For thirteen long years, scouser Sam Farmer has been trying to help out kids from deprived backgrounds.
It’s a period of time in which he describes as “a life sentence”
Now, thanks in part to a global pandemic and a three-month lockdown earlier in the year, that sentence is over, with Cornwall-based Sam finally realising his dream.
Covid-19's devastating impact on everyday life across the UK has changed the way in which people live their lives.
And now, because of coronavirus and the emphasis on social distancing, Sam’s thirteen year journey to get his nature project off the ground is finally ticking all the right boxes.
Sam’s aim is to offer children a place where they can be close to nature, while providing outdoor education for minority youth groups and he’s just been granted planning permission to do so.
Sam said: “After 13 years, learning, fighting and organising, failing and reorganising, we got the permissions to educate youth at St Agnes Beacon Hill (Cornwall). To us, it’s been a life sentence.
"It took longer than a sentence for murder. Maybe to the nimbys who opposed this project it represented the killing of their sense of entitlement.
“For me, as an environmental activist, I can only see the righteous anger of fighting for the person who can’t fight any more for a seat and solace under a tree.”
Aided in his dream by co-project director, Lloyd Paul, the idea is to start welcoming youth groups and provide outdoor education, but in order to do so, basic facilities will need to be built and rebuilt.
“Covid has given education a chance to think and do things differently,” said Lloyd.
Sam has been ruthless in achieving his goal believing alternative education, especially for children with special needs, is the future.
He said: “Why aren’t kids enjoying this place now?”
“Why has it taken so long to get to this point? I didn’t know it would take 13 years and a global pandemic to make that change.
“This lack of a place to sit and think and be has always been the petrol for my engine. For me, I chose mountaintops – but even there I was asked what I wanted. Why I was there. As a black man, I didn’t know if it was racism or fascination, but it never felt good.
“Whatever it was, it left an indelible mark on me to find a place to sit and bring those who can’t find one. This is what got me thinking after we secured land”
Sam took a group of adults to the site recently just so they could see for themselves what he has been trying to achieve for so long with the Hope Project Cornwall.
He said: “I swear, they went in, held on to a few branches and just stood there swaying like startled, rewilded people, scared the gamekeeper was going to come and shoot them.
“It was funny and terrifying seeing the confusion in their eyes – yet after 13 years of stress and worry we’ve finally seen a chink of light in the form of Cornwall Council.
“I’ve always been wary of the council, so I was surprised when I met with them and they showed me their in-house planning process, and worked with them on this until finally, on April 13, we got permission to teach in an outdoor setting literally atop St Agnes Beacon Hill.
“The potential for children with special needs is enormous. We want this place to be a safe place for every child in Cornwall. We want schools to come here, youth groups to come here and access nature.”
In the past, the scouser has been subject to racial hatred. He has been verbally attacked, physically assaulted and attempts have been made to run him over, but that has never prevented him from keeping focus on something he strongly believes in.
His desire to teach outdoor pursuits to young people who live in Cornwall, but might never have had the opportunity to enjoy those beautiful natural assets was always matched by a desire to promote racial equality.
“I suppose the hard thing was to find a way to let those two things interlink and work for all the kids”, he said.
“I remember my mom telling me I have to be better than a white man to be the same as a white man. I had to know more than a white man to know the same as a white man. I had to work harder than a white man to work as hard as a white man. My mom wasn’t wrong – and she’s white, by the way.”
He has fought racism throughout his entire life, yet this is why when the Black Lives Matter movement exploded across the world following the brutal death of George Floyd, and he was asked to become a herald for the movement, he said no.
For Sam, rather than waving placards in a demo, the best way to show is by doing, and that means supporting local kids and giving them opportunities they would not otherwise have.
Sam spent a long time in introspection wondering what it all meant to him, to others, to Cornwall. In the end, he changed Black Lives Matter to ‘Living Matters’ in his head.
He said: “Yes, there is racism in the whole of the UK. It’s now embedded into institutions. I have to pay a year’s rent in advance and send a white friend to front it for me.
“Yes, if I speak on the phone, I warn people I’m black before they meet me and express visible shock. Yes, I avoid looking at the police when they drive by.
“In the end, I found the most impact I could have was to help a skint local kid get close to nature and let him also see the black man understands his anxiety through being Cornish or non-Cornish, bridging the gap between city and nature.”
And now, thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic, Sam and his partners are hoping to build a brighter future for the youth of Cornwall.
The Hope Project Cornwall fundraiser: https://the-me-band.bandcamp.com/releases