We will be taking a break between 22nd December and 4th January.

We hope you have a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year, and we look forward to seeing you in 2015.

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Joy writes…

Last Monday was World Aids Day and, given the rise in the transmission of HIV and aids in Islington, a good opportunity to talk to some of the Urban Hopefuls about how to protect themselves. It’s also really important that we demystify and destigmatise HIV and Aids by giving them accurate information about what living with the virus means.

Creating safe spaces for young people to explore these kinds of issues is something we work hard at. Talking about sex and relationships can be difficult for young people and adults alike so we used a game, our conversations and Sentebale’s #feelnoshame campaign to dispel myths, answer questions and promote safe sexual practices.

There was a bit of nervous laughter and a few groans of disgust at the start, but after a while everyone relaxed and there were sensible questions asked and facts shared. No one was made to feel embarrassed about what they did or didn’t know, and the young people were really engaged in learning about the impact of HIV and Aids around the world.

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Ben writes…

When I was 16 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with myself. But I knew I didn’t want to go to school and that I wanted to earn some money. So, I got a job working in the local cemetery cutting grass and digging graves. It was easy to find work because my Dad knew a bloke who knew a bloke…

A year or so later I got another job working for a glazing firm. Again, my dad called his mate who owned the firm and soon afterwards I got offered a job. It was the same for my brother. This is a small insight into the relative privilege of my upbringing; I had parents who were able to provide me with opportunities through their social network.

Many of us in employment have been given a ‘leg up’ by someone in our network, and we’ve sought to replicate this model of using social capital to access work here at Urban Hope. We have been able to provide opportunities for many young people via our extended network of friends, family, volunteers and their contacts. It’s so rewarding to see young people take advantage of those opportunities to use and develop their skills and gifts in what can seem to be impenetrable professions or workplaces.

But, despite all the benefits, this approach sits uncomfortably with me. It's only necessary because there is a systematic narrowing of opportunity for many of the young people we know here in Islington. Their chances of finding employment are limited precisely because they don’t have a dad who can talk to a couple of people and help them find a job, perhaps because he has struggled to find one himself. So I’m torn between the idealism of seeking structural change and the pragmatic approach that we currently use to fight the corner of the young people we know and help them get jobs.

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Urban Hope always celebrates bonfire night; it’s one of many seasonal markers we use to punctuate our year. We do this because we like fireworks, we like a party, and we like bringing people together to foster a sense of belonging.

But there is a bigger picture too. By working with the rhythms of the calendar, young people are invited to see themselves within a broader social context: their friends, family and immediate community are part of a larger local community that, in turn, contributes to a wider society of dynamic relationships.

Playing a positive role in society is an important part of overall wellbeing, and looking outwards is the first step in that journey.

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What makes you angry?

3 November 2014

Joy writes…

Who do you look up to?

What do you want to be remembered for?

Over the last few years we’ve been working on creating conversation nudges at Urban Hope. These are little prompts to get young people thinking and talking to each other and to the adults at each session.

One of the ways we do this is by writing a quote, a question or a thought on our blackboard and inviting young people to respond. Sometimes in response we get beautiful pieces of art, sometimes we get rude words and sometimes we get responses to the questions asked:


‘My mum – she’s always there’

‘For always being true to myself’

Our blackboard nudges have sparked conversations about online safety, role models and what it means to be a good friend.

So, the blackboard gives young people who might not be comfortable having group discussions the opportunity to express themselves and have their thoughts affirmed, which is a really important part of developing healthy self-esteem.

We’re always looking for interesting things to spark discussions at Urban Hope, so here’s a question for you:

If you could ask a 14-year-old anything, what would you ask?

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Giving back

28 October 2014

One of the things we enjoy most at Urban Hope is watching young people we’ve worked with throughout childhood make really positive contributions to the community as adults. Maddie (pictured above, left) is a terrific example, we first met her when she came here with her friend Louisa (above right) over a decade ago, at the age of 10.

Today, Maddie is a Philosophy student at Kings and runs workshops at the Barbican teaching young people how to do film programming and events management. And just recently she’s found a way to simultaneously reduce food waste and help Urban Hope by encouraging her ex-employer Waitrose to donate unused food to us each week.

