Getting out more than you put in

Mat interviews Georgina Innes at Dalston Roof Park.

by Mat Amp
I came across Poached Creative when they ran a journalism course with the Pavement Magazine in May 2015. Looking back, I can’t quite believe I came close not to going just because it was going to take me 45 minutes to get there from Brixton. But then, I really didn’t think it was going to be anything like as rewarding as it has been.

The course itself reignited my love for the written word. We covered a hell a lot in a short time, with a couple of genuinely inspiring guest tutors who brought us their experience of storytelling and grassroots journalism.

I loved the atmosphere on that course and, although I’ve spent my life avoiding offices, I really jumped at the chance of volunteering when, after the course, Poached and The Pavement asked me. 

By the time I started, Poached had moved to the Bootstrap building in Hackney. For those of you who have never heard of it (or the Dalston Roof Garden that sits proudly on… well.. the roof) Bootstrap is a fantastic, chilled out maze comprised mainly of social enterprises. It really is an inspiring place to work.

Writing for the Bootstrap blog and Poached Creative clients, I’ve learnt how to structure articles, how to edit copy and above all how to write about things outside of my experience. The relaxed atmosphere suits me and I’m finally starting to get my head around the meaning of the word deadline. 

Some people look at you like you’re a mug when you say you're volunteering. Right now, it would be enough for me to know I’m giving something back, but, and this is the trick with giving I guess, I am getting so much out of it myself: training, working with people and now I’m beginning to get paid for my trouble.

All in all it’s been an extremely rewarding three or four months and without Poached Creative and The Pavement I may just have been another ex-addict with nothing to do.

Stress Awareness Day 2015

By Yousif Farah
Stress Awareness Day aims at tackling psychological distress induced through employment, by highlighting the causes and educating people on how to prevent, cope with and eradicate stress.
Wednesday 4 November is the 15th anniversary of the campaign organised by the International Stress Organization UK, the leading UK professional body for stress management and well-being practitioners.
Stress in the workplace can be triggered by one of many factors, including; excess pressure, high expectations, work-related violence and bullying, lack of support from managers and family or financial problems affecting the employee’s productivity.
It is important to remember that stress is part of everyday life and can be a normal reaction to thoughts, feelings or events. In fact stress can be constructive in helping some people work harder and achieve more. However, Stress which is disproportionate to a person’s coping mechanism is likely to lead to distress. This in turn could result in symptoms of anxiety, depression or even suicidal tendencies.
It can also lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and problems with sleeping.
A recent report carried out by Health and Safety Executives, the public body responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, attributes stress and stress related illnesses to the loss of more than 15 million working days in the UK over the past year. This figure covers 206,000 self-reported cases. However, many employees would prefer not to report their condition in fear of stigma or losing their job.
Even though, Stress is widespread and is not confined to a particular sector social work, teaching and public administration record the highest rates of work-related stress.

At Poached Creative over the years we have had collaborations with many organisations concerned with mental health which makes us the more aware of how pivotal mental wellbeing is to both employers and employees.

Our latest collaboration was with Mental Snapp which is a social enterprise endeavouring to tackle the stigma surrounding mental illnesses through a video app that enables mental health service users to tell their own stories by recording short video updates on their mental health, which become a part of their NHS health record. 

 As well as designing their website, our staff attend their meetings on regular basis, we also contribute to their eloquent blog. Read the blog written by myself to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Week 2015.

There are many ways to tackle work-related stress and a great place to start is the HSE guide to combating stress, or the ISMA guide on how to battle stress.

36 Pounds and 95 pence exhibition - 30 October

Sample of the work exhibited- Red War by Saed (Afghanistan)
By Yousif Farah

36 Pounds and 95 Pence is the first exhibition of The New Art Studio, which uses art as a vehicle for recovery and integration for victims of human cruelty and abuse. It opens on Friday 30 October at the Islington Arts Factory at 6pm.

Raging Calm inspires recovery through its dramatic workshops

John Watts, at the Young Vic
By  Mat Amp

Raging Calm’s second 'Flight' 'workshop as part of the Scorched Earth project, unearthed raw personal and inspiring stories, at the St Mungo's Recovery College, on Sept 9th.

