Podcast Episode: Include Me 2 Club
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
PM - Paul McIlvenny
On this podcast, you will hear me in conversation with Paul McIlvenny. Paul McIlvenny is the chairperson of Include Me 2. Now, Include Me 2 is a small voluntary led charity working with children, young people and adults with additional support needs and disabilities.
MM So, why did you set up Include Me 2 in the first place?
PM Include Me 2 Club kind of came about, Michael, because both my wife and I worked in the social care field and the community development field and Ashley used to come home at night complaining all the time about how there was a lack of opportunities for the people that she supported, that she had to drive from one end of Glasgow to the other end of Glasgow, by the time she got there it was time to get your jacket off, have a quick drink, have a quick dance, get your jacket on and head home due to traffic and stuff. So, there wasn’t really quality opportunities out there, there was a lot of travelling and nothing was local. There was a distinct lack of opportunities, if I look back and laugh about it now, I kind of challenged her a few times and said, “Oh, stop moaning about it and do something about it.” You know, I’m quite an activist myself so, I thought, you know if there’s something wrong, fix it and how can we fix it and what does that look like and very quickly some conversations took place with family, friends, with people we all supported and we all worked with and the idea of Include Me 2 Club was born. The name, what I’d done, what it does all came from the members and at that time, they weren’t members, it wasn’t even a thing at that point, it was just an idea but very quickly the pace picked up and the momentum gathered and people rallied round which was, you know, told us there was an absolute need for this and we formed a constitution, we got a constitution together in the August of 2009, got that signed, sealed off and then started planning and started really kind of consulting with the guys who showed some interest in it and I’ve spoke to them about what did Include Me 2 Club look like? What did it do for them? What did they need it to do for them? And very quickly we found a venue, we started recruiting volunteers and started putting out some kind of flyers and marketing materials, just to raise some interest about it as well.
MM So, you kind of touched upon it there Paul, but what is the aim of the Include Me 2 Club?
PM Increasingly over the years, when we first started up we primarily focused on adults with additional support needs and disabilities of any kind both physical, learning disabilities, mental health conditions but over the years, I think, due to demand and due to the needs in the communities in which we work there’s been an increasing range of requests and wants and needs evolving. So, we now work with children, young people, and adults and families as units with any type of support needs. There could be a physical disability, a learning disability, a mental health condition, it now ranges into loneliness and isolation because we firmly believe that it’s not about the cure, it’s more about well actually if we can engage people in a meaningful way, and actually have them feel part of, you know, not just the club, but about their communities and their social groups and their local communities, is really, really important. It’s one of our core values as an organisation, is that it is local, that people get to meet people from their local communities that if they come one night a week or more then they will see those other people that they’ve met at club other nights in other places and actually feel part or feel that you can just stop in the street and have a conversation, which is really important, not everyone has that opportunity so, we want to try and create that and make sure that when people see each other, there’s some acknowledgement and some sort of connection made as well, hence the name Club. And that’s quite important, I think, we kind of made the work Club, instead of just Include Me 2, Include Me 2 Club, because we value people equally which meant being a member, everyone’s valued equally and everyone’s on the same level and actually t be a club, you know, people want to be part of a club, you’re a member, you’re in, you’re part of it. And it’s free to become a member so, there’s no barriers to being a member, so, we’ve made sure that anyone who wants to be part of Include Me 2, well it’s in the name, if you want to be included, you can.
MM So, over the ten years, cos this is your ten-year anniversary: we’ll speak about that in a bit but over time that you run different clubs so, give us an overview of the kind of clubs that you run?
PM Yeah, so as I said, it’s ever evolving which is amazing cos it shows both the need and demand for things but also the strength of the organisation and its volunteer team to be able to deliver on that as well. So, I suppose I’ll start and work my way …
MM Uh huh.
