27 November 2023
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Former pop star Jo Youle may have prophesied that she would become a driving force behind the ground-breaking charity Missing People.
As a young woman arriving in a wet London with dreams of landing a record contract, she co-wrote a song which hinted at her future. But Jo could never have known that the poignant lyrics of 'Piccadilly In The Rain' would resonate later in her life.
She said, "I was listening to one of the songs I've written the other day. It was about arriving in Piccadilly, and I think you hear that kind of social justice driver that I've got.
"One of the lines is 'down to London on a train, did I come this far to see Piccadilly in the rain. For all the nearly girls and boys, who never found themselves a home, I'll be there'.
"They were some of the lyrics to one of the very first songs I ever wrote."
Jo got that record deal, and as one half of Scarlet - with singer Cheryl Parker - she tasted fame when their Independent Love Song single reached number 12 in the charts in February 1995.
Finding Her Groove
It's been a while since the heady days of Top of the Pops. But she's still playing to those big venues - this time as CEO of Missing People, a lifeline for the 170,000 who go missing every year, as well as impacted family and friends.
At first, she couldn't see how her skills as a musician would translate to charity audiences. Now the classically-trained pianist has found her groove.
Jo, 51, said, "To me, writing songs is trying to capture stories and connect with other people, with an audience.
"I've played some of the big stages with the band that I was in, and I have also been talking as the charity chief executive on the very same stages.
"Still quaking in my boots and still glad to be there, to be able to stand there and share those stories either through songs or words in speeches."
The Trusted Link
Missing People celebrate their 30th anniversary this year after being set up by friends of vanished London estate agent Suzy Lamplugh.
It's the only charity of its kind in the UK and, with someone being reported missing every 90 seconds, their work is crucial for those who have gone missing and their loved ones.
Their staff and volunteers are the trusted link, whether it's publicising the vanished and offering specialist help to reconnect, counselling, advice and support for family and friends, liaising with other agencies like police - or campaigning.
It's easy to get help - just call or text 116 000.
Jo, now a mum-of-two, has been at the helm for around 12 years.
"To lead an organisation that's there for people in those situations I think is really special."
Jo knows it would be harder without the support of players of People's Postcode Lottery. She said, "Resources are tight which is why the funding is quite incredible that we get from the players of People's Postcode Lottery.
"To date we have had over £10 Million. It is quite a milestone.
"Players have directly supported missing people and families. We have to run an organisation, but the players are helping people like them that are missing and in crisis or families like them that are desperately missing someone.
"We are able to support people - and I'm really proud of this - for as long as it takes. We've supported families that have had somebody missing for as long as the charity's been here - 30 years.
"We never stop searching, we never stop hoping."
Jo - awarded an OBE in the late Queen's Birthday Honours list last year - explained, "We have our helpline team who can take a call from someone within minutes of going missing."
And what is a good outcome for Missing People? Jo said, "If you were sitting here asking someone who is missing, I guess for them a good position to get to would be that they had been heard and understood with the reasons that they had gone missing in the first place.
"I think for a family member, it is about knowing what has happened to their loved one."
Hope For The Future
Jo's musical thread runs right through her career. The Missing People Choir arguably made the charity a household name when they reached the Britain's Got Talent finals in 2017 - and went on to have a hit single, 'I Miss You'.
Jo said, "When I saw the choir and sat in the audience of Britain's Got Talent and heard them singing their hearts out and making people cry, I just loved the fact that music also runs through the heart of the charity.
"People in the choir have got great comfort and fun and sadness and have been able to communicate something really important through their music as well.
"Sometimes the spoken word is not enough, you just need the songs and the melodies and the cadence of a song to connect people."
Jo knows there is more to be done. She said, "We've got a big plan to change the national conversation so that it is understood as a crisis. That there is a goal to ensure that everybody gets the right help at the right time. Then fundamentally that fewer people come to harm when they are missing."
The musician-turned-charity champion has a hope for the future that should be music to all our ears. She said, "You never know, it could be any of us in this situation.
"That's the sort of world I want to be in - where there's help and hope for people in tough situations."
Making A Difference
People's Postcode Lottery players are helping deserving causes like Missing People make a difference every single day. Read more about the range of Charities which our players support.