Social Saturday 2015 continues to inspire people to BUY Social!

By Sana Amos

Social Saturday marked another huge success on 10 October, with well over 50 events nationwide showcasing the contribution of over 70,000 social enterprises to the UK.

The momentum of the awareness day campaign received widespread coverage across local and national press, as well as on social media. With high profile twitter support including the Prime Minister and Jamie Oliver it was no surprise that #SocialSaturday2015 was trending across social media platforms.

Enterprises across the UK got in the spirit of Social Saturday by running events to showcase and promote their services to the public and highlight how every day they make a positive social and environmental impact.

One good example that truly demonstrated how social organisations can bring the community together was Divine Chocolate, the award winning chocolatier and social enterprise. They celebrated the day in style by hosting a free fair, that brought London’s social businesses in fashion, food and drinks sector together at the Lexi Cinema, itself a social enterprise.

Speaking of the significance of the day Peter Holbrook CBE and CEO of Social Enterprise UK, said: “Social enterprises are redefining how business gets done. When you buy from them, society profits. Social Saturday is all about celebrating and raising awareness about our growing movement. This year we want to really put social enterprise on the map through a range of events across the country.”

At Poached Creative we are proud to be working with Social Enterprise UK to produce the branding and campaign materials for the Buy Social campaign, that helps to support and promote social enterprises like ourselves across the UK.

Rosie Spinks to co-host next #COMMSKNOWHOW seminar

Pic: Courtesy of Rosie Spinks
By Sana Amos
For the second of our #COMMSKNOWHOW monthly seminars Jessica Smith will be joined by Rosie Spinks, co-founder of JosephineJane, to host a seminar on Social Media Marketing at Bootstrap, on 5 November.
The series kicked off last month with the successful seminar on Getting to Grips with Google Analytics and speaking about the event Tobias Priscott, Poached Creative’s training and volunteer co-ordinator, said:
“It was fantastic to kick off our new comms seminars with Chandeep Khosa of Image Creativity. Website analytics have become an intricate part of understanding how we communicate online and we are really pleased that Rosie Spinks will be continuing this theme, by co-hosting our next seminar on Social Media Marketing.”
Rosie has vast experience of social media marketing, as freelance journalist and as co-director of JosephineJane, a web-based business that enhances online presence for a global client base.
Social media is now one of the main platforms of communication across the globe and according to Mediabistro 73% of small businesses are now using social media. This indicates the importance of promoting business through online networks. However having an online platform and using it effectively are two different things.
At its best social media marketing allows you to increase brand awareness, by engaging with your audience and getting them involved in promoting an organisation or product they are passionate about. This seminar will focus on highlighting ways that social enterprises, SMEs, freelancers and charity communicators can put a strategic social media strategy in place.
To find out more about the event, or to book tickets visit our eventbrite page
#COMMSKNOWHOW seminars are offered at a discounted rate of £5 for Bootstrap tenants and Echo members can attend for 2 Echos. Bootstrap campus and Poached Creative’s past trainees and volunteers can attend for free.

How Social Enterprises reshaped how we view Disability

The Young Royals join the celebrations on World Mental Health Day, Photo Courtesy of Getty

This is our final blog in a series of blogs celebrating Social Saturday, and since this year’s Social Saturday coincided with World Mental Health Day we will also pay tribute to mental health patients in the UK who had to go through an awful lot, through a trip to 19th century England.

World Mental Health Day is the annual global celebration of mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It is held annually on October 10, and each year the day focuses on a new topic which is affecting mental health patients in the UK, and this year the focal point of the day was “Dignity In Mental Health”.

The 19th century saw the Industrial Revolution which impacted on the attitude of society toward those who suffered from a physical or mental impairment, an attitude lacking in compassion and sound judgment.

People who suffered from any form of physical disability were regarded as a burden on society, it was believed that keeping them in their own homes would encourage laziness.Therefore, they were kept in workhouses in grim and uninhabitable conditions.

On the other hand, people who suffered from a mental impairment faced a fate which was by no means a lesser evil, they were segregated in purpose built Asylums in dire and inhumane conditions with no prospect of curability or discharge.

