free@last receive £1 MILLION from the Big Lottery Fund towards our Big Build!!!

16th November 2015

Following a £1 million Big Lottery Grant and other gifts from Tudor Trust, Garfield Weston, Henry Smith, as well as many local businesses and individuals, we have raised £1.75 million towards our Big Build multi-purpose youth and community centre.

This fantastic news has enabled us to start planning for demolition and start work on our new centre in April 2016. All we need now is the final £250,000 to reach our £2 million target.

‘How can I help?’ I hear you say!

There are several ways in which you can help us achieve our goal, and these are:

1. BIG BUILD BALL – on Thursday 12th May 2016 [PLEASE NOTE THE NEW DATE] we have our second ball at Aston Villa FC. This is a fantastic evening of entertainment and enjoyment.

2. DONATE CASH – You can make card donations by clicking on any of these choices:

3. DONATE GOODS & SERVICES – If you run a business that provides any of the following materials, and you would like to give your time and any of the items listed below please get in touch:

a. Double glazing (particularly fire proof)

b. Flooring

c. Recording Studio fit-out and equipment

d. Commercial Kitchen

e. Skip hire


If you would like to get involved with any of the above, and join the free@last journey please get in touch with John Street on either 0121 327 5959 or 07971000598.


Thank you

Trustees at the House of Lords

25th September 2015

free@last has been privileged to receive support from Scottish Power Energy People Trust to help people local people suffering in fuel poverty. Their grant secured the employment of our debt & benefit adviser Yousef, who is now funded by the Big Lottery reaching Communities Fund. To celebrate our relationship with SPEPT we were invited to their 10th Anniversary at the House of Lords. Our chair of trustees, Ricardo Atlan, and Eleni Paschou, another of our trustees, attended this lovely and prestigious event on behalf of free@last. We look forward to continuing our relationship with SPEPT in the future.

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Catching Up!!

16th August 2015

It has been a hectic year for free@last, particularly with the Big Build Campaign, so it’s about time we caught up with you all.

Here’s a few highlights:

January – our Nechells Young Leaders (2014) gave their end of project of project presentation


















NYL enjoying a day at the Villa, courtesy of Michael & Ravi from AVFC











March – our Big Build Ball was centre of attention, with special thanks to Emma Larkin (All in All Events) for pulling it together; Youth on Stage for performing at short notice Adam, David & Adrian for sharing their stories; Tom Fox for speaking; Paul Painter for photography; DJ Scott for spinning them beats; Jon (Perry Scenic) for lending us the DJ Box; Jane (AYS Logistics for moving the box) and all those who supported the event, attended the ball and made pledges to support our Big Build – thank you.

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Big Lottery Application for £1 million submitted to the Lottery











April – live on New Style FM to chat and promote the Big Build

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May – Fundraising for the Big Build continued with a local table top sale where many local residents got involved with our campaign and a golf tournament organised by the amazing Steve Quance, thank you









June – John won an award for the charity











July – The new NYL group began and have already had workshops with Aston Fire Station, Oldbury Fire Service, Aston Ambulance Service and Councillor John Cotton. Thank you all for your hard work and support.

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With huge thanks to the Family Holiday Association we’ve once again been able to run free family days at our Family Fun Zone and take some of families off to North Wales for an activity holiday.


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Big Build Campaign

15th November 2014

After receiving confirmation that the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund has approved our stage 2 funding application for £1 million towards our new building project we have started our Big Build Campaign to raise the remaining £800,000 for this to become a reality. There are many different ways that we are working hard to raise the remaining funds, including other funding applications, fun days, table top sales, corporate events, internet giving and social media requests – all making the Big Build Campaign a reality.

If you would like more information have a look at or give us a ring on 01213275959 if you want to get involved.

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We are holding a Black Tie Fundraising Ball on March 18th 2015 to help raise funds and awareness for our Big Build Campaign and our work in Nechells. If you would like to attend, or for more information or to book please contact John on 07971000598 or Emma on 07595225353
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NYL in Bulgaria 2014

15th November 2014

For the second year running the Nechells Young Leaders have returned to Bulgaria to work with FSCI Bulgaria. Last year we went to Stara Zagora, 3 hours drive from Sofia (the capital) to paint an orphanage. This year we stayed in Sofia and learnt more about their House of Opportunity Progamme, which helps young people leaving institutional care.

