The managing director of a much-loved musical hub is begging David Cameron for help, saying his Big Society is letting down community-minded entrepreneurs.
Housed in a rapidly deteriorating building, The Forum in Darlington needs £1.5m of refurbishments if it is to continue and grow.
However, its status as a CIC (Community Interest Company) means the team is finding it near impossible to attract vital funding.
Despite having saved the popular centre from closure and consistently meeting objectives, The Forum is struggling to attract investment and must plunge its own profits back into services for the community – leaving little for refurbishment.
Managing director Allison Mckay believes private investors are put off by the council-owned building and says investment available to other CICs is dependent on being able to prove the enterprise has a “social impact”.
She says proving the social impact of a music-based venture that serves a diverse range of people and offers a variety of activities is next to impossible, despite its undeniable community worth.
Applications for funding are regularly rejected because of difficulty in proving music has a social value.
Ms Mckay said investors should visit CICs to see the work they do instead of relying on “box ticking exercises”.
She said the local authority did what it could to support them but more is needed to save The Forum.
“There are budgets in central government set aside for CICs but social impact is a massive thing and that’s very difficult for us to measure.
“Investment goes to social enterprises with specific criteria and we don’t fit that box.
“We need help with the building – we need new chairs for people to sit on but how do you measure the social impact of chairs?”
In a letter to David Cameron, Ms Mckay said:
“When everything pointed in the direction of sinking we kept the ship afloat but where is our so-called partner, the Big Society?
“This [CIC] is no partnership between private and public, this is a take situation and the Big Society preys on people like us who are entrepreneurial and also want to make a difference.”
Source – Northern Echo, 15 May 2015
Unions across the region are joining forces in protest against the controversial anti-Islamic demonstration set to take place in Newcastle next week.
German right wing group Pediga plans to hold a demonstration on Saturday in the city’s Bigg Market.
But opposition Newcastle Unites plans a counter march beginning at Gallowgate and heading to Newgate Street.
Comedian and activist Russell Brand and Respect MP George Galloway have pledged their support to the anti-facist group.
Dozens of groups from across the region are backing Newcastle Unites, and organisers are now asking all unions across the country to strengthen their cause.
Newcastle councillor Dipu Ahad said:
“I urge all the unions in the country, to unite and support Newcastle Unites Against Pegida.
“I urge you all, who want to see a better future for our children, where we can coexist in peace, no matter what our race or religion. Let us start today, and not tomorrow as each and everyone of us has got a responsibility as humans.
“Our unity is our strength, and together we can eradicate all types of hate, no matter what.
“Too many times we focus on what divides us, which diverts the real issues. We’ve got a responsibility to combat evil, so I urge you all to stand up and be counted.”
The councillor said many groups had come forward voluntarily to support Newcastle Unites.
Just days ago Pegida were told by Newcastle United fans: “We’re black and white”.
The demonstration is planned for the same day as Newcastle face Aston Villa at St James Park, and NUFC Fans United put out the defiant message on their website which reads:
“There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.
“As Supporters of Newcastle United we are asking what kind of message is such a rally sending to players such as Papiss Cissé, Mehdi Abeid, Cheik Tiote and Moussa Sissoko as well as to our wider Muslim community? Remember, we are black and white; we are UNITED.”
A heavier-than usual police presence is expected on the day of the two marches.
Newcastle Chief Supt Laura Young said:
“We have met with representatives from both of the organisations and have agreed on plans for their demonstrations.
“The organisers from both groups have assured us they do not want any trouble and their intention is to hold peaceful protests before moving on and we will act in a neutral capacity to facilitate this.
“People often ask why we can’t ban protests. Police forces do not have the power to ban a protest or the right to peaceful assembly. This is a fundamental democratic right and is laid down in the European Convention of Human Rights.
“On occasions we can insist on certain conditions being applied to ensure we preserve public safety, prevent crime, serious disorder and serious damage and protect the rights of others.
“Our priority is ensuring public safety and minimum disruption to the local community.”