The 19th century saw an expansion in the building of asylums accompanied by the introduction of Psychiatry. However, it wasn’t practiced in a proper or ethical manner.

During this century (also known as the Asylum Era) more than 120 county pauper asylums were built hosting 100,000 idiots and lunatics compared to a few hundred people living nine small charitable asylums at the beginning of the century.

There was an urgent need for some form of intervention to relieve the disabled community. Efforts were made by charities, also social enterprises to help in improving the work and living conditions of disabled people.
The social enterprise we are about to discuss today is a branch of one of these charities first to intervene, it is also the first social enterprise in the UK.

Clarity is a registered charity and a social enterprise which has been employing, training and supporting blind people and people with other disabilities since 1854.

Clarity was founded by a blind lady, Elizabeth Gilbert, who realised that amid these worsening conditions, it was virtually impossible for a blind person to earn their own living. In response she set up a workshop to train blind people to make products to sell with the money reinvested into the business to pay the staff and create more jobs.

The Soap Co

The Soap Co became a member of the Clarity family four years ago. It is a social enterprise working with disabled people to provide the consumer with a quality product and the opportunity to provide a disadvantaged person with a career opportunity.

70% of their workforce is blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged and all the company profits go back into the business creating even more jobs.

The Soap Co. started as a small shop in the Lake District creating handmade soaps to provide employment for people with disabilities.Today they supply 50,000 customers and businesses with products, ranging from cruise ships to local councils and boutique hotels.

Last month Poached Creative paid a visit to The Soap Co. We also interviewed the manager and some of the workers, who all seemed in agreement that being part of soap co is impacting their lives and well-being positively.

One of those who we met is Darren Sapsford, before joining The Soap Co. Darren had lost both his parents and home, which led to a breakdown in his relationship and understandably a blow to his self-esteem.

He was looking for a way to rebuild his life when he was referred to The Soap Co. through the Job Centre.
Now he is Product Line Operative, his self-esteem is restored and now he is planning to carry on working with The Soap Co. while trying to become a support worker.

Denis is one of the many people who were helped by Soap Co and Clarity, who are transforming lives by the day.
The Soap Co. celebrated Social Saturday by encouraging everyone to make a positive social impact through promoting their new line which was released last month and is comprised of new range of soaps and lotions including Black Poppy & Wild Fig, White Tea & Citrus, using formulations which have outperformed other luxury brands in consumer testing.
Moreover, to mark Social Saturday the two heads of The Soap Co, Jason Norris, and Jeremy Robinson of Clarity took a long distance bike ride, visiting many social enterprises en route.

“Even though, I am 360 of miles away from Clarity whenever I go down there I always feel that I am part of Clarity, part of a bigger thing, a bigger vision- part of something that is achieving and moving forward. So yes, that is why I enjoyed it, enjoyed being part of clarity, definitely.”

Jason Peter Norris, manager at The Soap Co.- Keswick

My journey with The Camden Youth Hub Project Board

Catherine and Amaan at the Poached Creative offices

By Catherine Capaldi

A new youth space is about to open in the centre of Camden designed by young people for young people, on 12 November.

As one of the young people involved I am excited and nervous about the space being open to the public. On one side I’m excited because its finally going to be open and on the other side nervous because I’m scarred that people will not want to go to the place I and my fellow Camden Youth Hub Project Board members helped create.

We designed the hub for young people to go and chill out, meet new people and make friends.

I have now been involved in the development of the hub for 18 months, during this time I have learnt to not judge a book by its cover and have developed more of an open mind.

The Camden Youth Hub Project Board has worked alongside Camden Council to design the look of the space and the services it provides. Highlights have included working on the design and colour scheme, working as part of a team, making a documentary with Poached Creative and Mediorite, working with Maria, Lizzie and Dionne from Camden and making new friends.

Part of my role as a board member has been to promote the needs of disabled people. As a wheelchair user I find it is important to show people the importance of access at the beginning of the design process. This has been really important to me as I want disabled people to be able to ask for help, feel part of something and not an outcast for having a disability.

I have met allot of new people through this project and made some close friends, like Chris. When we first met he was very quiet but being part of the board has helped him come out of his shell and show more of his great personality.

