Horrific bike accident changes Dalston man’s life

Matt McStravick

Matt McStravick - Credit: Archant

Six years ago Matt McStravick had a promising career in the world of music, managing bands and singers at the top of the industry.

But a devastating and mysterious road accident left him fighting for his life and in recovery for two years.

He eventually gave up his illustrious job and turned his attention to setting up a pioneering organisation dedicated to helping people with anything from fixing a bike to making friends.

The 38-year-old from Prince George Road, Dalston, had come off his bike in 2008 in Bethnal Green and was found at the side of the road with severe head injuries.

He has no recollection of the accident and police were unable to establish what happened.

“My bike was mangled”, he said. “I was found sitting on the edge of the road and I had no memory of it at all. There was no CCTV of the accident either.

“After a couple of weeks of short-term memory loss I regained my faculties.

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“I could not work for a year or two. I had two brain haemorrhages – it was challenging.”

It was while receiving help from charity Headway East in Kingsland Road, Haggerston, which supports people suffering with brain injuries, that he came up with the idea of setting up a time bank, allowing members to trade skills.

“I found out about time banking and I volunteered to set up a time bank – a skills marketplace where the currency is time,” he said.

“There were a lot of people coming to Headway East who had really great skills which were not being used for one reason or another.”

Initially called Timber Wharf Time Bank when it was set up in 2009, the organisation has gone through several evolutions and was rebranded as Echo – an acronym for Economy of Hours – in September.

Its concept as a marketplace without money involves members trading their skills, services or resources and buying in those that they need, using a currency called echoes – the equivalent to an hour of someone’s time.

The marketplace can be used by anyone, regardless of whether they are an individual, charity or a business.

The father-of-two said: “There are a lot of individual web developers who might get four hours of accountancy.

“They might then go on to do four hours’ work designing a website. It’s a currency, so it does not have to be a direct exchange.”

He says that the idea helps “jump-start communities” as “people meet their neighbours and start forming meaningful relationships”.

And the idea has brought businesses and the government knocking at his door – he was invited to 10 Downing Street in January to explain how the concept works.

“We started off with absolutely nothing”, he admits. “I volunteered for six months.

“Then we started to bring in small amounts of funding. We then got a £145,000 grant from Nesta and it has grown from there.”

Mr McStravick has now made a full recovery from his accident and says he doesn’t have any regrets.

He said: “Like many people who have these experiences it made me think about what I wanted to do, which is work in the voluntary sector.

“A lot of people fall into industries that are kind of interesting and fun, but they don’t satisfy a great need to do something with meaning.

“The idea that a complementary currency could develop where everybody’s time is worth the same is a radical idea.

“Our mission is to take this to the mainstream.”