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Meet The Fifth Trust team #2

05 August 2021


For our series spotlighting members of The Fifth Trust team, we talk to Ern Marden, who has worked here for 11 years, first in media and then as a photography instructor.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ern found himself swapping his usual role for something completely different. With both our skills centres forced to close in March 2020 when the country locked down, he was tasked with setting up an online service so students could continue their favourite sessions from home. Crucially, they would also be able to see familiar faces and talk to friends at a time when every one of us was feeling fearful and uncertain of what lay ahead.

“Remember this was a time when most people hadn’t even heard of Zoom!” Ern recalls. Yet in a couple of days The Fifth Trust Online was live and within a fortnight of the lockdown a full weekly programme of nine different sessions, including art, cookery, karaoke and chat club, was available for our students to log on to. This was increased in later lockdowns.

Such was the success of the service over the following months that Ern is now leading a team developing a permanent digital programme to run alongside our on-site student services. “We’re looking at creating a social skills package along with formal courses that we will be able to offer to students unable physically or emotionally to join us in person or who live outside our catchment area.”

With students due to return to our full rota in September, Ern is looking forward to restarting photography sessions. “We get out and about when the weather is good, putting the theory I teach into practice. We’re surrounded by beautiful countryside which we walk in and we also visit local nature reserves, Canterbury and the seaside.”

He is also eagerly anticipating the opening of our redeveloped skills centre at Barham. “Craft and media will have dedicated rooms for the first time so we can leave equipment out during break times, which will make a massive difference.”