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The Big Issue Changemakers of 2024: Communities

The organisations and groups working to unlock the potential of their communities

George House Trust Beacon of Hope Aids memorial in Sackville Gardens, Manchester. Image: Joel Goodman

Calling out discrimination and campaigning for justice, these Changemakers are fighting the cause for those without a voice within their communities.

Craig Jones – Fighting With Pride

Craig Jones founded Fighting With Pride to support LGBTQ+ veterans who lost so much because of the ban on homosexuality in the military. A former Royal Navy officer, Craig came out to his colleagues on the day the ban on gay people in the armed forces was lifted in 2000. He has spent years fighting for compensation for the veterans who lost their lives, homes and loved ones. 

Craig Jones

What was 2023 like for you?   

“Having won an independent review, Fighting With Pride searched across the UK and found struggling veterans who have for decades believed their cause lost. In their hundreds, they returned to the darkest of their days and gave evidence to review chair, Lord Etherton KC. They told of mental and physical abuse, forced electric shock therapy and prison sentences. 

“As the summer rolled on FWP pushed harder and harder for the review report to be published and finally on 19 July the prime minister apologised. LGBTQ+ veterans in the Strangers Gallery of the House of Commons wept.   

“In the autumn, the government attempted to duck the long-promised post-review debate, but we spotted it and hundreds of our supporters wrote to their MPs. These veterans are war fighters, and their tenacity for the cause of justice has been humbling. Under pressure from scores of MPs, minister Dr Andrew Murrison announced on 13 December that the government would honour its commitment.”   

Why is your work needed?  

“The gay ban was as the prime minister described ‘a stain upon the history of our nation’. In the decades it existed it wrecked lives, tore families apart and ended the careers of thousands. Its impact prevails in the lives of a remarkable group of veterans who deserve to live their lives in the peace and comfort we would wish for all veterans. Sadly far too many experience poor housing and health, are impoverished and feel the enduring shame of prison sentences and being ‘dismissed in disgrace’. Until full reparations are made, this is unfinished business.” 

Trans Secret Santa UK

Jude Guaitamacchi and Nancy Kelley volunteered as elves for Trans Secret Santa

Founded in 2015, Think2Speak is an organisation which supports and empowers LGBTQ+ children, young people and their families by amplifying their voices. In 2023 they launched the inaugural Trans Secret Santa UK initiative, based on a similar project in the US. Raising more than £4,000, the initiative sent out 682 presents to trans youth across the UK in December 2023. Their nominator wrote: “The work of Trans Santa UK is so important in spreading joy at a time when trans youth are being threatened, ostracised and discriminated against in the UK as the government use the trans community to distract from their own mess.”

Find the rest of the Changemakers series on the links below and pick up the magazine from your local Big Issue vendor

London Irish Centre

Nominated by Laura Whitmore, Irish media personality 

The London Irish Centre, based in Camden, strives to enrich lives through Irish community and culture. In 2023 they worked with over 2,000 people and hosted more than 250 social groups. The centre offers hardship funds, hosts a cafe three times a week and has a community fridge that offers free produce and take-home meals on Fridays. Whitmore said: “They do a lot of great work, particularly when it comes to homelessness. They’ve done a lot for Irish people who came over and got stuck here and couldn’t get home or ended up on the streets.”

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George House Trust

Nominated by Russell T Davies, Doctor Who showrunner

George House Trust in Manchester has been providing HIV support, advice and advocacy since 1985. The trust recently partnered with We Are Survivors to create ‘ON IT’, a new website offering advice on sex, chems, HIV and consent. 

George House Trust at Manchester Pride, 2022. Image: Miriam Vaughn

Davies said: “I love them. They’re the North West’s HIV and Aids-supporting charity. I was honoured to become their patron but I’m the laziest patron in the world. I always walk in with my head bowed in shame because I’m too busy and don’t do enough for them. But I’m very proud to represent them in the battle to eradicate HIV by 2030 – which they still talk about as possible. I find that amazing. People think charities like that don’t need money any more, which is a profound mistake. There is new science being explored all the time.” 

Fox Fisher

Fox Fisher is an artist, filmmaker, author and trans campaigner who has been nominated for their “tireless work for trans awareness, film and creative industry”. Since 2011 they have created film content celebrating trans issues and worked on countless awareness-raising campaigns with organisations and companies like Stonewall, Transgender Europe, Durex, London Pride, Bloom and Wild, Nike, Skittles, IKEA, Brighton Pride and the NHS. Their nominators wrote: “Trans people need recognition now more than ever, and people like Fox have fought so hard to eradicate prejudice and discrimination. A lot of their work isn’t seen, yet they work endlessly supporting others.” 

Our Future

Our Future in Grimsby is working to unlock the potential of a place and harness the opportunities of the green revolution. The organisation has worked with the local football club to “harness people’s love of place” and connected a network of local residents who are driving change across the north-east Lincolnshire town. Their nominator wrote: “Our Future does invaluable work in bringing local groups, individuals, politicians and like-minded people together. Increasing links, confidence understanding, and really helping the community in a facilitating, relaxed way.”

Shadwell Fire Survivors

In March 2023, a fire broke out in a flat in Shadwell, East London. It revealed squalid conditions, with up to 21 people living in the tiny flat, and claimed the life of one resident – Mizanur Rahman. After the fire, the remaining tenants – some who had paid £100 a week to live in bunk beds crammed into damp rooms – faced homelessness. But the community rallied and pushed for change in the housing system. The end of the year saw the slum landlords admit guilt, but the long push for justice will continue. 

Cassandra Centre

Nominated by former Changemaker Kwajo Tweneboa

Cassandra Centre provides advice, support and counselling for young people and families who are involved in abusive relationships. Tweneboa said: “The centre is named after a woman who was a victim of DV and was killed by her partner. Her mum, Jennifer McDermott, set up this centre in South London in her name and goes out helping women across London. She also feeds hundreds of vulnerable and elderly people and deals with extremely harrowing cases. This year she lost her workspace as funding dried up, but continued her work and now sets up meetings in libraries and Costco. She’s incredible.” 

Young Changemaker Hannah Walton, 24

Hannah Walton. Image: ©RadmanTV

Walton is the founder of the Lead the Way Youth Summit, a sold-out initiative uniting young Changemakers and professionals in addressing crucial issues affecting future generations. She poured 1,000 hours into organising the event, which led to her multiple Big Issue Changemaker nominations. Her nominator wrote: “Hannah’s journey, fuelled by personal experience and driven by a genuine desire to ensure no young person faces similar barriers, makes her an exemplary candidate for recognition. Her unyielding dedication to uplifting the lives of young people across the UK, coupled with her determination and resilience, embodies the essence of a true Changemaker.” 

Young Changemakers EaCES

EaCES is a national peer-support digital community founded in 2017 to help care experienced, refugee and estranged students in higher education. It’s run by students and recent graduates and offers peer support and advice. The group has created a free-to-access, UCAS-recognised handbook which provides tips and information for students from marginalised backgrounds to access higher and further education. The handbook covers more than 30 topics, ranging from practical tips such as how to apply for scholarships to dealing with estrangement. The organisation also run a pen-pal and festive cards scheme, striving to combat the loneliness often felt by this cohort of students.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.



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