth Country Show where you had your first draw. I had a recurring entry for one ticket a month, but in January I thought, I haven’t won anything yet, let’s up my recurring entry to five tickets and see what happens. And then boom! I won the big prize. I’m going keep my 5 tickets a month, that way I get these nice rewards and support the scheme.”

“I usually use B£ to buy gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions. I do that for a lot of reasons: to shop local, support independent businesses, but also because it gives the gifts a bit of a theme. I’m sure my nieces would prefer a gift voucher for TopShop, but I think there’s something nice about getting a handmade leather wallet or notebook from Malika. But right now, I want to challenge myself to spend B£s on more things I have to buy anyway, more essential stuff. I’m actually a bit broke, and I won a thousand pounds, so this is a great opportunity to see how many usual things I can buy with B£ – to save money, and to do things a bit differently.”

“It’s literally like being given a lot of vouchers – and it’s an adventure, to explore and discover what’s out there. I want to donate some of my prize too – I’ve already supported the Brixton and Norwood Foodbank. I was also thinking about something that’s a bit more of an experiment – I want to give a few of my friends B£20 each and see what they do with it, and I’d like them to report back to me about their experiences of spending it. Maybe that would get them to sign up and use B£s regularly after that? I think it should be quite a fun way of connecting. I might even set up a blog to document it all.”

“I want to try all these lovely food places that I wouldn’t normally be able to go to. Opus on Acre Lane is fantastic, and the owner is so proud to be accepting B£. He told me he was supporting the scheme from the start, was one of the first to sign up, and actually makes an effort to spend the B£s he earns in the area at other participating shops – it was really inspiring to hear. Another great place I went to was French & Grace – OMG, it was so delicious! I had a gorgeous wrap, and aubergine chips. Seriously, if you want a treat, get their aubergine chips with homemade harissa ketchup! I really want to buy their cookbook too, it’s so beautiful and full of yummy looking recipes. I even thought I could challenge myself to cook each recipe from there, and see how many ingredients I could buy in B£s. I already went to Faiz Foods in the village, and at first I only saw the side of the shop with fizzy drinks and cans of MSG, but I was very relieved to see they actually have lots and lots of fresh fruit and veg – I will definitely be buying there. And I know Brixton Whole Foods take B£s, and they sell the Old Post Office Bakery bread which I love. Oh, and for the next year or so I’m gonna be drinking nothing but Federation coffee – they sell amazing coffee from around the world, grind the beans for you, and tell you lots of info about the blend and where it’s from… it’s incredibly expensive, so I would normally never do this. But now I can!”

“I am also definitely going to Studio 73 to buy some art. It’s a massive extravagance to me, cause it’s expensive and not essential, but I would like to have more – I don’t have enough of it. Artist Martin Grover is a friend of mine, and he’s got his work there. I love lots of local artists and want to support them. It would be great if Urban Art Fair accepted B£s, even as part of the payment – it would make art a bit more accessible.”

“I spent a bit of time looking through the B£ Directory to see where I can spend B£s on some other things I need. I thought of something that’s possibly the most boring piece of life admin – I need to make a will. So I started calling up the solicitors listed on the Directory – unfortunately the one firm that accepts B£s doesn’t actually make wills. The few others either merged with bigger firms or have dropped off the scheme, which is a shame. I also had no luck finding a hardware shop – I need a new drill.. but the shop on Acre Lane you had listed wasn’t there anymore. Similar story with the gas supplier who could fix my boiler. So this was a bit of a difficult start!” [ed. – B£ was very grateful for this info, and we have amended the Directory accordingly – it’s just become so big it’s sometimes difficult to stay on top of the constantly changing business landscape, particularly with businesses who only accept the paper currency – so we appreciate feedback like this! Manda was very pleased to find out that Morleys accept B£s and is planning to get lots of everyday, practical things there 🙂 ]

