A recipe for progress

“We heard about one young lad in Buckinghamshire, who was on the verge of just completely dropping out from society. He attended one of our cooking sessions at a youth club, and loved it so much that he’s now working in a café. That’s a positive outcome.”

This is the kind of story that James Shepherd is starting to hear more of. Eighteen months ago, he and two others set up the Let’s Cook Project (LCP), a social enterprise that seeks to equip people with the skills and confidence to cook from scratch. It’s an activity that has a host of benefits for both individuals and society at large, from improving physical and mental health, to reducing social isolation, decreasing food waste, and enhancing community cohesion.

The project operates in two ways. Firstly, they train up representatives from local organisations, who then provide practical cooking lessons within their own communities. But James and his colleagues also engage in some ‘direct delivery’, running cooking sessions themselves at a local level.

“That ensures that we don’t become too detached from the project’s purpose, and the needs of our own users,” he explains. “For example, currently I’m running a group that includes young mothers, who perhaps don’t have the life skills required to take on their new responsibilities.”

The Let’s Cook Project is based in Cambridge, but they work nationally, outsourcing the training work to a network of ‘trusted partners’. From a housing association in Merseyside, to students at the University of Leicester, James says that they go wherever the need is. Since the consumption of convenience foods in the UK has been on the rise for many years, it seems that the likes of LCP are providing a vital service.

“People might lack the skills, the time, or they simply might not enjoy cooking from scratch,” says James. “We try to foster some joy, and see what’s achievable. If we can get people eating one meal a week that involves preparing fresh ingredients, then that’s a battle won. Maybe not the war, but it’s very much going in the right direction.”

Are you a cookery trainer, or any kind of business addressing community health issues? The Let’s Cook Project want to work with you. Get in contact at [email protected] / 07973 871580.

By Theo Hooper

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Burlesque social enterprise

“Troupe mamma”, or leader, Caroline Adkins suffers from health problems including arthritis and osteoporosis.

She says performing improves her well-being, while other troupe members say it boosts their self-esteem.

The group, Bump N Grind, plans to become a social enterprise, a business that reinvests or donates its profits.

They describe themselves as the Highlands’ first burlesque troupe.

At present the group has five members. They are Caroline, who is known on stage as Evelyn Adore, also Emma MacKenzie aka Candy Kitten, Rowan Drever who performs as Lady Ivy, Cody Ross aka Moonstone Cherry and Rhianna Bain who performs as Miss Rhi Von Bee.

Burlesque is a genre of variety show and features music, song and dance routines.

BBC Scotland’s The Nine caught up with Bump N Grind during one of their rehearsals.

Original article by BBC News


Cracked It

Baby boomers may still run the world, but what can we expect from the next generations? Young western adults today are stereotyped by some as ‘snowflakes’ – a group of entitled, politically correct, selfie-taking, free speech-suppressing and emotionally vulnerable souls with no grip on the realities of the world.

But this misses the new world they are creating. We meet five young people from the UK who are changing society for the better. They say that many in their generation stand for compassion, diversity, social entrepreneurship, true freedom of expression and opportunity for all. No snowflakes, just an avalanche of change.

“More than ever, people are thinking about their purpose and their place in the world,” says 25-year-old Josh Babarinde. “What we’ve seen over the last five years or so is much more than ‘clicktivism’ or signing the odd petition. It’s real action in response to the fire in the belly of Generation Y being ignited.”

Babarinde is certainly full of fire. Born in Eastbourne, he came to London for university and has stayed ever since. It was while volunteering at a youth justice charity in the east of the city that he realised why so many young people there turned to criminality. “They feel backed into crime’s corner. One young person of about 15 was dealing drugs and stealing bikes. Week after week he would secretly slip money into his mum’s handbag. She was a single parent, he was the eldest sibling and he felt that he needed to be the breadwinner.”

Babarinde resolved to find a way to bring young people income, belonging and self-worth through legitimate means – and Cracked It was born. It’s London’s social enterprise smartphone repair service, staffed by young ex-offenders and youth at risk of offending.

Original article by Lucy Purdy, photography by Vicky Grout – Source Positive.News


Putting justice on show

If you feel motivated to tackle social injustice, just exactly how do you go about doing that? For dancer Anja Meinhardt, the answer was staring back at her in a studio mirror.

“For a long time, whenever I heard about people being taken advantage of in society, it was like there was a volcano inside me: I really wanted to do something about it.

“But I felt incapable, because I was just one voice. Then I realised that through my skills and abilities, I could address these issues on a wider scale.”

