Two weeks ago, we paid a visit to Headingley Development Trust – and their Community Arts Centre, HEART (Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre) in Leeds. We were so very warmly welcomed by Mike and Richard there – and our lunch was fantastic. HEART is a community venture set up by the Headingley Development Trust in 2011. It occupies the former Headingley Primary School in the heart of Headingley. Here’s their (rather good!) website for more info: https://www.heartcentre.org.uk/

HEART’s excellent cafe area

The trip was generously funded by Locality’s Knowledge and Skills Exchange, for which we are very grateful. And, indeed, Cass from Locality came along with us to support us – as did Jane from Sector Support – thanks to both of you!

Our main aims were to have a look at a really well-run ‘community centre’ (HEART is quite deliberately not called that, which is something we might think about…) – and it really is well-run. They have a very slick operation without it becoming terribly corporate and managerial as can happen. It really does have its own identity – warm, welcoming, and positive.

HEART Building
The HEART building

We also wanted to find out more about their community share issues which help pay for their projects – and Richard and Mike were so very generous with their own experience and knowledge and so informative and entertaining, I think we came away with a real sense of what’s possible for us.

And we feel we have made some new friends – thank you, HEART!

Here are some comments from our gang…

Cyril: The Leeds visit. Was a very informative and enjoyable experience. Our hosts were both pleasant and informative and more than willing to answer all our questions. All round a very enjoyable day.

Emma: It was very interesting learning how other programs get to where they are now and how much they are growing . Even though I sat quiet I was taking all info in and had a great time so thankyou.

Pete: Although their catchment area could not be more different I think they managed to give a very clear and straightforward blueprint for a community share issue. A very good visit, they made it a much less daunting project going forward for us.

A view of the cafe 

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.