Social Enterprise is a new concept in Bulgaria and FSCI are the leaders of sustainable ventures as they run the only successful Bulgarian led SE in the country. Their product is soap, HOPe Soap to be precise, an they sell the soap to generate income for the House’s. The NYL’s had worked hard, with support from Lisa Gregory (Ginger Energy) & Peter Howard (PHd Design) to create a new line of soap for sale to the hotels. A presentation about their new product line was deliver to Jason Wouhra and Gordon Johncox and after much discussion and support the NYL’s were ready to make a difference.

Following a coupld of days making the soap, creating the new packaging, and writing their  scripts they were ready to make their presentations to the Hilton and Best Western Premier Thracia hotels. Not only were they superb in their delivery and presentations but they have enabled these 2 hotels to begin a partnership and an order for Christmas gifts has already been made.

Thank you to all the FSCI team, young people and hotel staff that made our visit a great success. We are looking forward to next year!

Archery at Weddings

15th November 2014

One of our businesses is Freax Adventures, an adventurous activity and team building company. We have begun to attend wedding fayres as we offer archery at weddings, as well as activities for Stag and Hen do’s. The archery is a great addition to any wedding as it provides a focal point either before of after the Wedding Breakfast, allowing the guests to share a new experience together during the quiet times of the wedding. For more info gives us a call or look at the activities page on


Our Social Enterprises & Businesses

15th November 2014

Since 2005 free@last has been working hard to generate its own income and become self sustainable. One of our businesses is the Family Fun Zone at Star City, which is an activity centre for all ages, offering archery, crossbows, BB Gun target shooting, paint a pot, pyrography, soft play and pedalos/canoes/kayaks during the warmer months.

Family Fun Zone can also be used for birthday parties and private functions – the pictures here are a business network social event (BNI). if you are interested in using the FFZ for yourself, family, friends or business please get in touch.


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NYL with Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co

15th November 2014

Our Young Leaders programme continued with a very informative workshop with Lorna Gavin, head of CSR, discussing the reality that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it and work hard. Perceptions that a solicitor firm only has solicitor positions and that young people from Nechells would find it too difficult to work for such a firm were soon dispersed as Lorna uncovered the truth rather than the perception.

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Thank you Erdington Rotary

15th November 2014

During the free@last Fun Day we had a very special visit from Ron and Ann from the Erdington Rotary club, and once again they have shown their commitment to our work and presented us with a cheque for £500. Thank you so very much for your continued support.











free@last Fundraising Fun Day 2014

15th November 2014

Another year on and September sees the return of the free@last fun day at Brookvale Park. Once again the free@last staff and volunteers were joined by 60 Challenge members and their team leaders to help us raise funds for our building project. The sun was out, the people came, the activities were great, the entertainment was graciously provided by Dean from Switch 107 FM radio, the Zumba was non-stop and a good time was had by all. Thank you to everyone who got involved with this annual, and fantastic event.

NYL – Keeping it real

14th November 2014

The NYL’s were led in a discussion of leading by choice, faith and purpose, from the one and only Nathan Dennis. Great food for thought, thanks Nathan.

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NYL with Big Businesses

14th November 2014

Our Nechells Young Leader’s were given the massive opportunity of spending time with Gordon Johncox (MD or Aston Manor Brewery), who showed them around the factory and discussed the manufacturing process. We then drove up the road to East End Foods where Jason Wouhra (MD) discussed the wholesale business and gave them a tour of the warehouse. Together Gordon and Jason shared their experiences of business and set the lads a challenge to create a presentation of how to develop the social enterprise of a youth organisation in Bulgaria – who make soap to generate income.

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NYL with Councillor John Cotton

14th November 2014

The Nechells Young Leaders have been learning leadership skills in all 3 sectors, Private, Public and the Third sector, and we were privileged to spend a couple of hours with one of our city’s Cabinet Members, discussing the difficulties of making difficult decisions, representation and working under pressure. Thank you once again John.

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NYL with Peter Higgs

14th November 2014

The Nechells Young Leaders met with Peter Higgs, the owner of Best of Birmingham and Birmingham’s BNI, who showed them with a gold club that anything is possible. Living in Nechells can sometimes create a very isolated viewpoint of the world and restrain them from believing that they can achieve whatever the put their minds too. Thanks to Pete they began to believe in themselves.

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Family Holiday 2014

12th August 2014

We have been blessed with a grant from Family Holiday Association to run a summer holiday scheme for families and to include a weekend residential. So this weekend 33 parents and children joined the free@last and Freax Adventures team to a beautiful place in North Wales. Staying at the home where Lawrence of Arabia was born we enjoyed a fantastic weekend of fun and friendship, including a walk up a mountain (Cnicht) and kayak surfing on Black Rock Sands beach.

