Hackney Pirates Talk

Art & Culture
It’s not all doof, doof, doof round R$N’s neck of the woods you know. Whilst all this dancing and listening’s all well and very good we’ve decided to shed some light on interesting and dare we say it ‘worthy’ organisations and causes going on in the world.

In a world full of doom and gloom it can be incredibly refreshing to come across acts of kindness in which people are working purely for the benefit of others, especially children. Hackney Pirates is a growing charity which aims to develop the literacy, creativity, and real-world skills of young people living in the area. By welcoming these young shipmates aboard onto their ‘Ship Of Adventures’ (yes, there will be many pirating references), the charity gives them some much needed attention to help encourage their development in happy, healthy people.

You may have noticed another building site spring up on Kingsland Road recently just opposite Dalston Superstore. No, it’s not another shiny bar with a basement venue in it. It is in actual fact the new home of The Hackney Pirates

We sat down for a chat to find out a bit more.

So, who exactly are the Hackney Pirates? Why did you start the project?
The Hackney Pirates is the whole crew of people we work with – Young Pirates, volunteers and staff. What unites us is a determination to make learning an adventure. Most of the staff team are teachers who had experience of teaching in schools and felt that there were young people who needed more support than we could offer in the classroom. I started the project in 2010 because I was living in Hackney and felt that there were so many incredible resources in the local community which could support young people in their learning. l. I was inspired by a couple of other great projects around the world, and thought that some of those ideas could work in Hackney. With some great local supporters we ran a pilot project and things snowballed from there.
How do you go about assembling your crew?
Most of our volunteers hear about us through word of mouth – their friends have a good experience and tell them about it. We like it that way, as our volunteers are the best champions for what we do. We also promote volunteering on websites, in cafes, and through working with local companies who want to give their staff the chance to get involved in a local community project.
Clearly you have the best interests of young people at heart, what lasting effects are you hoping will come of the project?
What we really want to see is that they improve their literacy, confidence and perseverance. We think that those skills are just so critical to allowing young people to be successful in school and in the world beyond. Ultimately we want to see them doing better at school, but also more able to choose whatever path they want for themselves in the future. 
What’s the plan with the Shop of Adventures? And if there are profits, where are you hoping to invest them?
It will be the home of adventure on the high street! First and foremost, we’ll be selling the great work that our young people produce, like our unique Guidebook to Hackney. There will also be a range of unique books and gifts, all curated on our theme of Adventures in Learning. AND you can have a cup of coffee while you’re choosing your adventure. All the profits will be used to fund our educational programme with young people. 

What effect are you hoping that Hackney Pirates will have on the local community? Are you hoping to create a more positive, beneficial atmosphere throughout Hackney?

We’re certainly not alone in working on positive change in Hackney, but we pleased to be part of that movement. We think Hackney’s pretty great already! Our core aim is that young people who need some extra support at school are provided the powerful one-to-one attention which will boost their learning skills. But we always want to frame what we do in a positive and fun way that engages as many people as possible, and definitely involves different people working together and building a shared identity.  
Which other charities do you work with? 
We’ve worked with some great local charities like the FARM: Shop and Bootstrap Company, who supported us in getting things going in the early days. We also partner with some fantastic educational charities like Teach First and Enabling Enterprise who share our aims and beliefs about learning.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another charity?
Right at the beginning we were told to make sure that young people were involved in the business and the shop, and that we should give them a chance to have their work sold in any shop we ran. Three years later we finally have the shop, and are able to follow their advice! We all learn best when we get to see our work appreciated by a wider audience, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to achieve for our Young Pirates with the shop.
Do you think that we need more socially conscious projects such as this throughout the country?
Of course we do! I think that all enterprises should be at least socially conscious – whatever you’re doing there’s a way to do it in a socially conscious way, to make sure that you’re a positive influence in the community. But we also need to really help scale up and grow social change initiatives so that they can have more impact – the scale of resources available just isn’t enough to tackle the challengess our society still faces.
What are your thoughts on the gentrification of London? Do you think that it will help or hinder your cause?
Gentrification means different things to different people, and I’m sure there’s a diversity of views in our own Pirate-community. What we do believe is that any community is stronger if the different groups in it have a way to work together and get to know each other – it’s one of the reasons why we’re really proud of the range of different people who get involved in what we do.
Do you have any plans to roll out the project beyond Hackney?
We would love to see that happen. We think that there should be community-based learning centres like The Hackney Pirates throughout the UK. But it’s really important that they are led and championed by people who know their own communities really well, as that’s essential to being able to get people on board. We’d like to support other like-minded people to set up projects like The Hackney Pirates. Come and ask us again in a year’s time! 
How important do you think that creative subjects (music, art, etc.) are in encouraging a young person to learn and develop?

We really believe that a broad range of experiences is so important to young people’s learning, and that they need the chance to try out lots of different things to find out what they are passionate about. We ask volunteers every volunteer training session what their best learning experience was, and we usually hear that it’s to do with a special person, special place or special experience of learning by doing – those are the kind of experiences we try to create in our sessions.  

Anything else you’d like to discuss pirate related or anything else for that matter? 
Everyone reading this should come and join the Hackney Pirates crew! We’d love to have you on board as a volunteer, or supporter. Just get in touch at www.hackneypirates.org or crew@hackneypirates.org for more details.
We’ll be opening the Ship of Adventures in April, so come and visit us then!