Project: Hackney Hounds

Hackney Hounds: changing minds, changing lives

Young people and dangerous dogs. Particularly when they’re associated with Hackney, these two subjects spark negative stereotypes of gangs, unemployment, poverty and violence. The Hackney Hounds project turned this perception on its head. We brought together a group of young people who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) and gave them a chance to make a short film about something they felt strongly about. Dangerous dogs.

Life’s a Bitch :

When you’re young your mother is GOD, but what happens when God isn’t there for you anymore?

Watch the trailer:

Watch the full length version here


  • 100% of NEET film crew now back in education.
  • 140 people from the community were challenged by the film’s content and the story of its creation at the premiere.
  • More than 1000 people (and rising) watched the film online.
  • Local and national media coverage.
  • Partnership with a national charity.
  • Raised profiles for the two new social enterprises involved.
  • Formed relationships with young people’s organisations, eg Connexions, Hackney Youth Offending Team, Off Centre, Careers Development Group.
  • Rewarding experience for professionals involved in training.
  • Career-boosting experience for young mentors.
  • Personal and leadership development for director/producer Kayla Whiting.

How did the project come about?

Kayla Whiting, 19 years old and from Hackney, had been long-term unemployed and in trouble with the law before she was employed to work as an administrator at social enterprises Poached Creative and Mediorite in January 2010. A Staffordshire bull terrier owner, she wanted to do something to help counteract the negative perceptions of these dogs and to provide a chance for young unemployed people in Hackney to take part in a positive, work-related activity. Her solution was to create a short film and she approached her employers with the idea. Together they helped her win funding and provided her with their full support to run the project.

Who did we work with?

We worked  intensively with five young people who were not in employment, education or training:

Kayla Whiting – aiming to break the cycle of long-term unemployment, depression and crime

Julie Disbrey – a young single mother looking to get back into work

Geneika Haynes-Skye – seeking experience in media and to gain employment or training

Zoe Coles – excluded from school because she was a vicitim of bullying

Billie Fisher – aiming to find direction after dropping out of education.

Up to 28 young people were involved in the project overall, including film students, young musicians, actors, youth mentors and volunteers.  Older volunteers and a team of nine media professionals – from organisations including Ginger Productions, The BBC and M-chi – provided an invaluable mix of ages, experiences and backgrounds to produce an exceptional finished product.

Read Daniel’s ( young media mentor ) blog here

See the research that Ruth made for us with the Dog’s Trust here

Meet the crew:


  • 156 hours of free training and mentoring
  • 5 young people engaged in positive activity leading to a return to education
  • 23 young people and  9 media professionals volunteering
  • 140 people at the premiere from across the community
  • 1,400 page views on the website
  • 1,000 video downloads
  • 3 press releases, 2 feature articles and associated media coverage
  • 2500 postcards and 20 posters promoting the event
  • strong social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube

Creative control

A large factor in the success of the project was the amount of creative control the young people were allowed. Drawing on training and advice from professionals they took the project into their own hands, writing the script; finding actors, locations and props;  handling the camera work, lighting and sound; editing; sourcing music and promoting the film. Keeping these young people engaged and enthused was a particular challenge and the fact that five out of an original eight young people completed the project was a real achievement for young leader Kayla Whiting.

Crew outcomes

Learning new skills and making new friendships was the best part of the programme, according to the crew. The girls all admitted that they didn’t usually get on well with other girls, so the fact that they were able to pull together and work as part of a team suprised them all. “Everyone was that little bit shy in the beginning and now … I mean, we’re like best friends now. It’s mad, like we’ve known each other for years.”

  • At the beginning of the programme, just one or two of the crew rated their knowledge of film production and their techinical film skills as strong. By the end of the programme all five crew members rated themselves as strong or very strong in these areas.
  • 100 per cent of the crew were confident or very confident working on their own initiative and applying their knowledge.
  • 100 per cent agreed with the statement, “My confidence has improved as a result of this.”
  • 100 per cent said they would like to work on more media projects.

Fifteen-year-old Zoë Coles, who was no longer attending school and had been out of full-time education for nearly a year, has now returned to full-time education with a new attitude. She said: “I think I got alot of confidence and alot of editing skills…I can do what I put my mind to and I can do it well.”
Julie Disbrey, a young mother trying to get back into the workforce, has now been enrolled onto a professional media course where she is continuing to build her knowledge of film production. She said: “I learnt how a crew and film is set up, produced, made, and finished and promoted. I got extras on my CV, made new friends and contacts, and can now use camera/lighting and sound equipment.“

Billie Fisher has gone onto enrol on a performing arts course. She said of the programme: “There is nothing I can think of that I didn’t like about it.”

Geneicka Haynes-Skye has enrolled in a Beautician course and is doing work experience with film production company, Methodworks. She said she discovered during the programme that she can adapt to different environments more easily. Her parting thoughts: “Keep goin, I loved it.”

Kayla completed her NVQ Level 3 in Business Administration and is currently undertaking her NVQ Level 2 in team leading, using her experience from the project. Her original six-month contract with Poached Creative was extended and she has grown into a capable project co-ordinator and youth leader, gaining further paid work with youth charity Art Against Knives. She said: “I have discovered I enjoy leading a team and work well with people my own age…Thank you for all your help and encouragement.”

Project outcomes

  • Partnerships for Mediorite and Poached Creative with the the Dog’s Trust, the Hackney Youth Offending Team, Outset, V inspire, DV8, Hoxton Hall, Space Studios, Rich Mix, Purple Bus, Off Centre, What’s Up Information, Art Against Knives
  • Hackney Hounds website provides a legacy for the project with information on free and cheap dog training and veterinary care, Staffordshire bull terriers and links between pet and domestic abuse, the Dog’s Trust projects and the film itself.
    • Media coverage and profile raising for Mediorite and Poached Creative in the wider community.

Coverage and more information

More information


One of the most rewarding parts of this project was the way everyone in the office got behind the project.

The advertising message was conceived by young people as part of an Unltd funded pilot : Keep it brief. Poached Creative trainees created press releases and interviews the crew at the start of their journey.

The film  screened at 132 seater cinema Rich Mix, distributed through Youtube and entered into film awards.


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  • Contacts

    Lucy Ferguson : 07968532923 : : Unit 21, Celia Fiennes House, 8 - 20 Well Street, Hackney, London, E9 7PX
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