The Background Story to Braich Goch Inn and Bunkhouse and The Anne Matthews Trust
People often ask us who was Anne Matthews!
Ros Norton and Anne Matthews were life partners; both dedicated, feisty, feminist, anti-racist community workers who were angry about the inequality of our society, and unwaveringly committed to the struggle for social justice. This was not just their work, it was the essence of how they lived their lives. They dedicated all their time and energy to working with people and communities, and they were both highly skilled and profoundly inspiring.
Following a long career in community and youth work, Ros Norton took the lead in setting up RefugeeYouth, (a charity which still exists today), which developed into a very active organisation with a national reach, with youth leadership at its core. Through 16 years of involvement in this work, a strong and diverse network developed, of young community leaders from refugee and migrant backgrounds, working together to explore the issues affecting their communities and take action to bring about change.
Anne Matthews had a long and inspirational career in local politics and social housing, latterly working as the New Opportunities Director at Poplar HARCA Housing Association.
After a long battle with cancer, Anne sadly died in 2008. At this point, Ros left her job as the Development Officer of RefugeeYouth but continued working as a volunteer.
Residential experiences in the countryside were key to the work of RefugeeYouth, providing transformative ways in which young people could come together, build and deepen relationships, develop capacity and support networks, research their experiences and plan to take action together, using peer to peer and participatory models for change.
A collective dream emerged, of developing and running a residential centre where ongoing projects and programmes could be run for and by young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and their groups and communities.
From 2010 - 2014 The National Trust gave RefugeeYouth sole use of Bransdale Mill, a 200 year old watermill in the North Yorkshire Moors. Ros left her home in London, and moved to Yorkshire to take the lead on this project as a volunteer. A team from the RefugeeYouth network worked together to run Bransdale Mill, hosting groups and individuals from across the UK; running creative programmes, conservation projects in partnership with The National Trust, and offering the space for groups to organise and build capacity. This in turn led to the development of new community led groups and projects in Leeds, Birmingham, London, Middlesbrough and Hull.
After taking some time to learn from those experiences, Ros, along with colleagues Javier Sanchez, Maria De La Pava, Yosola Olajoye and Cedoux Kadima, who were all part of the work of RefugeeYouth and Bransdale Mill over the past 16 years, decided to make the collective dream a reality, and develop a residential centre.
Ros sold her flat in London, and looked for a suitable property, purchasing Braich Goch Inn and Bunkhouse (Braich Goch) in 2017.
Ros, Javier, Maria, Yosola and Cedoux to set up a Community Interest company; Braich Goch Red Arm CIC (“BGRA CIC”) to experiment with running projects and programmes in the space and making it available for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
In March 2018 Ros was diagnosed with cancer which turned out to be extremely aggressive. She sadly died in June of the same year. Her death came quickly and as a huge shock to her family, friends and community.
When Ros knew she was dying, she decided she would like to pass ownership of Braich Goch to a charity which could safeguard it in the long term as a resource for people living in circumstances of disadvantage, and she made this known in her will, identifying a number of trustees to take this wish forward.
After exploring various models, and getting legal advice, it was decided that the most effective way of doing this was to convert the Braich Goch Red Arm CIC to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), which was realised in March 2022 when we were given Charitable Status and renamed as The Anne Matthews Trust.