Tag Archives: brixton fund

#BrixtonBonus Meet The Winner: Miss South

Congrats to the latest Brixton Bonus winner, Miss South! A Brixton food blogger and food and drink editor at the Brixton Blog and Bugle, she is also the author of the amazing Recipes from Brixton Village, a collection of recipes contributed from traders as well as her own recipes showcasing Brixton produce.

Miss South was actually one of the first to start playing Brixton Bonus when we launched it last June – read her article from back then on what she’d spend her prize on if she won. 12 months later, she is actually a Brixton Bonus Thousandaire, and wrote another piece for us now that she actually has B£1,000 to spend! 

“I’ve been a big fan of the Brixton Pound since it started over five years ago, but to my eternal shame I never used it that much. I kept forgetting to go to Morleys for paper notes and I blew all the credit I put on the text account on wine at a party B£ hosted the same night and never topped up again.

Then the Brixton Pound launched the Brixton Bonus and I decided this was an excellent time to get involved. In signing up on the website, I discovered I had £14 in my text account from someone buying Recipes from Brixton Village from me at the Lambeth Country Show two years ago in the pouring rain. 

Perfect for a disorganised person, I set up a standing order for two tickets a month by the magic of the internet and forget about it. Until I got an unexpected phone call to say I’d won the £1000 prize and then I definitely remembered I’d played!

Registered in my real name, this was the genuine luck of the draw and I was thrilled. The beauty of the Bonus for me is that’s all disposable income to spend with local independent traders in my own community. I can’t accidentally fritter it away on the gas bill. I’ve got to go out and spend it proactively instead.

I’d done a piece for B£ when they launched the Bonus as to what I’d spend it on if I won and interestingly I haven’t done a single thing off that list yet. Partly because the list of traders who accept B£ has increased so much, and because I also realised it was a good way to do things locally that don’t just involve me eating for once.

Instead I wanted to finally get some stuff framed that’s been sitting round my flat for years looking forlorn, and need to go in to see Studio 73 about that. I’ve been having a few niggling health issues and immediately booked in with both Brixton Therapy Centre and Brixton Community Acupuncture to ease those (or kid myself I’m not just getting old!)

I plan to make a donation to both Brixton Advice Centre and Brixton and Norwood Food Bank who both do fantastic community work and very rarely have disposable income or choices on how to spend their money.

And then I might just eat my way round Brixton. There’s always somewhere new to try round here and it would be a shame to not to stuff myself for the good of the community…”

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How can you be the next winner?

It’s very simple: buy a ticket online or at the B£ Shop for £1 – you can get anywhere between 1 and 10 tickets to help your chances – and on Friday, 1st July you can walk away with one of the following:

  • A Brixton Grand – B£1,000 all of your own to spend on whatever you fancy!
  • 4 cocktails to share with a friend at the snazzy Seven at Brixton, official Brixton Fund partner.
  • One of 5 B£20 runners-up cash prizes to treat yourself with

And if you fancy some extra rewards, we give them out to anyone who sets up a recurring monthly entry, starting at £1/month – more details here. Most importantly of all, all revenue from the Brixton Bonus goes into the Brixton Fund!

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!

#BrixtonBonus Meet The Winner: Urszula

Urszula won the April draw of the Brixton Bonus. She joins the growing crowd of winners, who are featured in our Winners Gallery – have a look! And make sure you get some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 27th May – 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.

“I read about the Bonus in the Bugle where there was an article about it. And I thought that you stood a better chance of winning the Bonus than the National Lottery! I had been playing for a few months before I won, and thought that whether I win or not, it’s really good that the money raised goes towards funding local groups around Brixton. Giving a chance to people who perhaps would find it hard to get funding otherwise. Everyone deserves a chance, and when you work hard and have an idea sometimes you just need a little bit of help to keep you going and spur you on. And then winning was just a surprise!”

“I would like to take my family out for a meal when everyone’s at home! Other than that I have been to my favourite shop Market Row Wines, I think that was the first place where I bought something with my winnings. Then some pizza from Franco Manca. And also new gloves from Brixton Cycles! It has made me more aware of which shops take B£ and which do not. I do think it would be really good if more shops joined in the scheme. People want to spend their money locally; more shops just need to be convinced. But yes, it has made me find out more about spending in local shops.”

“I’m also going to donate some of my winnings to the Ebony Horse Club in Loughborough Junction. I think opportunities for people to have a go at things they normally wouldn’t get the chance to do are great!

“I do think it has been really good that B£ has had a physical embodiment on the high street. It makes people much more aware of them. Because it is on the high street it meant I could go in and talk to a real person and find out more about the Bonus and what it does.”

“I’ve lived in Brixton for 30 years now, and I’ve always shopped in the market, the health food shop, the fabric shop, veg shop, Franco Manca… And just the covered markets in general. Before that I used to come here when I was a student, the markets have always been a really good place to shop: I would come to buy fruit and veg here because there was no market near where I lived. You get all kinds stuff: fish, fruit, fabrics… You could always buy unusual things too – the Reliance Arcade was a great place for that! Even my mum in the 50s used to shop in the market when she first came to London. All you need in a neighbourhood is a park and a market.”

Would you wanna win B£1,000 while supporting the local economy and the Brixton Fund too? Go ahead, play the Brixton Bonus!

#BrixtonBonus – Meet the Winner: Zoe

Zoe Adjonyoh, who runs Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen in POP Brixton, won the March draw of the Brixton Bonus. She joins the small crowd of winners, who are featured in our Winners Gallery – have a look! And make sure you get some Bonus tickets before the next draw on 29th April – 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.

B£’s apprentice Dominic had a chat with Zoe about Brixton, her business, and how she plans on spending her B£1,000:

When did you first come to Brixton?