NYL @ Aston Ambulance Station

2nd August 2014

The Nechells Young Leaders next workshop was with Andy the paramedic from Aston Ambulance Service. If there’s one important thing to learn as a team it’s how to save each other’s lives – so this was a lesson of the heart, literally, how to keep a heart going in cardiac arrest – using CPR and defibrillators. Thanks go to Andy for his time and sharing his knowledge.


Nechells Young Leaders @ Aston Fire Station 2

25th July 2014

Once again Red Watch at Aston Fire Station opened their doors to our young leaders and gave them a fantastic opportunity to improve on the team building skills from last week at to experience the hose and search & rescue in smoke filled rooms. We are exceptionally thankful for the support of the Fire Service. Thank you.


Nechells Young Leaders @ Aston Fire Station

18th July 2014

Red Watch at Aston Fire Station welcomed the NYL’s with open arms to show them how to work together as a team. It was fantastic to see the lads and girls working together and having fun doing it. Huge thanks to all at AFS Red Watch.

Nechells Young Leaders 2014 Army Reserve’s

10th July 2014

Our new group of young leaders have enjoyed a team building session with the Sheldon Army Reserve’s – thanks to all the guys who gave their time to make us run around, get out of breath, work hard and learn new skills. It was fantastic.


New Facebook Page

29th May 2014

Check out the new free@last Facebook page at We will be sharing our journey over the past 15 years which means if we have a photo of you it will probably be on here very soon!! This is also a chance for you to share your journey with free@last too, for all the world to see.

Half Term Holiday Club

29th May 2014

We are having a great week at the holiday club. With the poor weather and the limited services available in our community the club is a great place for  our children and young people to relax, be safe and have fun.

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Nechells Young Leaders – New Group

13th May 2014

We are starting a new Nechells Young Leaders programme in June. If you are over 16 and interested give us a call.

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Football with Tony Morley

13th May 2014

Our all age football training has begun with our head coach Tony Morley. We have already run 2 sessions for 40 primary aged children and last night was our first teenage/adult session with 15 turning up for some expert coaching. if you are interested in joining in or even sponsoring our football school please do get in touch.

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Paintball Fun

25th April 2014

Another Easter Trip has happened for the Nechells young people as today we went to GoBallistic paintballing near Kidderminster. It was great fun with many of the group never before having the opportunity to try this high adrenaline activity. There are going to be a few bruises!

Fun at the Farm

23rd April 2014

There’s nothing better, in this technological age, than taking a group of young people from Nechells to a farm just a few miles away. Nineteen young people aged between 6 and 15 enjoyed running around the riverside meadow, playing rounders, hunting for hidden sweets and building shelters in the woods. It’s great fun spending time in the outdoors, even though the farmyard smells were a bit strange and strong for these urban youth!

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Football Starts – looking for volunteers

23rd April 2014

We are starting weekly football training for 5yr olds to adults with our head coach being none other than the Villa Legend Tony Morley. On a Monday it is for teenagers and adults and on a Thursday it is for 5 to 11 year olds. We need a couple of people to volunteer on a Monday and a Thrusday to work with Tony and teach basic football skills. If you are interested please call John on 07971000598.

free@last football Tony Morley Aston Villa

Our first DofE Silver Expedition

17th April 2014

Having run the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme since 2007 this was the first Silver assessed expedition that we have done. Huma, Cindora, Adam and Luke spent 3 days in the Peak District, walking from Ashbourne to Bakewell around some stunning scenery and in glorious sunshine. There were many trials and struggles, and a few blisters, but after 21 hours of walking and exploring 10 churches they walked to the minibus exhausted yet glorious. We are exceptionally proud of our young people, especially our Silver DofE’ers. Well done Huma, Cindora, Adam and Luke.

Bronze DofE Assessment

6th April 2014



Another group of young people braved the rain and cold to achieve their bronze dofe expedition. Navigating through the tricky maze of Cannock Chase is where they completed their challenge, having already spent the weekend in Wales doing their practice. Well done everyone, we are very proud of you.

If are interested in finding about more about the DofE in Birmingham give us a call.

New Building

26th March 2014

We have been working hard to develop building plans that everyone in Nechells is proud of. Let us know what you think and if you want to be involved with the building project please get in touch.

Click on the words ‘Preferred-Option’ to see the inside plans.

