Category Archives: Martin

Chris’s story

By Martin Kitara

Before joining the Big Issue online journalists Chris had only sporadic periods of employment. He discovered the course following advice from a friend who had taken part in the training and thought that Chris would benefit from it.

Chris has been a keen photographer since 17, but at that point he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. More recently photography has become more important to him and he started thinking about having a job which involved taking pictures for a living.

Since completing the Big Issue Online Journalism course Chris has been working freelance on a film project for Mediorite and on various market research assignments. He said: “Discovering Poached has really been good for me. I met Jess [Director, Poached Creative] and Lucy [Director, Mediorite]. I learnt more skills in photography which was helpful. I also met new people.”

Chris really appreciates what he’s learnt at Poached. Chris said: “It is important to get out there and take opportunities regardless whether you are marginalised or not. It’s about putting yourself forward to create opportunities for yourself and doing things you are interested in with a group of people with similar interests. This gives you a push and motivates you to do stuff. When you don’t believe in yourself you get lazy. If you’re unemployed it is a chance to rediscover yourself.”

Since the training Chris has discovered the importance of keeping busy with work. He films and edits for market research companies, charities and is continuing with photography as a personal hobby.

Chris is passionate about the work he’s doing now. He enjoys the process of filming, editing and camera work. He likes the films he’s making because they are trying to make a change.

He hopes to continue making films for charities in London, making a successful living with a decent portfolio. He still has aspirations to do more ‘art-house’ work and wants to apply the skills he has learnt to different avenues. Chris says: “I enjoy photography the most because it gives you a strong feeling straight away. Filming is more diluted but is becoming more and more important.”


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Trainee journalists hail six-week Big Issue course huge success

Trainee Martin Kitara interviews a member of the public

Trainee Martin Kitara interviews a member of the public

While the Big Issue online journalism and photography course only kicked off last summer it had been a long time coming.

BI founder John Bird had always wanted to help give the homeless and marginalised a voice, not only through the magazine, but also to provide training and a platform for them to express themselves.

After many years his ambition finally materialised when former Big Issue editor and digital projects manager Charles Howgego secured funding from internet company Nominet to run four six-week courses and commissioned ethical media agency and social enterprise Poached Creative to deliver them.

Charles said: “The core idea of getting people from different communities involved in journalism and giving them a voice has always been with the Big issue and John Bird the founder. We’ve done that piecemeal over the years, but to actually set up a training course where people can learn those skills and maybe then go back out into their communities and get stories and deliver them through blogs or even websites, newspapers or magazines; that’s the goal here.”

And that goal has been achieved with many of the trainees growing in confidence and learning new skills they can use to take their passion a step further with a realistic eye on paid work. Since finishing the course former trainees are now studying journalism at college, making a short film for a hip-hop education project, doing media work experience at various social enterprises while one is getting part-time paid work as a journalist at the Big Issue itself and another writing for the Homeless Diamond magazine.

Jan and Yousif writing up their articles.

Trainees Jan and Yousif write up their articles.

All of the trainees have experienced homelessness for different reasons whether it be family break-up, substance or alcohol abuse, following time in prison or unemployment.

After completing their course some of the them interviewed each other to find out what they thought about and got out of the course. Here’s what they said.

Sam Hooper, who had already been running a political and cultural blog for two years, but wanted to see if he could take his passion for writing a step closer to paid and published journalism, described the course as “fantastic”. He said: “Looking back at the last six-weeks I’ve come a really long way. Learning the nuts and bolts about journalism that I had no idea about was brilliant.”

Sam, who signed up with the National Union of Journalists days after the course ended, said thinking about who your audience is, interviewing skills and photography were all new to him. He said: “From weeks one to six we really have covered a bit of everything. It’s been a really good overview of journalism and the online world.”

