‘I wanted to do something that was helpful, that was different.’
‘When I was about 18, I was travelling by train up to London and out of the window I could see all the tower blocks. I felt God was angry about what these places were doing to people.’
It was the late 80s, and the country had just been through a deep recession. There was talk in the church of helping people adjust to being unemployed.
He started by bringing together a group of churches from across Peckham. Together they prayed for the area, and decided that unemployment was the key issue they needed to address.
After securing some funding from the council, they employed Ian and Irene. ‘The early days were pretty wild,’ recalls Simon. ‘Someone put a scythe to the throat of one of our recruiters and another pulled a gun on Irene.’
But it didn’t deter them. As numbers on the courses grew they were embarking on another major project; the establishment of a laundrette on the estate. Pecan was born.
The organisation kept growing and, in 2003, Simon was awarded an OBE for his work. He considers equal pay his proudest achievement. He stuck to the principle of paying every staff member the same wage, which was initially £5,000.
‘It was a real privilege to run an organisation that was so radical,’ says Simon. ‘I loved what it did in terms of relationships and what it said about how management should operate in terms of power.’
With nearly 30,000 clients having attended a Pecan course, the driving idea remains the same today as it was in 1989. We never stop believing.