PM … through from Monday through to Sunday …
PM … do a full week programme and it’s the Blue Peter moment, this is one I produced earlier, we do that. So, on a Monday, we deliver a service for children and families which is for 0 to 12 years, that’s based in the Dalmeny Centre in Barrhead, and that’s a kind of family-based club, that’s on Mondays, every Monday from six o’clock to eight o’clock. On a Monday evening, we have a teenage service which is called Annie Pals and that’s a group with, we’ve been working with in partnership over the last couple of years that we’ve inherited, we’ve stepped up to take on with their volunteer team stepping down, and that runs on a Monday evening, again, between half seven and half nine usually for that kind of two hour slot, that is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, we’ve got a wee issue with its venue but we’re hoping that that will be resolved fairly quickly and soon. On a Monday evening over in Denniston, so, we go beyond the realms of a few borders …
PM … on a Monday evening, over in Denniston, we have our Mega Monday’s Club which is for adults aged 18 plus and that’s between six and nine, over in Denniston. On a Tuesday, we have our adult social club here, over up in Neilston, so, it’s in the Travellers Rest in Neilston between six and nine on a Tuesday evening. On a Wednesday evening, we have our Wednesday night live club which is in the Glen Halls in Neilston, also, again between six and nine. Once a month we work in partnership with some really good partners across, make some of these services happen also, and we work with Dates n Mates and C-Change Scotland, partnering up with Stay Up Late Scotland campaign as well to put on club late which is a once a month, inclusive nightclub in the Garage, the G2 nightclub and that’s between seven o’clock and eleven o’clock, once a month and we work with top radio show hosts like Cassie, George Bowie, and Garry Spence amongst up and coming DJ’s and also every fourth month is Live Late which is an inclusive gig night as well which brings in musicians and bands and stuff like that. Beyond that, we have our Sunday pool club, so every Sunday Reardon’s, one o’clock to three in Central, or just under Central Station is Reardon’s Pool Hall, and we have a pool club on, on a Sunday as well which has been great, that’s one of our newer services that came about from our members wanting to play pool and we went from one table with about five members, we’re now across five possibly six tables with twenty members every Sunday now, which is amazing that it’s growing, it has natural growth now, which is great. We also have our Allotment Angels programme which is our allotment over in the East End of Glasgow, which is thriving, absolutely thriving, doing an amazing piece of work over there as well, and that is managed my one of our lead volunteers and they kind of are setting the times for that amongst themselves. So, it’s a physical place, it’s always there, and there’s volunteer interaction, different days and different times so, anyone expresses interest in that, we link you to that group and you kind of get involved that way. And beyond that we have our Monday to Friday hub club operation, which is our daytime club, for anyone 16 plus wanting to access opportunities and activities after leaving school, or college or university or wrapping round those courses and training opportunities as well and there’s more in the pipeline.
MM Yeah, well I was going to say you’re fairly quiet but I think that’s opposite. So, tell us about the, even though that you read out a list there but you also run a new project, enterprise, called The Caravan Club so, just give us a wee insight to that.
PM Yeah, so The Caravan Club is the first of our kind of social enterprise approaches and it came around because our members had highlighted that holidays and short breaks and respite opportunities were becoming a thing of the past due to austerity, budget cuts, realignment of budgets sometimes as well, that was starting to pinch and those opportunities were disappearing so, listening to the members, we set upon looking at how we could, as an organisation, support short breaks. So, we purchased a caravan down at Haven in Craig Tara: down the Ayrshire coast, which is far enough away that it feels like you’re going a holiday but close enough that if there’s any issues, any challenges, or any medical needs or whatever else, it’s within safe distance of Glasgow and the West, again, that you’re not that far away. So, we done a lot of visits to lots of different sites and it being a Haven site in Crag Tara, it’s Scotland’s biggest caravan site and it’s got a whole range of facilities and entertainment on it which is accessible and you know, a good range of entertainment and stuff so, when people are down, you know, there’s stuff to do, you know, there’s swimming, zip slides and all sorts there which is amazing. So, yeah, we’ve got this amazing caravan, it’s all wheelchair friendly, so, it’s an adapted caravan, it’s a real mobility gold, as they call it. So, it’s all lowered, wide access doors, ramp access, wet room, shower room, you know, fantastic facilities down there, and fantastic amenities in terms of the caravan itself so, that’s available to our members and non-members looking for short breaks and we try to keep it as affordable as possible so, when we price matched against other providers or Haven itself, we’re generally about 50% lower than the caravan site itself plus the organisation own the caravan, we have added bonuses like discounts and reduced costs an things while you’re onsite so, it’s well worth us owning it to make that opportunity a wee bit more affordable and more accessible.
