On Monday night this week BBC Outreach hosted an event to celebrate and encourage our connections with the community in West London especially those in and around White City, the home of the BBC's largest working site. The idea of the get together was to give local partners, organisations, residents and staff a great opportunity to talk to each other. It also gave the BBC the chance to highlight some of the work we are already doing in the local community through our staff volunteering to support a range of different projects.
One of the schemes we referred to was the school reading scheme we manage with the Hammersmith and Fulham Education Business Partnership. A considerable number of our staff give up their lunchtimes once a week to visit local schools and spend time reading with the pupils. Some are struggling with reading in the classroom and they really benefit from the one-to-one attention they receive. One of these volunteers, Simon Broad, spoke about his experiences and the value he himself gets from taking part in the scheme. It is clearly a two-way process of benefit to both participants. The children gain in self confidence. The reader gains a huge amount of satisfaction in seeing the child's abilities grow.
The event also gave us the opportunity to refer to several other projects including BBC lawyers volunteering to go into local schools to discuss legal issues of interest to the students; our long-standing support for the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith and the work they do with many young people; our tours of Television Centre for local residents and our free screenings for local children notably the Doctor Who Christmas special in December. One of our newest projects is with Fulham Football Club, giving some of our staff the chance to volunteer to teach soccer skills to young people. To be fair to the loyalties of local residents I think we'll be starting a similar scheme with QPR shortly!
Our very latest project is particularly exciting as it involves young people in West London getting to know young people in Salford where new BBC offices will open in May. It is called 'Take Two' and will be asking our staff to volunteer as mentors to help young people improve their communication skills. We are very much looking forward to running lots of twinning activities with the students in both places. Indeed it was off to Salford I went the morning after our West London event. It won't be long now before staff start to arrive in our new offices there in Media City. BBC Outreach will be doing all it can to make sure we have a very active presence in the local Salford community.
Alec McGivan is Head of BBC Outreach