Carl Adams founded Primal Roots – a mindful gym based in the Kent woodlands – with the help of fitness professionals Steve Denby, Liu Batchelor, Giles Seaford and Richard Barnard. Several of the team had experienced either addiction or homelessness and while their big moneymaker is personal training and corporate away-days, their sessions are free to anyone who has experienced the same adversity as they have; the belief is that a connection with nature will improve people’s health and wellbeing. Their sessions are designed to help people experiencing mental or social challenges – a recent Japanese study found levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop significantly after just 30 minutes’ immersion in woodland – and lift them out of their present situation.
From small acorns, they say, mighty oak trees grow, which brings to mind the journey of Big Issue Invest-backed drug and alcohol charity WDP. The organisation began life as a tiny community centre in Westminster and has become one of the biggest operators in their field, delivering a host of services for local authorities. Yet what secures WDP’s place in this list is their relatively recent innovation in the field of personal banking. Launched in April 2017, the group’s Capital Card rewards users with points to spend on the everyday luxuries that someone with an addiction might miss out on – toiletries, cinema, restaurants – every time they attend recovery. It is now used in nine London boroughs and in Cheshire West and Chester, benefiting around 5,400 service users. “That’s the crux of the Capital Card,” says Manish Nanda, joint chief executive officer at WDP. “To give people an opportunity to experience things we take for granted or they may have lost a connection with.”
When Scott Hutchison, frontman of the band Frightened Rabbit, died by suicide in 2018 his family turned their grief into a charity to fight for the mental health support Scottish youngsters need. Tiny Changes launched in May last year, and at the time of publishing had raised more than £300,000 – through everything from fundraising gigs to sales of fanmade jewellery to a Chewbacca mask worn by Lewis Capaldi at the TRNSMT festival, which was then auctioned. Hutchison’s tragic death galvanised thousands of people around the world to demand better for the generations to come, and the Tiny Changes trustees – Scott’s brother and Frightened Rabbit drummer Grant, brother Neil and mum Marion – are gearing up to get to work in 2020.
The Big Issue: How do you feel about the huge public support for the charity?
Grant Hutchison: At the moment people are still responding because of Scott and the band. He and his art had such an impact on people’s lives, they want to give back to that. We’re glad that we’ve given people an opportunity to do that, but what we really want going forward is for people to want to donate because of the work that we do, like any charity. Scott’s legacy will always be at the heart of Tiny Changes though.
What are your goals for the charity?
One advantage is that we already have a voice and a platform that other charities would have to fight for. We want to use that voice to represent young people and children who might be suffering, or to prevent them suffering mental illness. And we want to use that voice to get to policymakers. They need to be told that this isn’t OK.
How will you move the charity forward in 2020?
We’re going launch a small grant application scheme. We’re interested in hearing from anyone who has a solution to the problem of poor mental health in young folk. It’ll be in keeping with the whole ethos of ‘tiny changes’ – what we want is for people to make changes in their own communities that collectively will mean a bigger shift. We’re not mental health experts. We have personal experience but the main thing we want to do is listen. Find out what people need, what they want, and help make it happen.
Playlist For Life
If you’ve read broadcaster Sally Magnusson’s best-selling memoir Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything, written after the death of her beloved mother Mamie in 2012, you’ll be aware of the unique kind of suffering that goes hand-in-hand with watching a person you love slip away. During the course of Magnusson’s research she learned that despite the power of personal music being a recognised phenomenon backed up by decades of research, nothing much had been done with this information. Setting out to rectify this, Magnusson founded Playlist for Life in 2013 with the aim of sharing the power of personal playlists – all the tunes that are meaningful to an individual gathered together to create ‘the soundtrack to their life’. This can foster connections and spark seemingly defunct memories.
Mental health nurse Lynn Warren began shaping the idea that would become Better:Gen when she was 40 after giving birth to her fourth child. She wanted to get fit, but was also interested in the community and companionship that can come from a dedicated exercise regime. Warren realised that this could be especially beneficial to older people, often at risk of isolation and who can have difficulty accessing health care. Warren’s belief is that health and wellness should be a basic right, and it’s this philosophy that helped round out the organisation, which offers health packages, group fitness classes and personal training. It’s now also backed by our investment arm Big Issue Invest.