“I live in West Norwoord, I moved there two years ago. I used to live closer to Brixton, near Negril. But now I’ll come into Brixton a lot more! It takes a while to gel with a new community. But now I play piano in a band, Los Domingos. We got together after an Afro-Cuban Big Band course at City Lit. It’s the kind of music that’s loud and energetic, you can’t really play on your own, so when the course finished we decided to start the band and keep playing together. We’ve been doing this for over a year now. Come see us at the West Norwood Feast, we play the next one on 3rd April.”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about how strange winning money is. The Friday of the draw I also actually bought a National Lottery ticket, I was at my local garage paying for something and the man at the till offered me one saying I could win 99 million pounds that day. OK, go on then, I said, and got two tickets. It was a bit random, and I haven’t ever bought a lottery ticket… maybe once, 20 years ago. And then 10 minutes later I noticed a missed call – and that was B£ getting in touch to say I won the Brixton Bonus! I actually haven’t checked these lottery tickets yet, maybe I’ve won 99 million pounds too? That would be quite strange though I imagine, I bet that actually changes your life in ways that might not be so good. But I’m really looking forward to what the Brixton Bonus experiment will bring – I’ll keep you posted! It feels like a huge responsibility to win a thousand pounds, especially when there’s so much need around, but with a percentage of every B£ spent going into the Brixton Fund, I am hoping that by spending B£s I am supporting local community projects.

#BrixtonFund – Local Group of the month: Young People Matter

Young People Matter (YPM) are a charity based in Stockwell Gardens. They create and run programs based around the needs of youth and the community. Aiming to provide a variety of different programs from after school clubs and summer camps to helping with employment and skills training.

In November 2015, YPM received £400 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 the Young People Matter.

We spoke with two members of YPM: Kemi, the group’s founder, who started YPM in 2007 through setting up and running a 4 week summer program for kids, and Marcus, who has been part of YPM from the beginning, first as a director and then stepping down to have a more hands on role.

Kemi
Whilst I was at university studying psychology and sociology, I was doing some work with a youth club in Kingston, and later in Thornton Heath. At the time I used to put together booklets of things I wanted to do when I was older, for example activities for young people, basically things that where missing from what I was doing. But I had always wanted to wait till I was older to put on something myself.

However at the time there were a lot of things going on in my estate, five young people had been killed in the space of a week. And so it was like, do I wait or do I do something about it now. We applied for some money from the youth opportunity fund and found out two weeks before that we had got it. We had to rush around a bit to get it together but we had a really good turnout with about 50 people signing up for the first session. Eventually I decided to leave my job and pursue YPM full time as I saw there was a real need for something like this.

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Marcus
At the time in 2007 when YPM started a lot of gun violence was happening and it was still big in the news. We weren’t as desensitized to it then as we are now. We take it for granted even though we hear about it so much. But back then in 2007 it was still shock news. So Kemi applied for funding to do something with the kids on her estate because the kids just said: we don’t have anything to do. And from there it just grew.

More people heard about it, more programs came from it, and eventually it turned into this. With a premises on Stockwell Garden estate, seven full time employed staff, and moving on to maybe twenty staff when we are busier.

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Kemi
What we do has always depended on what the needs were within the community at the time. So when we first moved here we came to do a youth club and a drama program. From there, there were a lot of people who couldn’t speak English as their first language and wanted a homework club for their kids to support them. It started out as homework club, and then it developed into an after school club and to include different schools and areas. Another example – some girls who wanted to do a youth club for just females, and that’s how girls night and boys night developed. So it all comes from things people have said or what was needed.

Marcus
All of our programs go hand in hand and help to service the other programs. For example our employment program helps to move people from long term unemployment to employment, but some of the barriers in the way of this were: if I do get a full time job, what do I do with my children?

So our after school clubs came about because there are working parents that wouldn’t be able to work without it, and it benefits the children themselves by providing them activities. Another example is the summer camps that we run. We had one and it was very successful, from there it spread from school to school and we are at four now. Everything we do just grows organically.

It’s hard to monetize it and grow when you do this kind of social work – it doesn’t work like that. The community tells us their needs and if it fits into our ethos, then we will work together. We have been going for nine years now, and even in a time when there are big budget cuts we are still here now and are grateful for that.

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Kemi
The Brixton Fund money is going to be used to offer young children free space and access to the after school club. For parents who don’t work, their children wouldn’t usually be able to access the after school club, so this allows for them to do so. Just because their parents don’t work it doesn’t mean their children don’t need to use it. Kids need to have something to do, and their parents might not be able to afford this for their kids normally. Parents themselves need some spare time and a break from childcare.

