VIY’s Gemma tells us what Pride means to her

30 May 2023

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a time to remember our individual journey. I went to high school under section 28, the law that forbade any “promotion of homosexuality in schools” which meant there was no support for students and bullying was rife. I came out in the year 2000, the summer I left high school and though my family embraced me with open arms, society wasn’t always as accepting.

I remember when I qualified as a teacher in 2010, not being able to be fully open about my sexuality and struggling to find a school which would accept me for what I was. I used to hide myself behind a fake shield of heteronormativity in the professional sphere – despite being out, proud and accepted at home. It made me feel like I could never be myself.

In the 23 years since I have been openly out, further progress towards equality has been made, for example we can marry, we can adopt. But we are aware that these changes have only occurred because of the social action and protesting of the LGBTQ+ individuals that came before us.

Pride to an out LGBTQ+ person represents our time to reflect, to protest, to party and to remember not only the individual journey and collective advances towards acceptance that we have made, but the road where challenges and threats still lay ahead and the work yet to do.

It may seem like a massive party but what the LGBTQ+ community knows is that years of repression can only be counteracted by a large collective outpouring of self expression and freedom.

This is what makes the essence of Pride.

What does Pride mean to you and your life in Manchester as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

Supporting the wider community is a duty to all LBGTQ+ individuals. Throughout history when people are under threat they come together and support each other from within. It’s something the LGBTQ+ community does naturally, especially in the years since the Aids/HIV crisis in the 80s. The community has faced years of attack, oppression, isolation, fear and death and has largely been left to look after itself. It’s the same now with transgender people particularly under threat and trans youth largely unsupported.

This year the loss of trans teenager Brianna Ghey shook the community further. I was proud to be a part of the community involved in planning the Manchester vigil, which saw over 2,000 people pack into Sackville Gardens in Manchester to remember her and the work we have to do to avoid this happening to young people in the future. There I spoke with parents and teenagers, who were scared for their future. This fear only highlights the inequalities still faced by many LGBTQ+ individuals.

Being a DJ is usually being the focus point for fun, bringing the party. At Pride – we do both. I am not just an agent of fun and freedom to provide dancing and laughter, but being recognisable within the community means I have a social responsibility to support others within that community.

In 2017 I won Village’s Got Talent, which was a fundraiser for the George House Trust. The prize was £500, I donated 50% of it straight back to the charity on stage. As a DJ I have worked fundraisers for: AXM Charity, George House Trust, Terrance Higgins Trust, Stonewall, The Proud Trust, and with the Village Business Owners association also fundraised over £5000 to provide safer sexual health packs in all LGBTQ+ venues.

I’ve even DJ’d a silent disco which raised money for the Russian LGBT foundation at a time when Russian LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya were being murdered and the officials said that “gay people didn’t exist there”, hence we chose a silent disco for a silent protest as LGBTQ+ Russians were being silenced!

It was a pleasure to perform alongside MIRI on the main stage at Manchester pride in 2018, as her guitarist. We performed a re-written version of the Cyndi Lauper hit – “Girls just wanna have fundamental rights.” Pride and protest go hand in hand.

Though Pride starts in June, each city has its own celebration. In Manchester where I live, Pride takes over the August bank holiday weekend. It starts on Friday and day one consists of protests, to alert us to the journey and issues of the future.

On Saturdays we have the Pride march, which is a celebration of solidarity from organisations/workplaces/community groups and a celebration of support in the present. Sunday is largely handed over to more family friendly acts, youth pride and helps us give support to the LGBTQ+ youth of the future.

Then on Monday there is the candlelit vigil, where we gather around the Alan Turing statue in the park next to Canal St, to remember those we have lost over the last year, to either discrimination, to HIV, and cherished members of our Gay Village community, our allies and our pioneers.

As they say in the film Hairspray – “I know where I am going, I know where I’ve been.” This is why we bathe ourselves in glitter, wear rainbows, drink (more than we probably should) and march in protest and solidarity.

Each one of us has a social duty to now do our part, remember those who came before us and knowing that only through visible action can we create visible change and a safer world for the LGBTQ+ people of the future.

