Rich has been described as “a shining example of the cycle of positive change that can be initiated within a community if talented people share their gifts”

Bio

Rich’s prodigious musical talent governed his life from being six until he was twenty-one. He was a chorister at Cambridge Chapel Choir and also played the violin, piano, drums and guitar. He then attended Birmingham Conservatoire, where he took vocal and opera studies. Rich loved being immersed in the world of music and he would have become a professional musician if he had not taken a gap year when his parents relocated to Bradford in early 2000’s.

Rich was captivated by Bradford; the vibrancy of its culture and the warmth and resilience of the people. While managing the café which was the shop front for the charity, TLG -The Education Charity, which was involved in community youth work and alternative education for young people; Rich unexpectedly discovered a vocation.

Young people were not allowed to go into the café unaccompanied, but one particular lad used to sneak in, and Rich would make him coffee and chat to him. He later discovered that he was an elective mute who had been unable to communicate after seeing his dad assault his mother repeatedly. His father was imprisoned and his mother suffered mental health issues, so the lad had been forced to fend for himself. This experience made Rich realise that he had a gift for reaching the most damaged young people and also to re-evaluate the indulgent world of music. The charity saw his ability and created a job for him as youth development worker; working in the classroom and doing youth work with the most vulnerable kids. Supporting these broken and disregarded young people made Rich resolve to devote all his time to changing their lives.

When the charity decided to operate nationally and cut their local provision, Rich knew that more needed to be done to address the needs of the people in the community he lived in, who were afflicted by social problems and accompanying hopelessness. He decided to establish an innovative charity that worked at grassroots and could respond flexibly to the needs of the children, young people and families. He wanted to tackle the educational needs of those who had be alienated at school or faced other barriers to learning, but also to work holistically to include social issues including family support, healthcare, debt advice, support for offenders and so on.

Rich’s extraordinary commitment is shaped and sustained by faith, which he lives rather than preaches about. Motivated by love, he does not judge anyone he encounters or ever give up on them. Even when they let him down, he still believes in their potential. He says that none of us are the perfect product; we are all just on a journey towards it.

Rich regularly feels heartbroken at the pain and tragedy people in our communities, cities and nation are enduring, but the tears he cries are not of sorrow but of compassion. He says that compassion has the word “passion” within it and that leads to action.

Meeting Rich is inevitably inspiring and life-affirming. He is a rare find; someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk. Rich has made an outstanding contribution to the local community and to the lives of many young people.

Rich is passionate about social justice, particularly advocating, campaigning and creating solutions on behalf of the vulnerable and marginalised in society. He is driven to see the very best opportunities available to all, regardless of cultural, economic or social background. This was the driving force behind him founding, establishing and growing a children and young people’s charity based in one of the most deprived areas of the UK in Bradford and his subsequent involvement in other charities and social enterprises.

Rich believes that the keys to our communities, cities and nations bright future lie in the hands of those who make up our communities, communities growing up and developing in a time of uncertainty and oppression. Our task is to invest in them, believing that there is an answer to the issues they face and working with the community we can breakdown barriers to see them step into a hope filled future, a future they shape.

Rich is a social innovator, a social entrepreneur, a determined individual seeking to bring about the change our communities, cities and nation need to not just survive or strive, but to thrive.

– Bio taken from the oration prior to receiving an Honorary Fellowship of Bradford College