Preferred Option


New Youth Club Room

24th March 2014

New Youth Room

We recently moved our youth club from the big hall to upstairs as the winter cold became unbearable. We knocked 3 rooms into one and the young people painted it themselves and decided where to put the equipment. We are hoping that the roof will hold out for another winter!

free@last Family Fun Day

4th October 2013

On Sunday 29th September, free@last teamed up with The Challenge to host a Family Fun Day, raising money for our charity.
The main event of the day was the Raft Race, won by team The Police. We also had pay and play kayaking, bumper balls and rock climbing, as well as great food from The Tin Shack.
We thank Brookvale Park, the Tin Shack and most importantly the Challenge volunteers who helped to make this event happen.

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NYL Bugaria

13th September 2013

We’ve now returned from a fantastic week in Bulgaria working with World Without Borders in Stara Zagora. This organisation works with the Roma community helping to raise awareness about HIV and other health issues and run a play school. As part of our work we spent 2 days painting some rooms in a children’s nursery to brighten up their days. This was a new experience for all involved and we very much appreciated our exceptionally warm and friendly hosts who looked after us throughout our stay. Specially thanks to Gancho, Milana and George. We had a massive amount of support from WWB’s partner organisation – Foundation for Social Change and Inclusion – as Tedi helped coordinate and Nicki looked after us in Sofia. Both organisations are funded and supported by the Trussell Trust and our thanks also go to Richard for not only helping us in the UK but popped in to see us when we arrived in Sofia. We also need to say thank you to the many people who helped us along the way – Four Acre Trust, Nechells Community First, Nechells Community Chest, the 5-a-side teams (Smurfit Kappa SSK, Costco, WM Police) and many individuals who are too numerous to name. Thank you. Now the hard work starts as the Young Leaders start their own community projects back home.

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Nechells Young Leaders in Bulgaria

29th August 2013


Nine young men are currently working in Bulgaria with an organisation called World Without Borders, providing support for the Roma community. A full story will be on here soon but for regular daily updates have a look at out Twitter – @freeatlast1999

Our very own NYL after the first day or painting an orphanage

Our very own NYL after the first day or painting an orphanage

Litter Pick

14th August 2013

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On Tuesday, the Nechells Young Leaders met at 8am to do three hours of litter picking around the park on Nechells Park Road. The aim of this is to try and let our community know that the youth do care about how their neighbourhood looks and as they lead, hopefully others will follow in keeping Nechells clean. This is hopefully the start of doing just that.

Family Fun Day

31st July 2013

On Sunday 29th September we are having a fun day at Brookvale Park, Erdington. With loads of side attractions like our climbing wall, a bouncy castle and face painting the main event is a RAFT RACE around the island. We will also be have fun races in canoes and kayaks so come along and join in the fun. If you are interested in sponsoring the event, taking part in the raft race, having a stall or display or anything else drop Shelima a line on or call 0121 327 5972 or 5959.


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Nechells Young Leaders’ First Fundraiser

25th July 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Wednesday night (24th July), the NYL hosted a football tournament at Goals – Star City: an event they’ve been planning for a while. The reason behind the event was to help raise money for a trip to Bulgaria – where they will be working on a community project in a poverty-stricken area.

On the night, 6 teams entered – Costco, Smurfit Kappa SSK, WM Police, free@last, NYL One, NYL Two. Each team played the others to win points, and then there were semi-finals. The final was Smurfit Kappa and The Police, and two second-half goals from Kappa got them the victory!

Congratulations to Team Smurfit Kappa SSK, and thank you to everyone who participated in our charity tournament! Also a special thanks to Goals for hosting our event.

One more special thanks to Mark Davies, who helped out the Young Leaders throughout the course of the organisation, meeting regularly every few weeks to plan out the event. Thank You.

Nathan Dennis visits NYL

16th July 2013

villa 010Nathan Dennis from EnGage came to talk to the Young Leaders about Faith, Spirituality and Morals last Wednesday night, sharing his life as a Christian, and his life before turning towards Christianity. He used various analogies such as the Matrix to help us understand and he could also relate to the leaders on a personal level from what he’s been through. He also mentioned the ‘5 gates’ that must be guarded at all times (the 5 senses) & that he was talking from 3 perspectives: the body, the soul and the spirit.

Thank you Nathan for a wonderful insight into Faith.

NYL with thebestofbirmingham

16th July 2013

IMG_3426[1] IMG_3421[2]Two weeks ago, the NYL visited Villa Park to meet Peter Higgs, who manages a marketing company called thebestofbirmingham, promoting businesses big and small. He presented his life up till now, telling us how he has had some highs and lows in his life, and how he used his skills to pick himself up and motivate himself to get to where he is today.