Gem x

Visit Stonewall’s website for further information and guidance on supporting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in the workplace, as well as their useful glossary of inclusive language terms.

VIY Lead Mentor Alan nominated for Role Model Award

12 May 2023

Tradesperson to Mentor

After a tough upbringing in care, Alan began carpentry at 17. Following years at London firm, Ideal Handyman, Alan joined us in 2016 thanks to another of our longest-serving Mentors, Bill.

With us, Alan began mentoring young people who, like him, haven’t had the smoothest start in life; not in education, employment or training (NEET), or at risk of disengaging, needing a different pathway in life. With VIY, by helping young people to learn trade skills whilst renovating community spaces, he discovered a love for teaching and upskilling the next generation in construction, and has been a Lead Mentor for over four years.

Here, Alan shares what VIY means to him seven years later and how he’s become a role model for the construction industry:

“The main reason I switched from working flat out on building sites is the learners. Targets, budgets, timescales still exist, but it’s all about those learners on site. It just works, I’ve helped thousands of young people on well over 100 projects. Mentoring is unique, it’s not just showing them how to use tools. Whether it be life advice, switching from PAYE to self-employment or telling them about trades and the potential future earnings. I don’t think I’d be the real me without VIY and being able to help all these young people – getting them into a better place than when they met us.”

Developing the next generation

One of Alan’s proudest achievements has been developing young tradespeople like Jada, one of the Junior Skills Mentors who joined us through the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme. She’s now been employed by VIY for over a year following Alan’s mentoring.

“A little bit of inspiration is what Jada gives me each time I work with her. Just like when you’re building something, I get that same sense of accomplishment when I see Jada mentoring, furthering her own ambitions to become a leading female in the trade.”

Mentor to Mentor

Just like Alan and Jada, Bill acted as Alan’s own Mentor in the trade, helping him through tough times and into the job he loves so much with VIY. Here Bill talks about his lifelong friendship with Alan:

“As well as all of the young people I’ve volunteered alongside through VIY, I’ve made friends for life. Before VIY, I mentored a guy in my local area, got him into the trade with me away from trouble and we struck up a great working relationship. I was building my own next generation in the trade. When I started working for VIY, I brought him with me and now that man is Alan Dalton, VIY Lead Mentor [pictured above together]. We’re still great friends now, more like father and son.

“Alan is a real example of how we can build the next generation, through volunteering, nurture and mentoring. Whether that be a tradesperson becoming a VIY Trade Mentor or one of the young people we work with, VIY makes a real difference to people’s lives and their community.” 

Alan also starred in Channel 4’s 2018 mini-series ‘Building Britain‘; a four-part documentary where he became a VIY role model.

Fancy being our next role model?

If you’ve been inspired by Alan and would like to find out more about doing #SomethingConstructive with VIY as a Trade Mentor, hit the button below.

Become a VIY Mentor

Transforming community spaces in Nottinghamshire

20 April 2023

Nottingham City Council

Between January 2023 and March 2025, we’ll be supporting the refurbishment of 14 community spaces and places in Nottingham City.  Through a variety of works, we’ll be helping to improve their functionality and usability, enabling them to engage new audiences, support their existing members with new and/or improved services and increasing the venues’ confidence for their future sustainability.

Head here to see our work on this programme so far, and to see how young people you may know or work with, as well as other Community Volunteers, could get involved.

Nottingham City Council’s Place team volunteering with us at Rufford Avenue Allotment, 2022


Newark & Sherwood District Council

Following our project at Flower Pod with 16 students from Newark Orchard School, supporting students with special educational needs and disabilities, their students have now created a sensory garden at their school site in Balderton, Newark on Trent. The new garden will allow the school to combine learning with the outdoors as well as create a space that the students can enjoy.  We’ve helped them transform this previously under-utilised space, working hard to prepare the surface to install hardcore pathway around the perimeter and in the centre of the garden.  The students also built bespoke seating and child-friendly planters in the garden, ensuring this fully accessible space can be enjoyed by all students.

With the help of 26 young volunteers, 14 students gaining City & Guilds accreditations to help them pursue a future career or interest, they’ve built their own valuable space that they can take pride in. The garden should be finished by early summer 2023 for them to begin using.

