How Black Lives Matter protests sparked a new social movement in Northants

The group is providing vital assistance to people in crisis

By Natalie Bloomer

A few days after Christmas a 34-week pregnant woman posted a message on a Facebook selling page asking for help. She had just moved into permanent accommodation after being homeless but the house was almost empty. All she had were white goods and a bed with no sheets.  

Her post was spotted by Marly Lyman, a member of the group Amplified NN. He put a call out to his social media followers to see if anybody could help and within days the woman had just about everything she needed to get by.

“People were ordering things on click and collect and I would go and get them and take them to her,” Marly says.

“We were able to give her a kettle, toaster and other kitchen items. Other people gave money so we got her some really nice bedding and soft towels. One person donated £500 in one hit. The response was overwhelming but to think a woman who is 34 weeks pregnant was in such desperation that she needed to turn to strangers on a Facebook page is just shocking.”

The experience is one that Marly is getting used to. Earlier last year, following the Black Lives Matter protests in Northampton, a small group of activists got together to discuss how they could make a real difference in the local community. They recognised that the impact of the pandemic on top of existing inequality and poverty could lead to a real desperate need.

“We’re non-political and not affiliated with any official organisation or group,” Marly says. 

“We’re a standalone group of individuals that have come together and recognised there is a need to do something like this and do what we can to tackle it.”

Since then Amplified NN has helped more than 100 families. They’ve packed and distributed food hampers during school holidays, worked alongside the local homelessness charity Project 16:15 and provided festive gifts for children.

“We didn’t want to give the gifts directly to the children, we wanted to empower parents to feel that they were giving the presents themselves,” Marly says. 

“We even worked with local creatives because we know so many self-employed people are struggling during the pandemic. A local woman produced the wrapping paper - we’d much rather pay someone like that than go to the pound shop.”

With the presents bought and wrapping paper sorted, Marly cleared away the restored furniture he sells from his shop The Chalk Paint Guy in Raunds, and used the space as a mini warehouse to get all the packing done. The gift boxes were then distributed to local families in need. 

“We raised about £1,000 for that project and were able to wrap everything really nicely. We don’t want to hand over any old rubbish, we want to show people their worth.”

The group also provided hampers crammed with everything a family could need for Christmas lunch, they even had gluten-free and halal options. 

“We’ve had great support from the local community with all this but also from several businesses and other groups like Extinction Rebellion Northampton. The town recognises when people are in need and really comes together to help.”

In December Amplified NN joined forces with other local groups to help another person in crisis. This time a man who had been found living in appalling conditions. He had no electricity or heating, barely any furniture and his carpets were in a terrible state.

“We were asked if we could help but we couldn’t believe how bad his living situation was. Within 24 hours though we were able to get him new furniture and most of the items he really needed.

“Many of the people we’ve helped have never reached out for support before and they’re really embarrassed. We try to tell them that everyone needs help from time to time and there is no need to feel ashamed.

“Ultimately it’s a failing of the state. It’s shameful that we are needed at all but we don’t want to be the type of group that just identifies a problem in society and does nothing about it. We’re not just here to offer a listening ear but to actively make a difference.”

Amplified NN can be found on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/amplifiedNN