Giroscope was conceived and developed in the mid-1980s by a group of students and young unemployed people who decided to take direct action to resolve their own housing situation. Establishing a Workers’ Co-operative and registering as a Limited Company in the summer of 1986, Giroscope members purchased their first house using their Giro cheques for a deposit and set about redeveloping the property to provide accommodation for the unemployed.
We persuaded friends with jobs to take out mortgages and bank loans and purchased four houses over the period of about a year. We had no skills and no idea about letting which we now decided was to be our next move. Advertising our first property we were inundated with prospective tenants as we charged no deposit and welcomed people on benefits.
We assisted and inspired other people to set up similar projects including a co-operative shop and a co-operative printers. Later we established a crèche in one of our properties to provide much needed child care for ourselves and others. Many people passed through our organisation including many volunteers gaining valuable work experience. A strong sense of community developed in the Co-op which is still present today.
We attracted a lot of interest from 1990 when we won the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust Award for Housing (The Times/RIBA Community Enterprise Scheme), meeting Prince Charles in the process.
In 1995 Giroscope bought and renovated a dilapidated old stables and yard in the heart of west Hull to create the Arthur Street Social Enterprise Park. The building incorporated both solar thermal (hot water) and photovoltaic panel (generating electricity) technologies and provided space to over half a dozen small enterprises and community businesses. It was also to be the location of Giroscope’s HQ and office.
The ground floor has now been occupied by three ‘healthy eating’ businesses: an artisan bakery, an organic fruit and vegetable delivery service and a condiment manufacturer. The upper floor houses a classroom where English is taught to new arrivals to the UK by HEMCCF (Hull Ethnic Minorities Community Centre Foundation) and also provides office space for several other social enterprises. Giroscope also owns a vegetarian café and a shop, which along with the Enterprise Park help to create and sustain jobs in our community.
In 2004 Giroscope publishes ‘Last One Out Please Close The Gateway‘, a report that looks into the causes, effects and remedies of the adandonment and decline in our West Hull neighbourhood. As the title suggests the essay criticises the government’s proposed ‘Gateway’ scheme, a proposal that would have lead to widespread demolitions in the area in which Giroscope operates.
Maintaining the pledge to help others in housing need, Giroscope continued to purchase properties in the West Hull area. In 2007 we became a Registered Charity, by now owning over 40 residential properties and 9 business, retail and trading premises, and in 2009 we began working with HMP Everthorpe, helping ex-offenders rehabilitate into society by providing them with volunteer/training opportunities.
In 2012 as part of the Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) we investigated possible energy efficiency improvements and different systems of solid wall insulation. We also constructed a viewing area where solar panels can be seen close up as we aim to attract both school children and college students to our Arthur Street Social Enterprise Park to learn about renewable energy systems. During 2012 Giroscope also renovated a further 7 properties.
We also bid successfully for the DCLG’s Empty Homes Community Grants programme and took on a new electrical apprentice in order to provide new employment and training opportunities to the community – through to 2015 we renovated a total of 48 houses as a result of the Empty Homes Community Grants programme, effectively doubling the size of our housing stock.
In 2013 we purchased and began the renovation of a disused workshop and yard space in Selby Street in order to develop a second Social Enterprise Park. This houses our bicycle project, our wood workshop, offices and classrooms for the Vulcan Learning Centre as well as other local social-enterprises.
In 2014 we won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. We won the 2015-2016 UN World Habitat Award, together with Canopy in Leeds, with the award presented in Ecuador, and in 2016 the Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award, presented at St. James’s Palace in London. In 2017 we were honoured to win The Howard League’s Organisation of the Year at their annual Community Awards, recognising our deeper and productive engagement with the Criminal Justice System.
We continued our volunteer programme, in 2018 often having 20 volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, working on site and in the office on a daily basis. In late 2018 we completed the purchase of the former St. Matthew’s church, an iconic local building, and we will expand our Social Enterprises into this space as well as re-opening the building as a community hub.