When Brookside Big Local embark on a new project they ask themselves one important question: how can we use this as an opportunity to build community spirit?
It’s a hard thing to define, but community spirit ‘Brookside style’ includes building pride in the area and a willingness and desire to participate in activities that promote the community and encourage integration.
Brookside is a small housing estate within Telford, contained on an ‘island’ surrounded by main roads. According to residents, it has traditionally had a ‘bad reputation’, but Brookside Big Local’s vision includes making the area cleaner, safer and welcoming, especially through supporting community spirit. We heard some of their examples at this year’s Spring Events.
Community centre taking root
Partnership working with other organisations and the local council led to a big event to mark the official opening of a new community centre in 2015. John Trubshaw from Brookside Events Group said: ‘Our community expects events to be on there now. There’s a high expectation that we’ll always have something going on.’
The community centre is home to a host of Big Local supported activities, from the Take5 Café, run by staff and volunteers as a Community Interest Company, to the CreActive arts workshop, begun eight months ago as a weekly club for young people with arts, craft and music. 70 children have been involved through CreActive in providing artworks for the Telford Carnival of Giants parade – a great opportunity for them to show off their creativity and skills and have pride in their area.
Warm welcome making a difference for new community members
Residents noticed a need for a friendly, open group to support families in the community whose first language was not English, and responded with a group providing a warm welcome to those new to the area who may feel isolated as a result of language barriers.
In a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, the group give support with information and signposting for services, local groups and agencies, alongside conversational English to aid integration into the community. Participants choose the subject matter for each session, foster friendships made within and outside the group, and get invitations to participate in local events.
The group is attended by approximately 10 – 15 people each week, mainly families with young children. Participants are often waiting to go on English courses which are oversubscribed, so there is always a waiting list. This group provides support in the initial stages of their of learning English and has nurtured new friendships amongst participants whose first languages are Romanian, Latvian and Lithuanian.
This group has been running since end of March 2016 and has proved to be a lifeline for new, non-English speaking members of the community: making sure community spirit embraces everyone!
Investment in individuals pays off
Sometimes community spirit is about spotting ways to help an individual, who in return creates something that brings people together. Brookside Big Local have sponsored local woman Jo Hill to develop a women’s rugby club. As a result of their funding, the club now have their own kit – previously they had to wear men’s rugby strips.
Jo said: ‘Being a volunteer and helping out with events has been great. It has given me back my confidence which I lost a few years ago. Brookside Big Local have sponsored my rugby team which has boosted our spirits not only in our local community but at our local rugby club. I’m currently taking my rugby level 2 coaching which will give me chance to hopefully work alongside Big Local with future events.’
Another project supported by Big Local, and run from the community centre, is the Recharge Community Interest Company, started by a local woman with the aim of helping young people with drug recovery. Many of the helpers are young people who have themselves recovered from drug use, and are now giving something back to the community.
It’s all about trust
So what have Brookside learnt about community spirit so far? Tina Rogers, Big Local Brookside co-ordinator, told our Spring Events audience:
‘When you build a relationship and start to trust people, it makes it easier – community spirit is all knitted in to relationships.’