A tribute to Peter Farley, founder of the Matthew Project

Following the sad loss of the Matthew Project’s founder, Peter Farley, in September 2022, we have been looking back at the impact this remarkable man had on thousands of people across Norfolk and beyond.

Peter worked tirelessly throughout his life to support people facing adversity, and to help them reach their full potential. He did this as a result of his Christian faith.

Peter served in the Police and then retrained as a teacher. In the early 1980s he became concerned about the level of substance misuse he was seeing among young people in the city, and the lack of support available for them.

In response to this need, Peter set up the Matthew Project, a Norfolk based charity whose name means ‘gift of God’, along with support from his wife, Margaret. He wanted the Matthew Project to be a gift to those who needed support, and believed all people were themselves gifts of great value.

“Working with young people has helped me appreciate how blessed and fortunate I am. I admire how many people have coped with adversity.”

In the early days, the charity was based at the Tackle Shop, a Norwich-based drop-in for 12-25-year-olds to get confidential advice and support, particularly around substance misuse. This was accompanied by an additional out-of-hours phoneline called the Tackle Line.

The Matthew Project then established itself within schools across Norfolk, providing a range of education and one-to-one support for young people, especially those affected by substance misuse and mental ill health. Peter also introduced the Tackle Express, a new mobile caravan built to travel around the county and provide outreach support to at-risk young people.

Little did he realise what an innovative idea this was, and he had calls from people across the country who were interested in the work which The Matthew Project was doing and the use of mobile facilities grew. The work also expanded into police stations across Norfolk, with a member of staff assigned to go and speak with any person arrested for alcohol or substance abuse. The police and church were both very supportive of the work that the project was doing.

The project continued to grow and develop into many areas. For a long time, Margaret worked as the lone administrator for the project, but by the time she retired, there was a team of nine running the administration. During these years, Peter also worked with national and international organisations, dealing with the problem of substance abuse. He visited many different countries to speak at conferences and to help those trying to find ways to support people dealing with addiction.

In 2000, Peter no longer felt he had the skills to take the project any further forward, and so stepped down as director and was delighted to hand the reins to his colleague and successor Julian Bryant.

“There is potential in everyone and what attracted me was being able to help people reach their potential.”

Peter has always been overjoyed that the project has continued to flourish and expand under different leaders, but always with the same ethos of being a gift from God to those in need.

Decades on, one of those young people still fondly remembers Peter:

“Peter had a heart capable of tremendous kindness. I was nothing more than a youngster in need who happened to walk close enough, for him to reach out and offer his unconditional support. He made the world a kinder place.”

Today, almost 40 years on, Peter’s legacy can still be seen through thousands of people reached through the Matthew Project’s work every year, and through the memories of those he knew and helped.