Mazhar Ellahi, Greenmoor Big Local partnership member, shares how their commemoration event for Armed Forces Day became a gateway for the residents to learn about local history and build community spirit.
“On Tuesday 3rd July, Greenmoor Big Local held an event for Armed Forces Day at our local memorial garden to sign the Armed Forces Covenant and commemorate the sacrifices made by people from Lidget Green, Bradford, who died in both world wars. For a few hours we were able to bring the community together by reflecting on the past and where we were in the present.
We had a mix of people on the day. Local councillors, business owners and school children all joined to watch us sign the Armed Forces Covenant, which means we, as a community, commit to supporting members of the armed forces not just during service but after, when they return home and settle back into civilian life again. A key part is ensuring employers and organisations will not discriminate against former service men and women who’ve been injured or who’re suffering mental health problems.
We also had two fantastic speakers that brought both world wars home in a way that was personal to many members of the community. Jahan Mahmood, a military historian and former government advisor spoke about the important contribution of Muslim and other Commonwealth soldiers during both world wars. Patricia Platt, from WW1 Group, has been running a local heritage project based on the streets of Bradford, tracing soldiers who fought in WWI through where they lived and finding out who their family were, where they fought, if they died or if they returned.
Wind it back
This all started in 2016 when Greenmoor Big Local decided to fund the renovation of a derelict green space into something the community could use. We wanted it to be somewhere for residents to relax and enjoy the area. But, rather than building a monument we decided from the very beginning that it would be a space to commemorate and memorialise those from the neighbourhood who have been involved with or affected by past and current global wars and conflicts.
With the Centenary of the First World War taking place in 2018, we wanted a space to acknowledge the history of Greenmoor in a way that was reflective and positive. Our area is 60 per cent Asian and 30 per cent white British with the remaining made up of people from eastern Europe and other countries. We do not have a monument, instead there is a community orchard and nuttery with planting beds for growing herbs and vegetables.
It’s now the centre for a lot of our activity and people are volunteering to take care of it. As well as a walking group that has a weekly litter pick in the area, kids from the local schools come in to help keep the garden neat and tidy.
On the 8 November, we are holding a centenary event to commemorate Armistice. There will be a service in the nearby church, followed by reflections in the memorial garden. We are planning a quiet event centred around building bonds between neighbours.
Then, in December, we’re celebrating another centenary. This time we are remembering the suffrage movement, in particular the first-time women were allowed to vote in a general election. In the weeks leading up to it, we will be working closely with a local artist to support women in the community to create their own project. They will vote for their favourite and the winner will be awarded a prize.
Celebrating Armed Forces Day, Armistice and the Suffrage movement are just some of the ways we are trying to inspire community spirit in Greenmoor. It’s our heritage as well, and we hope every time someone takes a walk through the memorial garden they remember that.”