We will also be working with Newark & Sherwood District Council from 2024 on further projects too!

Celebrating nine projects and 200 accreditations with Toolstation

13 April 2023

We’re celebrating two milestones with one of our key trade partners, Toolstation, whilst working together on the redecoration of TPF Gymnastics Club in Norwich; home to gymnastics, parkour and free-running, the space is also used by a local cubs and scouts group. In total the facilities are currently used by around 200 locals aged between 4-20 years.

The aim of the project was to improve the surroundings for all users and attract new members.  As well as the brightly coloured paint work, we’ve upgraded the male and female toilets by installing glazed tiling, mirrors and a new coat of paint.  

Co-funded as part of our programme with Norwich City Council and match-funded by Sport England, we’ve created a more vibrant space that reflects the energy and positivity happening in the club. 

The colour scheme using bright paintwork including yellow and orange was chosen following feedback and requests from users of the facilities. The paint was donated as part of our trade partnership with Dulux, with the colour scheme being chosen from Toolstation’s Dulux Paint Tinting Service

Chrissie Roe, Founder of the club, has already seen huge interest since the redecoration: “This gym is a vital space for local young people to come to feel safe, be with their friends and do something energetic in a secure environment off the streets. The new modern murals and  our new toilets will massively help to inspire them further, and for us to attract new members with a great first impression when they come to check us out. Since the work has been going on, we’ve received such amazing feedback in person and online, that many new people have been phoning to find out how they can join the club and previous members returning from before the pandemic.”

The logo and mural artwork were created by Kevin Parker, a local community street artist, who also created our gamechanging mural at Kaset Skatepark.

Kevin said: “It’s great to bring an old building like this back to life, give it some vibrance. I’ve loved working with VIY again on another important community building in Norfolk, helping inspire our local young people to do something positive through the power of paint and parkour!”

The project saw over 20 young volunteers between the ages of 16-20 pledge up to a week’s work on the project, with 60% of participants being awarded a City & Guilds Entry Level 3 accreditation in Painting & Decorating. Eight volunteers from the club and local community also helped to prepare the venue before the works began.

Most of the volunteers have joined through the Aspire Progression programme, a re-engagement initiative through City College Norwich to support those whose education may have been disrupted or those looking for an alternative pathway to gaining skills.

Millie, 16, volunteered at TPF Gymnastics, her fourth project with VIY and her fourth City & Guilds accreditation, having already achieved Entry Level 3 in Carpentry, Health & Safety and Brickwork.  After gaining her fourth accreditation here in Painting & Decorating, she’s now taking this further, going on to study art at City College Norwich in September.

“With the first [VIY] project, it was more trial and error, seeing what it’d be like not being in a classroom all the time, instead of college. And then it turns out I really like being outdoorsy, I like learning new things that I hadn’t learned before, and in turn, I’ve used them outside of this as well. I’ve learned a lot from VIY.  This project has been my favourite as I really enjoy painting and decorating, I find it therapeutic. Brickwork was actually a really good one because I didn’t really expect there to be so many different components to laying brick!”

Toolstation plans on co-funding a further four VIY projects throughout the year and in 2023 has set a target to help over 100 young people gain qualifications and consider a career in the trade. 

Forrest Brown, Regional Manager at Toolstation, visited the project and said: “It’s brilliant to witness VIY enriching lives with passionate mentors helping to develop young people not in employment or education. This project had a real community feel and its great to see the engagement with younger people. VIY offers an excellent environment to learn new skills, share stories and get advice.” 

Greg Richardson, Head of Marketing at Toolstation says: “We’re passionate about our partnership with the VIY team, and I’m delighted to continue to support their work with the TPF Gymnastics Club in Norwich.  This project illustrates the power of paint by creating a vibrant place to meet and learn for the local community, and it will also encourage young people to develop confidence and learn practical trade and building skills and earn a qualification.”

Head here to see our previous community projects in partnership with Toolstation

Join Team VIY

31 March 2023

There are no live roles with VIY currently.


Volunteer with VIY

Helping the Midlands Think Active

13 March 2023

Together, we’ll be refurbishing six community spaces across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire to enable more physical activity to take place and ultimately, help more people in their local area to be more active.