This is a great example of what the hub will achieve when it opens.

Social Saturday 2015 almost upon us

By Yousif Farah

One in a series of blogs celebrating Social Saturday

In the build up to Social Saturday 2015  Poached Creative is profiling social enterprises that trade with the public in East London.

In our previous blog dedicated to celebrating Social Saturday 2015, we went through the concept of social enterprises, its history  and development, and how in a short space of time they have become an integral part of everyday life, impacting individuals, societies and the economy.

We also embarked on a voyage aboard the Hackney Pirate’s ship of adventures, but this week we will focus on a sports social enterprise which we are immensely proud to have in our local area of Dalston, East London.

Circle Sports

Photos by Stephen Archer
 (Big Issue Online Journalism trainee).

Circle Sports is a social enterprise trading in sport’s clothing and equipment. They provide practical customer service work experience, training and mentoring to young people aged 18-24, in their trendy Circle Collective shop on Kingsland High Street,

In their four short years of existence they have helped many people progress through their lives, pulling them out of hardships and into a stable life and promising future.

Denis is truly a shining example and testament to the outstanding work Circle Sports is providing to young people. He arrived from Lithuania and managed to teach himself English in less than seven months, after which he was referred to Circle Sports via the Job Centre. It took Denis no time to prove himself as an asset to the company; he shone as a diligent young man. However, he then suddenly disappeared.

Staff tried hard to track him down until they managed to find him and found out that he had been made homeless. They provided him with help and assistance and helped him get back on his feet and find accommodation. Eventually - with some help from Circle - he secured a trainee role in construction with their sponsor Land Securities.

Inspirationally, since starting work at Land Securities Denis has won their Employment Strategy Award in the 18-24-year-old category.

Denis is just one of the countless people guided and assisted by Circle Sports, who will be joining in the celebrations of Social Saturday 2015 on the 10th of October.

Turly Humphreys, Founder and Managing Director at Circle Sports says:

“Since we started in 2011 Circle has helped many young people discover their true potential and secure full-time employment, alongside improving workplace skills, confidence and a positive mind-set.”

“My advice to new and emerging social enterprises is to have a commercial aspect to help them cover the cost of running a social enterprise."

Social Saturday 2015 is coming on 10 October

Social Saturday is a nationwide day dedicated to promoting social enterprise.

Following the enormous success of the inaugural Social Saturday 2014, Social Enterprise UK, and more than 70,000 social enterprises across the country are preparing for this year’s event. 

Their activities will raise awareness of the significance of the social enterprise sector to individuals, communities and the economy as a whole.

A social enterprise is a business model that works to achieve a social mission. Profits are usually reinvested in social causes and sustaining the business.

When you buy from a social enterprise, you buy social. Buying social means you provide an unemployed person with a career opportunity, or provide a homeless person with a bed for the night, or help the environment, as well as saving money and challenging profit-driven only businesses through competition.

Social enterprises have been working hard to elevate communities since the nineteenth century when workers in Rochdale formed a co-operative in response to the exploitative working conditions. However, social enterprise as we know it today re-emerged in the mid-nineties.

When a new social enterprise emerges, entire communities reap the benefits. Varying in size, purpose and industry, they range from small social enterprises like Poached Creative to nationwide enterprises like the Big Issue. 
Being a social enterprise ourselves, specializing in writing and design we completely understand the importance of buying social. We are also pleased that in recent years social enterprises have become an integral part of everyday life in London. 

Over the years we have had many partnerships with social enterprises across the country, including Social Enterprise UK – who we proudly created the original Social Saturday marketing materials for. We buy social whenever we can. 

To mark the occasion, in the lead up to Social Saturday we will shed a light on different and unique social enterprise in our local area of Hackney. 

The Hackney Pirates

Part of the Hackney Pirates Ship of Adventures
Courtesy of The Big Issue Online Journalists

The Hackney Pirates is an enterprising charity working to develop the literacy, confidence and perseverance of young people in Hackney, so that they achieve both in school and in the world beyond.

The educational social enterprise was thought of by Catriona Maclay, who at the time was a teacher at a primary school based in north London. Through her experience as a primary school teacher she realised that a change in the learning environment could benefit pupils aged 9-12 and make them more receptive to learning.

