Wrap up London – a project from the charity Hands on London

Image As the days draw in and the season brings the colder wather in, Hands on London are asking for those who can to donate an un-wanted coat o help keep someone warm this winter.

The coats will be directly donated to a number of shelters for the homeless, cntres for the elderly, youth groups,. community centres and women and children’s refuge across London.
I will be collecting any un-wanted coats to be donated from 7:30pm this evening at the Lamb Surbiton. Any coat will be greatly appreciated; esspecially coats for children. I wil then be donating these coats tomorrow.

If you are unable to donate this way you can drop your coat at any of the following London Stations between 7am and 11am on Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th and Friday 9th November:

  • London Bridge Station
  • London Paddington Station
  • London Victoria Station
  • Charing Cross Station
  • Liverpool Street Station
  • London WAterloo Station
  • Kings Cross Station
  • Canary Wharf Station.

Anything that you can donate will be greatly appreciated.

You can find out more about Hands on London by following this link.

Hands on Londonis a registered Charity. Charity No. 1140291

Thank you.


A great day was had by all at Seething Sunday!

Photo’s courtesy of Nicholas Orwin

Have you heard about the amazing work done everyday by Fine Cell Works and their volunteers?

Fine Cell Works is a not for profit organisation that work within the prison system with the aim to rehabilitate and teach new skills to prisoners. Through their work they have achieved many great things. From their service users creating embroidered peices for the Queen to gaining commissions to produce art works for David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.
The organisation was set up in 1960s after a visit by Lady Anne Tree to Holloway prison in London. Lady Anne worked along side a select group of women in the prison to create intricate needlpoint works that were later sold to collectors in New York (USA).

After the sale of these neelepoint works Lady Anne became determined to create an organisation through which prisoners could gain training of the highest level and consequently gain earnings from their hard work. Fine Cell Work’s volunteers are members of the Embroiders and Quilters guild and with their passion and knowledge of needlepoint enable the prisoners they work along side to become as passionate and as skilled as they themselves are. This of course has a very positive impact on the future lives of the prisoners;

I am learning a new skill which I did not think possible. I also know that people do care about me and what I do because otherwise why would people take an interest in my fine cell work! I now believe what others think about me makes a real difference to how I conduct myself.                           Steve, HMP Wandsworth

Image courtesy of the ICA
(Click the image and follow the link for more information)


You may think that the art of needlepoint would not sit well within a prison environment, however there is a long and substantial history of inmates creating intricate works of art – making work using matchsticks is a long standing tradition with in prison’s, great examples of which can be seen every Autumn at the Royal Festival Hall as part of The Koestler Prize. (I will be writting a piece in the foreseeable future about the history of the koestler trust and the awards).



For many prisoners the opportunity to learn a skill and ultimately earn from that skill is something that they have never been given. Take the story of Kieron; after working alongside Fine Cell Work volunteers for many years Kieron was given the opportunity to collaborate with one of Britain’s most acclaimed artists and sculptors to create the work pictured below – Gavin Turk. Not only did this opportunity give Kieron a great boost to his self esteem he decided to us the money to marry his fiance.


You can read so many more brilliant and triumphant stories by following this link.
For me the beauty of this organisation is that you can be a part. The pieces produced by the volunteers and prisoners involved up and down the country are available for you to buy and have in your home. They are priced accesibly with items from just £10 to more extravagant purchases.
Through the quality and professionalism of their volunteers the products of Fine Cell Works are absolutely beautiful and of course highly desirable. Being exhibited in the V&A museum and commissioned by English Heritage. To anyone looking to begin a project in a similar vain here is the most important point. Products of quality sell and with that the aim of your organisation will follow.
You can gain so much more information about this great social enterprise by following this link, and while your there why not treat yourself to one of the wonderful creations on offer.
(All information and images can be found on the Fine Cell Works website unless stated otherwise).

Dress a girl around the world

Image taken during Dress a Girl Artound teh World event at The Create Place, Bethnal Green (June 2011)

Last year I came acorss an amazing event run by Hope 4 Women International Dress a Girl Around the World. The event is the perfect opportunity to get people of all ages and skills to come together (something that if you have been reading you will know I am more than a little passionate about) with the outcome being to dress a girl around the world.

