Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Birmingham Skylight arrives

September 30 2010
Crisis aims to replicate its success elsewhere

Skylight, the arts, education, training and employment skills project run by homelessness charity Crisis, has come to Birmingham.

The project's six tutors, along with sessional tutors and volunteers, will run an ambitious range of activities from creative arts, dance and music to basic skills and training. And all for free. Team leader Matthew Green told The Pavement: "Currently, we have no base. We will be delivering these activities from charities, hostels and day centres in the central and south Birmingham area, including St Martin's in the Bullring, SIFA Fireside, St Anne's Hostel, Anawim and Allison House."

Skylight, which has already succeeded in London and Newcastle, emphasises inspiring people, and putting fun and creativity back into their lives. Creative arts and dance tutor Pam said: "We will definitely be doing visual arts, using acrylics, water colours, life drawings and digital photography. We are also going to offer drama and different forms of dance such as street, contemporary and maybe even belly dancing. We are planning vocal and DJ classes, percussion, song writing, producing and rapping sessions. And we'll be visiting different places too, especially with the photography - we won't be stagnating in a classroom." The activities are not set in stone, and all the team is open to suggestions for what else they could do, as long as activities remain within their creative or skills remit.

The programme is for single homeless people or those at risk, with a maximum class size of around 10. It aims to help readers regain confidence, direction and control over their lives. Mr Green said: "Ideally, entry to the classes will be by referral from a key worker. That way we know individuals are getting all the other support they may need and Crisis can help in providing a holistic package. We will be offering accredited and non-accredited sessions." Members will be offered a range of services that includes Smart Skills, a one-to-one self-development programme accredited through City & Guilds; arts and drama; basic skills and employment support. The workshops will run for 10 weeks at a time, four times a year, with breaks at Christmas and Easter, but the training and job advice will be continuous.

William West, who has attended similar activity classes at St Martin's and SIFA Fireside, said: "I think this is a brilliant idea. I know so many people who had a difficult time in school and for various reasons missed out on the basics. I have a friend who is interested in so many different subjects (he has loads of books in his house), but he can't get past the first few lines. Education was a very negative experience for me as well. I was in school from 1963 to 1975, and those who were struggling were just humiliated. English needs to be fun and linked in with drama. That's what gets people motivated."

Lee Harris, who is co-ordinating the partnership between SIFA Fireside and Crisis, said: "This will be of great benefit to our service users, as they will have the opportunity to take part in activities which they would be unable to access elsewhere because of social exclusion and cost. I've always been an advocate of 'meaningful activity' because I've seen individuals achieve extraordinary things and unlock potential they never realised they had before. A further bonus to SIFA Fireside is that because the bWell funding for our activities finishes soon, we will be able to offer replacement and enhanced activities. The funding from bWell was immensely useful, but because of the current Government's policies, we are unable to replace it."

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