Marcus
We have three different after school clubs however; I was thinking, what about the kids who I see after school with their parents that don’t get to attend the after clubs. They are kids that we might not to be able to engage with because they don’t get this opportunity. So I looked at the barriers to this and the possibility of funding to see how they could get the opportunity to do this. It was great to be successful in this funding application, its going to have a big impact.

Click here to support Young People Matter, or check out their website for more information.

Whenever you buy a Brixton Bonus ticket, spend electronic Brixton Pounds, or buy from the B£ Shop, you are contributing to the Brixton Fund which supports groups like Young People Matter. One more reason to get involved!

This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.

 

#BrixtonBonus – Meet The Winner: Linda

The December Brixton Bonus was already our 6th draw, and a very special one at that – on Christmas Eve we drew the big winner and 15 runner-ups – so an extra ten people got brand new B£ merchandise as an early BriXmas present! (If you weren’t one of the lucky ones, fear not – we’ve got some left at the B£ Shop!)

Gabor Erdos

BriXmas Bonus runner-up winner Gabor entered the draw when he was buying his wife a Christmas present – and ended up winning a few more goodies!

Mark Picksley

This was the second time Mark has won a runner-up prize in the Bonus

But surely it was the person who scooped the Brixton Grand whose Xmas was gonna look particularly merry and bright…

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The big winner this time was Linda Quinn, who happens to be the editor of the Brixton Blog and Bugle. We contacted Linda to let her know she’s won… only to hear that she’d like to donate the whole sum to the Brixton Fund! Talk about a BriXmas miracle (and amazing generosity)!

Many of our previous winners have been amazingly generous and donated large portions of their prizes to the likes of Brixton Soup Kitchen and Brixton Foodbank, but it was the first time in Brixton Bonus history that the winner has donated an entirety of their B£1,000 prize. Needless to say we are amazed, and immensely grateful!

Linda, who became Brixton Blog and Bugle’s editor in September, has lived in Brixton since 1975. She has a background in local and national journalism and PR, and what was of particular interest to us, she used to work at the Big Lottery Fund for 15 years! We took Linda out for lunch to thank her for her amazingly generous donation, and to talk about how Brixton Bonus differs from the National Lottery. Well, for starters, it’s the odds that are different! Linda told us:

“It used to be 14 million to one to win, but now it’s more like 60 million to one. And with Brixton Bonus? For this draw I bought ten tickets, which is the maximum monthly amount. I think I saw an ad on the Blog or in the Bugle, and decided to enter. When I first found out that I won, I thought I’d buy the Blog and Bugle office some new equipment, but then I decided not to. I knew about the Brixton Fund, and I decided I wanted my B£1,000 to help some small local community group – that will be a good use for it!”

During our lunch at Parissi we told Linda more about the community groups we already funded through the Brixton Fund: Brixton Youth Forum, Healthy Living Club (which you can read more about in our recent blog post!), Young People Matter, and AGT Social. She said it would be great to have more coverage about their activities on the Blog and in the Bugle – we’re hoping that it will indeed happen and those amazing groups get the exposure they deserve! We also chatted to Linda about the complex and diverse history of Brixton (did you know that the facade of the Eurolink Business Centre on Effra Road is a remnant of a synagogue that served Brixton’s Jewish population for most of the 20th century?) and discovered she was a big Bowie fan:

“I was amazed at the outpouring following Bowie’s passing – I have never seen anything like it happen for a pop star. He made art music, it transcended generations.”

Read more about all the Bonus winners to date in our Winners Gallery, and if you fancy joining their ranks – get some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 29th January – who knows, it could be you next time! Better yet, set up a recurring entry to never miss a chance for a Brixton Grand – and get some extra goodies as a reward from us – including the famous Bowie tenner.

#BrixtonFund – Local Group of the month: Healthy Living Club

The Healthy Living Club, set up by Simona Florio, is a dementia centered community currently operating at the Lingham Court care home in Stockwell. It is open to those in Lambeth with dementia and the residents of Lingham Court. Attendees can meet there to spend time with each other and enjoy the variety of activities that HLC help to make available.

In November 2015 the Healthy Living Club received £750 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 the Healthy Living Club.

This is Simona’s story.

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“I moved to South London from Dalston because I wanted to be closer to work – so I guess the Healthy Living Club brought me here. But I actually first lived in Brixton many years ago when I was working at the Bartlett School, where I was responsible for their Erasmus programs. I loved it when was I living there, so it was nice being able to come back again.”