Here’s Maddie’s story:

“Louisa and I went along to girls’ club after we got a flyer at school in Year 6. It was just over the road from where we lived. Otherwise I wasn’t doing anything; we just used to play out on the street with people we knew. At Urban Hope we got to meet new people and because it was girls club we didn’t have to worry about yukky boys! We did baking, outdoor stuff, arts and crafts – and sometimes we just used to put music on and dance around.

I’ve been through quite a lot and Urban Hope was the one place I could turn to for help or advice. Or sometimes just a space that I can go, my house can be quite hectic but there I can be separate from all the chaos, no-one minds listening me to moan. I still pop in all the time.

It’s also given me a lot of opportunities. When I’ve wanted to try something Ben or Joy will know someone who I can help. But they’re really good at making me do it myself rather than them sorting it out for me. It’s given me more confidence and made me realise that it’s ok to approach people and ask if you can do stuff with them or if they can help you.

I read a story in the paper about Iceland taking two men to court for getting food from the bins. It really annoyed me because I’d worked at Waitrose while I was doing my A-Levels and I knew how much good food goes in the bin. So I went to Waitrose and suggested we could reduce the food waste by giving some of it to Urban Hope, and its sister project The Manna. And they were happy to do it via a scheme they have called Community Matters. I feel a lot better knowing that the food is going to people that actually need it."

Could you spare an hour now and again on a Wednesday evening to pick up food donations from Waitrose in the Barbican and bring them to Urban Hope where they will be cooked and eaten by young people at our evening drop-ins? Please email hello@urbanhope.co.uk if so.

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You might have noticed that we haven't posted much in the way of news on here lately. It’s been a crazy few months. Summer was a whirlwind of tennis lessons, tie-dying, trips away and whole load of cooking and eating. Sadly we had to say goodbye to two fantastic student youth workers, Spencer and Byron, who completed their placements with us at the end of the summer and are graduating today.

The Autumn term is now in full swing; Monday night drop-ins (for years 9 to 11) are proving especially popular with dozens of young people turning up each week. We've recently finished our series of sessions on knife crime, funded by Let's Get Talking, with a workshop looking at grief and bereavement. As part of the course, we took a group of young people to visit the Ben Kinsella Exhibition, an interactive experience looking at the consequences of knife crime. Given the worrying surge in youth violence in our community over the past year, we’ve really appreciated the opportunity to help the young people who come to Urban Hope explore these issues.

And now, we need your help please. What Urban Hope does couldn’t be done without volunteers – and we need more of you. Volunteering with us doesn’t necessarily have to involve forming meaningful long-term relationships with young people – though we love it when you do that too. But we also need people to collect food donations once a week, to help out in the kitchen or lend a hand at one-off events. You can find out more about what it means to be an Urban Hope volunteer here and if you think you might be able to spare some time to get involved please drop us a line at hello@urbanhope.co.uk.

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Growing up with Urban Hope

15 October 2014

Joel writes…

That’s me aged about five or six on the green at the Almorah Road Community Centre where Ben first started bringing together children and young people to play football and hang out together. So I've been coming to Urban Hope since before it was called Urban Hope, and now I'm doing a placement here as a student youth worker.

As a child, it gave me an opportunity to get out of the house, meet other young kids from the area, develop my love of football, and spend time with people I’d never have known otherwise. It was totally different – and a lot more fun than what was on offer at home. My standout memory is a residential I went on when I was 16. I crawled through cold, wet mud, did zip lining, tight rope walking and much more. It was a completely new experience and got me enjoying the outdoors.

Being part of Urban Hope enabled me to find a voice that was often disregarded and oppressed, especially at home. It gave me a family in a place that felt like a home away from home – somewhere I could just be.

I don’t feel like I ever left Urban Hope; it’s in my heart no matter where I go or what I do. But being a youth worker here now makes me really happy – it is such a massive part of the community. I’m enjoying developing relationships with young people I’ve never spoken to, and learning about social issues that I was unaware of but that are happening on the streets where I live.