Thank you Peter for an inspirational talk, which also involved a little activity where the leaders had to think of two lies and one fact about themselves, then the group had to work out which was the true statement – very revealing!

NYL at Costco Wholesale

26th June 2013

IMG_3355Last week, after our visit to Birmingham City University, we were invited to superstore Costco, where manager Danny Lang (also a mentor to one of the young leaders) gave us a presentation of perceptions, drive and motivation in business leadership. Danny explained his background and how he was always motivated to support his family and how to be ‘successful’. All the leaders were really inspired by Danny’s story, and definitely learnt a lot from him. We were then given a quick tour of Costco and had many questions for Danny.

Thanks a lot Danny for your time, inspiration and the food!




NYL at Birmingham City University

26th June 2013

IMG_3337IMG_3335imageThe NYL were given some fantastic news from Birmingham City University – the Business School managed to raise an incredible £1118 for the programme. They recognised how inspiring and important it is for young people to develop leadership skills, and to support a community working project in Bulgaria.

The NYL were invited to the Business School on Wednesday to be presented with a giant cheque and have some photos taken to publicise the relationship between the students and free@last. The Business School also raised a similar amount last year for free@last, which shows that they are passionate about the charity and believe in the work that we do.

Thanks especially to the students who raised the money for us, led by Student Communications Officer, Nicole Riley.

Southfields Farm Open Day

20th June 2013

image (1)image (2)free@last have recently partnered with Southfields Farm to deliver adventurous activitialong giddy their education programme. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to provide a wide range of activities to local people and others further afield: from family residentials and days out to local school visits; corporate team days to summer holiday activities.

One recent opportunity was the farm’s Open Day, where over 1000 people met up on a Sunday afternoon for a tour of the farm, plus seeing some sheep-shearing and woodcutting demonstrations. free@last’s involvement was a quick taster of archery and rock climbing, using our mobile climbing wall. This is also another example of how free@last benefit from its partner company, Freax: an outdoors activity company who are mobile and available. If interested in hiring them, give Aaron Stone a ring on 0121 327 5972.

Nechells Young Leaders at Smurfit Kappa

18th June 2013

NYL visited a new leadership environment in Nechells – recycling firm Smurfit Kappa, led by Operations Manager (and mentor to a young leader) Paul Freeman. They were first given a tour of the site, considering how many (and what) departments are needed to run such a firm; such as production, personnel and maintenance. With help from a senior member of staff, Paul delegIMG_3289ated IMG_3302his leadership skills and experience to the NYL and they learnt a lot from him, plus the process of making paper.

Many thanks to Paul and Paul for giving up their time.



Nechells Young Leaders with West Midlands Police

12th June 2013


The last 2 weeks our Nechells Young Leaders have been learning to lead by spending time West Midlands Police. First Sergeant Si Hensley came to free@last and discussed perceptions, of police, of gangs of young people and of the NYL’s. John wore Si’s police uniform to show that it’s what’s inside that counts!

Then Inspector Paul Dutton arranged for the leaders to experience riot training and dealing with aggressive conflict. Both weeks made the young leaders think carefully about the role of the police and the situations and choices they have to make when leading in different public order situations.

Thank you Si and Paul, much appreciated.

Nechells Young Leaders with Aston Fire Brigade

28th May 2013

Our Nechells Young Leaders are learning to lead by spending time with some exceptional leaders in our city. There are 13 young men from Nechells pushing themselves hard to become the next generation of leaders in our community, in business and in the statutory sector.

Smurfit Kappa SSK Car Wash

7th May 2013

Following the great fire of Nechells last month free@last’s Nechells Young Leaders teamed up with Smurfit Kappa SSK to provide a free car wash for residents of Nechells. 800 leaflets were posted through local homes and 24 cars turned up on the day for a lovely spring clean.

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DofE Bronze Expedition 2013

3rd May 2013

We continue to encourage young people to achieve the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme – even if it means doing your expedition in the snow!!

We currently have 20 young people aged 14 to 23 doing their Bronze, Silver and Gold groups. Give us a call if you’re interested in joining a new group.

The Happy List

30th April 2013

Our Very own John has made it onto the Independents ‘Happy List’, which is an alternative to the Times ‘Rich List’ . The Independent on Sunday publishes its sixth annual Happy List, naming 100 outstanding people whose volunteering, caring, fundraising, mentoring, charity founding or selflessness makes Britain a more contented, supportive, better-adjusted and happier place.

24hr Kayaking & Running relay

10th May 2012

Annual report (2011)

13th March 2012

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Annual report (2010)

18th January 2011

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