The Hackney Pirates began as a pilot scheme supported by Bootstrap, now it is well established. They work together with local schools, volunteers and families providing local kids with the dream class room: a Ship of Adventures complete with secret passageways, an underwater cave and a ship’s cat. 

During the voyage participating pupils receive support in order to enhance their writing and reading. They are also encouraged to take part in a unique creative publishing project in which young people work with professionals to write their own books, CDs and websites, allowing them to practise their writing skills as well as see the whole project through to publication.

Catriona Maclay, Founder of The Hackney Pirates says:

"We believe that young people learn best when there's a little adventure involved, and when they can see that their work has consequences in the real world, so our publishing projects are a great way for young people to develop their literacy while also building up their confidence and perseverance.

 If you would like to spend your Social Saturday supporting The Hackney Pirates, then pop by our Ship of Adventures - a unique gift-shop, book-shop and cafe where you can see all the fantastic work of the Young Pirates on display."

Read our Social Saturday blog #2 on Circle Sports.

The Pavement celebrates its tenth anniversary

The Pavement Magazine celebrated its tenth anniversary on 11 September with a star-studded comedy night at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington. 

The event was a real blast and featured renowned comedians Stewart Lee and Robin Ince, whose performances highlighted the support the small-format magazine has gathered during its first decade in print.
The Pavement Magazine is a homeless publication founded in 2004 and designed to fill a vacuum by producing content featuring essential practical information alongside hard-hitting and entertaining reportage primarily aimed at and tailored to a homeless readership. In the past ten years the Pavement has gradually established itself as not just a useful magazine but an entertaining publication with the magazine’s Word on the Street programme encouraging contributions from homeless writers.

Karin Goodwin, the magazine’s editor says  “The founder, Richard Burdett, saw a real need for a publication that put information straight into the hands of those who needed it most; homeless people themselves….We believe that our readers themselves are the experts on homelessness”.

The night was not just about celebrating The Pavement’s anniversary. It also aimed to raise awareness of the charity, boost the magazine’s profile and generate desperately needed funds.

Ince's strong support for the cause is the only reason for his performance, coming as it did six months into a five year sabbatical from the stand-up circuit. Indeed, all the performers talked about the need to support the Pavement with a genuine passion that fuelled the joyful and positive atmosphere of the celebration in the theatre on the night. Sandwiched between the two featured comedians were strong performances from the comedy duo Read-Wilson and Hughes Hughes and the singer Barb Jung whose distinctive voice has lost none of its soulful power.

Robin Ince rocked the house with the stand-out performance on the night. His wickedly clever style of of jumping from one story to another was delivered at brisk pace, developing themes that eventually found their way back home, all the while stabbing logic in the face with a dagger of razor sharp reason.

In contrast Stewart Lee’s act, delivered at slow pace, was all about deconstructing the art form of stand up comedy. Throughout his career he has chosen to tread his own path, pushing the boundaries set by the mainstream in order to continually develop his own routine.

The same could be said of The Pavement’s journey over the past ten years. In Karin’s words "The night itself was a great mix; there was caustic wit, warmth and laughter, political agitation and generally an outpouring of support and goodwill for The Pavement and all it stands for”. She adds "Not only does the money raised help us to keep printing copies of The Pavement, which are in constantly high demand; it also encourages us to keep working harder to make sure The Pavement goes from strength-to-strength."

All in all the night was a worthy celebration of the ten years in which the Pavement has struggled on a shoestring to establish itself as a publication that genuinely helps those on the street. Laughter maybe the best medicine for life but for some of the disenfranchised on the street there is no better tonic than The Pavement Magazine. To find out more, visit the Pavement Magazine website.

Comedy night marks ten years down the Pavement

By Yousif Farah

Pavement Magazine is celebrating its 10th birthday on Friday 11 September, a milestone that will be marked with a high-profile comedy fundraiser featuring the exceptionally hilarious Stewart Lee.

The event will be held at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington’s North Street, off Caledonian Road, and the all-star line-up will also include Robin Ince, winner of the Time Out Award for Outstanding Achievement in comedy and music from Barb Jungr whose album of Bob Dylan covers was once described by the Wall Street Journal as “the most significant vocal album of the 21st century”.   