I used to come to Brixton a lot as a kid, when my Dad emigrated from Ghana he lived in Brixton with his Aunt at the time. I grew up in Woolwich but later on when I was a student, Brixton was a good destination to go out for parties.

So what are your favourite things to do in Brixton?

Before I started the business I liked going clubbing and dance nights too but now I don’t have much free time to socialize, so when I do I like to get a cocktail from Seven. I also go into the village when I can to have dinner at Fish Wings and Tings. I also just like walking around Brixton, when I go down into the market I just enjoy chatting to the people in the market.
Brixton is a very vibrant, fun, friendly place and that’s why people want to come here.

What major changes have you seen from when you first came to Brixton to now?

I think Brixton has changed substantially, it used to have a vibe in the 80s and 90s where there was a lot of tension; race politics was a big deal, not just in Brixton but in lots of places across London where there was a strong black community. Race relations with the police weren’t great and it was a period of change for how people addressed those issues, a lot of stuff happened in the 80s politically, not just in Brixton, that forced changes for the better. In my mind Brixton has always been very colourful and live and energetic and that is still true today, but we have seen a migration into Brixton from other parts of London and other parts of the UK: the demographic has changed slightly, there are more people here with more spending power.

Do you think that’s a good or a bad thing?

I think when it’s balanced it’s okay, it’s ok to have new money coming in, but you don’t want that to happen at the expense of the people already living here, which is difficult. What’s great about Brixton is how community minded it is, which is quite rare in London. It thinks of itself as a community, and even people that come into Brixton respect that community and that’s important. Brixton has become a destination for people to go out, eat good food, listen to good music and celebrate all of the colourful things that Brixton provides culturally.

There’s always going to be a downside to “progress” because unfortunately when a destination becomes a popular place to go to, the knock-on effect is that there are rent increases and value of land gets higher, and that prices out a lot of people that have been in Brixton potentially all their life. It links to what’s happening with Brixton Arches, businesses that have been there for 20, 30 years are under threat for financial reasons. And you would hope that some consideration is put into keeping cornerstones of the community alive rather than bulldozing everyone out just to get more money out of residents.

Is it progress? I don’t know, but it’s definitely development which is always going to have controversies surrounding it. What’s great about Pop Brixton is the idea that we are occupying land that was empty beforehand so we haven’t displaced any other businesses or anything else. I think every business in here, especially through the giveback scheme, is really concerned not to be disharmonious with the Brixton community. I in particular want to be part of it, it’s important for me and it’s important for my business. It’s the thing with displacing people in communities in favour of financial gain.

Where did your interest in cooking come from?

I’ve always been curious about food, I’ve always loved eating food and cooking for people and particularly Ghanaian food. My Dad used to come home with traditional Ghanaian ingredients that were mysterious and exotic and I was intrigued and wanted to know more about it and wanted to know how to cook it. It was also a strong link for me back to those cultural roots in Ghana because we didn’t have any Ghanaian relatives in London. Both my parents are immigrants so we were quite a small family and didn’t have any extended family to speak of. We didn’t have access directly to that cultural heritage, so the food was a way in and something that I connected with and it’s just grown and grown.

When did you first decide you wanted to open a restaurant?

I’ve been doing Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen since 2011, I started doing supper clubs, event catering and street food, and we still do all those things. Pop Brixton is our first proper restaurant space.

Did you always plan to open a restaurant from a young age?

No, I never had an ambition to become a cook or a restaurateur or anything like that. It’s been a peculiar journey but an exciting and interesting one. It’s been a very organic process I didn’t decide one day I wanted to do – this just kind of kept happening.

So how did you get into it?

It started one day when I set up a little stall outside my house selling a dish which is basically peanut butter stew or soup which is a Ghanaian dish. I used to cook it a lot for my friends, it’s one of my favourite foods that I ate growing up. So one day when there was a festival going on in my neighbourhood I thought I might be able to make some money and it proved very popular and created a nice social gathering outside my house. People kept coming back and then wanted me to do it again, so the following year I turned my flat into a restaurant, I put in lots of tables and chairs and African fabrics and it had a real restaurant atmosphere. I called it Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen and we sold out every day for three days and were constantly full, people were trying to book and come back but I could not continue like that because it was my living room. I took down people’s email address so that next time, a few months later, I could notify people. From word of mouth it became more frequent and got some press, and then from there I started to be hired for catering and asked to residencies.

What would you say your business offers?

It offers tasty Ghanaian food at affordable prices in a restaurant setting. Our whole concept is about bringing food from Ghana and making it accessible; making as many people as we can possibly reach aware of how great the Ghanaian food and ingredients are, and just about celebrating food culture from Ghana. We do everything we can to support and raise the profile of food from Africa generally and specifically Ghana.

Where did the interest in the Brixton Pound come from and why did you accept it?

When I first got here I was very keen to take the Brixton Pound because I think it’s a great idea, it’s a great way of keeping money in the local economy and encouraging people to shop local, which is something that aligns with my ethos of how I want my business to function and run, and because it was so easily ready and available to sign up I decided to do it!

Do you have any other future plans or projects planned?

I’ve got quite a lot of different projects in the pipeline right now; we have a cookbook coming out in April next year, I’m opening a second space hopefully by the end of the year outside of Brixton. Possibly launch our own brand of sauces and ready meals so people can eat our stuff at home easily. The idea behind opening it here was to test what we do in a restaurant setting and see if it will be a viable business with a view to opening a full restaurant in the next year or two. We are looking at a couple of potential sites for the future so hopefully by next year I’ll be able to open a second space that probably has at least 20 or 30 covers.

What will you do with your Brixton Bonus winnings?

I haven’t decided yet, but I’m sure at some point it will be spent on a staff night out at a local bar or restaurant, and I may also use it to give the team bonuses.

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

#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.