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Toby Gorniak

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Toby Gorniak (Toby G) MBE is Artistic Director of Street Factory CIC, a small but ambitious BME-led arts organisation.

Over the past 15 years, Street Factory have made radical change and inspired thousands of young people with the support of their partners. They have also used their knowledge, passion and experience to successfully unlock the potential within all those that they work with; especially those with challenging social and economic beginnings. 

For Toby a combination of love, faith and respect is the key to unlocking change. 

“For many of the young people we work with, their biggest hurdle to overcome is the pain of never having experienced those things,” he said.

“I started Street Factory because I knew what it was to feel pain and loneliness, as well as fear and loss. 

“I’ve always believed that if we start with young people, we’re planting the seeds for our future to blossom with colourful and unique beauty.”

Street Factory’s ambition is to refuel young people’s souls and give them a home; to reset their way of thinking and bring positivity into their lives using hip hop. 

Their passion for everything they do is evident in their work. Programmes are rooted in the principles that Toby G and Jo, Toby’s partner, learnt for themselves as young people, and that they still practise today: spirituality, honest communication, real education, leadership, peace, goal setting, physical activity and community service.

“Hip hop saved me” Toby says. “It gave me a sense of hope, self-esteem, and love – by sharing this I know that we will better the world…I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose.”

Street Factory inspires young people through education and memorable experiences. The goals of their programmes are to use hip hop to uplift families and communities and to foster economic development whilst giving hope. 

“We give people somewhere to belong; somewhere to be themselves and somewhere where people believe in them,” says Toby.

“I wanted to help make tomorrow better than today for as many people as possible. Most of all I wanted to help people to understand that they could be good people and part of a strong and secure community, even if that wasn’t what they were born into.”

Toby and Jo Gorniak

Toby and Jo are driven by a deep-rooted passion, commitment and determination to use their philosophy to empower and enable young people – especially those who typically feel isolated and removed from the society in which they live. These young people don’t have roots or often a direction in a world that can be big and, at times, frightening. Many feel ignored and unable to find their own voice or place in the world. 

Street Factory focuses on passion, respect, love and loyalty and a belief that they can, and they will help give hope to everyone.

Shared experiences and compassion are the tools that enable them to deliver strong outcomes year on year. They take their programmes to the streets, to schools, into neighbourhoods and throughout many communities. 

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Toby’s work with Street Factory is always inspired by the needs of his community. 

“If our community needs us to run a project or learn a new skill, we will. It is important that we are led by need and keep our authenticity, and we continue to see potential in every person that walks through our door. 

“We want to provide the things that we needed as children – a space to be seen, valued, where your voice is heard and your potential unlocked for the world to see…”

Street Factory also instil a sense of pride and responsibility in the people who attend.

“We call this ripple effect “Teach 2 Teach”, where we ask people to pass on their new found knowledge, and build up their wider community – becoming a positive role model.”

During the first lockdown Toby was quick to take practical steps in supporting his community through connectivity. 

He says: “Back in March 2020 we saw that many of our community were living in digital poverty. We applied to local funders, and delivered laptops and iPads to families in need so they could access our sessions, home schooling and communicate with their families and friends.”

He also recognised how crucial Street Factory’s mental health and wellbeing sessions were, so he took to the telephone.

“We know that we are a lifeline to so many community members, and they needed us to keep connected to them during the lockdown. I spent 400 hours on the phone giving advice, mentoring, keeping people from feeling isolated. 

“We took all of our community sessions and adapted them for a variety of digital platforms. They are accessible online and free for all ages and abilities. 

“We also created theatre pieces to spread some joy, and – when restrictions allowed it – we performed in and around the city.”

Toby’s work with Street Factory is always inspired by the needs of his community. 

“If our community needs us to run a project or learn a new skill, we will. It is important that we are led by need and keep our authenticity, and we continue to see potential in every person that walks through our door. 

“We want to provide the things that we needed as children – a space to be seen, valued, where your voice is heard and your potential unlocked for the world to see…”

Street Factory also instil a sense of pride and responsibility in the people who attend.

“We call this ripple effect “Teach 2 Teach”, where we ask people to pass on their new found knowledge, and build up their wider community – becoming a positive role model.”

During the first lockdown Toby was quick to take practical steps in supporting his community through connectivity. 

He says: “Back in March 2020 we saw that many of our community were living in digital poverty. We applied to local funders, and delivered laptops and iPads to families in need so they could access our sessions, home schooling and communicate with their families and friends.”

He also recognised how crucial Street Factory’s mental health and wellbeing sessions were, so he took to the telephone.

“We know that we are a lifeline to so many community members, and they needed us to keep connected to them during the lockdown. I spent 400 hours on the phone giving advice, mentoring, keeping people from feeling isolated. 

“We took all of our community sessions and adapted them for a variety of digital platforms. They are accessible online and free for all ages and abilities. 

“We also created theatre pieces to spread some joy, and – when restrictions allowed it – we performed in and around the city.”

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