“I started the Healthy Living Club from scratch and got a job with the Alzheimer’s Society here at Lingham Court care home. They had the funding for three years and everyone assumed it would carry on, but actually when the funding ran out they really did close the program. Because it was announced at the last minute everyone was incredibly shocked and upset.”

“The volunteers and ourselves felt that we had to come to regard ourselves as friends with those who attended, and those who attended felt they didn’t have anywhere safe to meet. Once you get dementia it becomes very hard to go out to places that are not conventional like bars or cafes. So this was the only place they came all week and it’s the only time they saw anyone from outside. Everyone should have that basic right to a community life.”

“Despite the service closing and loss of funding we continued as if nothing happened. We turned up the next week and everyone was there, nobody was missing. Even though some were paid and were unsure if they would receive pay, nobody dropped off, even after a year. It was seven months before we even got our first grant!”

hlc 3 hlc 2People with dementia don’t like change, so our main aim is to keep activities the same. A typical day at the Wednesday club starts at 11am with an exercise class, which is very good for people with dementia as it slows down the protein that is the hallmark of dementia. We like to make sure it’s fun and that everyone in the group is involved. At 12:15pm we have a musical session – again, music is great for people with dementia, as music is stored in a different part of the brain. So whilst people forget a lot of other things, music is still there. Even people who have difficulty walking find they have the memory of how to dance in their bodies from the music.”

“Then at 1pm we will have lunch with soft food and finger foods for those that can’t use cutlery. After lunch we have various activities, for example musical bingo, games, art and crafts, drama, food tastings or talks from the National Gallery. The afternoon is meant to be more unstructured. Although we can’t have too many things going on at once, as it can be confusing for everyone.”

“We also offer activities on a Monday and a carers group meeting once a month. So as you can see, we put on a lot of events and the demand is there. The main problem for us is actually securing the funding to put them on.”

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“In the future we would like to take HLC to other care homes too. It is not the job of care homes to provide any activities or extra care for their residents. So we would like to provide this to those living there in addition to all these dementia patients from outside who don’t have anything going on. Providing activities is really quite cheap and there are all these premises we can use for free to do this.”

“When we first started, those attending had to pay £3 for their lunch, but it was impossible to collect the money when they didn’t have any, didn’t know where their money was, or didn’t know how much they had paid. It became really disruptive as some people weren’t eating or they were eating at different times so they missed out on activities.”

“It is also really important to be in a place where everyone is equal. If it is your home and you live here, and someone charges you for lunch on the day, it is weird that you are getting charged by someone for food in your own home. It makes you feel as if it isn’t your home. So what do you do?”

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“We decided to offer the lunches for free. However the costs of this all adds up to become expensive. The food comes from FareShare, one of our volunteers collects the food from them and doesn’t charge for travel expenses. But we still have to get other essentials such as oil, flour, some meat, and some refreshments for our Monday club. We also need to cover the costs of a chef because the food needs to be cooked by someone who can cater for the needs specific to everyone living and attending here.”

“Since providing these free lunches is a huge part of our cost and is something that funders don’t like to contribute to, I thought – why don’t we try make this more sustainable by getting another source of funding for it? We want to set up a scheme to recruit restaurants willing to donate some money each month towards paying for lunch at HLC. That is what the Brixton Fund is helping to support.”

Healthy Living Club club meets at Lingham Court, 10 Lingham Street, Stockwell, London SW9 9HF.

Sessions:
Wednesday Club (11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m)
Monday morning Breakfast Club (10.00 a.m. – 12.30 p.m)
Monthly carers’ group led by the Lambeth Carers’ Hub

If you’d like to support HLC’s work, click here for more information – or come by the Brixton Pound Shop (3 Atlantic Rd, SW9 8HX) and have a look at a brilliant table decorated by the members of the Healthy Living Club which is now being auctioned – all proceeds will be used to keep Healthy Living Club’s art project going.

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Contact Simona Florio for any questions
email simonaflorio.hlclc@gmail.com
Phone 07790 499317

Unit 506, Strata, 8 Walworth Road, London SE1 6EE

This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.

#BrixtonFund – Local Group of the month: Afewee

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. We have recently finalised the first round of funding, so next year we will be telling you more about the groups we supported. But today, we’d like to introduce you to Afewee Training Academy – a local group who would be eligible for support from the Brixton Fund.

