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NEYDL Lottery funding Baltic

Community climate project gets National Lottery funding

Published on: 8 April 2024

Young dads in the North East have received a significant funding boost for a community climate project involving a Newcastle University academic.

The Birds, Bees, Bikes and Trees project is an ambitious three-year partnership between Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, North East Young Dads and Lads (NEYDL) and Newcastle University to help young dads build their skills and confidence and support the local community's connection with nature in an urban environment.

The project, which has been awarded over £584,000 of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, aims to transform the way society currently thinks about young fathers and their relationship with nature and climate and the extent to which these ideas influence policy and practice.

The inspiration for the project came from earlier work carried out by Dr Michael Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, with NEYDL and Baltic which had been supported by Dr Richardson’s Innovation and Knowledge Exchange Sabbatical as well as with funding from the Catherine Cookson Foundation.

NEYDL Is an award-winning parenting support charity that works with marginalised and disadvantaged young dads in the North East of England. Following a successful urban beekeeping pilot, 20 young men not in education or employment worked with a million bees in Gateshead, including looking after hives on the south-facing rooftop at Baltic overlooking a post-industrial landscape rich in wild and planted forage. Since then, many of the young dads have progressed into volunteering and paid work.

The project will offer young dads support to enable them to positively engage in their communities and children's lives as well as feed their voices into local and national environmental policy. It is hoped that learning will be shared regionally through the Insights North East partnership and beyond. This will support other young dads and lads to become spokespeople for nature and climate, and challenge social preconceptions of young dads.

“The focus of the Birds, Bees, Bikes and Trees project will be on upskilling young men who historically shun creative, cultural and environmental initiatives that are ‘too academic’ or ‘abstract’, in favour of everyday environmentalism,” explained Dr Richardson, who has been working with NEYDL since 2018.

“Many men in these communities have a unique perspective, given their inherited identities which are rooted in the post-industrial legacy of the North East. This project will nurture a better understanding of how men’s lives are impacted by climate change and how green industrial transitions in the UK can, through arts-led creative work, contribute to more ethical relationships between young men and the environment.”

Dr Michael Richardson

Young dads as positive climate role models

Newcastle University will lead real time learning and evaluation for the project. Storytelling will be used as both a way to disseminate learning and as a hook to build more interest in nature and climate. A short film will be made about the project and played in the learning space at Baltic and will feature as part of tours and talks and work with schools and other community groups who are already working with Baltic's Learning programme.

The project will support the partnership to raise the profile of young dads within their communities as positive nature and climate role models, increasing their confidence through learning new green skills and sharing their experience directly with the community so that others who may not initially consider themselves interested may become inspired to take part.

Kevin Stoodley, Founder and CEO of NEYDL, said: “The pressing issues of climate change and the state of our natural world both locally and worldwide have always been close to our heart as a parenting support charity that wants the very best for young fathers, their partners and children for generations to come. Thanks to National Lottery funding over the next three years, we are excited to continue our Climate Action journey through the Birds, Bees, Bikes and Trees project in partnership with our close friends at Baltic, Newcastle University and the young dads and families who continue to lead and inspire us.

“Alongside our beekeeping endeavours which include the management of four beehives on the roof of the Baltic and production of honey for their shop and restaurant, NEYDL has also embraced cycling, both as a way of reducing our carbon footprint and a way of reconnecting with nature. Starting with the purchase of a handful of bikes and pull along trailers during the Covid-19 pandemic, our ‘Wheelie Good Dads’ weekly ride-outs and free-to-access bike loan scheme have proved a lifeline for many young men whose mental and physical health have suffered as a direct result of the pandemic.”

Beekeepers from NEDYL on the roof of Baltic. Photo: Gavin Forster

There are three strands to the project:

  • Young dads upskilling

Birds, Bees, Bikes and Trees will engage young dads through providing quality training opportunities in aviculture, apiculture, woodwork, bike maintenance, cycling tour leadership, practical horticulture, arboriculture and plant growth and development. They will use these skills to share their knowledge about nature and climate at Baltic and beyond, co-leading public facing, outdoor-learning opportunities, and greening the gallery’s Urban space. Over three years, 180 young men will take part.

  • Schools

Five local schools will work closely with the Green Peer Mentors, the Baltic team and NEYDL giving 150 children the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship with the project through taking part in regular nature and climate-related activities. A further 30,000 students from local Primary and Secondary schools will participate in annual tours and interactive workshops featuring bees, kittiwakes, and local nature information to inspire and engage them in tangible, simple steps they can take with their families to support nature and climate.

  • ‘Front Room’

A series of monthly events in Baltic's ‘Front Room’ community space will be developed to engage people in nature and climate activities. A monthly climate club will be led by artists and community members who will take part in climate focused activities using a variety of artistic mediums. Kittiwake and Bee tours will also take place, while bike tours and a wheelchair and pushchair friendly ‘down on your doorstep’ tour will enable everyone in the local community to explore Gateshead Quayside from pathways.

In total, it is hoped that 10,000 local people will engage in the project over three years, thanks to National Lottery Players. In addition to this a further 12,000 visitors will connect with the project whilst visiting Baltic.

Sarah Munro MBE, Director of Baltic, said: “At Baltic, we take a long-term commitment to climate action, and that runs through our operation and artistic vision. Whilst we’re primarily known as a gallery showing international art, we are also home to roof beehives and the most inland kittiwake colony in the world. The funding awarded by The National Lottery Community Fund for Birds, Bees, Bikes and Trees means we can bring engagement with climate action alive for communities on a significant scale. We look forward to seeing creativity flourish and for people to be inspired to take away simple, tangible steps to support nature and climate.”

L-R: Sarah Munro MBE, Amanda McMahon (Baltic Head of Learning), Dr Michael Richardson, Nick Gardner, Jenny Alderson (Project Manger), Kevin Stoodley

Supporting communities

Supporting communities to be environmentally sustainable is one of The National Lottery Community Fund’s four key missions in its 2030 strategy, ‘It starts with community’. The funding for the Birds, Bees, Bikes and Trees project was announced as part of the National Lottery Community Fund’s £20 million fund for ambitious partnership projects linking climate action to the everyday lives and interests of local communities and inspiring more people to take action in their local communities.

Nick Gardner, Head of Climate Action at The National Lottery Community Fund, explains: “We know that climate change matters to communities, so it matters to us. This new funding aims to bring people together to deliver large-scale, ambitious projects that will inspire even more people to get involved in climate action. We'd love to get applications from partnerships with bold, exciting ideas inspired by people’s everyday activities – whether that’s going to an art gallery or supporting their local footie team – helping to create networks across the UK and reaching communities and groups who might be new to climate action.

“As well as our Climate Action Fund, we support environmental projects of all shapes and sizes through all our funding programmes. Over the last five years we have awarded more than £400 million through almost 7,500 grants to projects which involve environmental action, including action on waste and consumption, energy, transport, food and the natural environment.”

To find out more about the Climate Action Fund, visit 

Press release adapted with thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund.


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