MAP is a charity that provides creative education, qualifications and first-hand experience to young people at risk of exclusion from the mainstream school system. Through workshops and courses, the charity nurtures, guides and inspires the next generation.
Jemima Skala talks to Raf Bogan about the charity’s vision and future.
In Leeds, everyone knows about MAP charity. In a city with such a big DIY scene, MAP’s mission to offer creative qualifications to students who don’t fit into a mainstream structure resonates with so many of Leeds’ familiar faces. Sitting down to talk with Raf Bogan, MAP’s communications manager, I was excited to talk to one of the proponents of one of Leeds’ best-loved institutions and hear their mission straight from the horse’s mouth.
In Raf’s words, “MAP is a Leeds-based arts and education organisation. We’re set up essentially like an alternative school with classrooms and teachers, but we offer creative qualifications to kids who are having a tough time fitting into a mainstream setting.” Residing in Mabgate’s Hope Foundry, MAP provides a haven of education for those who don’t fit into a traditional academic structure, allowing children to flourish by creating partnerships between working creatives and MAP’s students. “That’s really important,” Raf stresses, “because our students, who are doing BTECs in creative subjects, can see that the stuff they’re learning has a practical outcome: they’re not just learning about it for learning’s sake.”
"We’re seeing all this change around us... we’ve harnessed that and repurposed it into something positive”
MAP is assuredly one of the city’s flourishing independent enterprises; they have their heart and ethics firmly rooted in the community, giving back to everyone who helps along the way. It was therefore shocking when, just over a year ago, MAP charity launched a fundraising project with the target of £2.4m: their home in Mabgate was being threatened by a housing development project to turn the stunning heritage building of Hope Foundry into luxury flats.
Rather than give up without a fight, MAP have something else up their sleeve: “We basically created an alternative vision for the site; this is our home and we think it’s really important that we are in Leeds city centre and we aren’t pushed further afield. So we’ve got quite a bold but definitely achievable vision which is basically outright purchasing the site and transforming it, refurbishing it into a community arts centre.” This will include expanding the work of their education project to be able to bring in new resident artists and creatives, turning the building into a hub for young people. As well as that, they are planning to create a dedicated music venue and arts space, urban roof gardens, and a community café and kitchen.
“I think with every threat it can spark a positive outcome,” Raf muses. “We’re seeing all this change around us, but rather than burying our head in the sand, we’ve actually harnessed that and repurposed it into something really positive.”
Since MAP is a cause so dear to Leeds’ heart, the community has rallied around the fundraising effort in order to save such a necessary initiative. “We’ve been blown away by the support that local students, local promoters, venues, businesses and – thank you so much to everyone that has put on a fundraiser or has donated to us.” Raf stops speaking, acknowledging every contributor to the cause so far. “It really is an incredible gesture, and I think it goes to show that our vision and this project is bigger than MAP Charity, it’s bigger than this building. It’s about the kind of city we want to live in, and the society we want to live in.”
Raf notes that one of the main challenges during fundraising has been keeping focused on the task at hand. “We’re a small team, and we’ve got such big plans, so it’s important that we remain focused and rational, and we look at achievable targets.” With so many supporters of the charity, people are constantly getting in touch to pitch new projects, collaborations and proposals. Yet, with the mammoth task of fundraising ahead of them for the foreseeable future, they simply can’t do everything. He laughs as he tells me, “the kind of person I am, I’d like to say yes to everything and try and juggle loads of different things, but we need to remain really focused.”
As far as nice people go, MAP Charity are surely the nicest. They do not rely on government funding, they are a fully self-sustaining organisation and are intent on using their resources to aid the flourishing community of creatives that makes Leeds so special. As Whitney Houston said, the children are our future, and MAP is doing everything they can to safeguard our future by fostering the next generation of creative thinkers.