I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Imagine a reality TV style voice over. You know. Kind of deep and super serious. Maybe some semi ominous music in the background.

".... the battlefield...... The Usual Place, Dumfries.....

...... The battle.... 28 charities are going to fight it out for £96,000

..... only five can prevail....................... "

And then there would be a montage of grim faced charity managers, all primed and ready for the fight for their lives.

OK, OK. I know. Calm down Frankland. And I fully accept this picture might well be wrong on all kinds of levels as I am not a person who watches any kind of reality TV.

So I best dump the voice over and the music and get back down to earth.

Last Saturday First Base had our first brush with local democracy in a council meeting hall in Gretna.

"..... 15 local charities..... £58,000 of lifeblood funding... only four will be left standing...."

So how did it go? Well it was bloody cold. 160 people cast their votes to decide who would get a share of the cash. Everyone had the chance to make five choices. Their favoured charity got 5 points, the next favoured 4 points, and so on all the way down to one point. So each voting slip had a total of 15 points which meant a grand total of 2400.

The last vote was cast just before three o'clock and we all had to wait on tenterhooks until yesterday morning to see if we had made it.

My phone rang a little after nine and Colin from the council put me out of my misery. So how did we do? I guess the best way to describe it is bloodied but unbowed.

We got 257 votes. Just over 10% of the total. Enough to put us into fourth place. I kind of figured anything in the top five would be enough for us to get what we had applied for.

Not so.

The top three bids amounted to £52,000 which meant there was only £6000 left for fourth place. We had bid for £12,000 so it wasn't exactly a win, but it certainly wasn't abject defeat.

I asked how far we were adrift for third place and the answer was something of a jaw dropper. Third place had 260 points. As in three more than us....


Just one more person! Brutal.

I absolutely must mention the magnificent men and women of 'Annandale YES' in these dispatches. Ten of then turned out to support us and their votes absolutely got us over the line. Thanks guys.

So what does it mean? Well, just over half of the money we were asking for was for emergency power for people in Annandale and Eskdale who are so completely stone broke they can't afford any heat and light.

We're going to have to scale our plans back a bit. What we will be able to do is offer £250 a month of emergency power per month via the Citizens Advice office in Annan. How will it work? Simple. If any of their clients are living in the cold and dark as a result of being rendered completely penniless due to having their benefits 'sanctioned', we will call the client and arrange to meet them at a paypoint to get the lights back on.

We would have loved to have been in a position to offer this service all across the region, but we're going to have to cut our cloth accordingly. As they say in my old Lancastrian stamping ground, summat's better than nowt.

So now it's time to rally the troops, fix up the walking wounded, oil the guns and march our battered forces onto the next battlefield.

The Usual Place, Dumfries at 11 o'clock next Saturday morning.

I guess it's going to be something of a bun fight. When punters arrive at one of these 'Participatory Budgeting' events, they are encouraged to make their way around all of the stalls, hear what the charities plan to do to alleviate local poverty, and then to cast their votes accordingly. To be honest, it didn't really work out this way at the event last Saturday. I guess about a third of the punters did the rounds. The majority made a beeline for one of the stalls, said their hellos, voted, and headed back out into the biting cold of the 'Mini Beast from the East'.

I have no doubt it will be the same story again this Saturday. If a voter gives each of us 5 minutes to make our case, it will take them two and a half hours to make it all the way around the room. Ain't never going to happen, right? 

If we are going to make it through this thing, we are going to need a whole bunch of our supporters to turn out and get us over the line. So if by any chance you are in and around Dumfries on Saturday maybe you could spare a few minutes to call in to the Usual Place to give us a helping hand.

And if we are successful? Well if we make it, we will have about £10,000 worth of emergency power available for the good people of Nithsdale - From Kirkconnel all the way down the river to Dumfries. 

It really is impossible to overstate just how soul crushingly miserable it is to face weeks on end living in candle light and eking out freezing cold hour after freezing cold hour. It's a truly brutal punishment for being a few minutes late for an appointment at the Job Centre or not being able to read and write well enough to keep up with their harsh regime. Well, with your help we can get the heat and light back on for these people.

We have been doing this for over a year now thanks to the money we raised via a spectacularly successful online funding campaign. In an average month we help out about 30 people to the tune of £30 each. I probably should make one thing completely clear. We DON'T hand out cash. We accompany our clients to the paypoint to put the cash straight onto the meter.

I guess I'm done here.

The Usual Place, Dumfries

Saturday 24 March

11 am to 3 pm

We're really going to need all the help we can get. Please share this far and wide. 


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