An Interview with Urban Uprising

.. in a nutshell, Urban Uprising is a UK registered charity that takes children from disadvantaged circumstances out rock climbing. We think it’s a great way of boosting self-esteem…

 

Just as everyone gets ready to let the training and diet go, spend too much on presents and set out the mince pies for a certain jolly red suited fat man I managed to catch up with Stuart Green (founder) and Niall McNair (Ambassador)  to find out about more about the climbing inclusion project – Urban Uprising

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Guys, tell us a little about you?

Stuart : Hi Alan, well, I’m 41 so depressingly I just qualify for the veteran’s categories in climbing comps! I’m not sure I’m ready for that! Niall isn’t too far behind though…

I’ve mostly lived in Edinburgh but spent eight years down in London when I first started out with my job. Just now I live in Edinburgh with my young family of four and work as a long-haul airline pilot flying out from London Heathrow and Gatwick.

I got into climbing whilst studying English literature at Dundee University and it’s been a constant theme in my life. I’ve tried lots of other sports but found climbing to be the most absorbing and the one that gives me the biggest adventurous kick. I like to feel I’m doing something off the beaten track. I enjoy all aspects of climbing, trad, bouldering, winter and sport and my current focus is on trying to bag the easiest 8a sports route I can find!

Niall : Hey,

Nipping at yer heels, mate! 4 more years until I qualify for vet status, watch out Stu…  

I also live in Edin ( with my family) where I moved nearly 18 years ago from Eaglesham/East Kilbride, south of glasgow.   I work as a support worker for a small organisation called Inclusion Alliance where we provide 1-2-1 assistance for adults with disabilities as an alternative to day-care services during the week.  Although just recently, I ve completed my basic training as an arborist (tree surgeon) and looking to have a career change into this area. Returning to my roots, so to speak!

Indeed, The Glasgow Climbing Centre is where I really started learning to climb and thence onto Neilston pad, Loudon Hill, Auchinstarry and of course the mighty Dumbie.

I started Climbing when I was 15 whilst having a difficult time and school and life generally, I am sure many teenagers have felt the same at some point but this was compounded by my deafness.  I was getting into fights and got expelled from school such was the severity of my frustrations.  Discovering climbing basically turned my round at that point.  from early on, I enjoyed the competitive side of indoor climbing ( Alan Cassidy was one of my early arch-nemesis) .  Then from there i got into the real outdoor stuff:  trad, sport and finally bouldering- backwards to how most kids do it these days…

My current focus during the summer months is trad, mainly in Scotland and the Lakes, be it on crags, mountains and seacliffs; I ve got a long list of E6s and E7s that I want to tick off my bucket list.  These days the routes I go for are generally safe and well protected So at E7 level they are very sustained and/or cruxy for the grade so sport fitness and bouldering strengths definitely help…The problem i have these days is that my my bucket list keeps getting longer thanks to that Dark Horse and a very good friend, Iain Small, who puts up more hard routes than I can climb every year!

Another goal of mine is to ground up Requiem E8 6c at Dumbie.  Ive already spent around 10 days on this spread over 4 years and its proving to be a massive personal challenge for me!  Most ascents of this stunning line (indeed, the King Line of the central belt?) have involved some kind of pre-practice, however Will Atkinson (more on him later btw) showed the way forward 5 years back by making the first ever ground-up ascent.  That was when I knew I had to pull my finger out and get on with it…  My highpoint is the top of the initial crack, but to get there I’ve had to learn how to climb evil flared technical slopey jams.  My crack climbing skills up to now would be best compared to the movements of an epileptic raver.  So, this is an ongoing challenge for me…

 

For those who don’t know, what is Urban Uprising?

Stuart : So, in a nutshell, Urban Uprising is a UK registered charity that takes children from disadvantaged circumstances out rock climbing. We think it’s a great way of boosting self-esteem, focus and getting these children into a mentally and physically challenging, fun and positive environment. Without our programs these children wouldn’t get this opportunity.

