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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – Recognition for a former Chair of the St Christopher’s Board whose impact and legacy helped shape our charity

A number of years ago, the Royal Mint issued a £2 coin with the phrase, ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ printed on its edge.  The reverse of the coin shows and image, which traces to story of technological development from the Iron Age, Industrial Revolution, Computer Age and the Internet.

The phrase, was coined (pardon the pun) by Sir Isaac Newton over how he modestly described his success as being based on the work of his predecessors.  He recognised the value of those who went before him.

I was very sad to hear recently that Brian Blackler, a former Chair of the Board at St Christopher’s passed away at the age of 89.  Brian was a part of our work at St Christopher’s in the 1980s.  I spoke with one of his peers from that time who talked passionately about the work the Board and St Christopher’s were doing, and the challenges they worked relentlessly to overcome.  Brian’s desire was to see growth for the charity, so that more young people would benefit from the support that we could provide.  It was at that time that St Christopher’s first began to work with young women and girls having functioned for more than 100 years as a charity solely aimed at helping young men.  It was also at around that time that our first supported housing services were developed, which led to an expansion of our charity over the next twenty years as we partnered with larger housing associations and local authorities to increase the number of young people who could be supported.

A lot of the challenges and pressures we face today were in many ways the same forty years ago.  The economy was turbulent, political polarisation evident, and the development of materialism and consumerism created a growing divide between the rich and the poor.  Now in 2024, we have a desire to grow, but face continuous pressures to ensure our income and our expenditure are aligned.  I have read back over management notes from that time and the conversations they were having could have been from last week from my perspective.  Occupancy levels and recruitment and retention were driving factors that needed to be addressed, and a strategy and vision for the future was being developed.

For young people in the 80s, there was no such thing as social media, smart phones or the internet.  TVs had four channels, couldn’t be paused and picture quality was dependent on how successfully you wiggled the ariel.  What hasn’t changed in all those decades is the basic needs of the young people in our care, which is to feel safe, happy and loved, so that they can achieve their full potential.  This is our mission now, as it was then, and it is with thanks to Brian and his colleagues, and those who came before them, that we are the strong, respected and successful charity that we are.

As we pass our condolences to Brian’s daughter and his grandchildren, we also acknowledge his contributions to creating Brighter Futures for countless children and young people, and for being one of those many giants to whom we all owe so much.