East Marsh United and Shalom Youth Centre on BBC Sunday Politics

So, we were on the tellie today – on the BBC, no less. At a time when the hashtag #BBCBias has been trending on social media, the producer of Sunday Politics decided to present the views of our entire community group in a very brief segment front-ended by the views of a single man, ‘a lifelong conservative’, who spoke of ‘discipline’ and posited that social deprivation was ‘nothing to do with government spending’. This is a view he is of course entitled to express, but there didn’t seem to be anything practical or positive on offer to move things forward.

He did, however, say ‘I don’t think they can cure it just with money’ – I think we would agree on that point. Money is important when you think that poverty is not a lack of character, but a simple lack of cash; but what’s needed above all is for everybody to take responsibility for our society and say ‘this is our problem, these are our people, let’s look after each other’ – maybe from that simple single starting point of ownership, we can begin to build a home for everybody here on our East Marsh, in Grimsby, on these islands of ours and on our beautiful blue planet.

You can watch the clip here on iPlayer for a month: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000bzx0/sunday-politics-yorkshire-and-lincolnshire-01122019

Or I’ve captured the clip in a video you can watch and download here: t.ly/RWMK5


Changing the East Marsh one house at a time – but we need help!

Grimsby’s East Marsh is one of the most deprived wards in Europe. Its trajectory of decline, the loss of its major industry and the total neglect of central government has been replicated throughout the North. However, this is not a story of despair. Despite the scars inflicted by poor housing, low pay, insecure employment and a general lack of hope, we here at East Marsh United have been working against the odds to find a route out of this crisis, making change happen by our own collective effort and sheer force of will. 

A significant group of projects are flourishing but our construction arm, which should be an absolute breakthrough initiative has hit unforeseen difficulties. Our objectives are straightforward given that the two major issues in the ward are housing and skilled, well paid employment: we are buying houses, refurbishing them and providing secure, quality, affordable homes for East Marshians. 

We have secured over £200,000 from the Community Housing Fund, initially to buy three houses on the East Marsh and refurbish them. We will then become an ethical community landlord and as we roll out to forty houses in our four-year plan, we will begin to transform the area – one house at a time.

Integral to this is the recruitment of young people to train and to ultimately gain employment. We have hired two construction professionals and this week ten young people begin a four month programme to become industry-ready, working in a hands-on practical environment. 

The next phase is to start a two-year apprenticeship with permanent employment on completion. Given the time, effort and planning required to get this far from a standing start you would assume that this latter phase would be a seamless progression – especially given the terrible, urgent need and our own determination to make this happen, to make our East Marsh home beautiful. 

Nope. Our application to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) was rejected on the grounds that our organisation is involved in areas of activity other than construction. This means that we miss out on the Apprenticeship Levy drawdown of funding to support the training. 

We haven’t given up. It’s too important – these are our lives – and we have taken advice on a new application, a new potential avenue to follow. It feels like a permanent uphill struggle, but we do not give up. Above all, we will not stand by and witness some really excellent young people be deprived of a career and a future. 

So, we need a helping hand. 

We would like to link with construction employers, large and small and, if possible, the Grimsby Federation of Master Builders to enable us to provide a bridge from our initial training to a full apprenticeship with them. So, we need local employers to partner us. We can offer you keen, industry-ready applicants with a proven record of attendance and timekeeping earned by working in the industry. This is a huge advantage to you rather than the hazard of taking someone on after only an initial interview. 

And money – if anybody would like to make a donation to us to help us over this early startup difficulty, that would be greatly appreciated. We’re not set up yet for website donations so if you email info@eastmarshunited.org I’ll give bank details for a bank transfer. 

The skills shortage, both nationally, and locally, is critical. Together, we can break this impasse and offer young people in Grimsby the range of opportunities many of us enjoyed at their age. We can give something back while at the same time employing good people and begin to lift the area. Most importantly we can recreate that increasingly elusive dream, the expectation of a rewarding, secure and worthwhile life. 

Don’t miss this! Sun and Moon Festival Portrait Photography Exhibition – and Calendar! – at Freeman Street Market on Wednesday 4th December at 3.00pm


You are very warmly welcomed to the Sun and Moon Festival Portrait Photography Exhibition at Freeman Street Market on Wednesday 4th December at 3.00 pm.  The beautiful portraits are celebrations of people living  and working in the East Marsh.

The 2020 Sun and Moon Festival Calendar will be launched at the same time and you will have the opportunity to purchase calendars at £5 each. We will also have an order form for prints should you wish to purchase a copy of any of the portraits.




Tortoise Media write-up features East Marsh United

This new venture of established/establishment journalists striving towards a different model of portraying the lived experience of people in our country has featured our community group prominently in its latest issue. The team travelled to – and reported on – discussions in Birmingham, Grimsby, Glasgow and South Cambridgeshire. And some of our Proud East Marshian Gobshites (©) were on hand to contribute our own experience, our own truth – which was fairly reported in the extract below. Full article can be found here (and it is worth reading the whole thing, as there seems to be little to compare in the four places, except perhaps for an underlying sense that there’s something terribly wrong with what we have and that change must come – systemic change, not tinkering around the edges any more: https://members.tortoisemedia.com/2019/11/25/191125-election-tour/content.html 


Grimsby is often seen as a bellwether of the strength of political anger: will a Labour Leave-voting constituency forgo its traditional party loyalty for the sake of Brexit? It is a question which misreads the complexity and depth of people’s discontent.

On Tuesday, in the corner room of Grimsby Holiday Inn, the word “Brexit” was uttered once, in passing, and never repeated. Many faces of the town were in the room – sixth formers, community organisers, retirees, volunteers, workers – and nearly all felt let down. The economy, the council, government: very little up there worked for them.

Key points:

  • Decrepit houses. This part of the discussion naturally focused on East Marsh, one of the most deprived areas in the whole of Europe, let alone Grimsby. The lack of leadership in the ward is typified by its housing: old, uncared for, and of poor quality. A local architect was commissioned by the council to write up a plan, praised by others in the room, to refurbish 15 housing blocks in the area. As far as he is aware, the plans still sit, untouched, in a council drawer somewhere.
  • “Running in treacle.” The Resolution Foundation diagnosed people’s experience of the job market in four words: “Feel poor, work more.” In the room on Tuesday night, a local seafood employee gave his own four words. They amounted to the same: “Like running in treacle.” A young couple who work 78 hours a week and can barely afford to keep a roof over their heads, and certainly not start a family, is a sign of sickness in the economy.
  • No recovery. The financial crash still weighs heavily on the town. “Things have just gotten worse and worse since the financial crisis,” said one attendee. Many others agreed. Poor job security, wages that can’t keep up with the rising cost of living, bad prospects particularly for working women. It is no wonder that many young people want out. “There’s this idea,” said a sixth-form student, “that if you come back to your hometown you’ve failed.”

But there is hope, as well as a pride and energy in the town. Local initiatives, such as East Marsh United, want government support to flourish but are not waiting on it to make a start. “This is where we live, this is our home,” said the chair of East Marsh United, a community group trying to renovate housing in the area. “Pensioners shouldn’t have to suffer, young people shouldn’t have to suffer, and, when it comes down to it, us humans shouldn’t have to suffer. That’s it. Full stop. No argument.”

Polly Curtis and David Taylor


Tortoise will be back in Grimsby twice before the election. We are invited to join them and have our voice heard.

3 December, 6:30pm, Holiday Inn Express  Riverhead Coffee is now the venue for this date – book here.

10 December, 6:30pm, Grimsby Telegraph, book here.