New film brings Bridge task into sharp focus

The documentary team, from left, Michael Wiltshire (Writer), Emily Phelps (Student), Roger Stevens of samfilms, Jake Fearnley (Student) and Chris McLoughlin of samfilms

The documentary team, from left, Michael Wiltshire (Writer), Emily Phelps (Student), Roger Stevens of samfilms, Jake Fearnley (Student) and Chris McLoughlin of samfilms

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A “lifeline” charity supporting Blackpool’s most vulnerable residents has laid itself bare through a hard hitting documentary in a bid to encourage support.

Bosses at Bridge Project have admitted they are operating ‘hand to mouth’ as they support 40 people every day, who are homeless, suffering mental health problems or fleeing violent homes.

Michael Collins with programme worker Karina Wasielewska

Michael Collins with programme worker Karina Wasielewska

The project, based in the Salvation Army Citadel on Raikes Parade, costs £80,000 to run annually, but its trustees are reliant on the generosity of the general public.

This, they say, is in the face of hearing its users tell them they feel they would die without their vital support of food, friendship, education and advice.

Now they are sharing the 10-minute film in a bid to encourage support for the cause, donations to their supplies and the backing of financiers to continue their work.

Project manager Bev Taylor said: “It was quite emotional watching it for the first time, it really puts into perspective what we do each day.

We just get on with it but to take a step back and see it is good. I’m blessed to do this job

“We just get on with it but to take a step back and see it is good. I’m blessed to do this job.

“I hope that other people will see that this is a vital, emergency service and that we’re doing the right thing by giving a hand up, not a hand out, to these people in a positive way.”

Film makers from Blackpool-based SAMFilms, co-founded by Roger Stevens and Chris McLoughlin, spent three days with the charity in February.

The crew captured footage during classes, interviewed staff, volunteers and people using the service and talked to organisations which support the charity, including Sainsbury’s and The Gazette.

Blackie Vuk and Clare O'Hara

Blackie Vuk and Clare O'Hara

The film is now being used on the project’s website as well as on social media sites but is primarily intended to be used for grant applications for funding.

“We rely on donations,” Ms Taylor explains while showing the film crew store cupboards, intended to be stacked with food donations, toiletries, sleeping bags, clothing and towels to be given out.

“We don’t have any money and we don’t buy any of this stuff, we can only give what we get.”

As well as giving emergency food parcels and essentials and offering balanced three-course lunches for just £1 to those in need, the centre runs daily classes – ranging from English and maths, to IT or anger management.

The Bridge Project within the Salvation Army Citadel

The Bridge Project within the Salvation Army Citadel

“One of the most important things we do is put structure into people’s lives and build their confidence,” Ms Taylor added.

Business development co-ordinator Tom Clark said: “At any one point we can only plan three months ahead, because of what money we’ve got.

“We’re a centre for people in crisis and if we weren’t here I don’t know what would happen.” Ms Taylor added: “We do worry where the money will come from, one month to the next.

“The majority of these people are living on the streets so if they come here and we can’t feed them, then what?” asks Ms Taylor. “It is frightening how much people rely on us and you can see it’s a matter of life and death. We’ve had people come here who’ve come straight from being discharged from a mental health unit, they had nowhere else to go. There’s women escaping violent relationships, older men who’ve lost everything.”

The documentary features the stories, anonymously, of some of the centre’s many success stories.

Men and women tell of drifting into the project with nothing but the clothes they stand up in; alone after a prison stay, a job loss, a relationship break up or a family row. “Without this place, I’d probably have died,” they candidly tell the camera.

Gordon Ward shows off some of his paintings to Bev Taylor

Gordon Ward shows off some of his paintings to Bev Taylor

Ms Taylor added: “When they thank us, it’s really from the heart.”

The film also features representatives from bosses of Sainsbury’s on Red Bank Road, which collects food to donate to the project and raises cash for it too.

“It’s good to have so many different voices in the documentary, it shows all sorts of people are doing what they can to support us,” said Ms Taylor.

“We want this film to generate support so we can continue to do this work and make Blackpool a better place to live for everyone.”

SAMFilms co-founder Roger Stevens said: “It was an eye-opener for us to see what the project does.

“We’re hoping to show that the Bridge Project does a great job but if they were better funded they could do even more.”

Ms Taylor added: “The production company have been amazing, it’s wonderful that they’ve supported us as they have and in such a professional way.

“We’re overwhelmed by their kindness.

“They couldn’t believe the work that goes on here so we hope their enthusiasm for learning about it is mirrored in the documentary.”

Volunteer Charlotte Cooper with James McEvoy

Volunteer Charlotte Cooper with James McEvoy

The Bridge Project within the Salvation Army Citadel

The Bridge Project within the Salvation Army Citadel