Street Support: working to support the homeless in Manchester

Since I started working in Manchester city centre a few months back I have to say I’ve been slightly shocked by just how many people I’ve seen sleeping rough. It’s not just in Manchester either. When I’ve visited other cities in recent months there seems to be a notable increase in sleeping bags/cardboard boxes in doorways, folks begging for money and so on. I buy the Big Issue, I give change if I’m asked. I’ll also try and have a quick chat with homeless folks when I can as it sometimes seems like that’s more valuable to them than chucking a bit of change in a cup. Then whilst going through my Twitter feed the other day I noticed a retweet asking for volunteers for something called Street Support.

Street Support

In their own words, Street Support is a network of charities, volunteer groups and kind-hearted folk, working together to support people experiencing homelessness in Manchester. It’s run by a collective of digital experts, working closely with homelessness organisations in the city. For the foreseeable future I’ll be trying to give a few hours a week to help out on the UI side of things – not easy with a full-time job and family life but I’ll do my best!

You can find out more about Street Support’s work by visiting the site, or via Twitter/Facebook



Tight Deadlines and Demanding Clients – Kids of a Legend

Each year, as one of my two kids’ birthdays approaches, I try to think of cool things for them to do at their parties. This year, for my son’s party, we decided we’d try and make some kind of short movie with his friends. We’d been playing around with a lot of movie FX apps on iPad and Ben thought it would be cool to make a dinosaur movie. Given how quickly we’d been able to come up with some pretty cool shots on iPad it seemed fairly achievable, and we thought it would be cool if (provided there was enough time) we put the movie onto a bunch of DVDs to put in the party bags at the end of the day.

The party was two hours long, during which time I had to film the raw footage, render the effects shots, edit the completed video and then (if there was enough time left) burn a DVD for each of the guests before they left. It was obviously going to be pretty tight but I was up for the challenge! I’d planned out the shots beforehand (like a proper film maker and everything) so on the day of the party I just needed the kids’ for 15 minutes or so while we popped to the field at the end of the road and got a few short bits of footage on the iPad of the kids looking frightened (the acting skills on display were second to none) and then running away from an imaginary dinosaur.

Then it was back home, and while the kids were busy jumping around on the bouncy castle and stuffing their faces with French Fancies I started rendering out the FX shots. I used an app called Efexio, which comes with a handful of free effects but additional collections can be bought as in-app purchases. Then I moved in to iMovie to start assembling the footage. The trailer templates found in iMovie were an absolute godsend, and the ‘Blockbuster’ template was perfect for what we needed. Without that I don’t think there’s any way I could have come up with anything useful in such a short space of time.


I managed to get the full video rendered out with enough time left to burn it onto a bunch of DVDs to give to the kids as they left. “Kids of a Legend” (title by Ben) premiered in our front room at the end of the party, to glowing reviews all round. Job done 🙂