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28 October 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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    Inside Out - North West: Monday October 10, 2005

Homeless in Southport

Pastor Pete Cunningham
Living made easier - Pastor Pete is a champion of the homeless

As we all know, there are hundreds of thousands of homeless people living on Britain's streets today.

You might buy the Big Issue, or slip them a pound to buy a hot cup of tea, but is it really enough?

Inside Out North West meets one man who's taking helping the homeless one step further - by putting roofs over their heads.

Haven for the homeless

Pastor Pete Cunningham has made it his mission to find homes for Southport's homeless.

The 62-year-old has almost single-handedly re-homed over 200 homeless people in the seaside town during the last five years, so how did he do it?

It's simple - he bought them new homes.

Since moving to Southport 11 years ago when he took over as minister of the Argyle Church, former stockbroker Pete has housed more than 200 people in his 68 properties all around the town.

The Argyle Church, Southport
Both Pete and the church's doors are always open to those in need

Even the church itself became a haven for the homeless - it was when it reached full capacity that Pete's "open-door" policy became a mantra for his new mission.

Pete remortgaged his house and cashed in his pension to buy the first of many small flats and houses which would soon be homes to the bulk of Southport's homeless.

Since then, Pastor Pete has helped over 300 people put a roof over their heads, and each case is just as special as the first.

Hope and a home

The McMillan family were just one of the cases close to Pete's heart - they arrived in Southport from Keighley, West Yorkshire, with nowhere to go and no-one to turn to.

Inside Out spoke to the family - that's Jason, Deana, Emma, Jamie and baby Kerry Anne - about how Pastor Pete's generosity has changed their lives.

Jason arrived in Southport homeless and then met Deana with whom he had a family.

Jason told us, "It could have been anywhere - all we came to Southport with was a tent, our coats and a bit of food.

"It was cold and quiet, but we found a spot and for the next six or seven weeks that's where we stayed, in our tent," he says.

After months of sleeping rough, Jason met Pastor Pete, who immediately took the family in and set about trying to find them a permanent home.

But that's not all - Pete even found Jason a part-time job which has done wonders for his confidence.

Pete's obviously a saviour to many in the same position, as Jason explains:

"How do I sum Pete up? He's the best guy I've ever known."

Green Pastures

The family's lives changed dramatically thanks to Pete's kindness, and his business ingenuity - it's thanks to Pastor Pete's property company Green Pastures that people like the McMillans can get a helping hand.

Pete explains, "We take people without discrimination - the majority of our tenants are DSS tenants.

HOMELESSNESS

It is estimated that there are around 400,000 homeless people in the UK today.

There are three different types of homelessness:

1) Street homelessness, or sleeping rough;

2) Living in temporary/insecure accommodation;

3) 'Hidden' homelessness, for example overcrowding.

Homelessness can be a result of many factors, including unemployment, mental health, domestic problems and lack of affordable housing.

Source: Shelter

"We take them in, we fill in their housing benefit application forms… sometimes we're waiting four or five months for the money to come through, but we're not badgering them for the rent."

It's not without a little help from other bodies though - the council pay most of the rent, and the Salvation Army are always on hand to deliver free second-hand furniture to furnish the homes.

And it's thanks to a team of 26 socially aware shareholders and an even larger group of unpaid volunteers that the enterprise can keep running.

Even the local farming industry helps out, by donating a proportion of Their surplus produce to fill 100 free bags of food distributed to homeless people every week.

Moving forward

Even though Pete's already accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime, he still has ambitions he wants to see realise - like a large-scale housing scheme implemented all over the country.

He explains, "I'd like to see a £22 billion pound company that's housing all the homeless in the nation - it's a glorious possibility.

"If people could take hold of this as a vision and say, 'these people need help' it could be accomplished - my dream is let's end poverty in our own nation."

So why does he do it? For Pete, the greatest reward of all is knowing he has truly made a difference.

"When you see a human life put it back together again - I'll get emotional now, these things touch my heart - the most precious thing is people."

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Little black dress

Warren Bardsley
Dress to impress says Manchester designer Warren Bardsley

When you think of fashion, you think London, Paris, New York, Milan and… Manchester?

It's a little-known fact but Manchester used to be known as "Cottonopolis - the textile capital of the world".

And here in the northern quarter there's one young designer who is determined to make Manchester fashionable again.

He's dressed everyone from Kylie Minogue to the stars of the city's favourite soap, Coronation Street, on red carpets all over the country.

Now he's taking the Manchester message all the way to America.

Inside Out's Jacey Normand spends a day with the daring dress designer in the run-up to an international competition which could shape his career.

City couture

Everyone knows if you want to stand out on the red carpet, you need a show-stopping dress to really get those flash bulbs popping.

