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The Big Issue Changemakers of 2024: Sports, culture and fashion

The groups and individuals changing society through sport and the creative arts

Activities like sport and the creative arts can help disadvantaged or marginalised people find their direction in life, build confidence and acquire new skills. These are the Changemakers helping them to do just that.

CathARTic

Maria Todesco and Nicky Day are the co-founders of CathARTic, a creative arts organisation based in Watford, Hertfordshire, that offers hands-on activities designed to be accessible to everyone. The duo lead art workshops for a variety of vulnerable groups, from those with early-onset dementia to bereavement groups for children, and for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. CathARTic is supported by Big Issue Invest and strives to provide vibrant, innovative classes, improving the quality of life for all involved.  

Maria Todesco and Nicky Day

What was 2023 like for CathARTic? Any highlights? 

“It was a busy year of growth for CathARTic. A particular highlight has been our move to a vibrant, exciting and homely workshop space, which has seen our support reach nearly double within the first six months of moving. We now have over 400 people we work with, from 18 months to 102 years young, who are participating in creative arts workshops, catered to their needs, interests and abilities.”  

Why is your work needed? 

“Every human being, from young children to the elderly, need to feel a sense of belonging, to be a part of a community. We feel the formula of making something accessible – in our case creative art, where anyone, no matter their age, ability or needs, can always achieve while being in a friendly, warm and fun environment – are the magic ingredients in boosting self-esteem and improving wellbeing.” 

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How does it feel to be a Big Issue Changemaker? 

“Quite honestly, absolutely extraordinary. We feel really privileged to come to work every day and provide the services we do, so to have been nominated and selected for such an accolade is hard for us to comprehend. We are truly blown away and want to thank everyone for this opportunity!”

Huda Jawad

Huda Jawad is one-third of the Three Hijabis, three British Muslim women who have been integral to the campaign to take on football’s racism problem. In 2022 the campaign was listed on the Big Issue’s Changemakers top 100 list of the same year. As well as the Three Hijabis, Huda is a founding member of the Anti-Racism Working Group and Co-founder of the Faith and VAWG Coalition. Her nominator wrote: “This year has seen an explosion in antisemitic and Islamophobic abuse – both online and in person – with bad-faith actors using international affairs as a pretext to spread racist hate towards minorities. Britain is in desperate need of voices, like Huda’s, who can cut through this hate, bring communities together, and begin the work of helping people to see they have more in common than what divides them – and the work of the Three Hijabis, operating in a space which is white and male-dominated, is crucial to that.”

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

Andy Gray of Junior Open Mic 

Andy Gray and young artist Dmytro from Ukraine

Gray is the founder of Junior Open Mic, a free monthly event for children who want to play music in Herne Hill, South London. Some children have travelled from as far as Cumbria and Norfolk to join in. Alongside Junior Open Mic he now also runs On The Road concerts and gigs, and works to secure free instruments, discounted venues and free kit to include children who might struggle to afford it. Gray’s nominator wrote: “In a world where music in schools is under threat due to cuts, Andy’s tireless work is an unparalleled opportunity for young musicians to learn about performance, confidence and collaboration. Alumni have gone on to win awards, and one band have supported Blondie and The Libertines. Andy is living proof that if you build it, they will come.” 

Alpine Run Project

John McAvoy was one of Britain’s most wanted criminals. Now he’s a Nike-sponsored athlete changing the lives of young people. The convicted robber turned ironman leads the Alpine Run Project, which this year trained 12 young people to run the world’s most high-profile trail running event, the 15km race at UTMB Mont-Blanc. After conquering the UTMB, the group took on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge in under 24 hours, and there are plans for more races in 2024. McAvoy wants the Alpine Run Project to reach 100,000 young people through the sport of trail running by 2027, because he knows that the power of sport can change lives, just like it changed his. 

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Auro Foxcroft of Village Underground

Foxcroft leads the social enterprise Village Underground. Over the last 12 months, Village Underground has established and operated a studio exclusively for the use of young people to learn skills and vocational training through music. It  is so successful that up to 50 young people use the studio a week and all receive training and experience that would be unavailable otherwise. Supported by Big Issue Invest, Village Underground was described by their nominator as “a rare example of a small business enabling investment and time to be put into improving prospects for young people”. 

Kit Klub Wales

Nominated by Gareth Thomas, rugby legend and HIV campaigner

Thomas told us: “Kit Klub supplies young sports teams who can’t afford their own kit. It’s run by Trade Centre Wales, which is a car sales place. And it is vital because what people don’t understand about sports is that when people have the kit, it gives them an identity, a purpose. If you’re all in uniform and have the same kit, it removes the separation between privileged and non-privileged. Nobody’s better off than anybody else. Sport can be a great thing to bridge that gap and to give kids the ability to feel they belong and are on a level playing field.”

Charity Super.Mkt

Charity Super.Mkt is Britain’s first mega charity shop. Since it opened its doors in January 2023, it has prevented an estimated 341,994kg of textile waste from going to landfills, diverted 3,077.95 tonnes of CO2 and saved an estimated 547,190.4 cubic meters of water. The mega charity shop has had pop-up stores in Reading, Glasgow, Bluewater, Oxford, Bristol, Edinburgh, Media City Salford and Westfield White City London. After their first store opened last year, CEO Maria Chenoweth told Big Issue: “We have created a new business model where people are collaborating as opposed to competing. That is just my dream come true.”

Laura Brewis

Brewis runs We Make Culture CIC, and its Young Musicians Project, a space for young people to share musical ideas. The sessions enable 60 people under the age of 20 to have free access to professional standard instruments, a recording studio and support from professional musicians. Her nominator said: “The Young Musicians Project is a place for kids who don’t fit in at school to feel a sense of togetherness and safety with other young people. Being different in Sunderland is no easy ride. Laura encourages everyone to be themselves and be proud of themselves, using music as a form of expression.” 

The Roundhouse

Nominated by Lindsay Duncan, actor

Music project at The Roundhouse. Image: Lou Ellis

As well as being a world-renowned concert venue, The Roundhouse in North London also empowers young creatives between 13 and 30 years old to break into the arts. It offers state-of-the-art studios for musicians, filmmakers, podcasters and performers. 

The Roundhouse. Image: Ellie Pinney

Duncan said: “The work that The Roundhouse does with young people is fantastic. It gives people access to wonderful facilities to explore music, broadcasting and acting. It’s not easy being young. The challenges come at you thick and fast and your circumstances may mean you aren’t able to access creativity. It’s been proved that anything creative can be enormously healing; it produces growth of a person like nothing else. It’s about being with other people and being supported. Schools are under such enormous pressure and they don’t have the resources, so The Roundhouse is providing a beautiful, exciting, iconic space to give young people experiences that will broaden them as people and give them a sense of themselves.” 

Louise Cooke

Louise Cooke

Cooke has tirelessly agitated for change in the way so-called fashion industry ‘waste’ is dealt with in the UK. Instead, she argues, it should be made available to the 5.5 million UK adults who can’t afford the cost of clothing for themselves or their families. Since the organisation she founded and leads, Sharewear, was recognised by Big Issue as a Top 100 Changemaker in 2020, Cooke has taken her activism to the next level by co-founding the Right to Clothing Campaign, which aims to inform government policy on clothing waste and to result in an eventual change in the law. It argues that no one in Britain should ever have nothing to wear due to a lack of funds, while brands and retailers continue to dump or incinerate unsold stock. The campaign has connected over 50 charities, clothing banks, campaigns, unions and organisations who are supporting individuals to access clothing. 

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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