I’m trying my best to start this last newsletter of 2020 without mentioning the words ‘unprecedented’, ‘challenging’ or ‘the new normal’. So I’ll go straight into saying that despite everything 2020 has thrown at us, we’re closing the year feeling proud of what we’ve achieved and wanted to share some of that with you here.

 It was clear from the beginning of the first lockdown in March that furloughing staff would be an absolute, last resort for us. This was to ensure we were best able to support the people we were working with as well as the team - it was important to be together. We are pleased to say that the team has remained together and has been working incredibly hard. Albeit via laptops in our own homes with children/dogs/cats/partners occasionally photobombing meetings.

 Our response to continuing to support our trainees in the absence of our usual, in-person groups was the Making Sense Of… Podcast. The focus of our work – providing useful theory and information to help people make sense of their lives and process their life experiences – took on a relevance it had previously never had within the context of COVID-19. The MSO programme was our way of taking the essence of our work and making it publicly available via a podcast for those we were working with or had worked with recently. It also meant that people we’d never worked with before, who don’t live in London or even the UK, and who may never had any experience of addiction, were able to benefit, exemplifying the universal nature of our work. Episodes are released fortnightly – we put out a total of 15 since the launch of MSO in May and will have run 59 seminars by the time we close our doors for Xmas. We’ve also run 35 online Clothing for Change groups and 26 Women’s Space groups – these being weekly offerings to keep people connected to others, to creativity and to keeping the flame of gender equality burning brightly!

 The steep learning curve we experienced recording our podcast episodes and running the private Zoom seminars paved the way for us to create online adaptations of our courses. October saw us make the difficult decision to not run in-person groups for the foreseeable future and clarified the need to pour our energies into adapting our flagship courses - Psychology and Feminism for Change (PfC and FemfC). We completed our first ever online FemfC course in mid-December with a 100% completion rate; our first ever PfC course is scheduled to start on the 26th January with 10 eager trainees ready to start.

 You may remember that we held a fundraising concert in February this year to kickstart our campaign to raise £10,000 for Feminism for Change - events slightly overtook this campaign but it’s still live and you can still donate. Whilst we’re talking fundraising, one of our trustees organised a rather fabulous, tongue-in-cheek stab at a naff Xmas pub quiz to raise funds for FfC. It included rounds on everything from UK local trivia (that you’d only know if you were an avid reader of The Preston Gazette or The Scunthorpe Daily); childhood toys (think Hungry, Hungry, Hippos); a true/false round on all-female punk bands; name that yoga pose and local council logos. We raised a wonderful £1,116 from the 37 people that joined us on Zoom.

Before we close out the year, we want to say a massive THANK YOU to our funders for supporting us both financially and emotionally: to the Oak Foundation, The National Lottery, The London Community Response Fund, Derwent Community Fund, the Feminist Review Trust, and the People’s Neighbourhood Trust; to our major donors and our individual givers; to Deep Throat Choir who performed at the launch of our campaign in February and finally to our trustees – your support has meant that we have been able to support those who walked through our virtual doors.

Despite the challenges of remote working, we are happy to welcome Antonia to the team as our first ever paid apprentice. Over the last 18 months, Antonia successfully completed 3 of our courses and joins the team to support with comms, picking up where Katie left off when she left FfC after five years to concentrate her energies on her mutual aid work. We’re also recruiting for a new post – please do pass on the information for anyone you think may be interested.

 We wish you a nourishing break and a much better 2021.