The Big House
The BIG Alliance Team recently caught up with fantastic Islington based charity, The Big House, who, like BIG Alliance, are celebrating their tenth birthday. The Big House gave us insight into the digital exclusion that their service users are faced with and explained how they endeavour to help young people who are digitally excluded.
Tell us about your organisation
The Big House is a charitable organisation established in 2012. We work with care leavers and those who are at a high risk of social exclusion. We provide a platform for them to participate in the making of theatre and to have their voices heard. Over 10 years, The Big House has supported 500 young people through our intensive programmes, created 16 new productions, welcomed 16,000 audience members, reached over 6000 participants with The Big House Means Business and so much more.
How has digital exclusion affected your service users?
In 2018, we moved to our current home in Islington, just off Essex Road. Originally an abandoned mirror frame factory with beautiful industrial features, our flexible multi-use space is open to our members for personal and professional development. They can pop in, borrow computers and fill out job applications, do online job interviews, sit in the Library and film self-tapes for auditions. Access to laptops, a secure internet connection, and a calm environment are a luxury many of our members cannot afford. It was the pandemic that really highlighted the existing problem. It was a huge learning curve for us, understanding the importance of the safe spaces we’d created within our venue. The Big House is first and foremost a home. It offers a space for young people to seek guidance or support, access counselling, a place to have a chat and a cup of tea, connect with friends and share ideas. For our members, the reality of digital exclusion: video calling on mobile phones for job interviews, chaotic home environments, hasn’t eased with the restrictions. If anything, there is now an expectation that people have those facilities set up and ready to go. Many of our young people rely on The Big House to provide that space.
How could digital inclusion help organisations like yourselves, who are from the arts and cultural sector?
Digital and remote delivery have made it possible for The Big House to survive the pandemic. Parts of our core projects were conducted on Zoom, we converted our training workshops to suit remote platforms and we have created short films throughout the various lockdowns to continue engaging our young people in the safest way possible. It has given us the push we needed to reach out and collaborate with organisations and young people across the UK that we would not otherwise have been able to work with and to finally take the first steps into creating our very own digital platform, to house all of the creative digital outputs of our members. We continue to adapt and develop our services to be delivered remotely so The Big House can grow and engage with like-minded communities across the UK. But importantly, we are now prioritising the security and sustainability of the venue so it can be that safe space for the young people we work with to create and inspire.
We’d love for you to find out more: Celebrate with us on Saturday 28th May, from 12-6pm at 151 Englefield Road, N1 3LH. We’ll be hosting a family-friendly event with live music, refreshments and more. Get your free tickets here! Alternatively, you can visit our website for more information about The Big House and how you can play a part.
Big House, a ‘home’ for their service users, have shown that in the arts and cultural space within the charity sector, there is still a need for digital inclusion.