This follows successful VIY projects in the region to date, such as creating an outdoor spectator and events space for Coventrians Rugby Club and refurbishing The Tin Music & Arts Venue, also in Coventry.

Ciara Grogan, VIY Programme Director for Sport, said:

“We’re really excited to be expanding our sports programmes across the Midlands, working with brilliant partners like Think Active. Not only will these refurbished spaces help attract and increase the number of people being active, but they will have enabled young people from the local area to boost their skills and confidence to take a positive next step towards their future.”

Lijana Kaziow, Partnership Manager from Think Active, said:

“It’s great to partner with VIY in supporting young people across Coventry and Warwickshire to attain City and Guilds qualifications, whilst giving local community spaces much needed TLC. Be it a face lift through brightening a room with a new coat of paint, or upgrading facilities to make them more appealing and welcoming to the local community, we’re excited to see the impact of this on the usage of the facilities, the community and how we can all come to volunteer and work together to enhance community hubs.”

Anne-Marie Corbett, Centre Manager for Canley Community Centre, the first project to benefit from this partnership, told us how much the works mean to them:

“We’re so grateful for the refresh VIY and nine local volunteers have given to the centre. As a charitable organisation ourselves, the centre hasn’t been painted in 10 years due to slim resourcing and funds. In order to be able to best serve our community, through our food bank, local youth groups tackling knife crime and soon, local sports activities like yoga, dodgeball and fitness classes, we need to be looking our best to attract more people to use the centre and our services, whilst feeling comfortable to be in a bright, welcoming space, when they’re here. This full redecoration of the centre will do just that.”

As well as funding from Think Active, these projects will be supported with match-funding from Sport England, plus material donations from VIY Trade Partners Dulux (whose support also includes four volunteers on this project), GAP Tool Hire and Travis Perkins.

Our next projects together renovating community spaces for more local people to engage in physical activity include Bradby Youth Club in Rugby and Manor Park Rugby Football Club in Nuneaton. 

Dulux and VIY to continue Let’s Colour partnership for another three years 

9 February 2023

Since 2019, Dulux has donated 11,000 litres of paint to over 90 VIY projects, which have collectively helped over 1,100 young people learn trade skills and gain over 900 City & Guilds Entry Level 3 accreditations. While doing so these projects have coloured the lives of over 55,000 people within the communities whose spaces have been transformed through VIY’s projects, across the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

Some standout painting projects have included the epic glow-up of Kaset Skatepark in King’s Lynn, the former gymnastics club of Beth Tweddle MBE in Liverpool and the Amber Foundation for young people in Trowbridge, completed with some leftover paint from Dulux’s sponsorship of Channel 4’s Changing Rooms.

As well as continuing to transform vital community spaces in need and the lives of the young people we work with through the power of paint, the new three year partnership will expand to see VIY become the Community Partner in all Dulux Decorator Centres across the country, where the sales of paint stirrers and tin openers will directly fund the City & Guilds Entry Level accreditations gained by young people volunteering on VIY projects.

Further initiatives will include training for VIY learners and Mentors through the Dulux Academy, passing on decades of experience through mentoring opportunities for professional painters through Dulux’s network and their own staff, along with linking VIY’s young volunteers up with potential employment opportunities for the future.

Left to right: Pete Howard, Sustainability & CSR Lead, Dulux, and Tim Reading, CEO and co-founder, VIY, at Dublin Castle, Camden – where Dulux Let’s Colour and VIY transformed this historic music venue

Tim Reading, CEO and co-founder of VIY, on signing the agreement, said:

“Working with the biggest names in the trade helps demonstrate true, collaborative social value for both VIY and big brand organisations. Our ongoing partnership with Dulux, not just through the power of paint and how this can transform a community place, but through our joint efforts in training, mentoring and the next steps for our young people with other partners and clients, will help towards delivering our joint strategic goals to develop the next generation of tradespeople.”

Peter Howard, Sustainability & CSR Lead for Dulux, said:
“We are delighted to sign this 3 year partnership agreement with VIY. This partnership will colour thousands of lives and benefit hundreds of young people all through the power of paint.

