Spark magazine

Spark magazine - a retrospective

"We wrote in a style that reflected people we were talking with – it was very much about voices from community sector." - Gillian Trevethan (main photo)

Former editors and contributors share their memories of Spark Magazine

Jake Ferguson
CEO Hackney CVS

“I was determined to use the Spark magazine to shine a spotlight on what was happening in Hackney. I got to meet lots of different people and hear lots of different perspectives. The magazine really helped to open my eyes to all the communities in the borough and to how each community differs to the next – they all have different needs.”

Listen to the whole interview with Jake here:


Gillian Trevethan,
Information and Communications Manager at Hackney CVS in the years 2006-2013

“When I started to work at Hackney CVS, Spark was a big thing. We did the magazine every three months and we tended to write in a style that reflected people we were talking to – it was very much about voices from community sector.

Although we were not trained journalists or designers we took advice from people and did our best to create the magazine which was interesting and important for local communities. I remember people were looking forward to getting Spark and they wanted to share their stories in.

Through Spark we helped change things for better. For instance, we wrote a lot about domestic violence and interviewed seven different community groups to cast an eye on area that hadn’t been talked about very much then.

Spark was really important because community groups, which were delivering really important services, could profile their work and community insight through the magazine. It used to go to Council, the NHS and to other key stakeholders.

Spark was also a great visual representation of what Hackney CVS did – we informed groups, we helped people grow, and we influenced policy.

It’s hard to believe Hackney CVS is twenty years old. Now I work in communications department at Brunel University and I have to deal with many layers of bureaucracy. My work at Hackney CVS was different – if we wanted to make a campaign we had a chat about it and then we went out and just did it. I really liked that”.

Sulekha Hassan,
Healthwatch Hackney

“I was interviewed for Spark by Liz Hughes, a mentor of mine who also wrote for Spark at the time. It was a piece about what it was like being a young Muslim in the borough in the wake of the 2005 London bombings. I was at the LSE at the time and I was really struggling with the post 9/11 war on terror climate and what I felt was the media bias at the time.

I didn’t agree with the ‘us and them’ clash of civilizations narrative as this didn’t reflect my own experiences as a young person in Hackney with all the benefits of diversity and people from all walks of life living in such close proximity with each other. I felt this kind of perspective was absent and wanted to express it in some way. Spark gave me an opportunity to do that.

I also wanted to express the lack of infrastructure and opportunities for young people in the borough including the lack of decent tennis courts. Whilst Hackney was an incredible place to grow up, we felt that there was little investment in young people and being able to express this in Spark was great. Narratives matter and this was a way in which I could get my voice heard.

Anything which gives people the space to voice their opinions and tell their stories is brilliant and having a local CVS magazine, which was sharing the wider opinions of residents, was great”.

Nathan Richards,
Doctoral Researcher, Sussex University

“I was around 18 years old when I first started working for Hackney CVS – brought in to assist Jake Ferguson with the Spark magazine. At the time I had very little journalistic experience, so it was a great opportunity to learn the skills of interviewing and writing.

I remember my first few interviews quite clearly – even after 17 years. I interviewed a transgender woman, which for an 18 year old from the local area was quite a new experience. I later was invited into the home of a Jewish woman to discuss local issues. She was very kind and relaxed. It was very important for my development to see the breadth and depth of Hackney, to realise the similarities between the different communities, and the power of communication.

Working on Spark literally ‘sparked’ my educational and professional journey. Learning about the different issues that confronted the communities of Hackney, I was forced to ask myself how I could become a better asset to help solve some of these problems. And so, while I was still working for Hackney CVS, I enrolled on a course in Sociology at Hackney College, from there I did my BA in History and Economics, followed by an MA in Digital Journalism at Goldsmiths University. I am now completing my PhD at the University of Sussex. Throughout this period I have continually used skills of interviewing and writing to make films, write articles and essays, primarily about the lives of people, like those I met in Hackney.”


Narratives matter. Through Spark I could get my voice heard.

Sulekha Hassan