The Afewee Training Academy hosts football and boxing classes in the Brixton Recreation Centre, run by volunteers giving up their own time to run the academy. Originally started by Steadman Scott, a Brixton resident for 50 years, and fellow coach Tony Goldring. The team has since grown to include Peter Armstrong, Bobby Miltiadous and Laurie Cooper. B£ caught up with Steadman who told us a bit more about his story and founding Afewee.

“When I was released from prison in 1997 a friend of mine was working for Crystal Palace F. C. and asked me, “Do you want to come to one of the sessions?” I said yes because being a person with a criminal conviction I thought I wouldn’t be able to get a job – I had tried to get a job before I went prison and wasn’t very successful… But I wanted to see what these clubs were looking for, and at the same time use this opportunity to recreate myself, break away from my past. So I came to a session once, and ended up getting a part time job with Crystal Palace!”

“I realised since I got a good reputation working for Crystal Palace F. C. we should be able to rent a place at the Brixton Rec. And for the first two years me and my friend Tony paid out of our own pockets for it. During that time I was going to schools, working for Crystal Palace, and saying to the boys: we are doing extra football in Brixton Recreation Centre, you should come along. We continued to work with Crystal Palace until they were relegated.”

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Steadman Scott – Co-Founder

The Afewee Football Academy has since gone on to work with likes of Fulham and Arsenal, providing members of the Academy with the opportunity to prove themselves at professional clubs – and a number of its players have go on to play professionally. Five of its alumni have played for Premiership sides, and one – Nathaniel Clyne – plays for England. In addition, the Academy boasts 30 players in the professional game or in academies, including one in every league in the country and one in every London-based Premiership club.

Afewee’s Boxing Academy was started more recently, in 2014. It now offers 8 classes a week for both experienced and recreational members who are coached by Bobby and Laurie. Last month the club had its first boxer to compete for the club, Nyesco Okpako, who won against a boxer from Balham boxing club. Three more competitive boxers are signed up to compete this year.

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Bobby Miltiadous- Head Boxing Coach

Afewee is not just about sports, as Steadman explains: “It is about helping kids to realise their dreams. We are the ones that have to change our youngsters in the community. I don’t see no politician who would have the same kind of experience as us. You need people like us who know the other side of the road.”

“I say to the boys, I know they say to you fun comes first. But in Afewee, if you are going have fun, you won’t go to the top. If you want to be a winner, a star, you have to know passion, you have to love it. The fun is when you achieve your goal. And to learn about what you are passionate about, you have to work for it.”

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The Afewee team, starting from the left – Peter Armstrong, Steadman Scott, Tony Goldring, Bobby Miltiadous and Laurie Cooper

“Let’s get it right, fun means you are successful, and to be successful it means you have to work hard. The fun comes in when you go on the pitch and you are performing, and you see all the hard work you have put in. It’s because of the passion and the love they have for it that they go to the top.”

“Even if they don’t get in to the football or boxing, what they learn through Afewee is discipline, and how to be successful. They learn how to apply themselves when they find something they are passionate about, which can be applied anywhere in life, not just to boxing or football. So Afewee is a way of life. We are here to motivate and uplift our youngsters.”

“These kids have helped me change my life – they have given me a new start. Because I got a second chance, I’m going to use my drive to help these kids become successful. When I’m watching Liverpool play the last time against Southampton, I’m watching Clyne play. If you asked me 18 years ago, would you be sitting in your front room watching boys from your program play? I would say: rubbish! But now to get to see it, and think – bloody hell! You have a responsibility son, so use your past and your drive to help the youngsters in the community. So that’s what I do here.”

Afewee Football Academy

Afewee Football Academy

“The council are thinking of giving the private company GLL total control of the Recreation Centre. If they do that, GLL will be the sole decision-maker. If they are in charge, programs like ours will be in jeopardy. The council should make sure there is a place in here for the community and the unemployed. Afewee Academy should be involved in the Rec, we should have our own base in here to represent the interests of the community and our youngsters, keep their interests in these classes. We know what they need, and we have proven it by the work that our volunteers here have done. And those young people – they are the future.”

Head over to Afewees website for more information regarding the Academy and times for boxing and football sessions.

This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.

The first round of Brixton Fund(ing) is complete!