Also joining them will be Tom Read Wilson and Gary Albert Hughes who are both known for performing satirical and political songs.
The Pavement hopes the event will raise much-needed funds to help them further pursue helping homeless people through their unique publication. 

Its sole purpose is to support people at times of crisis, aiming to make life that bit easier for homeless people through providing them with information that can both help reduce short-term hardship, as well as enable them to guide their own lives.

The publication is pocket-sized, concise, providing homeless readers with news from the streets relative to their situation and often neglected by the mainstream press. Alongside the news stories they run monthly updated lists of day centres, soup kitchens and places to gather advice and assistance regarding housing.  It also has features on health, legal advice and an insider’s view of life in hostels.  

The publication relies entirely on donations from the public and volunteers. However, these volunteers are highly skilled writers and cartoonists, some of whom work for reputable media outlets such as Private Eye. 

At Poached Creative we work closely with the Pavement magazine. Some of our own Big Issue online journalism trainees have contributed articles to The Pavement. We also recently ran a four week media training course for budding contributors. Furthermore, the writing panel meetings are held at our premises and are attended by our writing mentor Grant and I.

Grant says: “The listing section is a revelation especially when you first find yourself in that situation. The news story covers topics that you will never see in the mainstream media.”

The proceeds of the forthcoming event will help more homeless people through their ordeal.

For tickets, bookings and information on how to get to the venue visit The Pleasance Theatre website.

To donate visit The Pavement website.

Youth recognition

by Yousif Farah

Youth is a critical period, it is where a generation is made or failed; it is the bridge linking childhood to adulthood and without the right support and guidance the transition can be wobbly and precarious. Ultimately, societies as a whole reap the benefits or bear the burden.

Therefore, it was only sensible of the United Nation to dedicate a day to raise awareness of youth, their achievements and their struggles also highlighting the vital role youth play in shaping our future while enriching the present through skill, talent or through simply being young and progressive.

This week, on 12 August, people from around the globe celebrated the 15th anniversary since the establishment of International Youth Day.

The day covered 15 areas which affect youth, including education, employment, environment, poverty and health.

Last year the day focused on youth and mental illness, as it stands 20% of youth around the world experience a mental health condition.

This year the focal point of discussion will be youth and unemployment. Ban Ki-moon Secretary General of the UN says in his Youth Day 2015 speech:

"I applaud the millions of young people who are protesting for rights and participation, addressing staggering levels of youth unemployment, raising their voices against injustice, and advocating global action for people and the planet.

Volunteerism is an ideal way to improve society – and it is open to virtually everyone. Youth can also join forces with the United Nations as we move from forging the new sustainable development goals to implementing them. That spirit of action is embodied in the theme of this International Day: Youth and Civic Engagement."

In the UK according to the House of Commons as of May 2015, 15.9 per cent of young people (aged 16-24) were unemployed, that is down 1.9% from the year before. 21 per cent of these young people are long-term unemployed for 12 months or over.

The research reveals a gradual increase in the number of young people securing employment post the economic turmoil. However, if contrasted to periods prior to the economic crisis the figures remain lower.

In this calculation the Commons relied on the definition set out by the International Labour Organisation which includes everyone actively seeking work whether on benefit or not.
According to the organisation, the world as a whole is facing a worsening youth employment crisis, with young people three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. It also warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and uncertain work conditions in developing countries.

The ILO estimates the number of youth looking for work worldwide at 73 million.

The International Labour Organisation is based in Geneva and was founded in 1919 in the wake of the Labour crisis which was triggered by World War 1. It later became the first specialized agency in the UN, currently operational in 60 countries around the world.

At Poached Creative we have always been sympathetic towards young people and supportive of their causes, as well as encouraging young people to join our Big Issue Online Journalism Course, we’ve run numerous projects with young people, for instance our latest collaboration with our partners Mediorite to help Camden Council’s youth project board plan, film and produce a documentary. To read about more about our work with youth and youth campaigners visit our campaigns page

My journey so far...

