I know... I’m getting later and later posting these blog entries (that are in my diary to write on the last day of each month!) ‘is that Neil fella slacking?!’ I hear you wonder out loud... ‘Has he become one of those over-promising-under-delivering type? Has he got so much research to do about Arsenal’s new manager that he just can’t be bothered to write a blog entry?!’

Au contraire mes amis... I know all I need to know about Arsenal’s new manager! The truth is ... there is so much going on for BIRD just now that I am struggling to fit it all in!

Suspend your disbelief and let me tell you all about it!

As I may have expounded before, much fundraising (in my admittedly limited experience) is a soul destroying cycle of endless form filling for no money... heh! (I’m dramatising it for literary effect obviously... but not by much!) So as a creative response to this phenomenon and as a way of creating a more proportional correlation between the amount of hours I put in and the amount of money we get back I launched Wingspan Group Ltd. (I mention it in the last blog here) this is very exciting, and of course it is taking up some time and creative energy getting it on its feet but I am genuinely excited about the opportunity it represents for some of our young artists and the revenue it may generate for BIRD’s charitable purpose. 

Venues have been identified for the first Wingspan events - comedy and music; and we are in conversation about a possible venue for the first Wingspan Film event too. Wingspan Comedy have received over 70 comedy Sketches in response to our invitation to submit for consideration. I am very excited to say that Mr Stephen Mawhinney is well and truly on board as Script Editor and curator in chief. Stephen is a brilliant man and has written extensively for Radio. A man who can be entirely relied upon to deliver quality events! So our first Wingspan Comedy show is shaping up. There will be tickets for around 80 people for our first show - so stay alert and get ready to snap them up when they’re announced! 

On top of this I have been over to Sudbury in Suffolk a few times to develop our new partnership with Ormiston Sudbury Academy.  This is exciting for many reasons. It allows us to start delivering BIRD’s songwriting and recording sessions, albeit limited to begin with, outside of London for the first time. There is no less of a need in rural areas for what we do; in fact one could argue there is more of a need, as there is so little for young people to do… and the social and emotional issues for young adults, whilst maybe different to those in the cities, are no less difficult. 

These plans are well advanced and we are hoping to start sessions there before the end of the summer. We are working closely with the academy to identify some young people who will benefit most from working with us and we will get started by running session all day on a Monday which I will deliver.  Ironically this is a space that we could use full-time, such as we are looking for in London, but do not as yet have the capacity that allows us to. The long term plan though is to get funding for a full-time mentor and supplementry volunteer mentors to run sessions all week and to add a commercial element to help fund that. We will be reaching out in the area for volunteer mentors to begin with and will develop it from there so … please step up East Anglia!

This also represents an opportunity for us to trial a model of partnership with educational institutions, that if successful - as I fully expect it to be -  could be replicated elsewhere. So all sort of exciting possibilities there.

On Top of this we are looking to launch our acting stream, at long last! You remember that we were very close to doing so before but had a last minute hitch and didn’t quite get it off the ground. Well we have all we need now to get it going again, and are in conversation with a partner Theatre to use a small space for our purposes. The importance of environment is not to be underestimated I believe. In having our one-to-one acting session at the top of a beautiful theatre (meaning you have to walk through the whole building to get to the space) can have a powerful aspirational and inspirational effect. The example I am fond of using is how I am made to feel every time I walk into the British Library… I immediately feel way smarter… I imagine myself suddenly to be an intellectual, a scholar, an academic and it makes me want to be so… just by dint of being in the environment! Inspirational surroundings are an important consideration in what we are trying to achieve.

Of course we are running an ever increasing number of songwriting and recording session too, through which we are improving and sustaining young people's wellbeing and building important and genuine mentoring relationships. We are running 10-12, 2-3 hour sessions a week now! Oh and I had the small matter (but no small amount of admin) of GDPR to get my head around and sort out too! Phew… 

Well at least all this has given me something to write about and has probably saved you all from a three page lamentation on the departure of Arsène Wenger and then a fickle celebration of an exciting new start for the gunners.

So that’s why I am a day late writing this blog entry… Maybe June will be nice and quiet and i’ll be on time for the next one… I do hope not!

(NB: We are still doing all of this on very meagre resources, if you can help us with a regular donation, however small, it would be hugely appreciated. You can set it up here. Thank you!)

Things you can do if you want to help:

Donate.

Spread the word - Tell your friends about us down the pub, on social media etc (there is superb music to share on our website)

Volunteer - If you have a creative skill that you could see working effectively on a one-to-one basis as way of growing relationship and rapport, we’d love to hear from you.

Fundraise - There is a little known page on our site where you can set yourself up as a fundraiser and do something creative and incredible to raise money for us.

Adopt our 'Lifestyle Giving' options - e.g I watch films online, i just stream them when i want to from Rakuten TV pop and every time I do I make money for BIRD by using Give As You Live - one of a number of clever ways to raise money simply by going about your life. Comparing insurance, doing your groceries, booking holidays, buying just about anything online actually ...