We are here to support, promote and develop voluntary and community action in Middlesbrough

A Day in the Life of... John Atkinson

This is a series of Day in the Life of blogs we're running to give an insight into the team here at MVDA. John Atkinson is our Community Action Development Officer.

How long have you been at MVDA?

Six and a half years.

What did you do before you worked here?

I have been supporting people to turn ideas into action for 30 years working for many organisations like MVDA over that time. Before coming to MVDA, I developed a very successful telephone befriending service for older people in County Durham and was able to replicate the service in Liverpool, Manchester and Northumberland.

What time do you normally get up?

I’m usually up at 6am. I like to get an early start so I can keep on top of work.

What’s your morning routine before leaving the house?

We are mixing home-working with going into the office, so routine changes. The most important thing for me is making toast and coffee for my breakfast – everything else falls into place after that.

Describe a typical morning at MVDA.

Mornings are always busiest for me. I spend time dealing with emails, writing notes, catching up with phone calls, and setting up appointments. I do a lot of writing and proofreading in the morning – when my brain seems to work best.

What do you do for lunch? Got any favourite dishes or recommended cafes you go to?

I’m often in the office for only half of the day, so mostly make myself a sandwich at home. If I need to eat at work, there are loads of great independent cafes a short walk from our offices on Corporation Road – Mannequin, Gutsy Girl, Off the Ground, Good Food Joint and Etch to name a few of the places I have eaten at recently.

Home made cheesecake with fresh black currents from the allotment.

Describe a typical afternoon at MVDA.

Afternoons are usually taken up with meetings and taking care of work that has come in from the morning. I try to get out for some exercise most afternoons to break the day up. I run, walk and cycle whenever I can.

How do you wind down in the evening? I have an allotment at Quarry Road near Preston Park in Stockton, which has needed constant watering this season. I have to water the greenhouse every day even if it rains. It’s worth the effort – the fruit and veg tastes so much nicer freshly picked and grown without chemicals.

Looking after the tomato plants in our greenhouse.

What’s the best part of your job?

The people. Middlesbrough is full of brilliant people who care about others and want to make lives better in some way. I am always happy to help people make a difference in their community.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The 2 great challenges in my work are finding funding and creating lasting collaboration between organisations in different sectors. Thinking about it, these have been the greatest challenges for the 30 years I have worked in the Voluntary and Community sector.

What’s your biggest work achievement/something you’re most proud of that’s happened in the last 12 months?

I am very happy to have been involved in the public sessions that Independent Age ran to engage and hear from BME and LGBT communities at the International Centre this year. The thing I enjoyed most was seeing loads of different communities chatting with each other in a community centre that feels safe and welcoming to them; we all need to feel we belong somewhere and it struck me that very many people felt they belonged at the International Centre.

A busy session with Independent Age at the International Centre.

John Atkinson


Community Action and Development Officer at MVDA.