Mat outside Poached Creative's office at Bootstrap, Dalston
By Mat Amp

My journey with Poached Creative started several months ago, as the result of a conversation with my case-worker at St Mungo’s.

I was living in supported housing and was looking at various ways to reconnect with the world, both socially and professionally, in recovery from substance abuse issues that had eventually left me homeless.

I was informed of a free journalism training course being run by Poached Creative, a social enterprise, who were working in partnership with The Pavement, the free pocket sized magazine for people who are homeless.  

At the time I was throwing myself at just about everything to see what stuck in a ‘try everthing commit to nothing’ approach to life and I have to admit that my initial reaction wasn’t that positive. To be honest I thought it would be a waste of time, especially as the weekly seminars meant an hour tube/train ride across London from Brixton to Hackney and back.

But I put my concerns aside and set off for the first session with absolutely no expectations. I say that but I must have held on to some because I was surprised by just about everything that followed.

The sessions were set around a large oval table which helped us all relax and open up, promoting the kind of positive and constructive atmosphere that was so important as a canvas for the highly informative lectures that followed. One seminar on storytelling and the practical session that came a week later, ‘writing your own story’, was an epiphany to me. It was during that session in Hackney library writing about my experiences living in a homeless hostel over the past few years that I rediscovered my deep love of writing, a desire that had deserted me during those few bleak years living at the margins of society.

The final session on interviewing techniques was outstanding, the icing on what had been a pretty tasty cake of an experience. I was going to miss it. 

Or was I? Well the simple answer to question was no. When Poached Creative held out its collective hand with the offer of volunteer work at their new offices at Bootstrap, I bit it off.

The Human Right Act gets a stay of execution

By Yousif Farah

Amnesty International

Prior to the recent General Elections the Conservatives had pledged to replace “The Human Rights Act” with a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. However, there seemed to be no mention of it in the Queen’s Speech, at the opening of Parliament on Wednesday.

It is not the first time the Conservatives have attempted to push their bill through: there was a similar attempt during the last coalition Government but it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives, who won the election with a 12 seat majority, would have struggled to get the bill through the Commons and Lords as both SNP and Labour and whoever remained from the Liberal Democrats would have voted against it. Furthermore, some of the party’s own back benchers, many of whom are in the judiciary, are opposed to the measure.

However, some senior party figures seem adamant that it is only a matter of time, and that the Bill will be delivered sooner or later.  Liz Truss, the Conservative environmental secretary says:
“Absolutely the plans are going to be delivered at some point because it was a clear manifesto pledge “

Meanwhile, human right groups expressed a level of caution following the development. Kate Allen, Amnesty International Director in the UK, said she remained “very worried”. Whereas, Liberty director Shami Chakrabati called it heartening but added:

“There is a long struggle ahead but time is the friend of freedom”

The Human Rights Act received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998 and came into force in England on 2 October 2000. It was introduced to bring The European Convention on Human Rights closer to home through incorporating into UK law the rights contained in the convention.

Among the rights contained in the convention: the right to life, prohibition of torture and inhumane treatment, protection against slavery, the right to a fair trial and the right to free speech and protest.
The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. It was drafted in 1950 and came into force on 3 September 1953. The UK was the first country to ratify the treaty.

Over the years since the introduction of the act many cases were decided through the implementation of the HRA. An illustration of the application of the act could be found in S and Marper v United Kingdom, where the UK courts ruled that it was legal to retain fingerprints, cellar samples and DNA profiles of individuals who have not been convicted of an offence.  Strasbourg held the approach to be disproportionate as well as an infringement of the person’s right to a private life contrary to Article 8 of the convention.

Another illustration is the 2009 A v United Kingdom case, a case in which it was decided that the detaining of 11 non-national terror suspects was legitimate. The European Court of Human Rights deemed the judgment both disproportionate and discriminatory and in breach of Article 5 of the convention which emphasises the right to liberty.

Amnesty International is launching a campaign to preserve the Human Rights Act. If you agree that the current Act should be retained please visit.

International M.E Awareness - Day 12 May

By Sana Amos

On 12 May people across the globe are taking part in events for International M.E. awareness day, to help create a greater understanding of the impact the illness has on individual lives. M.E. is a chronic, debilitating condition which has a wide range of symptoms that can vary in type and intensity.

