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Edinburgh project changing homeless people's lives through DJ'ing wins National Lottery Award

13th December 2021

An Edinburgh based social enterprise whose mission it is to use DJing to change the lives of people affected by homelessness, has been named the 2021 National Lottery Scotland Project of the Year.

Credit: Phil Wilkinson/The National Lottery

Turn The Tables beat off stiff competition from more than 1500 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

The project has emerged as the Scotland winner following the public vote which was held earlier this year.

Turn The Tables was started in 2018 by Robbie Tolson, an Edinburgh-based professional DJ, when he volunteered at a homelessness charity. He set up DJ workshops for people living in hostels and temporary accommodation with the vision to share his passion for DJing and live performance. The project has grown organically over the years with input from many of the participants influencing its development alongside the support of Scotland’s electronic music scene.

Credit: Phil Wilkinson/The National Lottery

A National Lottery grant received through Creative Scotland during the pandemic was a lifeline for the organisation and has enabled them to further expand their work in Edinburgh and Glasgow with The Homelessness DJ project. Participants are introduced to DJing through a series of skills and personal development courses, with the programme culminating in a live stream performance. Some recent graduates of the project have done so well they have been offered positions as Turn The Tables resident DJs and have been booked to perform live under the Turn The Tables banner at major events including the Riverside Music Festival in Glasgow.

One of the people who can vouch for the positive transformative nature of the project is John, 56 years old, who has taken part in the Edinburgh based Turn The Tables workshops. John lived in the Social Bite village and moved into a council flat just before joining the workshops. But like many people affected by homelessness, isolation is something John lives with far beyond the pandemic.

Credit: Phil Wilkinson/The National Lottery

I’m a big music head and I’ve always wanted to learn how to DJ and always thought it was such a difficult thing to learn. There’s never been anywhere to give me that opportunity,” says John.

But through Turn The Tables and Robbie’s workshops I’ve managed to do new things that I didn’t think possible at my stage my of life. I’m really excited to play some gigs in the new year with the project!

The project has recently expanded to running workshops in Glasgow as well. One of the participants to have benefited from those is Aidrian, 39 years old, who has been living in temporary accommodation for many years. Turn The Tables has helped as a social space that he can go to weekly as much as it has been a musical output, as well as giving him regular inspiration and hope.

Aidrian says: “I’ve watched Turn The Tables grow from afar and was very excited to hear they were coming to Glasgow. The workshops were a lifeline and gave me something I could be excited about in my life. I’ve been deprived of many other opportunities in music so it’s been great to have this platform and I’m excited for my future as a Turn The Tables DJ.”

Credit: Phil Wilkinson/The National Lottery

Delighted to be voted by the public as The National Lottery Scotland Project of the Year, Robbie Tolson, Director and Founder of Turn The Tables, says: “This has been a particularly tough two years for Turn The Tables, live music and especially DJing was wiped out for so long, drying up our income stream. The funding from The National Lottery through Creative Scotland to run our first project kept our vital support work going."

“To win this award is pretty mind blowing for our first project and we couldn’t be more over the moon. We’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who voted for us and also to everyone who plays the National Lottery as their support has been amazing.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps projects like the Turn The Tables continue to carry out incredible work in their communities.

Notes to editors

For further information and to arrange interview, photography and filming opportunities please contact The National Lottery Awards: Sarah Myers on sarah.myers@lotterygoodcauses.org.uk or 07828 617 962.

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