The event works through a network of people delivering newly made dresses from around the world to girls and children in need of clothing.

Something that many of us forget in the ‘developed’ world, is that clothing is not just a treat or way of making a statement it is, indeed, a necessity. In many areas of the world girls and young children are going about their daily life without suitable clothing and this can, has and will lead to (amongst other things) sexual abuse. By taking some time to get together, a sewing machine and a few easily affordable materials you can stop this from happening.

You can download the pattern for the pillow case dress and discover other ways in which you can help by following this link.

In the forthcoming months I will be running a dress a girl event in my local area – Kingston-upon-thames. If you are in the area or would like to see what this is all about first hand you can do so by following me on twitter or through this blog.

If you would like to run your own dress a girl around the world event it is easy to do so, or get involved in any other way; you can find all the information you need, including how to get in touch with the charity, how to donate your dresses and hear all about why this project is so important by visiting the Dress a Girl Around the World website


A slightly delayed Charity of the Month.

Last month I promised you all a post about Sifa Fireside. I must apologise for my gross negligence in this respect! As we move on through life events get in the way – and this was certainly the case last month. I do hope that you all – especially Sifa Fireside accept my sincerest apologies!

Now the apologies are complete let me begin to celebrate the power of social interaction and the work of this great Birmingham based project.

On many occasions when I begin the research for these posts I am faced with upsetting stories of the charities struggle. I am so very happy to say that although times are tough, progress is most definitely being made within the walls of Sifa Fireside. This is inclusive of (but not exclusive of), a new base for the charity with improved facilities, Thanks to the Social Enterprise Investment Fund.

“…our new building in Digbeth will provide a high quality environment for our service users, staff and volunteers and act as a hub where we can continue to develop new activities and partnerships” (Cath Gilliver, Cheif executive)

And now I feel it is time for you to hear about the brilliant work Sifa Fireside does from one of their service users. Please allow me to introduce Desmond:

“SIFA Fireside was a great support when I was at rock bottom and couldn’t see any way out of my situation. I can now say I’ve been alcohol and drug free for over six months, I’ve got my own little flat to call home, and, best of all, I’ve got a part time job at a local build-er’s which I thoroughly enjoy and it brings me in a regular weekly income. I also do my own cooking now (six months ago I couldn’t fry an egg), so look out Gordon Ramsay!
On a serious note all the staff were a real help at a time when I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I listened to your advice and still go to AA where to my surprise there are doctors, lawyers and the like, proving that alcohol problems are indiscriminate. SIFA Fireside was always there to help with any problems I encountered and as a shoulder to cry on. Keep up the good work!”

In the past year Sifa Fireside have also worked along side Crisis and the Crisis commission, with two of there service users exhibiting work along side acclaimed artists such as Tracey Emin and Gillian Wearing.

As well as this the organsation has continued to grow and develop it’s social enterprise project ‘Change Kitchen’ through which service users obtain new and diverse skills in catering. This porject has gone from strength to strenght since its conception in 2010. The ‘Change Kitchen’ team are availble to book for catering events of any kind – they did a sterling jkob at my friends wedding!

(Information taken from the Sifa Fireside annual report 2011/12)

Charity of the month – April

For Charity of the month this April I would like to introduce you to an amazing charity based in Birmingham that works with homeless and vulnerable adults. Sifa Fireside work tierlessly to enable their service users to improve their lives. Running a wide range of projects that all are welcome to participate in, from a catering social enterprise, to more basic day-to-day support.

Please keep your eyes open for more information on the work they do over the coming month.

Giving a second chance.

The U-turn womens project – this month’s Charity of the Month – plays a vital role in the empowerment of women. many of the women that come to U-turn have suffered abuse from an early age. This is most cases has left a void not only emotionally but within their education. The U-turn project offers many programmes aimed to close this void, such as the second chance programme.

This programme makes a real difference to the lives of the women that the project works with. Giving them the opportunity to gain qualifications that may have passed them by,. Through this programme the women are not only gaining new skills and qualifications but an encouraging boost of self esteem – both of whcih will help towards future employment opportunities and generally a happier and more fulfilled lifestyle.

This programme was made possible by working in partnership with Raines Secondary School who continues to support this project with guidance given in the planning and preparation of all the material.