Saturday, 22 September 2012

Open Letter to the Press Complains Commission

Feather Mews
89 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1DH

September 22 2012

ref Crowdfuelled and recent press coverage


I write somewhat disturbed at the level of inaccuracy and lack of responsible reporting concering Crowdfuelled, a so called social enterprise start up which appear to have come from nowhere but launched themselves at the head of the queue for the new iPhone 5  which was released in London last week. The plan, allegedly, was to sell their seats to the highest bidder and give the money to a bakery for  abused women, in order to provide training and some sort of  safe space for women "to reflect on how they got themselves there" presumably having chosen to be raped , battered and demeaned.

The story of these 2 photgenic young men, 23 and 30, Richard Wheatcroft and George Young was soon picked up by the media and pieces followed in the Evening Standard. The article by Lindsay Watling  in the Evening Standard which can still be seen here states
It reads:

"He said: “It will offer woman employment, training from a top chef and help build their self-confidence by being around good male role models.
“I want it to be a safe, positive, friendly working environment for them.”
Business partner Mr Horne, 23, added: “This is just part of the funding process – we are going to try to get match funding. Hopefully we will get a lot of support, but at the very least we are raising awareness.”
As well as flogging the seats, people can donate to the cause and those who do will be rewarded with a free cake once the bakery is up and running.
It will begin as a pop-up enterprise, but longer-term the pair will be looking for a permanent site which will be staffed by different charities each day of the week."

However there is no determination of how any of this will happen or what track record these men have working with vulnerable women. Indeed the article reads as an endorsement of something already  almost up and running. Sadly this is not the case at all and Wheatcroft and Young had not spoken to a single women's charity, although they promised they would  provide names of same when pressed, nothing has been forthcoming. A journalist bears the responsibility to check how far something is tangible, maybe speaking to supporters and partners might have been a way to measure whether Crowdfuelled were the best thing since sliced bread with their women's bakery and not  accept that because it is stated, that it is fact, which was so far from the truth in this case. 

Photo from 20/9/12

The Daily Mail states on 14 September 2012 in an article written by Mark Prigg,

George Horne and Richard Wheatcroft hope to use their place at the head of the queue to raise awareness for their charity 'The Hope Boutique Bakery' that helps vulnerable women find employment and training.
Quite clearly this gives the impression that the Hope Boutique bakery is already up and running, not that it is still unestablished, and in fact, when questioned Crowdfuelled admitted it would not be a static building but a "pop up" in various London  markets. So very soothing and therapeutic then,.  Why did the journalist not do any kind of background checking on whether the bakery existed or not? This is not journalism, this is fairy tales.
Daily Mail journalist Mark Prigg did not bother to check the facts printed. The Hope Boutique Bakery does not exist, the traning and employment pathways for these women do not exist and this is all a piece of PR, on the backs of women who have already suffered trauma and pain. 
 The online news site Huffington Post  carries a piece by contributor by Cllr Stephen Canning
Stephen Canning appears to be rewriting  from a press release. The same blurb, this is all for a good cause, it is about raising the profile for women who have been abused. But the T shirts and all the sponsorship around this was to do with a mobile app platform, which was meant to  collate bids for the seats at the front of the queue for iPhones.

These 2 young men  guys , George Young and Richard Wheatcroft were not doing anything for abused or battered women and in fact it has all been a huge publicity stunt (failed) on the back of women who have already suffered trauma and violence to raise their own profile and  that of the company which was meant to get the auction bids to sell their places in the queue for an iPhone.

They were also featured on the BBC and I will write separately about that once I have located a link to the piece. 

 Where is The Daily Mail,  The Huffington Post, The Evening Standard,  the BBC's editorial integrity in this matter? Did any one bother to check  which charities they were working with or whether the Hope Boutique Bakery actually exists? We need to address the systemic mysogeny which exists and which allows un-facts such as these, to pass without muster and become newsworthy thus detracting from the real story which is that every single women's shelter in the UK faces closure because of funding cuts and the real story of domestic violence. .

The violence against women agenda is an important one and while this Government struggles to find viable solutions, and continues to make cuts to existing providers with proven success in tackling the issues,  and take risks with  new untried ones in cost efficiency measures, safeguarding  must be put in place. The press have  a responsibility to represent the truth and the facts not reproduce glossy press releases.  

Wheatcroft and Young have absolutely no understanding of violence against women, I assure you we do not chose it. Women  who suffer don't "choose" to put themselves in vulnerable situations.

 From their own website, their Hope Boutique bakery which doesn't quite exist , "will be a place where they can earn a living and find an alternative to what they might have been doing in the past which caused them to get to the vulnerable state."

Survivors of DV don't get themselves into a vulnerable state, the system in which we live allows perpetrators to operate and exploit women, much the way these  two  have, and this  is where we need to look at alternatives and consequences when misunderstanding and intentions are allowed to converge and create chaos and danger.  When pressed, Crowdfuelled were unable to provide any names of any charities they were working with , any business model , any training or employment pathways, or indeed any safeguarding measures for these "vulnerable women" for whom they were claiming to fundraise.

The Huffington Post has a good international reputation for reporting the news fairly and with accuracy. This is a piece of puffery about Soqquini, as can clearly be seen from the branding on the t shirts below and had nothing to do with violence against women. People like this are very harmful to the whole ending violence against women sector and actually do a lot of damage by diverting funds (they claim to have raised over 2k pounds on their site), yet not a penny was raised for vulnerable women.

The Sooqini T shirts have been professionally designed and printed, the board claiming theor cause looks like an afterthought on a whiteboard, quite literally.

With the words domestic violence being bandied about like this season's black, we simply ask that you write to the papers and specifically the journalists concerned and ask that  they check their facts more efficiently and offer retractions and indeed apologies to  the millions of women in the UK who have sufered any form of abuse and do not deserve to be treated like this, as if some half brained idea about baking cupcakes is going to heal the deep inner wounds and will have the great curing effect promised.

I write with the support of the following, but I also write in my on capacity as a survivor of domestic  violence and currenmtly on the front line of providing housing and tenancy support services to  women who have suffered trauma.

We look forward to hearing from you and are grateful for your investigation into this matter.

Yours sincerely

Farah Damji


  1. An excellent letter which addresses a very serious, and potentially dangerous, project. I will look forward to reading any response back from Crowdfuelled.


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