We’re really pleased to wrap up the inaugural round of the Brixton Fund – the Brixton Pound’s micro-grants scheme for Brixton.

We had 18 applications to the Fund, demonstrating the need for funding for small grants for grassroots organisations in the area.

A shortlist of 7 projects was produced after initial scoring by our panel of 13 Brixtonites with strong and varied local knowledge.

Finally – the panel met to whittle 7 very strong projects down to a final four:

  • Brixton Youth Forum: £1000 – Training, workshops, advice, education & a democratic space for young people.
  • Healthy Living Club: £750 – Self-organised community replacing loneliness with belonging for those living with dementia
  • Young People Matter: £400 – Free after-school clubs in Stockwell and Brixton
  • AGT Social: £250 – Training young people in Loughborough Junction in IT and repairs

It was a really difficult process to reach the final decision – but with both successful and unsuccessful applicants we’re not just leaving it there – we’re using our contacts, shop space and networks of expertise to offer non-financial support also.

Look out for more info on the successful applicants over the next few months – and for round 2 of the Brixton Fund in spring 2016.

You can contribute to the Brixton Fund and boost its funding power! Simply by using B£ pay-by-text (1.5% of each transaction goes into the Fund), playing Brixton Bonus, or buying stuff in the B£ Shop. It’s never been easier to be a positive force in your local community!

And if you work for an organisation that would like to contribute to the Brixton Fund and strengthen Brixton’s grass roots – we’re only a phone call or an email away!

p.s. we’re hosting a beautiful table decorated by the members of the Healthy Living Club here in the Brixton Pound Shop. It’s up for auction – and all revenue goes towards supporting the club’s amazing work. So come down, have a look, and place your bids!

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#BrixtonBonus – Meet the winner: Kam

We have another Brixton Bonus winner! Kam Nathan, a first time Bonus player, took home B£1,000 on 30th October, which happened to be the day before her birthday! She joins the small crowd of Bonus winners, some of whom are featured in our Winners Gallery – have a look! And make sure you get some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 27th November – just in time for some BriXmas shopping!

It's Your Local Market

Kam lives on the Angell Town estate in Brixton, and first heard of the Brixton Bonus when she came to the launch of It’s Your Local Market, a new, weekly Saturday market created by Angell Town resident Andrea Brown to bring the community spirit back to the area and for residents to sell locally sourced food and affordable clothing and crafts. It’s been funded by the London Community Foundation. Kam came by the B£ stall, chatted to us, and bought a Bonus ticket – which she promptly forgot about… until she got the email from us!

 

 

It was my birthday on 31st so I feel blessed. I will spend some in Morleys, at the make up counter, for sure! And buy some Christmas bits for my family. But most of it will go on me! I would like go to Brixton Village to eat out – with the amount I won I could go every week to treat myself to a meal! That would be nice, I haven’t done that in a long time. And I like how a lot of food in the Village is healthy. I’d rather go there and eat something better than spend money at McDonald’s.”

photo credit: Evening Standard / Matt Writtle

photo credit: Evening Standard / Matt Writtle

“I work at a nursery. I’m also involved in a few projects at Angell Town – a children’s theatre project, My London which gets people to visit different places around town, to build social and cultural intelligence. These are part of a project Angell Town’s been running at the Evening Standard. I’m a mother of five, my oldest just turned 18 and the youngest is 2. My kids are almost more excited about the prize than I am! My younger son really wants some computer games, can I buy those with Brixton Pounds?”

“I’ve lived in Brixton most of my life, and seen many shops come and go. I think keeping money in the community is a good thing to do – I want to support local shops in Brixton. I used to come to A&C Continental Deli – they had the best carrots and pumpkins around. I haven’t used Brixton Pounds before, but knew about them, I’ve noticed signs in shops and knew that it keeps the money in the community. I will start using them more now! And I’m really glad that B£ keeps their pounds sterling at the Credit Union – I have an account there myself, it’s very good – it helps local people, gives them loans.”

“The best part about winning is that I’m going to treat myself! I haven’t had much chance to do that so this is very exciting.”

Would you like a chance to treat yourself as well? Go get some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 27th November – who knows, it could be you next time! Better yet, set up a recurring entry to never miss a chance for a Brixton Grand – and get some extra goodies as a reward from us.

Read more about all the Bonus winners to date in our Winners Gallery.

