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Vote for Notts Lego Club Organisers Make to Make on ITV's The People's Projects

12 April 18 interview: Bridie Squires

Make to Make, a Community Interest Company that runs creative workshops in Nottingham, has recently reached the final of ITV’s The People’s Projects and needs your votes to receive further funding from The Big Lottery Fund. Make to Make’s workshops include Craft Cafe - a regular sewing and textiles workshop for isolated members of the community - and Lego Club - a fortnightly creative play session at Rough Trade Records where kids and parents can find time to play together. Managing director Kim Errington talks to LeftLion about funding, being on telly and the invaluable work Make to Make does for the community.

What’s involved in a Make to Make session at Rough Trade?
The session we run at Rough Trade is the Lego Club. It’s a free session where we provide tons of Lego so that everyone can come and play together for free. The idea behind Lego Club was originally to make a space where dad’s felt comfortable to come and interact with their kids. Loads of kids groups in Notts are very mum or female focused which means dads don’t always feel like they can go to these session as it can be daunting. Saying that, we don’t exclude anyone; we get loads of mums there too which is great! We also get grandparents and whole families, people who borrow their mates’ kids because, really, THEY want to come. We’ve had birthday parties, first dates and teenagers with learning needs; all sorts of people. It’s a great mix and this is what it’s about; getting together and socializing, where both kids and grownups benefit. The guys at Rough Trade - Kyle and the staff - are all amazing and there’s always pizza, doughnuts, coffee and beer to be had. The perfect Saturday!

You’re going to be on telly in April. Can you tell us about how that came about?
The Lego Club is only one part of what we do. Last year, we were granted Awards For All funding from The Big Lottery Fund to set up the project Ties in Notts; consisting of Lego Club and The Craft Cafe in St Ann’s. The Craft Cafe is a group where local ladies have space to meet, share and learn new skills. We teach them how to use sewing machines and do crafty stuff. After getting Awards For All funding, the lottery people ask you if you would like to put yourself forward for something called The People’s Projects where you can win bigger funding, but you must show how it would expand your projects and benefit more local people. The People’s Project choose their favourite five projects regionally, they then film your project, put it on ITV Central and get the public to vote for the winner. We are one of the top five, out of hundreds of applicants! We are so pleased that we can get our work out there to more people so that they can experience the events and activities we put on.

There will be a vote between yourselves and other arts organisations in the UK for Lottery funding. What do you know about the other organisations?
It’s actually a mixture of all sorts of organisations, not just arts. We are all Social Enterprises, charities or community groups who work closely with our communities to improve people’s lives in some way, or support people to be healthier and happier. We met the other groups at the media training and found out about their projects, their people and the great work they do. One is a baking project that works with older people to bring back memories, one is a suicide prevention scheme helping very vulnerable people, another runs regular craft activities for people with mental health issues and the final one is a Derby group hoping to save a space for their elderly, Muslim gentlemen’s group.

They are all hugely worthy projects and although they are officially our “competitor”, we couldn’t help but connect with one another and we wish each of them the best of luck. We all work so hard to provide services and activities that help people, bring people together and make people happier. It’s a great opportunity for us all and we have done really well to get this far.

What are you hoping will set Make to Make’s project Ties in Notts apart in the vote?
The fact that we are truly inclusive of everyone. None of our activities are exclusively for any age, sex, race or ability. Yes, we aim our activities to attract certain types such as dads or women, but we certainly don’t restrict others from coming along. You don’t have to speak English, be literate or have any experience to come to Lego Club or The Craft Café.

You might have mental health issues and feel anxious about coming somewhere new. We understand this and are experienced enough to see these differences or difficulties. We don’t make a fuss about them; we accept them and help those people to settle in and give them whatever support they need to participate. It’s about much more than sewing a bag or building an epic tower, it’s about making a space where people feel welcomed, comfortable and not judged. The way we see people come out of their shells so quickly is beautiful and worth every minute of hard graft and preparation that our team puts in. Plus Lego Club is possibly one of the coolest things ever, so…

What does your current funding go towards?
At the moment we get funded on a project by project basis. Most funding covers things like tutor and assistant fees, but we also need money to provide the Lego and fabrics so that everything stays free and we can provide people with lots of choice. We also need money to pay for transport as our workshops are mobile. We get out into the community so that those people who would never venture further than their street or neighbourhood have the chance to experience this awesome stuff we do.

We pay volunteer costs for anyone who wants to get involved and gain work experience. Stuff that doesn’t get covered are core costs like insurance, accountancy fees and overheads - all the boring stuff! I work a second job on the side as a support worker to ensure these boring costs are covered. We are hoping to get these funded soon so that I can focus 100% on Make to Make. It’s becoming more and more difficult to secure funding these days but it’s more important than ever because services and government funding is being cut and cut and cut. We need to keep going to look after the people who need our activities in their lives.

What plans do you have if you get the funding? What about if not?
If we get the funding it will just catapult us to the next level. We are a tiny organisation but we try to do big things! This funding would give us the time and space to really stabilise, develop and grow. The Lego Club would be funded for another year as well as being able to take it out to new areas of the city for one off events, where we can get more dads and families engaging. The Craft Café would continue in St Anns for another year but we would also be able to take it to two new areas of the city, involving lots more local women who will then learn to support themselves and each other. It would pay for two support staff positions - Community Outreach Workers - who would work with people on a one to one basis, so if someone wanted to go to college, set up in business or if they needed emotional support, our staff would help them with this. We try to do this now but we don’t have the capacity to do it properly and we can’t help people as much as we’d like to, which is heartbreaking but you can only do what you can. This funding would change that. We would be strong, we would have time on our side to look for new opportunities and we would be able to extend our existing network, involving participants as advocates for Make To Make. If we don’t win…we’ll keep doing what we can, when we can. But we want to do so much more.

When shall we tune in and how do we vote for our Nottingham mates?
The People’s Projects’ finalists are announced on Thursday 12 April on ITV Central.

Our projects film will be aired on the evening of Tuesday 17 April between 6 and 6.30pm on the ITV Central Show. You can see the film any time after Monday 16 April by going to The People’s Projects website. Vote by going to thepeoplesprojects.org.uk go to the Central East region and vote for Ties In Notts. All you need is an email and a smartphone. You can vote via post if you don’t have an email by sending a postcard to Freepost, The Peoples Projects and state that you are voting for Ties In Notts, Central East. Easy peasy.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
This being The People’s Project, we really are relying on your votes to make this happen; please help us keep going so that we can make more and more people in the city happy. Come and see for yourself, get yoursen down to a pop up session, come speak to me - Kim - or Jim to see how much we love our project and the people we get to work with and support. What we do makes a real difference, so please help us to keep doing that and VOTE!

Votes are open for two weeks and close midday Monday 30 April. Visit thepeoplesprojects.org.uk to cast your vote.

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