Urban Sprawl – best practice in Elsie Advocacy?

At last months Elsie Panel meeting Urban Sprawl sent their advocate Oliver Knight to see what support he could get from Elsie for them.  Now to be fair all our advocates do a brilliant job – but Oliver and Urban Sprawl went that extra mile in two ways. Firstly they had produced a clear written brief to support their advocacy presentation, and secondly they got a professional actor to deliver it with vim, vigour and wit!

I have reproduced their brief below in full.  If you are able to help in any way then please do contact Lucy….

Urban Sprawl

I would like to introduce you to Urban Sprawl.

Urban Sprawl are Yorkshires only homeless theatre company. They were founded in 2004 and since that time they have delivered arts engagement programmes for and with people affected by homelessness.

They meet twice a week. On Monday evenings at Multiple Choice, a substance misuse agency, and Friday during the day at St Georges Crypt. The management of which has described Urban Sprawl as both “amazing” and “working wonders”.

They produce at least two original theatre productions every year, in addition to numerous other activities and engagements, such as playing as the Urban Stage Band and performing their now famous flag dance. They are regular contributors to arts festivals and events all across Leeds.

This prolific activity provides community, fraternity, engagement and entertainment, both consistently and regularly for one of the most vulnerable and under-represented sections of our society.

Although during their history they have received some funding for certain periods and projects, they are currently entirely unfunded and are solely reliant on volunteers at every level, including running the company, and of course, the generosity and goodwill of others, to allow the project to continue.

And it must. And it will. Urban Sprawl have shown remarkable resilience over the years in making it happen, delivering what they set out to, engaging, encouraging and supporting their clients, and simply surviving against all the odds.

This is a great example to all concerned, though it should be noted that this is also an example Urban Sprawl has taken from its clients, as much as the other way around.

Because of the precarious, at best, financial situation and the nature of the client group, Urban Sprawl can be a somewhat chaotic affair. This requires those involved to think on their feet, be creative in finding solutions to problems, and as a result they have managed to build an impressive skill set between them.

However. There are still many areas of expertise that they lack, and it is with this regard that they are looking for help.

Although money is always useful, it also always gets spent, and they would like to concentrate on more long term solutions for the development of Urban Sprawl.

By this they mean assistance with both structure and infrastructure and in putting in place protocols and practices that can benefit them in perpetuity.

So specifically, Urban Sprawl would like assistance with:

1.     Business development.

Currently Urban Sprawl is not a business as such, but rather an unincorporated voluntary organisation. They really need to sit down with an experienced and proven business leader to discuss what the best model for them may be, going forward. Someone who can advise them on, for example, what becoming a charity, social enterprise or C.I.C. would entail. How to go about it, what the pitfalls and hidden problems could be. Whether in fact these are the most appropriate routes to take at all, and what the alternatives may be.

If we could find such a person to help them in this regard it would be wonderful to be able to develop a relationship with them, so that they had someone they could turn to for specific business advice that arose after the initial decisions had been made and enacted.

2.     Fundraising/corporate sponsorshipAs it stands, currently Urban Sprawl are unfunded. They manage to make small amounts of money here and there, mostly through busking as the Urban Stage Band and the modest returns from ticket sales to the shows.

Again they need advice and assistance from an industry professional with the experience and contacts to be able to take this to a different level.

When people meet Urban Sprawl and see what it is that they do, they are invariably impressed with the people, the projects and the tangible benefits that those involved enjoy.

They really need someone who has both the clout and the skills to get those who may wish to help, to know about and meet Urban Sprawl.

3.     Publicity and Marketing.

Right now Urban Sprawl publicises itself through word of mouth, public performances and social media. What they really need is a partner who can help them develop press contacts, television and radio coverage, and to reach more people in all ways.

Again this would be a person who had the skills, experience and contacts to make this happen. Someone whose phone calls would be returned, whose emails would be responded to. Someone who can open doors.

