Professor Dame Sue Black and Jack’s story

By Escape2Make

20 Jan 2023

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In 2018 Escape2Make (E2M) launched itself as a compassionate organisation with a heartfelt drive to create safe, inclusive, welcoming, creative opportunities for 11- to 18-year-olds in Lancaster and Morecambe.

From the launch event in 2019, three significant figures were involved, one, a much-respected patron and mentor, Dame Sue Black, the others, Jack and his mum, Claire, who put the impact into our impact video.

Since then, Dame Sue’s work has taken her to Oxford University as the president of St Johns College, where she can also be nearer to London, for her relatively new role as Baroness Black of Strome in the House of Lords.

Despite the move and the new commitments, she will not be moving away from Escape2Make where she will remain patron.

We thought it would be poignant for the three to meet up again and talk about where it all began and why this connection is, and will remain, stronger than ever!

So firstly, where did it all start for them? For Dame Sue it was a meeting with founder Jenny Natusch and an invitation to become patron.

“I felt that what Jenny was telling me was so important and had the potential to make such a change, and even if that was just to one person, it was definitely worth being on board.”

For Jack it was a welcome email landing in his mum’s inbox, that changed the trajectory for him.

 “It was my fault Jack got involved, because an email landed in my inbox, and as you saw in the impact video Jack was in a very bad place, he didn’t want to do anything, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He didn’t want to leave my side. So, I took him down against his will because Mums do that sometimes when it’s something good, and I left him for the first time in his life and I felt guilty because I went and had a coffee, but he absolutely loved every minute of it”

Jack capturing the atmosphere at the E2M 2022 Green Festival as one of the official photographers

Despite his initial reluctance, Jack felt the welcome and the positive ripple effects straight away from getting involved with the workshops:

“The first few things I did were amazing, because it felt like I could just go out and just have fun with new people, and just to meet new people”

If you have not watched our impact video, you may not realise the enormity of what Jack and his Mum have just said. Jack was being bullied and threatened to throw himself off a building at the age of 9. Mum Claire was looking for support and understanding when the email from Escape2Make landed.

The impression the video leaves on those who see it resonates and hits deep, Dame Sue explains the profound effect it had on her personally.

“Jack and his mum had made a video and it just broke my heart, at the event (the Escape2Make launch) one of the things that Jack said was that you didn’t think that people were your friends and that suddenly when you came to E2M nobody judged you and everybody was your friend. And I felt that there was nothing stronger that anybody had to say, you are the most impactful person I think I have ever met. Because for me Jack you embody exactly what E2M is about.”

And E2M is growing, in reach, in delivery of opportunities, in realising its vision and we were curious to hear from Sue what it was that made her want to stay so strongly connected.

“Firstly, because I think we have started something special, something that I think has a real future, and a momentum in what we are doing so that ambassadors such as Jack can understand what they have gained from E2M, I know he is going to pay that forward. So, when he grows out of that age group where he feels comfortable about being one of those people, he will be the ambassador who will still be paying it forward, bringing in the people behind him who he will inspire to keep paying that forward as well. So that momentum has started just because of the beautiful people that E2M has brought together.”

When discussion turns to stand out moments with Escape2Make (E2M) the paying forward, legacy of kindness and impact is certainly present in what Jack finds of significance.

Along with making the video Jack also acknowledged being a member of the E2M Youth Board.

“The Youth Board. It helps the organisation to grow and support more people. It makes me feel like I’ve got a voice and I can help more people out when they need it when they want it. If we let a young person’s voice come across that will help massively and to get that forward as much as we possibly can”

A reoccurring point raised by all is the value of being heard and a keyway that mum Claire believes the charity has helped to empower Jack who has, alongside his Youth Board role, been official photographer at key events, ambassador, and motivational speaker for E2M.

“Jack is autistic and now being sent down the pathway of ADHD, so Jack has never fit in to mainstream school, teachers don’t get it and other adults don’t get it but E2M seem to get him, and they understand that some children just don’t fit into what mainstream or what the norm is. It’s so heart-breaking watching Jack before E2M to seeing him now where he’s got his voice, people listen, people care, and they think he is amazing! Which I already did, being his Mum, but other people do understand that my son has values and has a brain and has a voice.”

As the gathering concludes, thoughts return to Dame Sue’s new role and the future of E2M and how those paths will continue to intertwine.

“I think it is so valuable what we have started, I don’t want to stop. And being where I am, in Oxford, close to London and near the House of Lords, you never know where you can help. My job is to help, to bring people to the organisation, to say how do we grow it, how do we move it outside of Lancaster into Blackpool, Burnley, Edinburgh, or Rio De Janeiro, why not? Absolutely no reason whatsoever and wouldn’t that be so exciting!”

Expansion beyond our shores was an ambition that Jack put to our recently appointed chair, Bill Kistler, ex-vice president of Disney, was MD of the International Council of Shopping Centres and is founder and managing partner of urbanOvation, and the charity’s vice chair David Beuzeval, when he interviewed them both for their posts.

“I asked them if E2M was around when they were younger would they have been part of it, also said that I want E2M to go worldwide, how can we do that and what is the timescale.”

Two people, who met at a launch event in 2019, now at opposite ends of the country, bonded by shared principles and determination, watch this space, this vision may happen sooner than we think!

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