Totally Stoked were pleased to welcome Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to The Dudson Centre on Friday 31 January 2020 to meet the project team and partners from charities and organisations across Stoke-on-Trent.

 She attended The Dudson Centre, in Hope street Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent to specifically visit the Totally Stoked project and to hear how Totally Stoked is committed to helping local communities become more sustainable and make the best use of investment and resources through collaboration and sharing of skills, facilities, resources and simply getting involved in local opportunities.

Totally Stoked enables charities, the voluntary sector and social enterprises to access the support they need to be more resilient, so that they can in turn make a real difference to the lives of local people and the places where they live work, learn and play.

Lisa Healings, VAST, explained to Baroness Barran why Stoke-on-Trent really needs this project to go forward The scheme was granted 12 months initial kick-start funding from the government’s ‘Growing Place Based Giving’ fund at the end of 2018. VAST are now working with the partners to seek future funds to keep the project alive and enable it to meet the outcomes and ambitions that we all believe in. We know from other place-based giving schemes across the UK that it takes at least three years to show a real impact. Our team are committed to making sure this happens because many people of all ages across the city face challenges every day, through living with long-term health issues, coping with poverty and feelings of loneliness and isolation. It’s vital to connect people and community organisations to the resources they need.”.

Totally Stoked provides a mechanism to connect skills, volunteers, equipment facilities, advice and know-how from across the community, along with providing opportunities to network and collaborate with other local organisations and businesses. There are also opportunities for more community partners to get involved and for philanthropists, donors and businesses to offer their sponsorship and donations through fundraising challenges, events and donations.

Deborah Nicklin Strategic Co-ordinator for the project explained “Totally Stoked is in its early days but it is already growing. It’s a partnership of various local organisations who all can see the real benefit of working together as one city. Since Natalie and I started working on the project last July, we’ve been busy bringing new partners on board all the time. Everyone we talk to about the scheme immediately gets why it’s a great idea and wants to get involved. It’s been an exciting project to get started and we’ve had support from CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation in London, to help set the tone and consider how we how we work with our partners, businesses and funders so we can hopefully keep the project moving forward.”

Natalie Shields, the Fundraising Co-ordinator explained how there are many ways for people to get involved and support the project “It’s not just about big businesses and organisations backing the project, we want local residents to get involved too. If you are the type of person who loves a challenge, we’d love to get you signed up for a fun run or a marathon to support Totally Stoked, or what about skydiving! If you’re not so adventurous we’ve got other low-key local events and fundraising opportunities, plus we want people to think about ‘more than money’ because groups need equipment, furniture, skills and volunteers. All those things are part of the jigsaw too and help to make the scheme work.”

During the visit Baroness Barran was able to talk with project partners from three of the local organisations involved; Geoff Beadle the Charities Manager from the Realise Foundation, Kirsty Brazier the Marketing Director at Phoenix Gas Services and Penny Vincent Director from All the Small Things CIC. They all explained why the scheme is so important for the city and why their organisations are committed to increasing social action and supporting local communities.

Kirsty said “As a local company we value the relationships we have with our customers, colleagues and clients and how we connect with our local communities, that’s why we are glad to be part of Totally Stoked – giving back to the community is something we feel really strongly about, because without them we would not be where we are today. It’s our way of saying thank you!”

Geoff from Realise agreed “Putting People First is our philosophy and we want to alleviate poverty through many mechanisms, including working in partnership with Totally Stoked. It’s about putting customers and colleagues at the heart of what we do and listening to their needs. By bringing people together and providing practical help, we can build better futures for people and break down the causes of poverty for generations to come.”

The Totally Stoked scheme will also be promoting events and activities across the city’s six towns which provide networking and training, resource sharing, collaboration and fundraising opportunities.

Penny, from Shelton based All the Small Things CIC, explained how there are obvious links between their 1000 Lives network and Totally Stoked “We already encourage individual residents and small community groups to give and get resources through our local ‘Got It? Want It?’ meetings, so we could see how we align quite naturally with Totally Stoked. We are co-producing a programme of local sharing events over the next few months and an exciting outdoor exchange event in the Spring too which we are also coordinating with the City Council. It’s all quite exciting.”

Lisa Healings Acting Chief Executive of VAST, accompanied by Ian Dudson CBE, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and Chair of Trustees of The Dudson Centre, showed Baroness Barran around the historic site of The Dudson Centre, once a working ceramics pot bank owned by the Dudson family. Ian Dudson CBE, said “We are grateful for the visit to highlight this excellent’ Totally Stoked’ project which I applaud in my role as Lord Lieutenant I am also delighted that it has provided us with the opportunity of highlighting the work of the Dudson Centre through VAST and the development of the museum”

The Dudson Centre is now a thriving community resource housing a unique museum showcasing the Dudson ceramic collection and is home to 15 local charities and social enterprises based on the site – all working hard to support local people across the city.

After speaking with the Totally Stoked team and partners the Minister for Civil Society also had the pleasure of viewing the treasures in Dudson collection and meeting the knowledgeable museum staff. Whilst inside the museum she spent time talking to representatives from two of the organisations based at the centre. Listening to Charlie O’Dell from Dove Services, she heard how the bereavement and counselling charity has been supporting local people through difficult times of grief and loss since 1984, and Carmen Clarke from Khai Tzedek CIC explained how they help refugees and asylum seekers through the challenge of making new homes and forging new lives in the city, often after facing great stress and trauma .

Baroness Barran, Minister for Civil Society, said: “It was a privilege to visit Totally Stoked and see so many dedicated volunteers come together to help benefit people right across the city.

“Having worked in the charity sector, I know how important it is to build connections and help charities share expertise so they can make the biggest impact in their local communities. I will watch with keen interest how Totally Stoked continues to grow.”

Totally Stoked is a brand-new programme for the city filled with events and opportunities to get involved and make a difference. You can find out more about all the partners involved, how your organisation can get support and how you can get involved at www.totallystoked.vast.org.uk

The website will go live on Tuesday 4th February 2020.

For telephone enquiries: 01782 683030

Email enquiries: hello@totallystoked.org.uk