4.     Web hosting/Site design.

Urban Sprawl does have a website, but it is much in need of a more professional approach and a much greater presence on the internet. Someone to redesign the site properly would be fantastic, but it is even more important to find someone to host and manage the site properly, to take time to teach the team to use it more effectively etc. These services can be expensive, and as previously discussed, there is no money.

5.     Patron/Figurehead.

It would be wonderful if a famous person who was sympathetic to the cause could be found to endorse or agree to be patron of Urban Sprawl. Someone whose name being attached could help in providing many of the other things that they need.

As always the issue here is in access to such a person. If anyone could help put Urban Sprawl in contact with people who fit the bill, and facilitate in making that happen, it could assist them across the board.

6.     Kit.

Urban Sprawl is always in need of equipment, costume, props, set etc… The list of stuff that could help them out is enormous so absolutely any help whatsoever in this regard would be invaluable.

However, one problem that always comes up with this is that of transport. Urban Sprawl does not have access to a vehicle of any kind, or even someone qualified to drive it. So logistically they are very restricted in what they can do and where they can go. Again any assistance with this would be immense, as currently there is none at all.

Perhaps there is someone involved in running recycling schemes or organisations, someone who manages donations to those in need, to help Urban Sprawl in gaining access to the opportunities that already exist.

Urban Sprawl is an important and worthwhile endeavour that desperately needs all the help it can get. It makes such an enormous difference to the lives of those it touches. As a current client said after involvement with the most recent production, “Urban Sprawl is the difference between life and death”.

I can only strongly urge you to help in any way that you think you can, your efforts could not be better placed or more appreciated.

Thank you so much for your patience and attention.

Please contact Urban Sprawl via:

Email    lucy@urbansprawl.org.uk

Tel.       07989 503 814

Web.    www.urbansprawl.org.uk

The Leeds Community Panel

At the heart of the Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator (Elsie) is the community panel that we are building.  This will be a large group of more than 60 individuals who care about Leeds and the people who live here and love nothing more than to help them succeed in their projects.  These maybe projects starting or growing a business, running a campaign, festival or carnival, taking over a community building or just about anything else that you can imagine.  It is always a surprise to see some of the great projects that go on under the radar!

So Who is on the Panel?

At the moment we have about 30 panel members trained up, all of whom are excited about the possibility of helping others with their projects and being part of a network of like minded people.  Drawn from the public, private and third sectors from in and around Leeds they are a diverse bunch with tremendous networks, experience and knowledge.

Some understand business, others know about community, some specialise in specific disciplines while others know and understand their community and how it works.  It is an interesting mix!

More Members are Needed…

We have more work to do to further increase the diversity and competence of the Elsie Panel. Specifically we need more members drawn from faith based communities and different ethnic groups as well as other geographical districts of the city.  This is vital if we are to build a panel that really connects deep into the roots of the city.

But we also are looking for more specialist knowledge and skills to join the panel.  Specifically we are looking for:


Arts and culture professionals: administrators, curators, grant managers, collectors, artists – any genre – we have some already but could do with more!

Bankers and financiers – especially community development finance

Crafts people



Community development workers

Educators – secondary, further and higher education and Education Authority

Fundraisers, Grant/bid writers

Health professionals

High Tech – digital, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology etc

Human resource practitioners


Media relations, journalists, broadcasters



Property professionals – developers, agents, architects


Restaurateurs and catering professionals

Third Sector/Social Business

Trades People

Youth workers

And if you are not on the list don’t worry. If you live work or play in Leeds and want to help others then do get in touch.

What is Involved?

If you are interested then the first thing to do is get in touch.  You will then be invited to a 2 hour briefing session where you can find out more about Elsie, meet others who are interested, find out how it will work and whether or not it might be your cup of tea.

If you want to get involved then we will invite you to attend our monthly meetings where we will provide as much assistance as we can to 4 deserving projects.

You are under no obligation to stay involved and membership of Elsie is free. You will meet some great people and have the chance to help some great projects.  The only thing we ask is that you maintain confidentiality about the challenges facing the projects we help as sometimes these may involve commercially sensitive matters.



Got more questions?