St Helena Hospice
This north Essex-based hospice specialises in helping adults facing incurable illness and bereavement, subsequently supporting their friends, family and carers to cope with life’s most difficult, complex and emotionally exhausting moments. In recent times St Helena has won acclaim for its work helping children understand bereavement while – with support from Big Issue Invest – their commitment to end-of-life dignity and choice has seen them excel in their goals to be there for patients every step of the way.
UK charity SpecialEffect spent 2019 pushing accessibility in video games forward.They travel to homes across the UK to assess needs and create bespoke and often elaborate contraptions to overcome mobility issue and obstacles that prevent people from playing. They are also driving forward accessibility options in games themselves and kicked off 2019 by showcasing their work with Microsoft on a new customisable controller on one of the biggest stages of all, a SuperBowl half-time advert. The new gaming consoles are set to be released this year.
Darran Martin, Homeless Rugby
In 2019, we saw the transformative power of sport when the Homeless World Cup came to Cardiff. Charity worker Darran Martin was inspired by the football tournament when he launched Homeless Rugby in 2013. Since then, Martin has spearheaded the creation of the Homeless Rugby International Cup, with teams from England, Scotland and Wales going head-to-head in touch rugby. Professional Premiership outfit Worcester Warriors, teaming up with the local YMCA, run a dedicated homeless rugby programme that forms the England team while Wales have a similar set-up with Newport Dragons Phoenix. In Scotland, Big Issue Invest-backed School of Hard Knocks are the driving force with their programmes in Glasgow.
Football Beyond Borders
Rapidly growing education charity Football Beyond Borders’ goal is to harness the beautiful game’s power to reach disillusioned kids to stem the tide of school exclusions. Former Chelsea and Gillingham youth player Jasper Kain – who launched FBB with pals while at the University of London – tells The Big Issue how connecting kids with football’s biggest stars can help youngsters kick on in life.
The Big Issue: What makes football so unique and useful for this?
Jasper Kain: Society is crying out for positive role models. Footballers definitely play that role in society and we have been able to be a bridge to connect them with kids – I think that’s really important. There is something really aspirational about being a footballer and the idea that you can better yourself.
What’s 2020 all about for FBB?
We are developing our model of using football as therapy. We’ll also be releasing a publication and holding a roundtable on school exclusions. We want kids who have been excluded to give recommendations to government on how we can create a more inclusive education system. I believe that as a society we have to start from a position of understanding, not blaming.
David Duke MBE, Street Soccer Scotland
Street Soccer Scotland (SSS) celebrated their 10th anniversary in style in 2019. David Duke and co marked a decade of harnessing football’s power to help homeless people in Scotland transform their lives with a special 24-team Summer Festival celebration at Livingston’s Tony Macaroni Stadium. Next up their men’s side headed to the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff before their women’s side jetted off to India for a life-changing friendship tour with counterparts Slum Soccer. Football provides the framework for SSS to give socially excluded people who are homeless or battling addiction the vital opportunity to make positive change and reach their goals. Duke is the driving force behind it all and, as the social enterprise enters its second decade, he will again be leading the side to Tampere in Finland for the 2020 Homeless World Cup.
The Change Foundation
There was a rugby tournament in Tokyo back in October worth shouting about, but it wasn’t the one you were thinking of. The British Visually Impaired (VI) rugby team were in town for a three-test series against rivals from Japan and New Zealand, and it’s not the only sport where Change Foundation have had an impact – they’re also behind the England Blind Cricket team. Sport is the vehicle that The Change Foundation use to make change for so many young people, such as using cricket to provide a safe space for refugees or rugby to develop leadership skills. Help is also on offer on the dance floor too, with dance used to help young women with disabilities set life goals as well asproviding care-leavers with support to transition into work, training or education.
When most people think about the Big Issue, they think of vendors selling the Big Issue magazines on the streets – and we are immensely proud of this. In 2022 alone, we worked with 10% more vendors and these vendors earned £3.76 million in collective income. There is much more to the work we do at the Big Issue Group, our mission is to create innovative solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunity for the 14million people in the UK living in poverty.