Supporting a whole community through the cost of living crisis
Flash Company Arts is a practitioner-led community organisation based in its own venue, Flowergate Hall Community Arts Centre, in the heart of Whitby. They provide a whole host of music and arts education programmes, from early years and baby and toddler music sessions to young people’s songwriting sessions, instrument tuition and singing groups.
They also run a popular Pay-As-You-Feel Community Cafe and a Community Fridge working closely with local supermarkets to provide food support for local people which has escalated hugely with the cost of living crisis.
Flash’s mission is to create strong, resilient communities, developing pride and confidence in their individual and collective abilities to adapt to whatever the future may bring.
Many of their service users are from challenging backgrounds, have special educational needs or have other social issues.
Flash Company Arts received two grants from the Cost of Living Crisis Fund for £2,000 and £8,000 and with that and another grant from Woodsmith Foundation their goal was to ensure hot food was available for free every day the centre was open, for anyone, throughout the winter.
There was a lot of shame and stigma for many of the people needing support and Flash mitigated this by getting people involved in activities and decision making around the support needed.
Along side the free hot meals, Rebecca at Flash provided a discreet service for people who were accessing the Community Fridge again and again to provide a big supermarket shop for them. This was done in a gentle way, stigma free and made a profound different to the wellbeing and mental health of the families they did it for.
“Just filling my fridge up gave me a huge boost, and a fresh start.”
Helping people feel better about themselves
The Flash team also recognised that although people were trying to help themselves, by learning about budget cooking – for instance through Jack Monroe’s Cooking on a Bootstrap blog– they didn’t have the store cupboard flavours to make things tasty. So they put together spice and herb packs for families which made a difference.
“People were able to add flavour to their basic meals and they came back really happy. They also explored cooking as a family. It really made a difference for everyone.”
Rebecca also stressed that the cost of living crisis has not gone away and in fact for her community things are getting worse. A morning in September in Whitby sees people queuing at 9.30am for the Community Fridge that doesn’t open until 11am. Some people are coming in every day they are open.
To try and help people feel better about themselves, Rebecca and her team have put up a chart of small jobs people who come to the centre can undertake from sweeping the floor to putting stuff away. They have found people help and feel better about coming and they gain a sense of purpose.
There is a sense of existential dread around some of the people in our community
Flash see that the cost of living crisis is very much in people’s minds
“There is a sense of existential dread around some of the people in our community. They are already frightened at the looming winter and wonder how they will cope.”
Flash Company Arts have become the ‘community anchor’ for Whitby and are working with other community organisations throughout the town to map all the spaces, warm places, activities and affordable things to do so that people have a clear view of where and how they can survive and thrive over the winter period.
Rebecca is keen to work in partnerships and show how positive collaboration can work for the wider good.
She wants to bring affordable wellbeing to the masses, ensuring that everyone has a ‘Winter of Wellbeing’ and they are safe, fed, social and warm.
She is grateful for the funding they receive from Two Ridings and that the community foundation values their opinion on how to spend it to really benefit their community.
“Two Ridings have really trusted us. We feel very supported by our local community foundation. They really see the value in what we are doing, and enable us to do it in a way that works for people.”
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