Tag Archives: Poached Creative

My journey with Poached Creative

Pic: Tobias. Yousif Farrah outside the Poached Creative offices at Bootstrap.

Pic: Tobias. Yousif Farrah outside the Poached Creative offices at Bootstrap.

By Yousif Farrah

Poached Creative is a social enterprise communications agency, that puts creative jobs in reach for disadvantaged people. As their Volunteer Press Officer I can speak firsthand of how they make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Two years ago I was made homeless and had to drop out of University. It was at this time that I also experienced the loss of close relatives and life started to spin out of control. I ended up in prison and life seemed so bleak. I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel.

I genuinely believed that it was the end. Fortunately, upon my release from prison I began to receive support from homeless charity St Mungo’s Broadway and they told me about The Big Issue online journalism programme, which trains homeless and marginalised people in journalism and photography. Continue reading


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Profits from music single to support the Big Issue online journalists!

By Rooney John

Poached Creative received an unexpected but very welcome gift, from renowned blues artist Mete Ege, who decided to contribute all proceeds of his single Ghosts of London to the social enterprise.

Mete was inspired to generously support the social enterprise after meeting John Watts, a recent graduate of the Big Issue Online Journalism Programme; which helps homeless and unemployed people get a head-start in the creative industries. Continue reading

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The Sound of Yellow

The Sound of Yellow

By John Watts

On the first day of rehearsals I arrived early, walked through the foyer, met the producers and managers, was shown around the club room and out onto the set. It then hit me, I’m in a play at the Young Vic. Participating, contributing, acting, performing and I don’t give a flying hoot what I’m actually doing, all I know is that I’m in a theatrical production at the Young Vic!

Ten weeks have flown past since I attended a taster workshop aimed at helping the homeless and marginalised into theatre and we began developing our production, The Sound of Yellow. Inspired by the Young Vic’s production the Valley of Astonishment, the play is an exploration of synaesthesia; where your senses crossover and you start seeing smells, hearing colours and how memories of past events are shaped by our emotional responses.

Rehearsals went really well and lying on the floor in the tent with the other performers I really felt a growing sense of being a company, if that is the right word, maybe community would be better. It was all starting to gel and it felt wonderful.

After great opening shows I think the success was getting to some people’s heads. Would you believe it but one of the other actors came up during warm up and said directly to me that I should not play about with the script, because she was finding it hard to get into character. Well, knock me down with a BAFTA. I was furious until I saw the faces of all the others, all desperately trying to stay in ‘character’ and vainly attempting not to laugh.

With the final curtain call a growing realisation dawned for all of us at what we had accomplished. We were such comrades that there is going to be a Sound of Yellow Facebook group. We are asked to consider the Young Vic as home, which may not be such a good idea as we are still experiencing various degrees of the spectre of homelessness.

So what did we get out of it, well a hell of a lot! From new friendships to a huge learning curve about the practical art of theatre and what it can achieve. I have my own doubts about art as therapy, but what it can be is a mirror to one’s own humanity and that of others. For this reason alone there should be more projects like this, their value to the participants is immeasurable however much the audience gets out of it. So, ‘the Smell of Yellow’, the sequel, anyone?

A big thank you to all the organisations involved in the creation of the Sound of Yellow and please give them all a great big hug from me.

John has recently completed the Big Issue online journalism training and has just started volunteering for Poached Creative. To read more articles by John and other past trainees visit Poached Creative’s blog

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Final Big Issue journalism course finishes on a high

After another successful course, trainees interviewed each other to find out what they thought of it and if it’s worth continuing.

The Big Issue secured funding for four six-week courses that have now been completed, but given its success its hoped new funding can be found.

John Watts, a former screen-writer, who has secured a work experience placement at homeless charity Broadway’s press office since finishing the course, said: “I learnt loads and totally stimulated my enthusiasm for [journalism] and can’t wait to get out there and do it for real. If you want to go into journalism the hands-on practical skills will seriously benefit anyone doing the course.”

During the year-long programme the course has developed a balanced and accessible schedule for people from a range of backgrounds with a range of experiences, but all united in their desire to get back on their feet and into work.

Most of the trainees already have an interest in writing or photography and want to develop it further with a view to getting work experience and ultimately paid work. Others appreciate the importance of developing their communication skills whether it be for business, the media world or their personal life.

Seb Taylor, who has toyed with photography as a hobby for years and has since got his first gig as a festival photographer at the Wickerman in Scotland, said he hoped the course would continue. He said: “There’s a hell of a lot of talent out there, but people don’t know ways into doing this and it’s been a fantastic way to do that. Now I’m set up with the tools to know what to do next.”

The course is based around producing real content to publish online so trainees learn how to write in different styles: news, features and blog-posts, and for specific audiences. They also learn how to use a camera: from composing a good shot, using the built and natural environment for effect and how to take the dial off ‘automatic’.

By week two the trainees are out and about taking pictures for a photo-essay and by week three they’re interviewing people for actual news stories. While some theory is taught before the practical sessions, it is after and on reflection the majority of it is learnt.

Throughout the course the importance, relevance and use of social media is integrated: from using a blog to finding stories on Twitter to getting them read on Facebook. Technophobes are broken in gently.

By week six the trainees have the basic skills, knowledge and confidence to try their hand in the real world, so we end the course preparing them for work: from coming off benefits, creating a portfolio, becoming a brand, building a network and nailing down a 12-month ‘career’ plan.

And it seems to work.

Trainees who have completed the programme have gone onto study for a professional journalism qualification, produce videos for charities, work at the Big Issue, freelance for news agencies, volunteer in press offices and become a festival photographer. All have attributed their success to the course.