MM And has it been busy?
PM It has, yeah, there’s peaks and troughs like you would imagine but I think given the organisations reach for children and young people and adults, there’s a mixed partner use where you know, children may only … families may only be able to access it during school holiday times and breaks whereas our adults might be able to access it at quieter times of the year as well which probably suits them actually, a wee bit less noise on site as well so, I think, to us it’s still a new enterprise, you know we’re still building and learning and growing it and somebody joked one day and said, “You know we’ll have a fleet of caravans down there at one point or at other sites.” You know and I think certainly the needs there, that’s been very much demonstrated and the power of short breaks is vital in people’s lives, for some respite from the day to day grind and actually there’s been a huge amount of research done on that and again, tapping into that and trying to search for additional funding to … you know we try to make it as affordable as possible but we’re really aware as an organisation that what we think is affordable is still out of reach for a lot of people so we’re trying to work hard to make that cost even lower so that financial or finances isn’t a barrier, because I think there’s enough barriers in people’s lives without money being in the middle of it as well.
MM How can people volunteer or even work for Include Me 2?
PM so, we’ve got some exciting things happening with Include Me 2 Club this year, and one of the projects is coming online just now, over in Barrhead which is the new community hub at the James McGuire building and we have been very fortunate with that project, working in partnership with East Renfrewshire Council to be renovating and transforming that old tired building into a brand new renovated community hub and inside there is going to be two specific enterprises, two brand new enterprises. One is going to be a coffee shop and two is going to be a retail shop which will provide training and employment opportunities for our members because that is something else they raised as a challenge and barrier in their lives that getting work and getting experience, they felt like they were on conveyer belts all the time so, we set out to do something about it you know, as a member led organisation, we listen and we make things happen. So, that project is going to be an amazing space, it will provide a whole new range of opportunities and activities, some of which we don’t even know yet because we’ve not planned that far ahead and nor should we because the community will ask us things to do and the members will come up with new ideas with the new space as well so, it’s a great, exciting curve that’s about to happen but primarily those two enterprises are about to take off as well. There will be a new social enterprise group for the members to take part in to make and produce things to be sold in the shop. They will get training and employment opportunities to learn how to make coffee, food preparation, and then actually work in the coffee shop as well and that hopefully is an opportunity that will replicate in other venues, in other places over the next five to ten years which will be amazing, looking at it just now, it’s an exciting phase for us. In opportunities coming along to volunteer with us, we’re volunteer led, we have an amazing team of people, we have a voluntary board of trustees who are a group of people who guide the organisation. They’re made up of people with mixed experiences of having a disability themselves, having someone in their family with a disability, parent’s, family members, and that is an amazing group of people who guide the organisation, who give their time up. And we’re fortunate that our board of trustees are active within the organisation as well in some way, they’re not just this group of people that meet four times a year so, they’re active across all our different clubs and services and programmes and I think that’s vital for the type of organisation that we are that we’ve got our finger on the pulse that we understand and know what’s required, what’s needed and not making decisions from afar which can sometimes happen. Personally, I think, our team of volunteers are absolutely amazing and the list of things I read out wouldn’t happen without them, you know, and credit is given to these guys who give