“We at Dulux are delighted to continue partnering with Volunteer It Yourself and look forward to delivering a record number of Let’s Colour community transformation projects in the years to come. This partnership will continue to not only add colour to tens of thousands of lives each year but also will help hundreds of young people improve their confidence and construction skills. It’s a shining example of how collaboration with brilliant partners can harness the power of paint!”

Here’s to three more years doing #SomethingConstructive through the power of paint with Dulux!

Creating Commonwealth legacy in Birmingham

19 December 2022

Together, we’re embarking on 5 community projects in 2023, across five wards with the greatest levels of inactivity and low socio-economic mobility, to improve the quality and access to sport and physical activity for the local community.

Birmingham has always been one of VIY’s heartlands, following the first VIY ‘hub’ at Shard End Youth Centre from 2015 over four years, and improving community spaces for physical activity with projects at the likes of Hall Green Boxing Club and Saathi House.

Ciara Grogan, VIY Programme Director for Sport, said:

“We’re delighted to be back in Birmingham and contributing towards the legacy of the Commonwealth Games. Bringing together our model of boosting young people’s skills whilst transforming community places, altogether with our experience in renovating hundreds of spaces for physical activity through Sport England, we’re ready to help get Birmingham moving through its city motto ‘Forward’, with an approach mirroring the message of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, ‘Be Bold’.”

Laura Kerrigan for Sport Birmingham, said:

“Our first project with VIY, completed in November 2022, was at Birmingham Paddle Club, based at Ackers Adventure in Sparkbrook, an area where activity levels are lower than the national average. They’ve wanted to start a Paddle Club for ages, an alternative physical activity for the local community in a landlocked city, but haven’t had anywhere to effectively store their canoes and set sail. 

With the help of 15 volunteers from local organisations including St Basils, Edge Academy and Ashiana Community Project, plus two marvellous VIY Midlands Mentors, storage has been built from scratch, inside a shipping container on-site, right by the water’s edge.”

This project has been supported with match-funding from Sport England and British Canoeing, plus material donations from Travis Perkins Stirchley and GAP Tool Hire.

Andy Train from the Birmingham Paddlesports Hub at Ackers told us how much the works mean to them:

The works VIY have completed have furthered our ambitions to expand the Paddle Club. Without the storage they have created, we would struggle to accommodate more members, as we simply would not be able to keep our canoes safe. Now we can finally invite more of the local community to join us on the canals, doing something active right on their doorstep. Thanks to all of the local young people who helped transform our storage container!”

Two images side by side showing the inside of a metal shipping contained. The left hand image shows it empty, with one canoe sat at the front. The right hand image shows it following the work of VIY, creating handmade wooden storage for canoes

Before/After: new storage for the Birmingham Paddlesports Hub at Ackers Adventure, Birmingham

Steve and the team at Ackers Adventure were also so kind as to give our young volunteers and partners a free archery session to thank them for their hard work with us on the tools to help their Paddle Club take shape!

Two individuals pictured stood safe distance away from an archery target. One male is instructing another individual, both hold a wooden crossbow.

Our next projects together in Birmingham will be at Concord Youth Centre and Ashiana Community Project and Cycling Hub, who both work with the local community in Sparkbrook (one of the poorest wards in Birmingham, with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country). We’ll be creating a calm, safe haven at Concord, improving fitness suite storage for indoor activity, ensuring safe outdoor decking for activities and improving the overall look of the space, with the help of young people who use this community space. At Ashiana, we’ll be building cycling facilities for the cycling hub, which is run to teach and encourage the local female community to cycle.

VIY clubhouse renovation with Northampton Saints

2 November 2022

We’ve been joined throughout the works by Northampton Saints Foundation students, who are taking part in the Foundation’s Hitz and Aspire programmes, as well as local college students on construction courses or disengaged from mainstream education. They’ve been painting and decorating the changing rooms and adding individual changing slots at the club to make them more attractive for current and new players, resulting in 19 Entry Level 3 City & Guilds accreditations gained by the young volunteers in Painting & Decorating and Carpentry.

They were lucky to be joined by current Saints player, James Grayson, as well as Saints legend, Tom Wood, both Foundation ambassadors, who both helped the students with some painting at the venue.

