We caught up with Karen Bradford, founder of the Sorted Project, who has been part of The Melting Pot community since before we could get through the front door of 5 Rose Street! The Melting Pot and the Sorted Project have grown together over the last decade. Karen told us about starting up a brand new charity, what The Melting Pot means to her 10 years on and the Sorted Project canal boat…
“When you’re a new start up it’s nice to know that if you’ve had a good week you can share it, if you’ve had a crap week there’s someone to talk to, you know. The Melting Pot’s an important environment.”
When did you join The Melting Pot?
So, it would have been 2008. A long time! I remember standing in Rose Street with Claire, we couldn’t get in (to the building) at that point, and she was hoping to get The Melting Pot with her vision.
Sorted Project came into being in 2008 and to be honest we couldn’t have done it without The Melting Pot. Because we didn’t have any money, you know. We basically got enough money to give to Claire to set membership up and have an address, set up the charity, set up the company and go from there.
It’s lovely cause when I got that email going it’s the Melting Pot’s 10th birthday I went, “Awesome!”. I look back and we couldn’t, we just could not have set up, we wouldn’t be here now… Awesome.
What were you looking for when you joined The Melting Pot?
Well, we’d never done this before, so I think for us, it was really just having a community that understood what we were doing and where we were at, that was really important.
When you’re a new start up it’s nice to know that if you’ve had a good week you can share it, if you’ve had a crap week you can go – makes crying sound – and there’s someone to talk to, you know. It’s an important environment.
Can you tell me a bit about what your organisation, Sorted Project, does?
The charity supports people who are in recovery from addiction. They’ve gone through the chaos, they come out the other side and think I can’t do this anymore; I’m going to have to do something about it. From our point of view, it’s about having a safe space and the kind of environment, a bit like The Melting Pot, where you have a community of likeminded people get together. It’s about what you’re doing with your day. Training, volunteering, some people go back to college, some people get back into work but a different career.
We started hiring a canal boat, a few years ago now, Re-Union Canal Boats, another great charity. We hired it one day a week and it just started to get more and more popular because people love the environment. They love the canal, they’re like steering the boat, they’re joining the crew, they’re getting qualifications: the Royal Yachtsman’s Helmsman Certificate. It’s a good, formal qualification that allows people to work and volunteer on the water; whether it’s the canal, rivers or lochs. So, about 2 years ago our main funder Big Lottery Fund came on board.
Literally on board!
Yes exactly, they put a toe in the water, and we were all in the same boat! Sorry, there’s just so many.
So, they said, “Right, what do you want to do”. I said – I know it’s a big ask but I’d really like a boat, full time on the water, for the recovery community. It will be skippered, people getting their boat masters licences, they’ll skipper the boat, crew the boat, provide hospitality. They’ll welcome new members, it’s a peer support environment; people will have crew on the back of their t shirt and are part of that community. In the summer of this year, Big Lottery Fund said yes!
What sort of impact do you think membership at The Melting Pot has had on your organisation and you personally?
Well I think it’s kind of multifaceted. You say, “Meet you at The Melting Pot”, it’s just comfortable, and it’s familiar. I think knowing people within the community is great, knowing that you’re part of The Melting Pot is great.
But, I think, the reality, if you think about the operational impact on any charity in a capital city. Any kind of space that you need to work from or meet people at, the degree of flexibility that you get at The Melting Pot, you just don’t get anywhere else, that’s the bottom line.
Knowing that people that use The Melting Pot are third sector and independent and very much connected to social enterprise, that community return aspect – you don’t get that from rent an office for £35 an hour or things like that. It’s completely different. We couldn’t, we genuinely couldn’t, have set up what we wanted to do. It would have been our home address, we would have been meeting people randomly in cafes it would have been a bit dodgy, I think. It gave us, The Melting Pot, gave us that sense of: wow we’re serious, we’re on Rose Street in Edinburgh, this is where we’re based. You’re able to have that professional face of a business, on a shoestring, which is great. Couldn’t have done it without The Melting Pot, Claire’s awesome. Good idea Claire.
What is your favourite thing about being a Member of The Melting Pot?
I just have to choose one favourite thing? It would be so funny if I said Phil (hosting, often found at The Melting Pot reception desk)!
When you come in and someone goes hiya… At The Melting Pot you always, always get a good welcome and it’s nice! You know, if you have a bit of a tiring week or you’ve heard a few difficult stories or have problems to manage it’s just nice to go, “Oh hiya, good to see you!”. There’s a smile and a friendliness when you buzz in. That is my favourite thing actually.
Do you have a memory you could share from your time at The Melting Pot?
Hmmm, there’s been quite a lot…
Do you know it’s funny, what’s coming to mind is the 6th birthday party, I don’t know why. It was just that kind of galvanising moment. I thought 6 years! That’s significant you know and we’re still part of it too, that’s really cool.
So, actually when The Melting Pot go “We’re 10!” I’m like: great, we’re still right behind you.
The Melting Pot celebrates its 10th birthday on Friday 10 October.