However, he said going out into the community and interviewing “passionate” people running “amazing” social enterprises was the highlight of the course and a privilege. He also complemented the inspirational guest speakers who came in and shared how they had started their own media and journalism businesses out of nothing explaining how it can be done and offering their support in the future.

Sam said: “They’ve been really free and generous with their time and given us their contact details, so coming from having no network in the industry to knowing a few people willing to help is a brilliant thing. You can’t put a price on that.”

Building on the momentum Sam attended and live tweeted from a journalism conference at the London School of Economics that one of the tutors had recommended shortly after his course had ended and came out with even more confidence.

He said: “I got the biggest applause of the morning for my question to the panel [which included Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger] and a few people asked for my business card. I got to shake hands with Alan Rusbridger too. It wouldn’t have happened were it not for the course.”

Sam had asked the panel how the British media could be considering itself “thuggish” in light of the Guardian’s reporting on the Edward Snowden and NSA mass surveillance revelations when it was the government who was “bullying” the newspaper and its journalists.

Another trainee Jan, who has done a wealth of courses over the years, praised the project for its hands-on approach.

He said: “It was very good. they managed to pack a lot in to six weeks. It was very concise, very clear, and dealt with a lot of practical issues. The courses I’ve been on [before] have been mostly theoretical. This was far more focused on how to actually do it, actually interviewing real people instead of other students or teachers. The approach is towards getting stuff published in real publications not just papers being marked by teachers.”

Jan described the course material as well chosen and well worked out. He said: “The course helps you focus on the main issues, specifically how to write an article, which parts to focus on [and] it helps with networking and with ideas on how to move on with your career.”

Chris Evans, who is now making a short film for a hip-hop education project seeking to set up a free school, said more than the practical skills he learnt it was the idea of building himself up as a brand and service provider that has given him focus and a new found energy.

He said: “[The course] was really good. I was surprised. I learnt a lot and got to meet new people. I learnt a lot about photography, but it was this idea of getting out there and doing stuff. This positive element of  just going out there and doing work even if its volunteering, keep doing it and pushing hard to make it. [The course] is certainly going to help me in future.”

Martin Kitara, who is now studying for his NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists] exams at Lambeth College, said the course had given him discipline: doing things to time and producing results.

He said: “I found it really insightful. I learned a lot about journalism and progressing forward,” but the most important thing he learnt was “how to structure stories”.

Charles, the Big Issue’s digital projects manager, said: “People have got different things out of the course. Some people have transformed from quiet people to much more confident people just through the activity of journalism and news gathering, meeting people and learning about new ideas. Other people are submitting skills that they have already got and creating more of a foundation for their next step in their career, things for their CVs.

“Other people are moving into other areas but with a bit more confidence, having taken a step back from their lives and their problems and looking at the world as a whole, so it’s giving different people different things, but it’s been a really positive from my point of view. I’ve been amazed at the effect it’s had on people.”

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Trainee Dave celebrates receiving his certificate with (from second left) Hackney Citizen editor Keith Magnum, Big Issue digital projects manager Charles Howgego and Poached Creative director Jessica Smith in December 2013.

Jessica Smith, director at Poached Creative which designed and delivered the course, was enthused how well the courses had gone and how much people had got out of it.

She said: “It’s gone really well. We’ve had articles published in the local paper and Answers from the Big Issue website and there are people still doing stuff with the local paper, the Big Issue, another homeless magazine, some are volunteering with us and others have embarked on projects of their own. So it’s really great to see people take what they’ve learnt and put it into practice. The course really is about helping people to get back on their feet and not just another box-ticking exercise.”

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Students at St Mungo’s Recovery College find renewed satisfaction in learning

stmungoslogoStudents of the Recovery College often find a renewed satisfaction in learning, especially those affected by serious problems earlier in life, according to Matthew Burstein, the college’s administrator in Southwark, London.

The college is open to everyone; including St Mungo’s clients, volunteers, staff and the general public. By breaking down the barriers between students the college helps liberate those locked into the identity of being homeless and in need. The college is about equality and as long as the students bring a willingness to learn, it provides the rest.