So fortified by her extensive experience of working in musical theatre and contemporary dance, Anja founded Justice in Motion, a physical theatre company and arts collective which aims to inspire debate and action for social change.

Starting in 2013 with Bound, a production that explored the subject of human trafficking, the Oxford-based company has since staged shows addressing matters such as migration, rape and poverty. Their current production, On Edge – a multi-media show that is touring the UK – tackles the issue of modern slavery within the construction industry.

“All the shows are based on true accounts,” Anja explains. “We do a lot of research beforehand, consulting with a wide range of collaborators. Then we work out how best to communicate the issues through a story.”

After watching one of Justice in Motion’s innovative and dynamic performances,the audience is invited to stay for discussion about the subject matter.

“Every night, we have speakers from our partner organisations,” says Anja. “They answer questions, and give the facts and figures. It’s really important to us that people can make informed decisions about these matters.”

Yet whilst raising awareness is a key part of the mission, they are keen not to be just critical and accusatory.

“It’s not about pointing fingers,” Anja concludes. “We’re interested in looking at the inherent problem, in talking about the perpetrators as well as the victims. We’re all part of the same system, the same community. It’s a case of asking how we can address the issue, and then giving hope in some dark places.”

Along with attending Justice in Motion performances, you can book a workshop, make a donation, become a corporate sponsor, or have a chat “to bounce ideas around.” Contact Anja and the team at: [email protected]

By Theo Hooper

Culture Wellbeing

Turning disused buildings into studios

Twenty-seven-year-olds Josh Field and Ollie Tobin, and Roland Fischer-Vousden, 28, are school friends with a passion for the arts.

In 2014, just before completing their undergraduate degrees in London, they realised that they would struggle to realise their dreams of becoming working creatives, because there was nowhere for them to work.

The creation of large-scale art pieces and music often requires space, industrial tools and the freedom to make a lot of noise.

None of these things are possible at urban residential properties, and studio space is very expensive.

Original article by Mary-Ann Russon – Source BBC News

Photo by Joseph DeFrancisco on Unsplash


Sowing the seeds of personal growth

It was perhaps inevitable that Paul Herrington would one day set up the business that he has. For many years he had parallel careers, working as both a psychiatric nurse, and as a professional garden designer (once winning a medal at the Chelsea Flower Show). When he hung up his nursing jacket for good, it seemed only natural to combine his two skill sets and establish a project that promotes the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

So in 2014 he started Grow Places, a social enterprise based in Cambridge that designs, develops and nurtures gardens in care homes, hospitals and other community projects – with a focus on improving the mental and physical health of the participants.

“There are two layers to it,” says Paul. “You can provide some beautiful gardens for people to enjoy and benefit from, but the benefits are more than doubled if those people are also creating and maintaining the garden.

“For many, it’s about feeling less isolated,” he adds. “The gardening process helps people to engage with others.”

There is a large and ever-increasing body of scientific evidence that attests to the therapeutic benefits of gardening and being outdoors, and Paul often witnesses the effects first-hand.

“For people with dementia, gardens can really help to unlock things. They might be able to say something lucid about a plant, like when it should be pruned, or what memories it evokes. Those kind of mental connections are really powerful.”

Generally working as a “one-man band,” Paul Herrington draws upon a varied network of support if he needs to, links established through both his health service and gardening work. With funding from a range of sources – from hospital budgets to the European Social Fund – he likes to stay local, and only takes on projects that have the potential to enable further involvement for the participants.

“If it goes well, I can step back and they can be up and running with it,” he says. “That’s the most enjoyable part for me. Seeing how the participants prosper, making connections with each other and acquiring new skills. The gardens are just a vehicle for that personal development.”

If you want to know more about Grow Places, get in contact via their website or phone 07988 740456.

By Theo Hooper

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Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels


Art Therapy

The idea of receiving psychotherapy in a museum might seem unusual. However, art psychotherapists are increasingly looking towards the rich resources of museums and galleries to aid them in their clinical work.

Art therapy, or art psychotherapy, sees people expressing their feelings and experiences through art, as well as (or instead of) through words. It can be used to help people of all ages, living with a wide range of emotional or physical conditions.

NHS art psychotherapists usually work in designated therapy rooms in hospitals or outpatient centres, but for our recent study we wanted to explore how conducting art psychotherapy in a museum could be beneficial to a group with complex mental health difficulties.