I’m looking forward to being a role model to young people who are growing up in the same area as I have and giving them the opportunities that I was offered here. I’d like to be able to pass my passion for sport onto them so they can use it to help them through some of issues they face. I want them to know that there is hope no matter what their social situation is, and that good things come with hard work and determination.

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Joy writes....

I’ve always wanted to be a super hero.

Ever since I was a kid swooping through the air in an amazing costume and mask, saving people and solving every problem presented to me with a well-choreographed action scene has really appealed to me.

Which is kind of how I ended up in youth work.

I went into youth work with the whole-hearted belief that I would change the world. That young people would meet me and I would rescue them from whatever was making them unhappy and then they’d be transformed into wonderful, well adjusted individuals ready to contribute fully to society.

Just like a superhero without the costume or the explosions!

In the years that I’ve been doing youth work I have discovered that I may have been more than a little naïve to start with.

It turns out that no matter how much I wanted to be the superhero youth worker who runs amazing sessions, and changes lives with a single well timed conversation, sometimes, I can’t fix the problem.

Thankfully through studying and experience, I learnt to hang up my cape, roll up my sleeves, and get on with the business of building community with young people, which has turned out to be a much more effective way of doing youth work.

At Urban Hope we’re coming to the end of what has been quite a hard time, and I have been reminded that no matter how super I like to imagine I am, I can’t fix everything.

It has been really difficult to admit that.

However something amazing happened, and all through the hard times we've had the community that we have committed ourselves to, showed it’s commitment right back to us. Young people, parent’s, volunteers and other organisations have been there to help us out and to offer support.

Admitting that I'm not as super as I’d like to imagine I am, gave someone else the chance to be the hero, and reminded me that youth work isn’t about a group of adults ‘rescuing’ young people, but about a community of people belonging to each other.

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we made Spicy Moroccan Chicken with Couscous and chickpeas. A really simple one this week where everything is cooked together, saves on washing up!

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These stunning pizzas weren't cooked in our normal Thursday Cooking session but with our Boy's Club. The one on the left even has a stuffed crust! They tasted as good as they look.

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we took a risk and cooked a vegetarian dish. Halloumi, Roast Vegetables, Tomatoes and Chickpeas and Couscous. We were all surprised that there wasn't too many complainants although that could have been because it was delicious!

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we cooked a Spaghetti Bolognese. This was a firm favourite with the young people but everyone had their own opinion on how it should be had, what should be included and what needed to be left out.

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week as it's Easter we cooked a roast lamb dinner. With roast potatoes and gravy and all the trimmings this was a really special meal that brought the group together

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we made the italian classic Lasagne. This was a real hit with people going back for seconds as well as scraping out the tin!

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we made Honey and Lemon Chicken with Hassleback potatoes. The young people were really impressed with the results of the potatoes, although the aubergine sauce didn't go down too well. We soldier on...

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Joy writes ...

This term Urban Hope Friday evenings have been full of challenges, as our girl’s club works towards earning a weekend in the countryside. Over the last few weeks they have tried brand new foods, eaten bugs and made teddies all in the name of the ‘residential’.

Last weeks challenge was to turn Urban Hope into a restaurant. The girls did themselves proud, putting together a three course Mexican themed meal, decorated the halls, served the food and did (most) of the cleaning up! Their families and friends came and supported them (taking photographic evidence of the girls washing up!) and everyone ate together.

All term the group have been rising to every challenge put in front of them, sometimes with fear, sometimes with resignation but always with determination to succeed, and each success has been celebrated, not only by each other but by their communities. And each successfully completed challenge is confirmation of the fact that with help, they can do things that they never thought they could.

Which is one successfully completed challenge for me!

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Spencer asks ...

“How good are you at Fifa skill games? But not on your console, in real life!?” This is the challenge we have given the young people on the Colville estate.

Every Tuesday and Friday we head down to a football cage in the centre of the Colville estate, Hoxton with our hand made football targets and an open challenge to show how good you are at real life Fifa skill games. If you’re not sure what this is the idea is to hit all four targets setup in the goal in, “This is so easy, watch!”, is often the reply from new challengers. We’ve found it such a good way to break the initial contact barrier with young people we haven’t met before, also it seems to encourage those we already know to brave the cold and come out and kick a ball around.