That's why Warren Bardsley, the designer behind the up-and-coming Gorgeous Couture label, is really making a name for himself.

Sketch of dress design
Designed for success - a Bardsley success story

He's designed dresses for everyone from pop stars Girls Aloud to Coronation Street's Nikki Sanderson, and his motto is always for maximum impact.

Warren began his career from a stall in the city's famous Affleck's Palace, so he's come a long way since his humble beginnings.

He says, "Our biggest achievement was when we dressed Girls Aloud for the Royal Variety performance.

"They were on the front page of all the tabloids - it was great exposure for them and great for me, the phone never stopped ringing."

Having spearheaded the success of the label from his home in Manchester, Warren now has bigger aspirations in his sights.

He's off to Los Angeles to represent the UK in an international competition, where he'll aim to design to ultimate Little Black Dress - a staple of every party girl's wardrobe.

Dress to impress

With two weeks to go Warren's hard at work on his creation - all the sequins have to be hand-sewn and it will take hours of intricate work to make his vision a sparkling reality.

Just days to go all the hard work pays off, and the dress is ready in time for take-off.

Bardsley's Little Black Dress on a mannequin
Is this the ultimate Little Black Dress?

Warren says, "I'm really excited - I can't wait to get out there and be involved".

The competition is being held in one of Hollywood's swankiest hotels, and Warren will be up against some of the world's top young designers vying for the title.

On arrival at the competition all the dresses are displayed on mannequins, not models, so the judges and other visitors can get a good look at all the entries up close.

Warren's clearly excited about the opportunity.

"It's quite unique - on a runway show you only get one minute but here people can come round and view the dress.

"There are 40 different mannequins here and when night falls and you've got the lights from the pool and the breeze, I think it'll work well."

The anticipation is building, but Warren's got one more thing to worry about - making sure Jacey looks the part for the big night.

"We don't have parties like this in North Manchester so I'm glad Warren's run me up a posh frock to wear.

"I wouldn't want to let the side down while I'm rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mel B, film producer and mate of Liz Hurley's - Julia Verdin, and that bloke from CSI!"

Now that Jacey's got her outfit sorted it's time for the big event, and this time it's Warren's turn to be treated like a celebrity as he steps on to the red carpet.

But there's stiff competition from nearly 40 other designers all hoping to scoop the prize, and with journalists from American Vogue and Elle in attendance, the pressure's on.

Hanging by a thread

Now it's time for the judges to make their decision, and Warren's really starting to get nervous.

He's done his homework though, and from the people he's spoken to today, he thinks he might be in with a good chance.

"I've been quizzing the organisers - they're really excited about the dress and there's a silent auction and I'm hoping for the highest bid.

"Everyone votes for their favourite dress, it'll sell itself - it's in a fabulous location and with the amount of diamante we've used it'll be the centre of attention."

But Warren misses out on the coveted prize by a thread, and it looks like Jacey's vote could have been the decider…

"It was absolutely fabulous, the crowd had a huge reaction to the UK designers but Warren missed the vote by one," she says.

"Warren, I feel really bad but I forgot to vote for you!"

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Inside a nuclear bunker...

BBC nuclear drama Threads
Nuclear attack - is this how it might have looked in the North?

Think back to the 1980s, the decade of punk, glam rock… and the dark omen of nuclear war.

The threat of nuclear weapons being developed in Russia had people terrified that if war broke out, we would all evaporate in minutes.

That's why nuclear bunkers were built underground as a potential hiding place for a chosen few if Britain ever came under attack.

It was thought at the time that the North was a prime target, with the Fylingdales radar base and the area's many air bases all at risk from Brezhnev's weapons.

Underneath a seemingly ordinary northern woodland is one of 12 regional HQs, an impenetrable nuclear bunker which would have been used to shelter up to 200 people in the event of nuclear war.

The identities of the chosen ones were once an official secret - but not any more.

Inside Out can reveal that there were 200 tickets to safety, and one of those tickets belonged to Tony Fish.

At the time, Tony was the voice of BBC Radio Armageddon, broadcasting survival tips from his underground studio just off the A19 north of York.

And joining him in the bunker, complete with air-conditioned offices, dormitories and even a sick bay, were 200 civil servants, politicians and servicemen with the responsibility of a post-apocalyptic society in their hands.

But there was a flaw in the plan - with no female spouses allowed into the bunker, how could the 200 chosen ones perpetuate the species?

It's just as well that Britain was spared from attack, but 30 years on the bunker remains, and for a mere £120 a night, you too can enjoy the apocalyptic atmosphere!

Inside Out looks at who would have run the North if the worst had happened in the Cold War.

Rick Wakeman looks back on the plans to man the secret underground bunkers across the North.

We also meet some of the team who would have had to abandon their families to live in a subterranean world while we struggled to survive.

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