Looking at the impact a fund made

Photo of a group of young people

During her year as Lord Mayor of York in 2020/21, Jan Looker wanted to use any funds raised in the Lord Mayor of York’s Fund to support local charities who either improved the lives of children and young people and/or for community arts and heritage projects who were addressing identified needs in their communities.

Twelve groups were awarded grants with funds distributed in mid 2021. Some groups delivered purely arts/heritage projects, some focused solely on children, but the majority met both aims of the fund.

A year on, we wanted to look back at what some of the groups achieved with their funding and the impact it had on the people they support.

Funding that changed lives

Biomation delivered intensive mentoring and music training to young people facing poor mental and emotional health.

“Initially completely isolated socially and with little aspiration, Abigail* went on with our mentoring and encouragement to get two volunteering jobs and secure a place on a college course. During a brief period of homelessness mid-year, we provided a valued constant as life became unsettled and turbulent.”

Joseph Rowntree Theatre ran workshops to provide cultural activities and to improve communication and confidence for children who would not normally access these experiences.

“[The children] worked hard on exercises involving physical coordination, remembering, and being expressive, teachers have reported back to the effect that the experience has been very positive with behavioural and confidence impact in particular.”

Door 84 ran cookery and food safety classes for young people between the ages of eight and seventeen.

“Robin* was referred to Door 84 through social work. They were social isolated, inactive had had a very limited diet. However, they threw themselves into the food preparation and cooking activities, asking lots of questions and immersing themselves in the project. They ate some of everything they made – including things they never would have previously tried!”

“I began the playwriting course believing I couldn’t write anything good. Well, yet again, I was proven wrong! I am so proud of what I was able to achieve, all because of the course. If I hadn’t gone on this Playwriting course, I would never have had the confidence to put myself forward.”

Participant at Out of Character, who work with people facing mental health challenges

Young male enjoying a theatre session

Next Door But One worked with Snappy supporting vulnerable young people through theatre during and following the pandemic.

“The format of the session is usually a fictional character talking emotionally about a particular situation, and asking for some help and guidance from the audience… It encourages them to think about what the fictional character can do when they feel anxious about something, how to deal with social situations and other challenges they might face. I love this because our members can sometimes find it tricky to talk about their own emotions, so whilst they are engaging in the workshop, they are actually providing advice and emotional support to themselves and each other.”

York Travellers trust ran workshops for young people to explore their Gypsy and Traveller heritage, and are creating a film to share their stories

“The majority of young people in the sessions didn’t realise that their ancestors came from India and had no idea about the migration or different experiences that Gypsies and Travellers have had throughout history. Learning this gave them a deeper understanding of their own identity and left them feeling connected to their history and culture in a way that they hadn’t previously. They discussed what made them feel proud about their heritage and reflected on the more painful parts of their collective history… Gypsies and Travellers will feel empowered by seeing their history shared by the voice of their peers.”

At both Acomb Out of School Club and Poppleton Road Out of School Club, parents and staff said how much children gained from being able see and play with their friends. Some parents said that without support they would not have been able to afford the sessions, and that they felt the children’s mental health improved both for being around children their own age, and from taking part in fun activities.

Ripple effect: the wider benefit

Both Out of School Clubs reported a positive benefit on parents as well as children, enabling them to find work or to have time to focus on their own mental health and wellbeing.

Theatre 41 received funding to improve a community theatre venue, open to young people, local arts organisations and community groups

“The equipment did far more than we envisaged… As a result we now have a regular pipeline of tours to perform at the theatre, and are introducing the local community to performances and shows they would otherwise have not had the opportunity to experience. The equipment purchased has transformed the theatre from an empty shell to a vibrant community theatre.”

Refugee Action York ran a parenting course with Turkish and Arabic translation, with a creche on site

“Some of our regular service users who attended the first session were so impressed that they invited friends to come along too. Without the course we may never have been aware of some of the families that we are now able to support in a much deeper sense.”

Conclusions: Life improved and enriched for children and young people

When asked about their challenges during the grant period, as for any other activity during this period, most groups mentioned Covid. Many had to adjust their provisions and move to online sessions instead of face to face for at least some time, and several groups related that the engagement was much better in person.

Some of the successful groups related that their project would not have been possible without this funding at a very difficult time.

That these groups could continue even during a global pandemic is enormously to the credit of everyone involved with them.

Looking back at what the organisations achieved, life has indeed been improved – and enriched – for children and young people taking part in these projects.

Three women celebrating the outcome of a fund

Isabelle Clough (Left) of Two Ridings celebrating the funds made by Janet Looker (Right), ex Lord Mayor of York

*names have been changed