up their time each and every week and every month and every year, we’re privileged to work with around 50 volunteers every week who give up their time and over the last eighteen months we’ve been really privileged that some of that’s been recognised and accredited, we’ve achieved the volunteer friendly award in terms of the process that we take our volunteers through, just this year in June, we were announced as recipients of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which is the highest honour in the UK. I believe it’s an MBE for groups which, you know, is an amazing achievement and it’s been gathered and collected and demonstrated over the last ten years but credit to every one of those people who has given up time across those ten years as well, not just the guys now but the guys who were there at the very start and who are maybe not with us now but those who have been in the middle, those who have been there, went away and came back again cos that happens as well but we’re always, we’re volunteer led, we’re volunteer driven, and that’s how we’re as sustainable as we are, that’s how we can continue to grow and build capacity so if anyone’s listening to the podcast out there and is interested by either coming along to something we do or think, “You know what, that sounds really good. I want to be part of that.” You know, you’re more than welcome, we’re called Include Me 2 Club for a reason and you can get involved. You know, we’re always recruiting volunteers and we’re always trying to match you up to opportunities, sometimes those opportunities don’t exist yet and actually its volunteers that create the idea for that and actually help build the capacity to run that so, it’s not about just fitting in what’s already there, it’s not just a jigsaw puzzle to try and fit into where’s available, there’s sometimes there’s always a new bit of the jigsaw puzzle to be kind of created and mapped out as well so, if you’re listening and it sounds like something you’re really interested in, please get in touch through whatever channel, media process you want you know, email, messenger, text, phone, website, whatever method you want to reach out or when the hub’s opened in Barrhead, pop in and have a conversation with us, chat to us if you come along to any one of our nights as well and I think that’s what’s so special about it is people see other people volunteering and I think that helps, cos if you can see yourself doing it and see others who you know doing it then that kind of raises your spirits to go, “Yeah, I can do that as well. If they can do it, I can do it.” But yeah, don’t limit yourself and don’t think just because it’s not there the now, be that person that creates that change, be that person with the idea that brings around even more opportunities. Cos I always say, I guarantee you if you’re out there thinking, “I wish there was a club for this, or I wish they’d done that.” You’re not the only person, you will be one person of many who would like to see what you’re thinking about happen and that’s where I mean, about an exciting time, there’s going to be lots of new things coming out of new buildings and new opportunities and new partnerships as we grow over the next couple of years so, yeah put in your ideas cos it’s the only way it’s going to happen.
MM So, now this is your ten-year anniversary of Include Me 2, I was going to say; you haven’t done much in ten years but that would be an understatement. I don’t know about you Paul but when you started out ten years ago, you wouldn’t imagine that this would all have happened over the ten years or would you?
PM No, I don’t think so. We never really set out at the time, Michael, to say that we had such a vision in mind. The vision was to create that change locally and certainly create that change for the immediate body of people that we knew were suffering some barriers, were having to travel quite a distance who got support or didn’t get support and didn’t have opportunities to go to so, I think that was our initial goal and we were very fortunate and privileged that between family members and friends and the organisation we worked for at the time, we were able to kind of make things happen fairly quickly, we had a wide network of people that on the first night we opened, it was about 2 inches of snow actually by all means, in December …
MM And that was in the summer.
PM … the usual Scottish summer, that’s it.
