How a Charity Meetup inspired a Photo Story

Rob Vincent tells the beginnings of the photo story he is creating with us ...

A meeting in a ‘Glass House’

I’m standing in the middle of Kings Cross looking at the most amazing view - cranes, buildings and a swimming pool in the form of a natural bathing pond, surrounded by lush bee friendly vegetation. Kings Cross is going through a rebirth. Everything is changing. And right in front of me are my kids - having a great time as guests of the educational charity Global Generation and the Family Saturdays they run at the amazing Skip Garden. The charity encourages a sense of community in urban areas. It gives young people social, emotional and practical skills and supports them to see and experience the world in a more connected way. I’m here to talk with Jane Riddiford, founder of the charity, and three of the young people who have benefited from its focus. We’re meeting in the extraordinary ‘Glass House’, which lies at one end of the garden. With exterior walls made from recycled sash windows, this is a light filled, award winning, two floor building, designed by students from the Bartlett School of architecture. Over coffee we discuss how a photo story can work to get the charities message out there.

Great ideas from a get together

My journey began at a recent Charity Meetup. Run by the irrepressible Dawn Newton the Meetup is a convivial get together of people either working in or drawn to the charity sector. I was particularly interested in the evening’s central theme: The Future of Fundraising. I was aware of the government’s misguided legislation that effectively gags charities and limits their ability to influence legislation and opinion within parliament. Sir Stuart Etherington has criticised this ‘anti lobbying’ manoeuvre as ‘tantamount to making charities take a vow of silence’. At the same time I’d become conscious of a growing number of charities knocking at my door. Not so long ago, I found myself in conversation with a representative from a deaf organisation. After about 3 minutes I felt I was just being sold to. My daughter is severely deaf, so if I’m shutting down the conversation what hope is there?!

Squeezed at both ends what can charities do? Like other Meetups the evening I attended was a mix of networking and presentations with the opportunity to brainstorm and workshop. I came away with a wealth of valuable insights and ideas. I remember being struck by something one of the attendees said – that video can be a great fundraising tool, and that one such film had raised ten times the amount it had cost to make. This didn’t surprise me. People, on the whole, don’t respond well to information or statistics. It’s stories and the human angle that moves them. Video is what I do. Videos that help an organisation connect with new audiences, that raise awareness and change attitudes. The session, though, had got me thinking about other ways you can tell a story. Fired up by the melting pot of ideas, I began to think about the power of a simple photo story about a charity I’d come across by chance, when looking for a swimming pool in Kings Cross - The Skip Garden run by Global Generation. 

A Family Saturday

So here I am standing in the ‘Glasshouse’ with Claire – my professional partner and a great photographer - to find out more from some of the people who are central to the Global Generation story. An initial discussion is always important. It’s an opportunity to explore the target audience, the viewing context, the key messages and what makes an organisation tick. From here you can zero in on an idea that works. From the meeting we feel it would be great to ‘ground’ the story in real experiences: what happens on a day to day basis, the hands on, human details that make the Skip Garden so special. Consequently we decide to tell our story through the eyes of the young people who are so keenly involved.  

We’re holding our discussion just before a Family Saturday. So we’ve brought the kids along. They’ve sat patiently through all the chitchat but when the fun starts they throw themselves into the mix. Going downstairs they join about fifteen other children in one of the ground level studios. Sitting in a circle, they welcome each other, talk, listen and plan the next couple of hours alongside Emma, one of the young people who will feature in our photo story later on. Emma is excellent at devising activities that children love and that are all about discovering and exploring. The mood is respectful and attentive. The activities make the most of the gardens self contained, yet diverse, outdoor areas - an idiosyncratic and fun environment full of flowers, fruits, vegetables, a chicken house, a stone oven and more! The morning is exciting, informative, inclusive, imaginative and practical. At various moments the kids are making lavender bags, learning about the abundant plant life, making pictures out of seeds, pebbles and paint or taking cuttings and rehousing them in pots they’ve turned into mini greenhouses.

Global Generation takes very seriously the need to celebrate and care for the planet. One manifestation of this is the importance they place on growing and eating food together. It was great, therefore, to see the kids make their own granola bars with dates, walnuts, raisins, cheese and butter. Throughout the morning I walk around the garden with Jane and my daughter who loves the colours of the flowers and the craziness of the chickens. We nab a couple of eggs while the birds hop around. They used to run free but with foxes on the rise throughout central London Jane felt it best to keep them safe in their attractive star shaped enclosure. After what seems like 30 minutes rather than two hours the session closes with the children gathered again in the studio to talk about their experiences.

Our Photo story …

After that Saturday, and with a plan in place, I’m thrilled to say our photo story is happening. Our contributors are telling us some great anecdotes and we’re getting some wonderful stills from this marvellous location. Soon we’ll begin the process of compiling the stories and the pictures we’ve captured into a narrative that I hope will do justice to the people close to this amazing charity. Versions of this will go out via their website, email, instagram and twitter.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to the next Charity Meetup, having a chat with the great people there and coming away with more fantastic ideas.

Rob Vincent

I’m an award winning creative and strategic thinker and founder of Popla Media. At Popla we make films, take photographs and tell stories. We work for creative companies, charities and clients in the public sector. We are particularly interested in working with people who are creating an impact in the public sphere, who aim to make a difference to people’s lives, who want to be a force for good. We are idea generators, delivering effective solutions that are creative, engaging and insightful.