The condition is still widely misunderstood,as for many years controversy surrounded the question of whether it was a physical or mental illness.It is now classified by the World Health Organisation as a neurological condition.

Speaking about the controversy surrounding M.E. Tony Britton, Publicity Manager at the ME Association, said: “This illness is genuine, it's neurological, it affects 250,000 children and adults in the UK, and for the vast majority it's definitely not 'all in the mind'. A large amount of research is taking place round the world nowadays in the hopes of finding new treatments and a cure, but we're not there yet.”

He added: “While we're doing that, we still have to convince the sceptics, and there are many of them, that M.E. is not a mental disorder.” 

As a person who suffers from M.E. I understand the struggle and frustration that comes with this illness. It was hard enough to personally accept that I have this condition, as much it was to get the health professionals to understand that I was not “just tired or stressed”. For the past three years it has impacted and changed every aspect of my life.

This is why it is great that various organisations and individuals are using the day to make themselves heard, including two organisations that have provided me with immense support. The ME Association are launching a new report to show how existing therapies do not necessarily work and Action For ME is publishing case studies to highlight the impact the illness has on individuals lives.

To find out more about International M.E. Awareness Day and how you can get involved visit the May 12th Facebook page.

Depression, the stigma and the reality

Photo: Zeevveez/Flickr
By Yousif Farah

This week is Depression Awareness Week, a week to reflect upon our approach towards mental illness. One in four of us is likely to develop a mental illness at some stage of our lives.

The week aims to raise both awareness and funds to end the loneliness and isolation of depression, and the stigma surrounding it through highlighting what it means to live with the illness.

At Poached Creative mental health is central to our work. As well as working with many local and nationwide mental health bodies and charities including the NHS and Hackney youth charity Off Centre, we have trained many people who have suffered from depression through our Big Issue Online Journalism Course. Many of them have defeated their depression and moved on with their lives - now they are invaluable assets to us here at Poached.

Angela Williams, Deputy Director at Poached says:

“I began my training with Poached Creative when it started in 2009. I was going through some dark times with my depression, training with Poached gave me the confidence, a purpose and a “leg up” to work in a creative environment. Through more people speaking out about mental illness, we can push away the stigma and show that people from all walks of life can be affected, but also treated with dignity and respect.”

Depression - a brief history
It wasn't until the fifties that depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder by medical care professionals, was linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Prior to that, mental health patients were locked in asylums and treated through basic methods which included sedation, baths and even electrical shocks. At the time, many people dismissed depression as a weakness in the patient’s personality or willpower.

1959 saw the introduction of the landmark Mental Health Act, followed up by advances in psychiatry and drug treatment, and greater emphasis on human rights accompanied by advances in social science and institutionalisation theory. 

More recently, steps have been taken in terms of addressing the issue in the UK.

In the 2010 Equality Act a mental health illness is recognised as a disability if it has a long-term effect on the patient’s normal day-to-day life.

Mental health in the media
Mental health, and depression in particular, are topics often neglected in the mainstream media, overshadowed by coverage of other physical illnesses. 

Public figures such as Alastair Cambell have contributed to a better understanding of mental health issues.
Sadly, some people still ridicule mental illness and those affected by it.

This is what television personality Katie Hopkins had to say to patients suffering from depression:

"To be diagnosed as depressed is the holy grail of illness for many. The ultimate passport to self-obsession. Get a grip, people".

Her remarks caused a public outrage. Katie Hopkins is known for making controversial statements so it's hard to know whether she has been educated of the realities of depression, or whether she views mental illness through subjective light.

The reality of life for a depressed person is bleak: performing daily tasks which a mentally stable person normally takes for granted such as reading a book, talking to a friend or even getting out of bed represents a challenge.

When the demons of depression take over the patient’s life, they can become emotionally destabilised or disconnected and end up isolating themselves. The more severe the symptoms, the more isolated the person becomes, and unless treated the depression is likely to have a devastating impact on someone’s career, relationships or even own life.

Fortunately, organisations like the Depression Alliance, who are behind Depression Awareness Week, have information and help available on their website.

Find out more about Depression Awareness Week and how you can get involved.