I am the 1011’th person to be awarded the Points of Light Award from the Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and I was contacted last week with the good news. I immediately phoned a friend, who is also a trustee of the charity I founded, “So does the award come with some money for the cause?” she said, in her ever so practical way…well I am hoping that although it doesn’t come with a cash prize for the charity; that the publicity that may result from this fabulous endorsement, which is also a personal thank you from the PM, is as good as…
Points of Light is a daily thing with one inspiring person after another in relentless succession being birthed from this governmental website. It was humbling to be in the same group of people who are making differences all over the UK. I had a good peek of course at my counterparts, and each story was compelling and heartwarming. I urge you to read some of these stories rather than taking a selfie or making a facebook post about your day, for a week if you can do that. Each day there’s an individual story with socially minded ideas from a beautifully diverse melting pot of humans; who have a common goal; which is to make things better. The only requisite to this award is that we have given our passion and time in volunteering to make social change in our communities. Doing something for nothing is being recognised by this award and actually, its a pretty big deal when you consider there are only 365 days in a year. The idea of recognising individuals who have made a difference in donating their skills consistently and over a long period of time for something they believe in; is a good one and apparently started by George Bush in the United States. I must say that my political ideologies don’t really make good bedfellows with either George Bush or Theresa May, but it got me thinking that good social change ideas are simple and should be “Apolitical”, and that in fact, I should be friends with everyone who wants to support my cause.
Whilst this award is about volunteering, it’s about more than that, since it’s about the intricate solutions to problems, that each and every person that won it so far, has had. Each person has managed to include themselves in the problem scenario whilst breathing innovative ideas into life by showing up and bringing themselves into the equation. Whether that be in coming up with clever ways to solve problems in a socio-entrepreneurial way, or whether their time working in an organisation has changed lives. I’m grateful and proud for being included on this list. So this moment in time is my special day, the day where the algorithms will hopefully be perfect- when enough people will be reading and following this so that magically the next “right person” or right part of the jigsaw puzzle will appear; offering crucial help at the right moment. In order to grow this acorn of an idea that I’ve planted into a mighty oak of a charity requires followers, a tribe, people like me, investment and time.
On asking for money; Its surprising the unexpected people that totally get the big picture, rarely do I find people who don’t like the idea. (or can’t be convinced in a good conversation.) This brings to mind another occasion when I was asking for money and training, again. On one pitch at The School for Social Entrepreneurs in London in 2016, we the applicants had to make a “Dragons Den,” presentation to a panel. Amongst the many notable people, there was a very high up Director at Lloyds Bank PLC. (Who were very generously underwriting the learning part of the course) Apart from being a nerve-wracking heart-pounding moment, to say the least, as anyone who has seen the TV program would understand, my idea was slightly subversive, because of its perceived links to blighting of buildings through illegal spray-painting activities. This was the one person whom I was expecting the, “You’re not teaching them young hoodlums to vandalise property are you?” question from. Luckily I didn’t have to use my reply as the question wasn’t even considered, showing you can’t always judge a book by its cover. They totally got it, and the panel all happily mentioned Banksy as if it was some kind of passport or get out of jail free card! It was like Banksy had done all the hard work for me and I all I needed to do was nod, smile and pass round amazing artworks made by the young people. Which gave me time to breathe and collect my racing thoughts. Thank you BANKSY!
I really mean that & I’m sure you’d approve of my plans for the charity and find them most amusing but also I hope you’d think it’s a brilliant idea too! If you are reading this, this is where the change is happening in our society; the front line of grassroots ordinary people rooting away for social justice and positive change for no personal acclaim. Banksy, you are an inspiration to all parts of society for your part in highlighting social injustice with a wry smile on your face and you are anonymous like many of us; I like that very much…
So this is the moment in time, that I need to try and get a grip of and to, “make the most of it”, I am told. I need to act quickly with blogs and vlogs and social media and all that…all of this whilst being a professional artist, a mother, someone’s partner, not to mention trying to pay my own bills and basically live. It is a lot to do right now- I’ve got posters to design for forthcoming events, emails to write and a website to get up to scratch to represent how bloody marvelous the charity really is (that’s just the volunteering bit.) Don’t get me wrong I’m not moaning about the work involved in writing this kind of thing or my time spent volunteering, I just think its funny how the world has changed. I think that the do-ers and creators are usually the ones who struggle with social media. It’s often the vacuous, the vain, the ones with too much time on their hands, or the outrageous that get the most out of the social media circus. The ones that can say- Look at me aren’t I great? Or those that can afford to have a team doing this kind of stuff for them…This is pretty hard for me to write, not least as it’s partly blowing my own trumpet.
So thanks Theresa, and also to the officer for civil society who was intrigued enough to do a case study. I’m glad you can see how young people of the NEET* population can benefit and reintegrate into society through my bright idea of a spray-painting charity. I also like the fact that a subversive idea is being understood and no doubt in high places; it’s a lovely punctuation of recognition. I also hope this piece of writing called BLOGGING will be time well spent. I hope that this moment can change everything for my charity that desperately needs to grow and make roots by having a base. We are unique INCLUSIVE Street-art Charity, which I do believe is the UK’s first dedicated one in this art medium.
*a NEET is a 16-24-year-old who is not in education, employment or training. NEETS are generally disengaged from society for reasons beyond their control.
The irony that Arts and Creative subjects are being ruthlessly cut and worst hit in all sectors by the current Government is not lost on me. Especially since I represent an arts charity who’s raison d’etre is to try and plug this gaping gap in young underfunded peoples lives. The link between lack of culture and poverty in the UK is a subject being well documented currently, and a subject I have a keen interest in. But now is not the time to appear ungrateful, so instead, to end this piece of momentary accolade, I’d like to say to the current Government, that “Apolitical ideas for social change” are the ones to be investing in. Today, my day, I hope the right person gets to read this blog and invests in us. So my call to action is this, if you have got this far reading this, Thank you, please do something, just do anything to help others. If donating money rather than your time is your thing, who am I to stand in your way? In fact, you could choose any one of the people on the Points of Light website and it would be money well spent.
But be warned not everyone will have a donate button, not everyone will have super-polished websites and social media followings. So be persistent in finding ways to part with your money for highly original social start-up ideas with dedicated everyday extra-ordinary folk.
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