Newcastle Unites against Pegida supporters so far are:
• The Durham General Branch of the GMB
• Northern Cultural Projects CIC
• The Durham Miners Association
• The County Durham Trades Council
• Northumberland County Unison
• The Newcastle Hindu Temple
• Islamic Diversity Centre(IDC)
• Spice FM
• Show Racism The Red Card
• Durham UAF
• County Durham Unites Against Racism
• Newcastle Council of Faiths
• North East People’s Assembly
• Newcastle Stop The War Coalition
• Northumberland County Unison
• UAF North East
• Sunderland Anti-Fascist Coalition
• West End Housing Co-operative in Newcastle
• Unite Against Fascism
• Stand up to UKIP
• Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service(NCVS)
• Jude Kirton Darling MEP
• Julie Ward MEP
• Lord Beecham
• Comedian and activist Russell Brand
• Journalist and activist Yvonne Ridley
• Dave Anderson MP
• Chi Onwurah MP
• Davy Hopper (General Secretary of Durham Miners Association)
• Palestine Solidarity Campaign Fife
• Sunderland Together
• NUFC Fans United
• PCS Northern
• Bakers Union
• Tyneside Irish Centre
• Unite The Union
• Gateshead Unison
• Unison Northern Region
• TUC Northern Regional
• Newcastle Central Constituency Labour Party
• North East Greens
• Tyneside SWP
Source – Sunday Sun, 22 Feb 2015
A Tyneside community café providing low-cost meals to those who need it the most is now open.
Café NEET, which stands for “Not in Education, Employment or Training”, welcomes adults and children with free soup, rolls, tea and coffee, while friendly dogs receive a bowl of water and a special treat.
The Dunston Drop-in Youth Centre on Clockmill Road, Gateshead, where the café is located, hosted guests for the first time on Monday at a launch event.
Meals start from just £1 and punters will be able to grab a bite every weekday between 11.30am and 1pm.
The idea to provide good quality, healthy and affordable lunches to members of the local community came from volunteer and now café Head Chef, Michael Rayne.
“Café NEET is an excellent idea to provide additional services to those in need.
“Having struggled with unemployment myself I know that those young people who are out of work and have no where to go often need extra support. This café will provide just that.”
The Dunston Drop-In centre is a vital part of the Gateshead community that focuses on the youth and unemployed.
Lots of young people pass through its doors each year, and it is hoping that as many people as possible will come to try out the low-budget snacks, which will include sandwiches, jacket potatoes, and other healthy hot lunches.
The building which houses the café was secured through a 35 year lease from Gateshead Council to offer the community to space in which to come together for various activities and clubs.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Mrs Pauline Dillon, Chair of Trustees said:
“The Trustees fought long and hard to get this building so it is important we make it as viable as possible.
“Opening a café in the heart of the community is a great way of bringing people in, not just to feed them but to also see what else is available for them here.”
If you are interested in volunteering at the Community Café please contact Shona Dillon at email@example.com or 0191 4609590.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 Feb 2015
Volunteers at a Sunderland community centre are celebrating after being handed a funding boost.
St Luke’s Neighbourhood Trust, in Merle Terrace, Pallion, has been awarded £9,450 to refurbish its kitchen and £9,000 to set up a cafe for the homeless.
The charity, set up in 2001, provides activities and support services for the community and has more than 100 members.
The Linden Family Fund-Vaux Fund awarded a grant for the kitchen work, while the Henry Smith Charity supported the cafe. Both applications were backed by the Community Foundation Newcastle group.
Tina Carlisle, community engagement worker at the centre, said:
“We provide facilities and services that can be used by members of the local community, which consist of young and older people.
“Some have disabilities and are living in poverty in a highly deprived area.
“They are vulnerable, isolated and on low incomes.”
Tina said that without the backing of funding groups and donors, as well as income from renting out rooms at the centre, they would not be able to survive.
“We provide two main halls for a wide range of activities,” said Tina.
“We survive by charging a small fee for the use of our halls and from donations and grants, which are all put back into the community through the much-needed services we provide.
“All our upkeep, utilities and maintenance costs for the building are also paid through the small rental costs on the halls we receive.
“We provide a safe environment for all members of the community to meet and create friendships, while educating and improving the lives of residents.”
The not-for-profit organisation is run by members of the community and managed by a 14-strong management committee.
“We would like to encourage any new community groups to come forward and use our premises, with a promotional offer,” said Tina.
“Our small hall has recently received funding. With the help of two work-experience children on placement from Hylton Redhouse Academy, we worked together with volunteers to refurbish and decorate it.
“We want as many people as possible to use the hall, but we need to get the message out that we’re here.
“People sometimes get us confused with St Luke’s Church, which is attached to us, but around the corner on Maxwell Street.
“Anyone who want more information should get in touch.”
Anyone who wishes to volunteer at the centre, or is interested in using its facilities, can call 0758 402 6782.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 04 Feb 2015