 

#Brixton Fund – Local Group of the Month: Hatch

This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.

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.

Hatch is a free of charge program aimed at helping entrepreneurs aged 18-30 who are looking to start up or grow their own business. Hatch gives them crucial business support through a 12 week long incubator program. The next Hatch incubator scheme is due to start at the end of January 2016 – apply for the next round hereOr maybe you have invaluable info for young businesses? Become a Hatch mentor!

Lots of small businesses and start-ups crop up every year, but they often don’t have access to expert business knowledge or funding, and the need for both is very real – on average only about 20% new enterprises make it past 18 months.

To address this issue and provide early support and guidance, Dirk Bischof started the Hatch incubator program in 2014. It’s been very successful: 90% of the businesses leaving the incubator are still operational 6 months after program end.

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B£ caught up with Dirk who told us more about what inspired him to start Hatch, how it works and what it’s already achieved. 

I knew how hard it is to start a business or social enterprise when you’re younger, having started my first business at 24. I knew that support is essential to get off to the right start. I was always fascinated with incubators and accelerators and the way they build an ecosystem of support around the entrepreneurs. I knew that this was what I wanted to provide to early stage entrepreneurs and their enterprises.”

“There wasn’t anything like this locally, and having been in Brixton for over 6 years we knew there was a demand for specialist and holistic support. After a 2-year pilot and my personal experience of going through an accelerator programme (at the Young Foundation), we had a great team together, a solid programme, and the financial backing to get started. We use the lean methodology so every Hatch program is an experiment: we try to improve, make mistakes, learn from them, and be useful to the amazing entrepreneurs we get to work with.”

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So far over 40 different businesses have been through the incubator program, ranging from community organisations like Brixton Soup Kitchen to start-ups like Snact. Brixton Soup Kitchen provides food, hot meals, and information to the homeless in Brixton. They joined Hatch’s program to put together a business plan and get their organisation further. Snact are a local social enterprise developing creative solutions to food waste and food poverty, and this is what they said about their Hatch experience: 

Starting a business is fun and rewarding, but it’s also full of challenges, and for those we needed some help. The Hatch incubator came up as the right opportunity at the right time for us to work through some core business issues and get support from the One Planet Ventures team.”

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Dirk agrees that there are lots of challenges when starting a business, and it’s not just at the very start that you need support: Starting a business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. That means we have to keep on building our support ecosystem to be effective for people coming to us with business ideas, to those that have tested it, and who go through Hatch, for our alumni. At the moment we need to ensure that we can deliver Hatch to the best of our abilities, delivering consistent quality, supporting not just the new entrepreneurs on the programme but be of service and use to those that have come through our doors already. We have now tested and piloted Hatch in four other countries in Europe, to learn how it could work elsewhere. We’d like to put Hatch into many more communities in London to support many more people to start their own businesses.”

“Hatch is currently looking for funding that would allow us to provide the early venture support needed to run more business experiments. Some of them will work out, all of them will provide learning opportunities for the individuals and the communities involved. Exciting times really!”

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So how does Hatch work exactly? The incubator program is spread over 12 weeks and aims to help start-ups in a number of different ways. Dirk told B£ more about each stage:

Workshops

The Hatch program consists of 20 workshops. Conducted by industry experts, they cover a range of subjects essential to start-ups.  Subjects include: building a business model canvas (BMC), financial modeling, how to get funding, professional storytelling, marketing, crowdfunding.

Mentoring

Hatch will match you with one or two mentors depending on your needs. These mentors generally work at established businesses and have specific knowledge and expertise of the areas you might need help with. Subjects include business development, financial modeling, sales and marketing, and other skills useful to start-ups.

Space Provision

Hatch can help you get access to office, workshop or retail space. We are working with local partners such as the Impact Hub Brixton, the Remakery, The Market Traders Association of Brixton, and many other organisations offering physical space.

Funding

Hatch helped raise £97,200 in grants last year alone, and offers a chance to win £500 on Pitch Day which concludes each 12-week incubator series.

Networking

Hatch gives the potential to open up new business links that may otherwise have not been available between local businesses and with mentors.

Hatch Ceremony 2015 (2)

The next Hatch incubator scheme is due to start at the end of January 2016 – apply for the next round hereOr maybe you have invaluable info for young businesses? Become a Hatch mentor!

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