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Plymouth breakdancing king crowned National Lottery legend

1st Hydref 2019

A nationally respected hip hop artist and mentor from Plymouth has been awarded Local Legend status by the National Lottery for his work in transforming the lives of young people through the power of hip hop culture, music and dance.

Plymouth’s dance master, Toby Gorniak MBE, has been awarded a prestigious Local Legend Award as part of the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards. To celebrate his accolade, 32-year-old Toby will join a host of stars from the world of stage and screen at the glittering 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards show which will be filmed for BBC One at BBC White City Studios in London later this month.

The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards are the annual search for the UK’s favourite National Lottery funded people and projects and they celebrate the inspirational exploits of the ordinary people who do extraordinary things with National Lottery support.

Toby has received the National Lottery Legend Award for his tireless work in positively transforming the lives of young people in the community through the influence of hip hop culture. Fifteen years ago, Toby and his wife, Jo, established the National Lottery funded Street Factory CIC, a group that uses hip hop culture and dance as a vehicle to positively change the lives of young and disadvantaged people. Toby, a nationally-respected hip hop artist and qualified youth worker, arrived in Plymouth from his native Poland aged just 14, unable to speak a word of English. He and his family were fleeing persecution and came to Britain seeking refuge.

“I’m a Romany Gypsy and we fled Poland and came here seeking refuge because there was so much violence, hate and racism directed towards Romany Gypsies in Poland at the time,” recalls Toby.

“My mother feared for our lives and we ran away from it all and came here.”

Despite the challenges, Toby, who was awarded an MBE from the Queen last year, thrived and made a pledge to himself to help youngsters with difficult starts achieve their potential. This saw him launch Street Factory with his wife Jo in 2007. Street Factory prides itself on teaching “difficult to reach” youngsters the pillars of hip-hop culture, including rapping, DJing, breakdancing, beatboxing and graffiti art, alongside other, more conventional, lessons.

The couple and their volunteers now work with around 300 children and young people a week and also engage with local schools, colleges and community groups to devise pieces of hip hop theatre that explore issues such as bullying, diversity, equality and self-esteem.

“Dance is just something I did every day but I never thought about it as a job or a career and I never imagined we would help so many people by doing what we do,” says Toby, whom media and music mogul Simon Cowell once described as the ‘coolest Dad in the world’ when they met at an event.

“We work with and support people with a range of challenges and issues. This includes people with mental health problems, people who live in poverty, those who are isolated or have low aspirations. It’s all about building a safe place for them in the community. I know what it feels like to have nothing and to have no one that believes in you or to support you. Our space is a place that encourages this family unit which encourages people to grow and succeed in whatever way they would like to. It’s a really positive environment we’ve created here.”

Delighted to be announced as one of the National Lottery’s Local Legends, Toby said: “Every Award is mind-blowing for me. I came to the UK with nothing and the love respect and opportunities I’ve had over the years is amazing. People can see the positive change we are creating here and it’s humbling that people have taken time out for me and put me forward for this.”

Jonathan Tuchner, from the National Lottery, added: “It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that Local Legends like those awarded this year, are able to continue their work and inspire so many.

Toby Gorniak and his wife have done an incredible job in their local community and the work they do is hugely impressive and vital for the people they have helped. Toby thoroughly deserves to be crowned a Local Legend in the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards.”

The National Lottery Legend Award recognises a person that has made an outstanding contribution to their local area. They may have enhanced the local culture or quality of life by dedicating their skills, enthusiasm and energy to a diverse range of projects. The winners were selected by a panel made up of representatives from the National Lottery family.

Each Local Legend has been able to continue their amazing work with the help of National Lottery funding. Street Factory CIC was awarded £142,000 of funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to help build their capacity and develop the organisation for the future.

Since 1994, the National Lottery has made more than 5,500 millionaires but its primary purpose is all about giving to good causes. National Lottery players have raised more than £40 billion for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community over the past 25 years. Over than 565,000 National Lottery grants have been awarded across the UK, the equivalent of around 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district helping to strengthen communities, deliver sporting success, protect the environment, unleash local creative talent and look after the elderly and those at risk.

The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards will air on Thursday 19th November on BBC One- 25 years to the day the first National Lottery draw took place.