Community backs cookery scheme for disadvantaged people

Media Trust worked with West Wight Sports and Community Centre, providing the charity with media training, to allow the organisation to tell its story in a compelling way ahead of an ITV film shoot.

The charity was invited to apply to bid for funding for a specific project as part of The People’s Projects initiative, going on to win almost £43,000 as a result of a high level of public votes. The People’s Projects is a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund, ITV, STV and The National Lottery. Giving the public a say in awarding large grants to local not for profit organisations across the UK, over £36 million has been awarded since 2005.

Cultivating connections in an isolated community

West Wight Sports and Community Centre is a small charity situated in a rurally isolated part of West Wight on the Isle of Wight. It provides a range of activities and services that support the mental and physical well-being of its community. This includes sport and physical activity, community support groups, volunteering, youth work, social support and signposting for vulnerable people of all ages.

COOK Trainer Michele with volunteer, Tristan.

The charity’s centre manager, Clare Griffin, applied to The People’s Projects for a chance to win funding for the COOK Project. COOK is an acronym for Creating Opportunities in Our Kitchen, and the project aims to provide opportunities for people with learning and mental health difficulties to volunteer and train within the centre’s catering department. The goal was to raise the profile of the project and the centre, as well as awareness of the inspirational work the organisation carries out on a day-to-day basis, supporting hundreds of beneficiaries.

To be up against city charities was a huge challenge and we knew we needed to get exceptional engagement from our community to be in with a chance of winning

Clare Griffin, Centre manager, West Wight Sports and Community Centre

A whole community’s campaign

The biggest challenge for West Wight was not only securing funding, but also its ability to raise the profile of the services it provides within its community. Its challenge was to involve the whole community and get them voting. An isolated, rural charity, West Wight faced stiff competition from four city-based charities. With a considerably smaller catchment, the charity needed to have an exceptionally high profile and ensure the whole community was fully engaged. Clare says: “We are located in a small community on the Isle of Wight. To be up against city charities was a huge challenge and we knew we needed to get exceptional engagement from our community to be in with a chance of winning. We had to spend time planning our campaign so that the day the voting opened, we hit the ground running.”

The campaign messaging was kept simple and a slogan, ‘Vote West Wight’, adopted. Pink t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan and The People’s Projects website URL were purchased. All the staff and volunteers wore the shirts for the two week campaign period – this was not initially met with much enthusiasm!

Isle of Wight Vicar in Vote West Wight t0shirt

The whole community got behind the campaign.

However, Clare Griffin and trustees proceeded to persuade members of the community to wear the t-shirts while carrying out their day-to-day jobs. This included the local MP, celebrities (Ellen MacArthur and Rob DaBank), farmers, fishermen, hairdressers, journalists, teachers, skateboarders, swimmers, vets, doctors, the local vicar, firemen and numerous others. Even pets wore the shirts! Photographs of the t-shirts being worn were shared on social media and by the end of the two weeks people began to come into the centre asking to purchase the pink t-shirts and be photographed in them.

Leading the Vote West Wight campaign and getting what seemed like the whole of the Isle of Wight behind us was exciting, fun and very inspiring

Clare Griffin, Centre manager, West Wight Sports and Community Centre

The whole of the Isle of Wight behind us

As part of The People’s projects, Media Trust provides one person per organisation with a full day of media training. The session focused on campaign planning, media interviews, content and key messages. All attendees from the session received a detailed media and campaign training guide to share with their colleagues and volunteers. Clare attended the training session in Southampton with the other four finalists and two reserve finalists.

The media training she received was key and Clare felt it improved her confidence in dealing with the media and managing a high profile, local campaign. Clare says, “Leading the Vote West Wight campaign and getting what seemed like the whole of the Isle of Wight behind us was exciting, fun and very inspiring.” The success of the campaign and training was unprecedented, giving charity staff the confidence to deal with the media.

Nick from the COOK project peeling a potato

The COOK project offers hands-on learning in our busy community cafe.

West Wight went on the win the most votes in the region and as a result was awarded £42,180, which is now being used to develop the COOK Project.

Clare comments: “The People’s Projects experience was tremendously exciting, inspiring and rewarding.

“Put your heart and soul into the project”, she advises others, “and ensure you have something to catch the eye – in our case the pink t-shirts. Dedicate all your energy to [campaigning], and you will be rewarded.”

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