In 2002, after meeting a young teenager involved in street prostitution, I started a charity to engage and support women and young people caught up in addiction, prostitution and poverty. The charity was called A Way Out and is still operating in Stockton on Tees today. We used a community outreach and development approach. For too long, North East communities have been subject to things being done to them and for them but never with them. I’ve always been interested in bottom up, people centred development.
The charity ran drop in centres, outreach programmes, food banks, education and learning activities and recovering and rehabilitation programmes. It has now worked with thousands of women and young people and many people are alive today who wouldn’t be, through it’s work.
Since handing over the reigns of A Way Out in 2014, I have continued to seek out bottom up approaches to change including
- – Supporting the set up an activist network & newsletter
- – Supporting set up of a peoples politics project, engaging people around politics through public spaces, public houses etc.
- – Connecting people involved in creative and cultural activities
- – Hosting place shaping conversations and on-line place platforms such as I Love Stockton Me
- – Developing new community initiatives and supporting community action.
My most recent and ambitious venture is the development of a new, peoples media project, We Are Our Media. Through this project we are seeking to develop alternative media platforms and supporting people to tell their own stories. We train up citizen journalists and have developed a quarterly tabloid publication called ‘The Eclipse’ that we deliver free to peoples doors, and take it into communities currently being failed by the mainstream newspapers.