Our plans to develop community journalism across West Leeds have been given a huge boost after our bid for National Lottery funding was successful.
In the week that we celebrate our sixth birthday, the National Lottery confirmed we have been awarded £112,000 from the Community Fund to help us increase the sharing of community news, train more volunteer community reporters and encourage more people to take part in community activities – particularly the hard-to-reach.
The cash will fund us for the next three years and be used to fund a part-time editor and a part-time business development manager to help us become financially sustainable. It will also fund the training of up to 80 new community reporters and will pay for some print editions of the West Leeds Dispatch.
Editor John Baron said:
“We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our work in this way. Now, thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to train more community reporters, to add to the 40 or so we have already trained.
“The funding is a real game-changer for us. Not only will we have more community reporters on the ground, it is a massive boost in our quest to become a sustainable community news organisation, run by West Leeds people for West Leeds people.”
It’s hoped the funding will lead to increased sharing of community news, increased engagement of the local community and reducing social isolation and increased local participation in community activities, particularly in hard-to-reach areas.”
WLD is run by the community led social enterprise West Leeds Community Media, which is overseen by a board of volunteers. Chair Anne Akers said:
“Over six years the West Leeds Dispatch has gone from strength to strength, in fact we reached the point where as volunteers, we couldn’t cope with the demand, that’s why we put in our bid to the Lottery. We wanted to pay our editor, because he puts in so much time, pay for someone to help us generate business and make us self-financing, and invest in community development by training more community journalists.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us, but we have a great group of community reporters which we can build on to help us develop the online and print versions of the West Leeds Dispatch.”
She said feedback on the bid from the National Lottery was very encouraging, saying that it was the kind of project which would reach local communities. As a result, the award from the National Lottery Community Fund is, we believe, the largest ever made to a community media organisation in the UK.
WLCM is a registered member of regulatory body IMPRESS and a founding member of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN), which represents independent organisations across the country. We also helped establish the first Public Interest News Foundation.
Since our site was launched, there have been more than seven million page views, we currently publish more than 25 stories a week. To enable us to do that, we have recruited, trained and supported more than 40 community reporters from many different backgrounds, who have helped tell the stories.
In response to requests from readers, we also published a free print edition during the Covid-19 pandemic last August, which was ‘sold out’ within a couple of weeks.