Brixton’s Raw Material wins £10k boost for its work

two women at award presentation
Rachel Nelken (right) with Jacqui Dyer

Rachel Nelken, chief executive of Brixton based Raw Material Music and Media Education, last night (2 March) won £10,000 to advance its work.

Based in Robsart Street off Brixton Road, Raw Material is a community arts and creative enterprise.

Since its foundation in 1991, it has supported thousands of young people and adults to create, produce and perform new music. It moved to Brixton after a few years in King’s Cross.

Its purpose-built three-storey building has two recording studios, a computer suite, DJ, music and video production equipment and a live room for performance, workshops and ensemble work.

informal education session
Learning sesión at Raw Material

The award came from a scheme in which people from 10 local organisations took part in a seven-month leadership programme run by Future Connected.

They were asked to develop three-year business plans to build their organisations’ resilience and strategic planning. 

After being presented with the award by Jacqui Dyer, Lambeth council deputy leader and cabinet member for inclusive economy and equalities, Rachel Nelken thanked the council. Its economic resilience fund paid for the scheme.

“For all of us as small charities and grassroots organisations, to be able to take part in a leadership programme at this level is something that we could normally only dream of and certainly not afford,” Nelken said.

“So we really feel the investment and we’re really going to take everything that we’ve learned and use it.

“I also want to say that everyone we were exposed to on this programme and heard from was inspirational, but, actually, the most inspirational people were the people in this cohort and on this award.”

two women at award presentation
Jacqui Dyer listens as Rachel Nelken welcomes the award

She said in the current difficult economic climate “we are all up against it, but optimism was a pervading theme across this programme.”

It had been “a brilliant opportunity to take time out to think deeply about what we do and why we do it, whilst building relationships with a fantastic network of organisational leaders with whom I share both a community and core values.”

All the participating organisations received £1,000 from the scheme which is already preparing for a new round of training.

man speaking
The 10 scheme fellows were introduced by Donatus Anyanwu, Lambeth council cabinet member for stronger communities, leisure and sport

Announcing the winner, Jacqui Dyer said the judges had been “deeply impressed” by all the business plans produced. Raw Materials’ “showed strong diversification of income and a clear growth strategy and impact and goals”.

The 10 organisations were asked to develop business plans that were examined by a panel of experts who decided which organisation would win the £10,000 to make its plans a reality.

 “We created Future Connected to bring together cultural leaders from across the sector to develop skills, build connections locally, nationally, and internationally, to make a collective contribution to the vibrancy of our communities.” said Future Connected co-directors Louise McKinney and Rebecca King Lassman and programme co-ordinator Renée Trumpet.

“We could not have hoped for a more dynamic cohort of Fellows, generous collaborator in the London Borough of Lambeth and utterly inspirational guest speakers, hosts and judges.”

The programme comprised nine day-long sessions at major arts venues including The National Theatre, Southbank Centre and Garden Museum. Each featured “Inspirational Interviews and Lunch With …” where Fellows could collaborate and connect with acclaimed l cultural leaders.

The award ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall was introduced by Southbank Centre artistic director Mark Ball.

man speaking at lectern
Abstract Benna

A new work, A Manifesto for Optimism, by Abstract Benna, the Poet Laureate for Lambeth, commissioned by Future Connected, premiered at the ceremony.

A second intake of Future Connected Fellows will be named later this year. 

Future Connected is a collaboration between Arts Ideas Realised, Act IV and Lambeth council through its economic resilience fund.

The other Future Connected fellows were:

Lisa Anderson, managing director, Black Cultural Archives

Binki Taylor, Brixton Project

Laura Hensser, managing director, Gasworks

Victoria Ijeh, CEO, Iconic Steps

Tori Sherwin, development manager, Myatt’s Fields Park

Jahmar Bennett, executive producer, Neon Performing Arts

Marie McCarthy, artistic director, Omnibus Theatre

Marsha Lowe, co-director, Oxygen Arts

Sophya Bonsu, development manager, Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre.

man performing on stage
Performers at Raw Material
woman performing on stage

Tori Sherwin said: “The programme has helped me connect to other leaders, which lays the foundations for future collaboration.

“It’s given us access to influential and leading people in the creative world which hopefully will provide avenues for collaborative working that will benefit Lambeth people …The course has taught me new skills, raised my confidence, taken me out of my comfort zone, given me inspiration and helped me feel that Myatt’s Fields Park and myself are valued.”

Binki Taylor said Lambeth’s diverse community of cultural organisations is the backbone the borough’s rich cultural identity.

“The Future Connected programme delivers essential leadership training to the heart of the network, building resilience, and definition of purpose through the process of collaborative learning.

“Our Inspirational Interviews and Lunches With … have connected us to a breadth of experience and brilliant people that have inspired and enlightened us with a nuanced mix of rigour, passion, warmth and vulnerability.

“As the result, each session has delivered a unique blend of learning; from structure, process and content to the personal attributes that develop the leader within.

“Future Connected is an essential pathway for developing the people and organisations that nurture culture and creativity at the heart of community.”