Four years ago I was a drummer in the opening ceremony of the Olympics here in London. I spent nearly three months outdoors at rehearsals, and a lot of time thinking about social action.
Then when I took my niece (and later five nieces) to a festival I came to a realisation. I love camping with kids.
I love helping other people go camping.
No one I could find takes families for their first camping experiences. Lots of youth organisations would like to go camping, but space and money for kit is in short supply.
Could I help?
That was the germ of the idea. I then spent two years asking parents what stopped them going camping.
No car, no space, don't know how to camp with kids were the responses.
All parents. Parents from Turkish and Somali families, parents from Hackney. Upper middle class media families. Youth worker families. Single parents, two dads, two mums. two point four kids.
There was a good proportion of every demographic that
- wanted to go camping; but
- couldn't for some reason.
Obviously quite a lot that didn't want to go at all, and some who go lots already. But a sizeable chunk who want to go, but something stops them.
I also talked to local youth and play organisations. Not my major focus, but an important one never-the-less.
No kit, no space for kit.
I set out to be their solution...
After 20 years of being dependent on grants and public sector vagaries I wanted to do things differently, so I started on the social enterprise route.
I rented them out at Wilderness, Exhale Festival and to folks around Hackney for weekends. And I have lovely sponsors without whom it wouldn't be possible... Huge thanks here to Vango, and in particular Blacks of Greenock the folks behind Force Ten Tents, who have helped me to get the new Force Tens to replace my lovely but old Merdina Conquests. Big thanks too to Storm Care makers of great waterproofing products, who took away all my gorgeous Merdina Conquests and (with the help of an amazing scout troop!) reproofed them ready for this summer!
And finally to the School for Social Entrepreneurs, who not only gave me a grant, but also advice and support as they believed this crazy idea for a social enterprise just might work...
I should also give a thank you to Unilever's Dirt is Good team and Project Dirt, as getting involved with Outdoor Classroom Day has quite simply made my social enterprise work. And I love working with them making the outdoors easy for schools!
Maybe some of those who go out on outdoor classroom day will want to go camping later...