Connor Fleming, Head of Northampton Saints Community said: “The clubhouse Renovation Competition is an excellent example of our partnership in action, helping to support our local clubs and communities as well as supporting activity across the grassroots level. Projects like this help make rugby more accessible for everyone, using the power of sport to positively impact a wide range of groups and individuals.

Tom Wood added: “It’s great to be able to do some practical activities with the young people out of the classroom, and particularly in the surroundings of a local rugby club.

“I have been lucky in that rugby has given me a great deal, so getting involved in projects like this one give me the opportunity to give something back, not just to the students, but also the wider community.”

Ed Sellwood, our COO and co-founder of VIY, said:

“We’ve completed over 700 community projects since 2011, many of which have been improving grassroots sports clubs and facilities for the benefit of the local community and all helping boost the work-readiness of the young people who volunteer with us. Collaborating with cross-sector partners, from sports to construction like the Saints and Toolstation, help us all do more to build better communities and help improve more young lives together.”

Greg Richardson, Head of Marketing at Toolstation added: “We’re really happy to have supported the VIY team and Long Buckby with the renovation of their facilities. This is a project that will help young people learn practical trade and building skills and earn a qualification. The construction sector is facing a shortage of workers and so we hope that this initiative will inspire more young people to consider entering the trades.”

The project is due to be completed at the start of November with the updated facilities being put into use for the first time at Long Buckby RFC’s next home fixture!

Meet Elise, our young volunteer painting her future with us on this project

VIY’s inspiring volunteers: Bill Langwith

26 October 2022

In conversation with Bill ‘Total Legend’ Langwith.

First volunteering with VIY back in 2015 at the Eric Allen Community House in partnership with Haringey Council in North London, Bill helped to renovate this disused community centre and mentored local residents, loving the experience of helping young people to take their minds off challenging issues through learning new skills. 

Bill recently returned to mentor young volunteers at Woodford Rugby Club in Essex


What do you enjoy the most about mentoring with VIY?

“I really love the job, it gives me full satisfaction and purpose. A highlight was hearing a young person say it was the ‘best day of my life’. It’s all worthwhile to help young people have those days.”


How has VIY changed your life?

“As well as all of the young people I’ve volunteered alongside through VIY, I’ve made friends for life. Before VIY, I mentored a guy in my local area, got him into the trade with me away from trouble and we struck up a great working relationship. I was building my own next generation in the trade. When I started working for VIY, I brought him with me and now that man is Alan Dalton, VIY Lead Mentor [pictured above together]. We’re still great friends now, more like father and son.

“Alan is a real example of how we can build the next generation, through volunteering, nurture and mentoring. Whether that be a tradesperson becoming a VIY Trade Mentor or one of the young people we work with, VIY makes a real difference to people’s lives and their community.” 

Bill catching up recently with VIY family Neil, Alan and Sue


Following that first taste of VIY, Bill has mentored on over 20 projects, earning the nickname ‘Total Legend’ after he went above and beyond to fix the aircon during a project at The Macbeth pub in Hackney, part of the Good Growth Fund through the Greater London Authority. Stories like these, along with his venerable age of 80, not to mention his positive can-do attitude, mean that Bill is firmly in the ‘VIY Hall of Fame’. 


Why do you believe in VIY? 

“VIY is not just a job, it’s a purpose. Yes, you get job satisfaction from doing a job well, but with VIY you can really help a young person in their life. 

“My first project was a definite eye opener for me into the lives of young people growing up in London today. VIY can only do good for young people and the mentors teaching them. I’m glad I’ve been able to pass on a bit of what I know to the young people I’ve worked with, and I hope it plays at least a small part in them securing a job in the future.

“The best moment is when the young people have had behavioural or mental health problems in the past, and we can get them really interested in learning new skills. VIY is something special.”


Why is volunteering important to you? 

I’ve volunteered at my local church for over 12 years, alongside working for VIY; sorting leaky taps, refreshing benches (keeping those woodwork skills alive!), the odd jobs they need someone to do. Volunteering still keeps me active – I’m no couch potato and like to keep busy to keep active, so I like helping out and feeling like I’m still making a difference to those around me.” 

Bill mentoring young volunteers

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