In terms of how it started, I’ve been fortunate to be a regular visitor to Rio De Janeiro with my work for some years now, and have frequently climbed with a rock climbing guide called Andrew. Andrew had started a rock climbing school, which focused on teaching children from the local favela (shanty town). I could see that the project really made sense and set out to support it in any way I could. This started with shipping donated gear over to the project and then ultimately led to me forming a team to start Urban Uprising back in 2014. From there we’ve gradually morphed into something much bigger than I first envisaged. We started working in the UK after TCA Glasgow approached us with the idea for running a Glasgow based project and from there we’ve started to add to this with others, which we call Uprisings. The plan is to expand on this model in the UK in the future. Edinburgh is next. Bristol and Sheffield are options too.

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So what were the very early days like?

Stuart : I’d never had any charity running experience myself before setting this up, so to some extent I was blissfully unaware of what challenges we would face. I met with other charities, advisory bodies and mentors to try and get an idea of what I might be letting myself in for and get advice on the implications for setting up a charity. These meetings were really useful and a common theme was ‘it’s going to be much more work than you think’. Even taking this on board, that’s turned out to be very true! Like in climbing, being stubborn was a really useful quality to have to get through the initial tough stages when everything seems to be overwhelming.

I think initial enthusiasm though only takes you so far and then at some point you actually need to know what you’re doing and get other people on board who do too. Sarah Hayden came onboard as a trustee at this early stage. She works for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and is very experienced with charities. It was at this point that I knew that the concept could be turned into something really exciting in reality.

An early challenge was getting people to know who and what we were without us actually having done anything in terms of delivering any teaching programs to children. Without a presence within the community, it’s really hard to get the ball rolling and expand the team, get people involved, raise funds and so forth. We’re now in a much nicer position of people increasingly knowing who we are and actually having a number of projects under our belts. The team has also expanded significantly, so things are getting done quicker and better which is satisfying.

 

Niall,   How did you get involved in Urban Uprising?

Myself and a good friend, Mike Mullins, came up with idea of putting on a fund-raising club-night for the edinburgh climbers and getting Will Atkinson to come play for us as he is an amazing DJ himself who has played at some legendary clubs in Leeds.  Initially, we were going to do do it for Climbers Against Cancer but at that same time the first posters for UU appeared at Alien Rock and I realised this would be a better fit for us to fundraise for a locally based climbing charity.  I approached Stu and he was immediately on board with this idea although it took a while and it wasn’t until we asked Ewan Evans (AKA Swank n Jams, another fantastic DJ) that things really started moving and the very first club Uprising happened to great success.

During this time, I was finding out more about UU and their aims to provide climbing outreach programmes to disadvantaged youth resonated with me, particularly due to my own transformative experience of discovering climbing at a difficult time in my life.  The more I found out, the more I wanted to help out and be a part of UU.  It’s not just been organising the Club Uprising (of which there have been 4 so far)  that I ve been involved with but i ve also been carrying out public speaking roles at comps such as the TCA and at Alien rock on behalf of UU.  Also, Stu and myself gave a presentation to the Dumbarton Rotary club in which I told my personal story.  Given that we secured £1500 from them, i would say that was a success.

I used to hate public speaking but now I’ve done it for UU on many occasions , i have the right motivation for helping to get the UU message across so I am looking forward to doing more talks for them, watch this space….

 

What does being involved mean to you personally?

Niall: I’ve gotten so much pleasure, adventure, life experiences and solid friendships out of climbing that UU for me is a way to “give back”  and expose youths to that same power.  I am intensely aware of how “middle class” our sport is and I feel very strongly that those from less privileged backgrounds should get the opportunity to try and experience climbing. And it is up to us as members of the climbing community to effect that.

And of course, through organising the clubs I’ve enjoyed bringing different parts of the climbing community together to have a loud party!

 

Stuart :On a day to day level, I get a lot of pleasure out of working with so many different but always super motivated people from within the climbing and charitable community. In the short time that we’ve been running, I’ve met with film producers, photographers, DJs, social workers, graphic designers, web designers, public speakers, event organizers, business owners, climbing route setters, professional climbers and others. There’s so much talent out there, which I find really inspiring. Seeing the positive and transformative effect that this sort of project can have on young lives is also satisfying.

