Being Chair of The Usual Place Board of Directors

I am in my second year as Chair of the Board of Directors of Inspired Communities Trust who are behind The Usual Place Cafe in Dumfries. We are an non for profit distributing social enterprise company. Our aim is too provide training and employment for young people with additional support needs. The board of directors govern the organisation but we are very involved as volunteers in the cafe.

However being chair means I never know what I’m going to be doing next so far I have 

  • Officially opened the building with a speech from the heart
  • Met with MSPs, MPs, Councillors and Council Leaders from Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland 
  • Spoke to our stakeholders group
  • Spoke to all the visitors we have

No week is ever the same as being chair.

On Tuesday I had a very busy day. I started by helping one of our trainees through their REHIS food hygiene qualification which was enjoyable for me and teaching is a career I want to go into. Then along with Claire our volunteer lead I hosted a group from Finland who were here with a local organisation LEADER who were here to learn about how youth organisations in Dumfries and Galloway engage with our young people. I talked about the journey to get to where we are now and the reasons behind why the Usual Place was born. Then Claire talked about the work we do with our young people and how we work we our trainees. 

It’s always daunting for me to speak to groups that we have in the building but it’s also a pleasure to share our story with other groups. I somewhere in my mind have all the information about the Usual Place and it just comes too the front of my mind. It comes from the heart when I speak about The Usual Place,it’s where I feel at home and can truly be myself. 

In the evening I chaired the Team Meeting. The skill of chairing the meeting is still relatively new to me but I do enjoy the challenge of it. I have been told I’m very good at keeping it focused on what we need too discuss…maybe that’s because I didn’t want to miss my train or maybe it’s just my organisational skills. Next skill to move onto is taking notes of a meeting

I was back in at The Usual Place on Wednesday and as I was waiting for two very special visitors to arrive I started writing this blog.We have Kezia Dugdale, leader of Scottish Labour and Nicola Sturgeon leader of SNP visiting us. 

So the time came to meet Kezia and too say I was nervous was an understatement but as soon as she spoke to me I felt at ease. I introduced her to members of the team and then we went into one of the training rooms to have a conversation. Myself, Callum, Dean, William and Heather all talked about The Usual Place and what it meant to us. Kezia was really interested to listen to what we have achieved in our wonderful building and how we have achieved it. She was also interested in my personal story which too me is key as it showed she valued me being there. After the meeting it was photo opportunities , getting used too that now. Then the chat turned more informal during lunch and I hope to keep in touch with Kezia 

And breatheeeeee it’s time for lunch and relaxing before Nicola this afternoon 

First came in Joan McAlphine, a familiar face to the Usual Place. I then joined Joan outside with Callum, Amy D and Heather to welcome Nicola Sturgeon to our wonderful cafe. Although at the time didn’t realise the camera was filming for border news! So we started our visit with a guided tour of the building, including the stunning cafe space, kitchen, meeting rooms and our very fancy changing places toilet. I’ve been told that Nicola was totally engaged in what I was saying when I was doing my tour which is lovely to hear and very reassuring. As both me and Amy Duffy have met her we found it very easy to talk to her.  After tour it was photo time again! Amy had great fun showing Nicola the coffee machine, it was so lovely too see her smiling with so much joy and pride 🙂 We took the most of the sunny day too have pictures outside before saying goodbye with a hug.

So it’s not everyday that you meet two leaders of political parties but then again it’s not everyone that is chair of an organisation or is priveldged enough to be involved in such a wonderful place. 

I think over the last two days I have grown in a lot more confidence and have more belief in myself. These very influence people really do want too hear my story and the story of The Usual Place.

So I’m looking forward to whatever it brings next as Chair…..

I am also shortlisted for Young Volunteer Award  at the Third Sector local awards 🙂 🙂 

That time I travelled too Cardiff too see Max….

It’s currently 5.36AM and I’m starting this before getting ready too leave the house for my journey to Cardiff. It’s still dark outside. I just can’t wait to get too Carlisle and get on my first main train! 

Well that’s me done my first train – it’s an easy one just Annan to Carlisle. Now I’m chilling with a Gingerbread Latte waiting for my first main train from Carlisle to Crewe. I’ve a reserved seat so that’s great. It’s just getting on it now 🙂 

Well there were no distasters on the train journey too get from Carlisle to Crewe and then Crewe to Cardiff. 

I arrived in Cardiff around 1.40pm and was greeted by the rain – just like being at home! So following my instructions I navigated my way to my hotel and checked in… I had made it too Cardiff, happy days 🙂 🙂 

I chilled , got ready and had some food before heading out too meet Hannah. I arrived at the Wales Millenium Centre and took some tourist shots including an attempt at as selfie with the building. Then Hannah arrived we had a catch up as we hadn’t seen each other since September. 

 It was time to take our seats. We got good seats at the raised stalls at the back with good view of whole stage though I had too dodge the head of person in front of me a few times. 

The show started and I was just waiting for Max to appear. He played to roles – Charlie a young soldier who we find out is only 16 after he lied about his age and Private Brandt who was in the German Army still a young soldier. Playing two characters or meant Max was in most scenes from the beginning too end, always a bonus. We got to hear his lovely singing voice which is always a pleasure. In this production Max worked alongside his former Waterloo Road Co Star Rebecca Craven. In Only the Brave Becky plays Jenny a young girl playing her part in the war effort back home. But we didn’t expect that Max and Beckys characters would have a scene together and 😘😘😘

I laughed, I cried….a lot and said Awww countless times. It was a truly awesome production and very uplifting. I thought about my Granny during it who would have been 15 when the event happened. There was a standing ovation at the end!!! 

After it finished it was mission find Max….not long after he appreared. Even though he had to rush off he had photographs with us and spoke to us about a few things. Said thank you for us for coming to see the show 🙂 I did actually cry in front of him, the emotion of thinking about Granny, the show itself and seeing him after so long just got too me and I couldn’t hold it in. Though in typical Max style he was so sweet about. So we gave him his presents – a Chelsea FC mug, keyring and a bar of tablet from me 🙂 Then it was the final hugs goodbye…………

Then we went too meet Becky. We had hugs, pictures and she singed my programme and old school tie. Off course my height was conversation subject,lol 🙂 


I got back to my hotel room and burst into tears – Thanks to Emily P, Rachel and Matthew for mesaging me 🙂 I then got organised for coming home and was just about to put my iPad down when I got s notification…. @MaxBowden mentioned you……..He tweeted us with a picture of the Chelsea mug and said “u guys are the best thank u so much. And thank you for coming! X X” After what felt like forever I replied back too him. 

It may have been a short and sweet visit to seeing Max and Becky but it was most definitely worth the travel for the time they did spend with us and the tweets. 
So my next adventure is in April too go a dyspraxia foundation meeting and too meet my Twitter friend Nikki. But hopefully  there will be another instalment of Team Max soon 🙂 
Amy 💜