Communications and Events Officer Emma Shepherd writes about a visit to a Somerset community with lots going on.
Part of my job is to organise the Shared Learning part of the programme – a series of workshops, events and visits to help people learn from experts, experiences and each other.
At this stage in the programme, where lots of the Invest Local communities are starting to think about writing their action plans, I really want people to be inspired by the possibilities that are out there, so I’m focusing on finding projects for people to visit.
The obvious place to start was with communities involved in Big Local – a very similar programme to Invest Local. Working in 150 communities across England, Big Local is also funded by the Big Lottery, and – just like Invest Local – gives each community £1million to spend over 10 years to make a lasting and positive difference to their local area.
Earlier this month, 15 people from six Invest Local communities hopped over the Severn Bridge to visit Worle, in Weston Super Mare.
The Big Worle Partnership wrote their first plan for the area in 2014, so three years on, it was useful for Invest Local communities in the early stages of the programme to see how much has been achieved.
Lots of the themes in Big Worle’s plan for the area are similar to the common themes that are emerging in Invest Local areas – things like provision for older people, things for young people to do, community safety, environment, training and education, and active lifestyles.
At the Big Worle Hub – an empty shop that’s been transformed into a welcoming community space with lots going on – we met residents from Worle who are involved in the Partnership’s many different projects.
The walls were adorned with work from local primary school children, who had worked on a project with older people from the area, interviewing them about their lives. We spoke to people involved in lots of different projects to connect the community – from wildlife walks to bingo sessions, craft clubs to dementia cafes.
I especially enjoyed hearing about Incredible Edible (where people learn about, grow and eat fruit and vegetables, as well as improving the appearance of the local area), and the Jill Dando News Centre – a project that brings young people from local schools together to report on community news, developing skills in young people, raising the profile of the area and making people feel really proud of their community.
We also joined in with that afternoon’s health walk – a low-impact walk around the area with a trained walking guide, who pointed out some sites of interest along the way. The health walks take place every month, and are just one of the initiatives under the ‘active lifestyles’ heading.
This was the first visit to a Big Local community, and I’m really looking forward to visiting more over the coming months.