Research has found that people “see themselves” in museum objects, and that reflecting on our responses to objects can tell us something about ourselves. For example, an object can evoke powerful emotions, or symbolise an aspect of our current or past experiences. So we wanted to tap into museum objects to help our participants develop greater self-understanding. To our knowledge, this was the first time that museum objects would be used for this kind of art psychotherapy for adults accessing NHS mental health services.

We predicted, based on findings from arts in health and art therapy case studies, that a museum setting could help inspire creativity among group members. There is also evidence that a non-clinical space could help people to feel more connected to each other and their local community, and less “set apart” by their mental health difficulties.

Working for ²gether NHS Foundation Trust, we delivered a programme for seven adults aged 18-25 at two museums in Gloucester over 18 weeks. Each session lasted for 90 minutes and started and finished in a private education room at the museums.

Original article by Alison Coles – Source The Independent

Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels


People of Colour in play

POC in Play is described by the group as a racial equity and inclusion movement with an aim to improve representation and to provide events and initiatives for people of colour either working in the industry or thinking of joining.

“The only statistics we do have are really old – that’s part of the problem,” said Chella Ramanan, a journalist and games writer, who along with developer Adam Campbell is a founder of POC in Play. “The newest figure is from a 2015 Creative Skillset report and it shows that just 4% of the UK games industry is from ethnic minority groups. If you compare that with film and TV in the UK, it’s 30% in London and 15% nationally. There’s a big disparity between games and other creative sectors.”

Other founding members of POC in Play include Moo Yu, co-founder of developer Foam Sword Games, and award-winning technical artist Jodie Azhar, CEO of Teazelcat Games.

Original article by Keith Stuart – Source The Guardian

Culture Equality

A working solution for refugees

It was whilst watching the BBC news programme HARDTalk, that Pranav Chopra had an idea. A feature came on about an Iraqi refugee family who had struggled to settle in Germany. After four years, they were heading back to their home country – to military conflict and economic hardship.

“This didn’t make any sense,” says Pranav. “I looked into it, and saw how the lack of integration for refugees, in many countries, was a major problem.”

Inspired to help tackle this issue, the Dehli-born entrepreneur set up Nemi Teas, a social enterprise that sells a rich variety of teas at food markets, festivals and corporate events across London. Refugees are employed throughout all parts of the business, from running the tea stalls, to working in marketing and distribution.

“Employment ties in everything,” Pranav explains. “It helps them practice their English, it boosts their confidence, and improves their prospects in the job market. Having a referee from a UK company is a very important factor.”

Since starting in March 2016, Nemi Teas has seen 18 refugees pass through its doors, from Anwar the chemical engineer from Sudan, to Kasper the Iranian rapper. Some have gone on to find jobs elsewhere, others have taken up places at university or college.

“There’s no set model,” says Pranav. “We had a journalist come to us, and we got him to write a blog. Now he works for an Arabic newspaper. We just want to help, and be a stepping stone. We work very closely with them, and they often become friends.”

Working in a welcoming environment, at above the national minimum wage, some of the refugees have good reason to feel suspicious.

“We’ve heard some horrendous stories of exploitation and abuse, especially from the women. So our employees tend to love working for us. Some say it’s like getting paid to have fun.”

Pranav has big plans to spread the joy, hoping to set up a social franchise of cafés across the capital and beyond, all run entirely by refugees. Incidentally, their teas are Fairtrade-certified, environmentally-friendly – and, by all accounts, very tasty indeed.

If you would like to stock Nemi Teas or work with the company, get in touch. You can find Nemi Teas on the Smiley Movement network or at [email protected].

By Theo Hooper


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Clothes equal three meals for needy

Manchester-born social enterprise Foodinate have partnered with new clothing line Feed Apparel who will provide three hot meals to people in need across London for every item sold from Feed Apparel’s new Feed LDN range.

There are 20 items available in the range of clothing, including t-shirts and hoodies. Garments in the range are created using sustainable manufacturing techniques including full traceability of all fibres and a focus on recyclable materials.

It’s the new range from Feed Apparel, a clothing line that was started in 2018 by Patrick Sylvester, who wanted to use his experience and knowledge in the textile industry to make a difference. Patrick Sylvester and Caroline Stevenson, the founder of Foodinate, met in 2018 and their partnership began with the launch of the Feed LDN range.

This new line of apparel aims to bring food to those in need in the UK’s capital, where a 2017 report found that 27% of citizens live in poverty. Patrick’s family is originally from India and his experiences in the country served as an inspiration for the social enterprise.

Original article by Ashleigh Smith – Source BQ