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Community spirit

In their own words: CELL Big Local’s legacy

From inside an old lifeboat centre to the edge of the Northumberland coast, CELL Big Local partnership members and volunteers reflect on their biggest achievements and future ambitions now that they’ve spent their £1.15million.

Entering the old lifeboat centre, a concertina of colourful posters grab your attention – each peppered with equally impressive stats on the achievements of CELL Big Local. These posters, used at the final series of local events run by the partnership, are just one example of CELL’s success in communicating with their community. Effective communications, says ex-chair Shirley Johnson, were critical for bringing together a Big Local area comprised of four distinct villages.

Providing a voice for the community

In fact, in CELL’s final feedback survey findings, communications scored highly amongst residents, with one of their key findings being that CELL had succeeded in creating a real sense of collaboration and community spirit, as a result of a friendly and helpful ethos, and strong communication.

CELL provided a central voice for the community.
CELL resident

By raising awareness of CELL Big Local’s presence in the area, worker and Project Co-ordinator Clare McKay reflected that they had been able to inspire residents to become more involved in community activities.

Generating community action

I have been massively impressed by the range of activity and availability of small-scale funding for individual events/ projects and the way CELL generates community activity and ethos.”
CELL resident

One example of a recent community project, funded with just £500 of Big Local money, was a beach clean involving 75 residents. Steve Lowe, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Creswell Pele Tower, explains how this small activity snowballed into something that’s now creating significant long-term change for the area.

‘It has been a unique opportunity for people within the CELL area to have a say and make a direct, positive impact on their own locality. It has certainly given me the opportunity to build up an excellent network of local contacts.”
CELL resident

Transforming local landscapes

Similarly transformative for the area has been the Pele Tower, a 14th-century tower that was in ruins when CELL Big Local provided £5000 towards the cost of a feasibility study. This initial investment enabled a group of passionate volunteers to secure an additional £815,931 of Heritage Lottery funding, which has since been used to transform the tower into a local hotspot visited by tourists, schools, and even ghost hunters!

Maximising funding

In fact, thanks to local collaborations and the partnership’s effort to secure additional funding, CELL Big Local’s initial £1.15m investment has almost tripled to £3.23m. Clare explains how the partnership managed to multiply their funding.

CELL Big Local have clearly succeeded in creating a legacy, transforming what residents called a ‘forgotten area’ in 2013 into places where 85% of local people feel satisfied to live in 2020 (up from 73% in 2013 and 26% higher than the average for South East Northumberland).

However, the partnership have not decided to continue as an organisation now they have reached the end of the Big Local programme. Instead, CELL Villages in Partnership has been set up as an organisation to continue work related specifically to housing, which is an issue that still affects residents living in all four of the CELL villages.

Focusing on the future

Using the skills, lessons and local networks built during CELL Big Local’s time as a partnership, this new organisation are well equipped to tackle such a pressing local issue and continue creating lasting change for their community.