Our Chief Exec, Tim Renshaw, reflects on the work of Printed by Us at Peddlers Market last weekend.
It's Friday Night. I’m at Peddler’s Market a busy food, drink and music event in Sheffield which happens once a month. We have a market stall to sell stuff we’ve made at Printed By Us and I’ve come along to help run it but I’m not needed.
I’m standing about 10 yards away and watching the lads on the stall selling. They’re talking to potential customers and passers-by and they look relaxed and confident. Inside I am buzzing, absolutely delighted.
A few months ago we were at a summer festival with the same stall and the lads set the stall up wonderfully but then looked at each other wondering what to do next. They lacked the confidence to make conversation with people.
A few months further back was the first day of printing. On that day the person who is now leader of the printing project lacked the confidence to turn up and take part and had to be cajoled.
What a journey? There is just 13 months between the first printing session and now but the people involved are transformed and they know it. The leader of the project has stopped amazing me. I’ve grown used to his confidence and competence. He tells me what to do with a calm ease. He organises the others and they don’t feel organised; that’s a skill we couldn’t teach, it’s just emerged as he has grown into the role.
Two of the lads who are engaging the passers-by do amaze me. They are laughing and smiling as they chat to people. One tells everyone why Printed By Us is important. He could talk about homelessness, alcohol or drugs but I can’t quite hear him. I hear him mention the Archer Project, where he volunteers every day, I hear him mention Just Works, which is supporting him to find paid work. He talks about his cookery and working with Blend, a local cookery school we introduced him to. From a sales perspective he talks too much but I can see that most of the people he talks to are asking questions and he is loving talking about living a good life. We haven’t asked him to do this, this is just his natural outgoing style.
The other lad doesn’t talk about his own life. He doesn’t need to and feels as though it is a thing of the past. He wants to move on. However, he does talk about the journey that Printed By Us has offered and how important new opportunities are for people who are stuck or caught up in negative habits. I watch as he talks about people doing well and working, and then about how the prints are made.
The people who buy are not persuaded to do so by stories of people doing well. They are impressed by the stories and most really like the idea of Printed By Us but they buy because the products are really good. The stall looks good and the prints are superb.
Printed By Us wasn’t dreamt up in a homeless project. It came about through a small local business encouraging its staff team to think up new ideas. From that Yoomee session Mark Musgrave came to the Cathedral Archer Project with an idea about teaching people who were homeless to screen print. Mark still works with us as a consultant to give direction, find artists and help choose designs. A year on and Printed By Us is a small business and instead of just learning to screen print, those involved have learned small business skills of selling, record keeping, giving good customer service and managing budgets.
Most importantly of all, it has changed those involved. Instead of the self-doubt and world weariness I used to see I have the utter pleasure of watching a team who are confident and forward looking. My job couldn’t get any better than this and Peddler Market couldn’t be a better place to celebrate at.