The other more hard hitting side of things is that It’s made me much more aware of the huge social problems that are faced by so many, not just overseas where it’s often obvious but more subtly right by our front doors. One in every three children for example in Glasgow is living in poverty. That’s got to be unacceptable and I feel as climbers we should engage with this.

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Tell us about a memory that really stands out for you, maybe a particular challenge or success in the program? 

Stuart: Niall isn’t going to particularly like this example but I’ll go for it anyway!

I climbed a seven pitch ( 1200 foot ) route up the pretty intimidating west face of SugarLoaf mountain in Rio with Niall and Caio (17), one of the older children being taught out there. It’s a pretty steep bit of climbing. About E3 or thereabouts in UK difficulty terms. At one of the hanging belays, Niall managed to get the ropes into an almighty tangled mess which took an age to sort out. As we hung there with a 250 foot vertical and overhanging drop beneath us, the weather started to turn and it started to get dark, cold and windy. I remember thinking…..oooh this isn’t going so well. I was giving Niall ‘get a shift on’ daggers as he was faffing with the ropes. It was one of those tangles that after 20 minutes, ended up with us all untying and then starting again from scratch. All the while Caio was cool as can be, totally composed and chatty. I’d promised him that we were going climbing with one of Scotland’s best climbers…I’m not sure what his impressions were; he’s a polite guy! Needless to say, all was fine in the end. We got to the top a few hours later for a celebratory beer in the pitch black with Caio still totally unphased by the whole experience.

A couple of years before this when Caio first turned up at the climbing school, he was a very different young man. He was incredibly shy and had to be literally coaxed over many sessions over a period of six months to get to the top of a 30m top rope. The change is really testament to the power that these programs can have and the hard work put in by Andrew, who runs the program out there. If you go to Rio now, Caio is able to guide you up various mountains and rock climbs. This is something that wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of the school in Rio.

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Niall : Ha! That wasn’t my finest hour, I must admit. To make matters worse, I accidentally skipped a bolt on the final hand traverse pitch-well it was pitch black by then..

 

What’s next for Urban Uprising?

Stuart: There are a couple of exciting things on the horizon for us. Edinburgh Uprising is starting in early 2017 and then another Uprising south of the border in late 2017. The exact venue isn’t decided yet. In 2018 we plan to open more Uprising’s elsewhere in the UK.

 

If people wanted to how would you suggest could they get involved?

We’re always looking for volunteers, so get in touch via our website or Facebook if you think you can help somehow.

It’s always helpful for people to ‘Like’ and share our posts and page. We’re also on Twitter @urbanuprisinguk and Instagram @urbanuprising_climbing

And if you’d like to fund-raise for us then we’d also love to hear from you. A sponsored climb, run, cycle or simple chuck some cold water over your head…..it’s all good by us. Also look out for our Uprising club nights, organized by Niall. They’re always great fun.

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Stuart, if people can’t support personally is there a link to let them donate?

Yes, there is a donation link on our Facebook page @ www.facebook.co.uk/urbnuprising or on our web page @ http://www.urbanuprising.co.uk/donate or you can simply text ‘URBN00 £10′ (or £20, £30 ) to 70070 or buy one of our T-Shirts!

 

So with Christmas just around the corner – what do you want from Santa?

Stuart :How about some craft beer to enjoy in front of an open fire whilst watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ please Santa. (Hope you’ve been a good boy then – Ed)

Niall : I’d like for Donald Trump and Nigel Farage to be stranded on a desert- no make that an Artic island- with no means of contacting the outside world. That would make up for this political muck up of a year! 

 

To close us out then what’s big/coming  in 2017 for each of you guys?

Stuart : That 8a that I was talking about. Also getting over my vertigo and general fear of exposure before climbing El Cap with Robbie Phillips eeek!

NiallI tend not to set my myself any definite goals or routes as so much depends on the weather, who you’re climbing with, your own fitness and psyche, family dramas and a hundred other factors that you never quite get all the things you want to do in a year. Having said that, I’d like to get up Requiem and continue getting into the mountains. Maybe do an Easter trip to Pembroke instead of clipping bolts in Spain…

 

Massive thanks to both Stuart and Niall for taking the time to talk to us, go check out UU  at www.urbanuprising.co.uk and get along to an Uprising near you in 2017!

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