MARK Taylor was homeless until he received support from Crisis Skylight at the Old Fire Station in Oxford.

Now he is fully involved in arts projects at the George Street venue.

Yesterday he met National Lottery boss Matt Ridsdale and told him how support from staff at the homelessness charity had helped him to turn his life around.

Mr Ridsdale is executive director at Camelot, which runs National Lottery competitions, and he helps to oversee how lottery donations to good causes can make a difference around the country at places like the Old Fire Station.

During a meeting at the cafe at the venue, Mr Taylor told Mr Ridsdale how Crisis Skylight’s support for Arts at the Old Fire Station had made such a difference.

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Mr Taylor, 56, said: “I first came here for a shower and a shave and gradually got involved with the arts - I’m involved in a show which is happening in October.

“When you have lost everything you have no self-worth and people here helped me to feel at home and get on a training scheme.

Oxford Mail:

“I really feel appreciated - being involved here gives me a sense of identity - I’m now living in supported housing.

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“It’s been so good to work with professional actors and other members from Crisis - I’ve even had an opportunity to do some writing.”

Mr Ridsdale said he was delighted that the Old Fire Station was supporting Mr Taylor.

Lottery grants totalling £1.1m have been awarded to Arts at the Old Fire Station since 2011.

This includes £409,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund - part of a long-term grant that runs from October 2019 to Sept 2023.

Mr Ridsdale said: “I’m so pleased to hear that the Old Fire Station has made such a big difference to Mark.

“We want to make extraordinary things happen for everyone - that can be on a large scale like the V&A in Dundee - or on a much smaller scale.

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“I travel all round the country and I love hearing these personal stories.

“Since the National Lottery launched in the early 1990s it has raised £40 billion for good causes.”

The Old Fire Station shares its building with the Crisis Skylight charity.

The charity helps homeless people become more resilient and stable offering training and volunteering opportunities to clients, who can learn a wide variety of skills front of house, in the shop and backstage.

It provides opportunities for clients to create and show work with professional artists, from gallery exhibitions such as 2016’s ShedSpace, to the ongoing theatre project Hidden Spire.

Oxford Mail:

Following Mr Ridsdale’s visit to the Old Fire Station he called in at St Giles Post Office and presented a plaque to sub-postmistress Nadia Akhtar as shop has raised over £250,000 for good causes over the past 10 years through the sales of National Lottery tickets.

This year St Giles Post Office has paid out around £20,000 in prizes.

Ms Akhtar said: “I was delighted to meet Matt and his team.

"I think this is the first time Camelot has awarded a plaque to a post office retailer in Oxford.”