PM We opened one, we had an activity in December which was sadly kind of snowed out but we still had around thirty people turn up, right local to the venue so, they just walked in that night and like anything it’s all word of mouth, you know, we could spend a fortune producing flyers and websites and adverts and everything else but actually how we’ve always found works for us is the quality experience that people feel and they’re part of what we do. So, they’ll tell other people about the club and about the organisation, about the people, you get a smile and a warm welcome and a friendly approach so, they feel part of something, you feel you want to be there and you want to go back which is really part of our ethos and then within about three months we were up to about sixty/seventy people coming every week, and within six to nine months we were at our capacity at the venue we were operating in so, you know, to say there was a need was an understatement so it taught us that very quickly there was a huge demand out there and actually we’d achieved that vision, that early vision fairly quickly and I suppose we just need a kick up the back side ourselves that we always used to think, it’s quite a disappointing thing actually, we always used to signpost people around and say, “that’s not us that do that, that’s somebody else.” And we’d signpost them on as any good organisation and people would, you wouldn’t leave them without anywhere to go and you kind of referred him on to elsewhere and you thought, “that was it ach …” you thought you’d done your bit but actually when you followed up and had that conversation maybe a few weeks or a few months later, you kind of found that actually they were still in the same predicament, they were still facing the same challenges, that the point of contact had moved on or the organisation or service had not been there anymore or it hadn’t happened or they just didn’t have that step to go to the next stage with it so, I think it taught us at that point that actually well if these services aren’t out there and we’re pointing people in the wrong direction then is it our job or is it our duty as a charity to step up and meet the needs of our members and I think that was a soul searching moment in our development, you know, maybe two/three years ago and it was a conscious decision that we had to make and grow and develop cos it meant we had to do more, it meant we had to grow bigger than what we’d been before, we had to recruit loads more volunteers, we had to find lots more venues and we had to do things that we hadn’t done before or hadn’t set out to do and that’s where learning comes in and I think like any good organisation every day’s a learning day, we will learn constantly and doing new things all the time and our members are unique and diverse across all four hundred plus members that are currently registered with us and every one of them has a dream, a goal, a desire that we may play some part in so, we always say no two days are the same at the Include Me 2 Club.
MM So, because it’s a big anniversary, it doesn’t go past without a big party so, last weekend you had the ball and I was there as ever and it was a good night so tell us was it the members idea to have the ball?
PM Yeah, so we couldn’t have a party without you Michael, it wouldn’t be a party without you being there so, yeah so the ball came around as, I suppose … it raced round so quickly, ten years god, who would have thought, ten years on and we look back and think, “Well actually, how do we mark this? How do we celebrate this? How do we put something down there that says yes, we’re ten years old, it’s our ten year anniversary year, it’s the start of it.” And a conversation came of having a big party and everyone put in the pot as they all do, all these ideas were happening, you know, I had to kind of stop the one that said two weeks on Florida for everybody. I just thought, “How are we going to achieve that? That’s going to be … that’s pie in the sky kind of thing.” But the idea of a ball came around and a celebration night and I think everyone confuses that in terms of a fundraiser night and we’re going, “No, no it’s not a fundraiser night, we’re not trying to raise money. We’re trying to celebrate everything that Include Me 2 Club is and does and everyone that’s part of it.” So, the ball came around through a conversation with volunteers, members, families, you know, everyone involved and we set out to achieve what was an amazing event which showcased the very best of who we are as an organisation and in that room that night was a complete mixture of everyone associated with Include Me 2 Club from our members, from the supporters, the family members, our volunteers, our young volunteers, our adult volunteers, our supporters, some of our funders, some of our ambassadors as well, they just say, you know, they speak about us highly in their circles and you know so it was an amazing night to bring everyone together in honour of ten years and it’s been a really special kind of eighteen months as we kind of said a minute ago with the Queens Award, with other awards this year, the trophy cabinet, as they say, is filling up but that’s nice, that’s nice, that’s nice recognition for the organisation and the team of people that make that happen but it’s not about the awards, it’s about the people, and that’s the most important thing to us at Include Me 2 Club, is our members. And we’ll continue to grow and drive forward based on their needs and wants and try to make sure everyday opportunities is one of our guiding principles that you know, if you or I could go and do it every day, why can’t any of our members? So, I think that’s what guides us throughout our kind of development as we head into the future.
MM And if you would like to find out more about Include Me 2 and what you can volunteer for or get involved in, all you have to do is go on to their website at http://www.includeme2club.org.uk/
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