How art-based charity, All Change, nurtures creativity and changes lives – #SmallCharityWeek

B Creative young women’s project at Apple Store - photo by Danny Treacy
B Creative young women’s project at Apple Store - photo by Danny Treacy

All Change is a cherished small charity that brings artists and communities together through authentic arts projects and experiences. Supported by various grants from Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Giving, All Change has grown and adapted over its 40-year history to support diverse communities, helping individuals access opportunities and lead fulfilling lives.

The “All” in “All Change” refers to all people and all art forms. The change refers to the impact of their work and people making change in their own lives. ~ Suzanne, Artistic Director at All Change

The charity connects people through a blend of artforms including photography, poetry, theatre, and music, encouraging creativity, collaboration, and understanding. Artists and participants work together to build skills, confidence, and self-expression, sharing their stories, and even addressing tough subjects.

Projects are co-developed with and tailored to the community, and support a wide range of participants, including young parents, older people, asylum seekers, refugees, and young women. Projects often evolve from previous ones, adapting to changing needs. For example, a programme for young mothers up to age 25 transitioned into one that also supports older mothers.

“People from Islington who have benefited from the projects play a vital role in advocating for our work and the community alike, bringing strong local knowledge and experience.”

Inspire young parents on stage at Sadler’s Wells

The core team is small but diverse, including Islington residents and former participants who now hold paid roles, ensuring the initiatives remain relevant and effective. This intergenerational mix brings fresh perspectives and ideas. The charity also works closely with a range of partners, including educational institutions, corporates, charities, trusts, and foundations, to stay informed about community needs, as well as to maximise impact.

“We’re not necessarily a charity providing essential basic needs. It’s much deeper than that. And I think what we’ve always done, is ask, where can the arts help?”

Where can the Arts help?

Deeply rooted in the borough, All Change aims to address inequality in Islington, giving a platform to those voices that are often unheard.

“Islington is an unequal area with people who have an awful lot, and people who have nothing at all. We’re interested in redressing that balance and looking at who isn’t being seen, who isn’t being heard, and how can arts and culture enable those people to find a way to tell their stories and to be seen and to be celebrated.” 

Despite facing challenges such as economic pressures, funding instability, and increased demand for services, the charity remains resilient. This includes creatively adapting methods such as organising cost-effective outings for young women, such as free cultural venues, when traditional funding is scarce. This enables sustained engagement with the people they work with whilst they seek out funding.

“[The weekly outings] are really nourishing, enriching, and stimulating for the young women, it keeps them connected to each other and to us. So, while we haven’t got lots of resources to deliver, they’re still feeding their creative interests. And until we can get more ambitious again and get back into delivering workshops, we’re trying to be creative, you know, if we can’t do this, what can we do?”

“Organisationally, it’s a rollercoaster of surviving and thriving…From local to global issues, I think this moment in history, and for the communities we’re working with, it’s never been tougher.”

Rub-A-Dub at Sadler’s Wells – photo by Em Fitzgerald

Another challenge is that arts and culture are not always seen as a priority, especially when local authorities must choose between funding social care or cultural initiatives. Suzanne says All Change offers “a bit of beauty” during these challenging times and can have a lasting impact on the lives of the people they work with.

“Spending time with people in a creative environment, making beautiful things, helps to open up your imagination, imagine possibilities, and recognise in yourself what you can do, and go back out there and face that today… We might not be seen as an essential service but I think we all really need that nourishing and boosting – and the arts and culture can give us a bit of beauty.”

At the heart of their ethos integrity across every aspect of our work. They actively involve the board, team and maintain open lines of communication with stakeholders to tackle the challenges they face head-on. Highlighting the key role and impact of small charities, Suzanne also expressed concern about the increasing need for support amid shrinking resources. This includes the difficult reality that many are facing, including those dealing with mental health issues and struggling to access vital services that have been scaled back or discontinued.

“The good thing is we can be more flexible, tailored and get to the heart of things quite quickly but the risk is that we get used to as a sticking plaster if we’re not careful.”

The charity has witnessed heart-warming impact over the years. For instance, the collaboration with Almeida Theatre featured the late 97-year-old Eula Harrison, who charmed audiences while celebrating social care workers, earning a earning a standing ovation and rave reviews in national newspapers.

Suzanne Lee, Artistic Director – photo by Leticia Valverdes

Another success is the young parent’s project, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Former young parents, now accomplished adults, recently joined the charity to celebrate. One of them, Keisha Riley Douglas, started with the charity as a 14-year-old mum and has since become a counsellor, foster mother, and integral team member, helping new teenage mums navigate their journeys. These stories highlight All Change’s commitment to empowering individuals of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life.

Suzanne’s passion for equality and the arts keeps her dedicated to All Change. She finds inspiration in the extraordinary individuals she meets and the tangible impact of their work. Moments like young parents and their children performing at Sadler’s Wells and seeing the pride in participants when they showcase their art, deeply move her. Through All Change, Suzanne hopes to continue creating opportunities for everyone to thrive and inspire.

“I come from an arts background and I’m really passionate about equality. And so it was kind of my politics and my creative interests coming together for change. But I think if you if you ask me, what keeps me going, it’s no day is ever the same.”

LOVE your small charity!

This Small Charity Week, Islington Giving and our parent charity Cripplegate Foundation, will be sharing stories of the incredible small charities we work with in Islington. We invite you to get involved and show your love for small charities this week and beyond.

Here are 3 simple actions you can take:

1. Join us and/or share this story on LinkedIn – use #LoveYourSmallCharity and #SmallCharityWeek so we can find you!

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3. Volunteer, donate or fundraise to support your local community