The courses are designed to be educational rather than therapeutic, with the approach to recovery focusing on people’s skills and the future rather than their problems. Speaking with the Big Issue Online Journalists Matthew said: “The students set their own goals and the onus of attending the courses is placed upon them. People start to feel like valuable members of society when they start attending the college. This is because they start to feel like they are working towards achievable goals. This in turn starts to make them feel motivated.”

Some of the students that have attended the college have gone onto attend other institutions of further education and in some cases employment. Matthew says the aim of the college is not to push clients into education and employment, rather enable them to feel empowered enough to set and achieve their own goals. The college allows its clients to take part in any aspect of the college such as tutor, student or volunteer.

By promoting equality and focusing on people’s abilities rather than their problems the Recovery College creates a real sense of community and this is reflected in how previous students often return to St Mungo’s to run courses and workshops, or to share their skills and experiences as a volunteer.

Currently in its second year The Recovery College is funded by St Mungo’s, one of Britain’s largest charities supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. To find out more about St Mungo’s Recovery College visit their website.

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The Hair Project, providing young people with a helping hand

Pic: Anil Parmar: Andrew Curtis set up The Hair Project in 2010

Pic: Anil Parmar: Andrew Curtis set up The Hair Project in 2010

“I was that kid that grew up on a council estate without opportunities. Most of my friends that I grew up with either became drug dealers, have been murdered or ended up in prison” – these are the words of successful hairstylist Andrew Curtis and now one of the directors of The Hair Project, in Hoxton, East London.

Curtis, who trained at the Vidal Sassoon Academy from the age of 17. He progressed onto working in a Vidal Sassoon salon as an assistant to stylist. This was followed by many years of experience in other high-end salons. Continue reading

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December 6, 2013 · 1:06 pm

Bikeworks, helps get people moving again


Pic: Dave Barrett: Jim Blakemore (far left) started up Bikeworks to help marginalised groups get new skills and into work

By Martin Kitara

Bikeworks was set up in 2007 . The founding partners Jim Blakemore and Zoe Portlock developed Bikeworks  came up with the idea ater they saw strong potential for cycling to make a positive difference to the lives of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The two partners were joined by Dave Miller, who was developing a similar enterprise in East London. After meeting, Jim and Dave decided that they could achieve more by working together and this lead to the growth of the successful business operating today.

Bikeworks delivers its mission through a variety of community cycling programmes including employability for disadvantaged groups, all ability cycling, ReUse and recycling, schools cycle training and much more. As an organization, it provides cycling services to both consumers and organizations. Continue reading

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Dalston cinema’s art-house programming under threat

Pic: Chris Evans: The art-deco cinema's art-house programming could disappear after art funding was cut

Pic: Chris Evans: The art-deco cinema’s art-house programming could disappear as revenues decline

By Martin Kitara

The Rio cinema on Kingsland High Street is facing threat to its diverse programming and needs to improve its financial position over the coming months. It is urging film fans to visit and see films there more often.

The management at Rio Cinema on Kingsland High Street recently denied reports that it was in danger of closure by stating “we can inform you that we’re not going to close anytime soon” but appreciated the concern and interest.

Known for catering to art house film fans, the local cinema still survives today despite the widespread decline in art funding.

The cinema would also like to start renovations to the wonderful Grade-II listed iconic building.

The cinema, built in 1909, is known for its distinctive art deco interior and has a licensed Cafe. The Rio which is a charity provides affordable cinema access for older people, those hard of hearing, children and community groups and supports the diverse cultural needs of the local population through film screenings and special events.

Although the surrounding area has seen extensive regeneration in recent years, the Rio cinema building still fits in well amongst the mishmash of buildings and forms one of the main features of the High Street. It is impossible to walk through Kingsland High Street without noticing it near Dalston Kingsland Station.

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