You don’t need to feel powerless

It’s coming at us from all sides.  The cost of living crisis. The price of petrol. The climate emergency. The war in Ukraine. Hospital waiting lists. Winter is coming. Many, many people will not be able to afford to heat their homes or cook a Sunday dinner. It all feels a bit overwhelming.

There’s a saying, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”  To see that philosophy put into practice, in real life, is inspiring. 

A little while ago, some neighbours in Heaton got together. They decided to clean up the grubby back alley behind their homes. I went down there earlier this year. Colourful flowers and trees have now replaced broken glass. Raised beds and plant pots seize your attention.  Now, at the height of summer, the flowers and in bloom and the fruit is ripening on the young trees. There’s a sense of care – of pride, even.

Last month, I spent an evening with the good folks at Shieldfield Art Works. They worked with the local community to transform a patch of grass, next to a car park, into a beautiful green haven in the city with fruit trees and climbing flowers. A place where children can play, where people can come together and forge friendships. Somewhere restorative.

Amy and Claire are both parents of disabled children. Both are driven to provide their kids with opportunities they may not get otherwise. Together, the two friends created Sensory on the North Sea. It’s a fantastic charity that has given around 200 disabled children the chance to be skipper of a catamaran for a day. The kids can drive the boat (even doing donuts, I’m told!) and have a whale of a time. The wind in their hair, splashes from the cold sea, the smell of salt, the whhrrrr of the engine – all of it is sensory stimulation these kids don’t always get but is key for their development and wellbeing. When it’s over, they and their families dock on dry land with a wealth of cherished memories.

These are just three of a list of community projects from our #CrowdFundNorthofTyne programme. I say ‘our’ programme, because it’s a partnership.  We stick in some cash, but it’s local people – like you – who do the creative work.

How it works is you have an idea for a project where you live.  Then you pitch it to us, and so long as it’s a project for genuine community benefit, you’ll probably qualify.  Then it goes on the website, and you can share it on social media or by word of mouth.  If your project is popular, it will get lots of likes and pledges.  When a project can show real community support, it gets a chunk of money from us to push it over the line and reach the goal.  Grants range from a few hundred quid to £15,000, depending on the project.  Simple.  It’s all explained on the website. 

We launched the scheme two years ago. I knew that you’d know your area and your community better than I do.  And I wanted to empower you to make a difference. 

Since then, we’ve given nearly £83,000 to 23 grassroots community projects.  They cover Northumberland, Newcastle, and North Tyneside.  They’ve included everything from bee-keeping to film-making. We’ve just opened our fifth round of funding, with another £90,000 available.   If you live in the North of Tyne, and have an idea for a project, you can get in touch right now.   

And here’s the thing. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. You don’t have to be a human dynamo to make a difference in your community. You’re not alone.  That’s what’s special about #CrowdfundNorthofTyne and the community projects it serves. Some people can lead the charge. Some might volunteer. Others may only be able to pledge the price of a coffee to someone with a great idea for improving their community.  We all need each other.

So have a look – Google ‘CrowdFund North of Tyne’.  And could you do me a favour?  Tell people about this project, and encourage them to apply. 

*Originally printed in the Journal and Evening Chronicle 22 August 2022