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Anil’s story

By Salimah Bilal

Having formerly become homeless after a mental breakdown Anil dreamed of starting his own business. As he was not sure how to approach this he began attending short courses for adults out of work, as a step toward achieving his entrepreneurial goals.

This led to Anil being referred to the Big Issue online journalists and he immediately saw the course as a great way to develop his skills. Commenting on how the course benefited him he explained: “Joining the course helped me to establish a daily work routine of getting up in the morning, travelling or getting some work done and that gave structure to my life. I wanted an education so that I would have a good solid foundation, before I started on my business venture. This course was also a great opportunity to meet new people and socialise with those who may be in a similar position to myself.”

As a result of the course photography has now become a personal hobby of Anil’s and one which he said he greatly enjoys. ”It was so helpful just learning the basics of using a camera. It was great going out and taking photos, where we focussed on trying to capture a story from it.”

As well as helping to develop his photography skills the course also boosted Anil’s self-confidence. He said this gave him the belief that his business idea could be successful and helped him stay committed to the project. Speaking of the professional value of the course Anil said: “[It was] a great opportunity to network, as I had different connections that could help me with the startup of my business.”

Since completing the course Anil has put together a business plan and received funding for his Buzz Bike Hire Company; an electric bike hire scheme aimed at tourists, which features a unique delivery and collection system that he hopes will appeal to his target audience.

The Buzz Bike Hire Company is due to be launched within the next few weeks and talking about this next chapter in his life Anil commented: “It’s been daunting going into business because it’s something that I’ve never done before and you don’t know how it’s going to be received. It’s also difficult to set up a business with as little money as possible but I appreciate all the help that I have been given.”

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Danielle’s story

After studying at The London School of Journalism Danielle became a freelance journalist, working for various publications, including The Guardian, Mixmag and Time Out.

Unfortunately personal issues got in the way of her blossoming career and she lost confidence in her writing ability. So when the opportunity to join the Big Issue online journalists came up Danielle jumped at the chance to rehome her skills, get her confidence back and reignite her journalistic career. She explained:

“I hadn’t been working for a while because of family, personal and housing problems when my employment coach at Crisis called me and told me about the course. While I had already trained as a journalist we thought it was a good idea for me to go on it and develop my photography skills some more, because photography was something I wanted to take further.”

While Danielle initially joined the course as a photography trainee working in a journalistic environment quickly reignited her passion for writing and she quickly began engaging in both activities, writing about wider social issues important to her, alongside the social enterprises and charities she interviewed as part of the training. Speaking about the effect the course had on her personally Danielle said:

“I found the training very useful in terms of sharpening my skills and improving my confidence again in terms of writing”

As well as helping Danielle regain her skills and confidence as a journalist the development of her networking skills has proved to be equally important in kickstarting her career and it was at a training session at Thomson Reuters Foundation that Danielle learn’t the importance of social media networking for journalists. She recalled:

“The session on photojournalism and how to use Twitter more effectively was really helpful, as it showed me how we are living in an age where journalists have to be online as well as front line,” adding: “I feel that since the training course I have been much more confident [using social media] and have been able to use Twitter and Linkedin to network and arrange interviews”

Through contacts made on the course Danielle has gone on to work for Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Big Issue and Poached Creative. Speaking about her career moving forward Danielle said:

“One of the things I learn’t on the Big Issue training course with Poached Creative was the importance of your online presence, so I’m just finishing off what I would call my online strategy as a journalist. It has taken me some time but I have now finished my website and have a flickr account for my photography work. Through these online platforms I hope to reach out and make new contacts.”

Today Danielle is working part time at Answers From Big Issue and freelancing for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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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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A Social enterprise is calling for more Hackney businesses to pay the London living wage

LondonLivingWage_employer_smallPoached Creative Director Jessica Smith, who is trying to help unemployed and disadvantage people into employment, said there are only 12 employers in the borough paying the London living wage, after being presented with a certificate at the hackney Citizens Mayoral Assembly for her commitment to the living wage.

Poached Creative is a social enterprise communications agency providing writing, editing and design service. For more information visit www.poachedcreative.org.uk

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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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Week 6 Blog Post

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

Award ceremony Friday 13th December 2013.

So here I am.  My last day of training with Poached Creative and the Big Issue at the Elise Centre in Dalston. It’s been educational and insightful, two of the many things which has made the whole course enjoyable.

I have gained knowledge in using my Canon Bridge camera to the best of my ability.  And I have every intention of improving this ability with more practice.  There are many aspects of photography such as Photo Essays, lighting, aperture, shuttle speed and much more which has encouraged me to do more research and practice.  I hope that with practice I will be able to produce more great photos.

The journalist side of the training has showed me how news editorials, features, NIB’s and different styles of writing are complied and what the essence of a good story is. Although I am not a good writer, the training has given me much needed confidence which I’m proud of and I’ve started noticing the differing writing styles in newspapers.

Attending the course gave me a routine. Although only 2 days a week it soon became the high-light of my week. I live in NW London and the commute is an hour each-way but that did not deter me. I was determined to be there on time and to be there for all the sessions, although that was not always possible. Being in that “learning” environment was nice as wasn’t all class room.  We went out many times which really added to the fun. And the interactions with others was pleasant. I’ve met and interviewed some interesting people.  This would never have happened in my ‘normal’ life.  I now know that there is so much going on in the community sector. There are many ‘good’ people all around us and much to report.

Overall, the course, its contents, the tutors, the interviews, the venues, the sandwiches from Charles, the coffee, my classmates, the Blogs…. I could go on but am limited to the ‘word count’.  Simply put, it is a very will compiled course which anyone would benefit from. If you are thinking of enrolling then just do it.  It doesn’t cost a penny and the skills learnt are invaluable.

Thank you to ALL the TEAM.  Jessica, Zoe, Charles, Glenn, Grant, Tobias, Kezia and Adele.

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