Balancing light and shade as a local MP can be a difficult trick. All too often, we focus on what is wrong with Blackpool and Cleveleys. When we do that, it’s easy to be accused of ‘talking the town down’ – a kneejerk response. Only talk about the positive, and you get emails saying “Why aren’t you talking about X or Y”.
Local BBC radio has just spent the best part of a month looking at Blackpool’s public health problems – highly complex, inter-related causation, with no single, obvious solution. People are individuals, and just pulling one lever like Minimum Alcohol Pricing, however desirable some might think it, will never change the world. The solutions that get a front page on the Gazette often aren’t solutions, just statements of intent.
Real change is perhaps far less glamorous, because you have to work at an individual level. And so I make no apologies for devoting a whole email to the work of Aspired Futures, a Blackpool-based charity which deserves a much higher profile in the town than it currently gets. Having attended their market and variety show at Blackpool Sixth Form last night, organised alongside Palatine Rotary, I think they’re on their way to that higher profile. And under the leadership of the impressive Carmen Conquer, I have every confidence they will make it.
Lots of local organisations try to support improved parenting, but none do it quite like Aspired. Aspired Futures works with the children themselves, from whatever age they start with Aspired Futures to adulthood, equipping them with the confidence that they can achieve, no matter what label society has hung around their neck, no matter what challenge life has thrown at them from birth. I’m not going to try to describe who Aspired Futures work with, as that’s imposing labels already – but do go and read about them atwww.aspired-futures.com.
The Variety Show was in the traditional style of all variety shows, and included Steven Hall (Britain’s Got Talent 2012 finalist) who had come all the way from Kendal to perform. Children who have benefitted from Aspired Futures featured heavily, as did many of what I will call ‘Friends of Aspired’. The young lads from Great Arley School in Thornton who did some Indian dancing for us visibly grew a few inches as their confidence improved – they looked amazed and delighted when we all applauded, and it brought a tear to my eye!
But that is precisely what Aspired is about – transcending simple labels like ‘learning difficulties’ to encourage real, meaningful, personal growth. Life is complex, and Aspired Futures helps provide a road-map through it for those who might otherwise struggle to make sense of the world around them.
Other highlights were the St Paul’s Street Dancers (who I fancy might be at the Claremont Gala next Saturday, so I hope to see them again) and Kat’s Kittens (from South Shore) who tango’ed and mambo’ed their way around the stage. It was a true variety show!
One of the key elements of the Aspired programme is getting the children into the Sixth Form so that they feel that is somewhere they too have as much right to aspire to going to as anyone else. It’s worked really well, and I think the students there have benefitted also. Two Blackpool Sixth bands performed last night – the Big Red with their Strokes-inspired performances, and Belvadere who are a folk-inspired, quite eclectic but utterly superb: here they are with their debut single in their back garden on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErDqLztypwo. They did mention they were appearing at the Fylde Folk Festival in Fleetwood at the end of August (www.fylde-folk-festival.com) but check them out – highly impressed.
I could go on, and realise I usually do, but it’s pleasing to be able to increase awareness of a charity which delivers real change, to real people’s lives, and who deserve a great deal more support. For every child that benefits, I am sure there are many more out there who don’t get the help they need. Aspired doesn’t just helicopter in, ‘fix’ the problems, and fly back out – it’s about a commitment to these children that can last a decade or longer. And as I have heard from the young people themselves, it really does change lives, and leaves a legacy of aspiration for all.