Street Factory CIC

Meet Toby G, Artistic Director of Street Factory CIC, a company doing tremendous work with young and disadvantaged people in Plymouth.

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I am Toby G and I run a hip hop company with my wife Jo. We work with young people and families in Plymouth and we share a strong passion for Britain’s Ocean City.

Many of the young people we have had the privilege of working with have built their aspirations with us – a number of them have gone on to perform nationally, with some even performing internationally. One of our young men has joined the National Physical Theatre Company and has flown to Singapore this year, and another has graduated from a top photography and film degree from university in London! Many are now in training and employment, including further education, professional dancers, professional dance teachers and more importantly, all of them giving back to their communities! This is down to the fact that we understand at Street Factory the true importance of “knowledge is something you should share”, so we “teach to teach” – all members have the responsibility to pass on the knowledge they have gained from us to the wider community. We have found that all these young people need is to feel valued, be empowered to have a strong self belief, and hope!

I share a belief in all young people, their capabilities and the possibilities for their growth and development with us. I work so hard in helping them develop not just as individuals, but also as a group and going further I constantly reinforce the belief that they, as a group, have a duty and responsibility to the community around them. This belief is echoed within all the work I do.

Once we manage to instil a sense of pride in the young people, this has a knock on effect and helps them to rise to the challenges their life puts in front of them. We teach them tools and skills so they can begin to react differently to the difficulties they face, growing resilience and a sense of purpose.

We can’t believe that this year its our 10 year anniversary! We started off in our local church running free community sessions for families, and now we run national projects, transforming lives through dance and mentoring with NEETS, creating lasting change.

We also won an Award from Simon Cowell in London for “Outstanding Community Work” and I received an honorary fellowship degree from Plymouth Art College!

Toby G., Artistic Director

Performing at Plymouth Culturefest (credit: Adrian Barnett)

Enjoying the performances at Plymouth Culturefest (credit: Adrian Barnett)

We are incredibly excited as this year we are moving to our own space in Millbay. This venue will be a Community Hub in the evening for the whole community for all ages, abilities and backgrounds to come together and unite. We will run free community hip hop classes for families, commercial classes, dance crews (who will perform locally for the community and at charity events), youth clubs, holiday clubs, mentoring sessions, hip hop theatre, over 60s classes, under 18s discos, cultural days and festivals where all cultures will come together in a safe space and share. We promote healthy living, uniting local organisations who can hold community workshops to partner and collaborate.

Our Community Hub will create an environment in which the community feel physically, mentally, and spiritually safe – free to be, express, respect, grow, teach, and learn with each other. A safe environment to discuss topics they care about and process the world around them. Community members from different backgrounds will gather together and engage in honest dialogue, where boundaries can be dismantled and the doors to understanding opened.

This is just the beginning for Street Factory, and this year we are building the foundations for our hip hop education and employability qualifications and our school (for people aged 16-18) will be opening in September 2017. We are working towards our venue being recognised globally and we have strong links with America – we will have pioneers of hip hop attending and teaching in our venue and our students will have the chance to visit their schools in New York and Los Angeles!

All our staff will be from past and present projects we have run in and around Plymouth, giving them a chance to reconnect with their community, unlocking their individual potential and changing our society’s stereotypical perceptions. All our staff and volunteers feel most fulfilled when they ensure that these young people, no matter their background or ability, have the chance to be the best they can be, doing something they love!

A great deal of the young people we work with do not understand the importance of education, employment or training and we have had to build their aspiration, challenge their beliefs and encourage them to turn their passions in life into a profession, giving hope to those who openly feel disconnected from their dreams. The way forward is for local businesses to embrace these young people and give them a chance to have work experience, apprenticeship opportunities and employment so they can continue on their positive journey in Plymouth. “United we stand!”