We caught up with Ella Burns, who after 10 years of building Little Green Pig into the thriving charity it is today, has decided to step down as Director. Ella tells us that she is excited to see someone new at the helm, and reminisces with us about some of her key memories from her time at LGP.
What sparked your aspiration to create Little Green Pig?
In late 2007 I read an interview with Dave Eggers, telling the story of how he had set up 826 Valencia in San Francisco, and I got really inspired to do something similar in Brighton & Hove and Sussex. I was working for a small literary organisation at the time, whose work included sending writers into schools, but I recognised the need to work with children and young people who might not usually get these opportunities, and also to build longer term projects where you could develop relationships with young writers over a longer period. I roped in a friend, Lucy Snell, who was an English teacher at the time, we held a fundraising party in a pub with our friends to get a bit of a money, we set up some writing workshops at Brighton Youth Centre and things gradually took off from there! Little did I know that a few years later we’d be part of an international network of writing organisations and that Dave Eggers would come to visit Brighton to see our work!
Tell us about some of your fondest memories during your work at LGP.
There are so many to choose from. For me, the standout moments are always the celebratory events where we get to showcase the amazing talent of our young writers to the public and their family and friends. AMPLIFIED 2019 in the Brighton Festival was a recent highlight; feeling the powerful effect the young people’s stories were having on the audience in the room was incredibly moving. Seeing a young person transform through sharing their stories and creativity and stepping into their creative power is the best thing to witness. I’ve also had so many moments of fun and laughter with the amazing staff team – from all pulling delirious all-nighters with Co-Director Julie Watson to get funding bids in, to pitching to unimpressed corporates with stuffed animals from the Booth Museum, to wrestling with foil or hay bales at the eleventh hour with Learning Manager Adam when building our school residencies… One of our key values at LGP is to ‘have fun’, and joy and laughter is something I will always associate with working at LGP.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the incredible Little Green Family we have built – the staff team, the volunteers, the Board of Trustees– who all put in so much time and effort to fulfil the LGP mission. I am also so proud of the all the children and young people we have worked with who have been so brave, let their imaginations run free and created some amazing pieces of writing and art to be shared with the world.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has always been managing the workload on limited hours and a small team. For many years LGP was actually just a couple of us working part time! As anyone who works in the arts or charitable sector will know, the grind to keep bringing in enough money to cover your activity can be a slog, as is weathering the highs and lows of applying for funding! Luckily, I have always had brilliant support from our Chair, Pete Lawson, who has remained positive and optimistic and supported me through the challenging times, as has our great staff team. I remember once when we were disappointed not to get a large funding bid, our Deputy Director Emily immediately organised a sponsored silence for herself and managed to raise a substantial amount!
As we work with so many children & young people, do you have a memory of a young person that we have impacted?
We have worked with around 3000 children and young people over the years, so many of them come to mind! Whenever I have run or helped out at one of our workshops there are often these special opportunities to really connect with an individual child and feel you have made a difference to them and that they have made a difference to you. As artists and facilitators we have to stay open those incredible moments of connection. We all remember those adults who took an interest in us, noticed us and really inspired us when we were young, and a key part of Little Green Pig is spreading that to as many young people as possible.
What are you most looking forward to about LGP’s new chapter?
I am excited to see where Nicky Crabb, our new Director, takes the LGP next. She comes from a poetry performance background at Apples and Snakes and will bring a host of new ideas and experience to the organisation. LGP has a really strong Board and staff team, and exciting things are on the horizon as expansion continues into East and West Sussex. I will always feel part of the Little Green Pig family and will be cheering from the sidelines.