The football cage is visible from the flats on the estate so some of the young people can look out of their window and see us play. Over the winter period to have a football and hot chocolate wasn’t always enough to bring people out of the homes, however the targets have given us an edge over the cold weather.

Some people say that young people don’t go and outside and play as much as they should these days, why would they with game consoles, Facebook, YouTube etc.Perhaps a challenge for youth workers today (especially those who do detached work) is to find and create different ways to make outdoor play fun, interesting and challenging!

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we made Piri Piri Chicken with Wedges and Coleslaw. Everyone was really happy with how this turned out, especially as there was plenty of chicken to go about.

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100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we made Roast Chicken Pesto Pasta. The young people enjoy shredding up two roast chickens for the meal. One of our serial chicken shop frequenters even put off her visit in order to eat with us.

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Chicken Shop Wars, Round 5

27 February 2014

100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we cooked the classic Chilli Con Carne. Whilst many people tried it there was a general consensus that there wasn't enough chilli! Some people had their first taste of avocado; there were mixed opinions. As ever we strive to bring new experiences to the young people, using food and other means.

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Being positioned around the corner from Essex Road’s busiest chicken shop presents a challenge to us here at Urban Hope.

Not only do we have our wastepaper bins overflowing with fried chicken boxes which housed the post school snack of ‘wings and chips’ but our computer keyboards and furniture is often covered in a film of grease from the multitasking hands of the children and young people who come along to the daily activities here at Urban Hope. These are obviously minor inconveniences and don’t match the concerns we have about young people’s diets which read like the menu of ‘Mississippi Fried Chicken’. Research tells us that the appeal of the 305 fast food outlets in Islington is the price, taste and convenience along with the social dynamic of sharing food with friends.

Whilst Islington council said in 2012 that they will look to “ban the setting up of new fast-food outlets within 200 metres of a primary or secondary school’, there are no similar plans related to youth projects. Here at Urban Hope we have a long tradition of teaching young people to cook nutritious and tasty meals within a tight budget. Some of them have gone on to find careers in the restaurant industry but most are now simply able to tell us about meals they have cooked at home for parents and siblings using skills learned at our cooking sessions. Not only do we cook together but there is an emphasis on sitting down and sharing meals together. It’s often in the context of a shared meal that we are able to provide emotional and other practical support to children and young people. We have found that with the support of local donors we are able to provide young people with meals that rival the appeal of fast food whilst providing a family mealtime feel.

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Chicken Shop Wars, Round 4

20 February 2014

100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

With the great success of the chicken curry a few weeks ago we branched out and cooked a Lamb Pilau. This again went down well with some enjoying the change from chicken. However, even when the young people know what we will be cooking they still visit the Chicken Shop (and have curry later). Our mission continues...

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Chicken Shop Wars, Round 3

14 February 2014

100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week we cooked a North African Chicken Tagine with Couscous. It was another thumbs up, especially for the honeyed crispy skin and the smokey harissa sauce.

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Chicken Shop Wars, Round 2

30 January 2014

100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week a spicy Keralan Curry does battle with the Chicken Shop.

The curry went down very well, as it always does. It brought to the table some of those who don't normally eat with us, which was great. We even had a bowl of chopped chillies for those who want to increase the heat. A few brave people tried them raw; must remember to have yogurt on standby next time!

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Space+place at Urban Hope

30 January 2014

At Urban Hope we're committed to exploring the most relevant ways to connect with and support young people.

On Thursday February 20th we're hosting a seminar led by Bob Mayo, Sam Adofo and Ben Bell, asking how in an increasingly virtual world we connect with young people relevantly.

Click here for more information

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Chicken Shop Wars, Round 1

23 January 2014

100 meters from our front door is the local fried chicken shop. Each week we'll pit our meal cooked by the young people against it.

This week Braised Beef and Garlic Pie, with optional Haggis!

The haggis didn't down too well especially after seeing the ingredients, but the pie was a winner.

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