From Communications to Covid-19, Development Officer Vin Murtagh writes about his first six months working with the Invest Local group Together for Colwyn Bay.
Georgia (Colman – our Arts Development officer) and I came in to post in February this year to help the Invest Local steering group in Colwyn Bay to progress their plan, to engage with local groups and to harness the skills, passion and energies of the community to meet the challenges and unlock the opportunities that presented themselves.
And then came lockdown!
But in March the world turned upside down and we were suddenly faced with Covid-19 and all the restrictions that followed.
Georgia set about working on improving communications and branding. The official name (Glyn Ward Invest Local - GWIL) was changed to a less formal and more accessible ‘Together for Colwyn Bay’ (TfCB) with a bold, colourful logo, a Facebook Forum and website that provide a platform for exchanging ideas and sharing thoughts about community.
We connected with faith groups, community-led food banks and others leading a grass roots response to Covid-19 with practical support to homeless and isolated people and families in need of help.
Like so many we became Zoom savvy and formed online connections with agencies, individuals and groups interested in community issues, whether through formal meetings, virtual coffee mornings or home grown arts magazine shows.
There was some relaxation of lockdown in the summer and we were able to meet up outside and in person for a few sessions. A local group, The Kind Bay Initiative, gained permission from the Town Council, and a huge donation of flowers so they could do some community planting in the centre of Colwyn Bay, and we were able to get on board with that and – as the saying goes – get our hands dirty!
The Market Stall
This Autumn, we decided that to overcome the difficulties of engaging in person with local people we could set up a market stall in Colwyn Bay and use it as a way of promoting the project and maintaining a conversation about community issues.
We hope to build on this idea and perhaps make it more interactive – for example, by having a ‘tech doctor’ on hand to help people with any IT issues, or to have volunteers from local craft groups or the Men’s/She Sheds to demonstrate embroidery or whittling skills and to promote their groups.
Another possibility is to make the market stall a temporary community centre in lockdown, to set up on a housing estate or in a park so we can have direct but socially distanced contact with local people.
We know that people need a lift and are craving some fun and entertainment so we have a couple of larger scale events in the offing if permissions are granted.
One of these is Xmas Cinema. We’re fortunate to have a young Steering Group member, Kai, with a passion for events organisation, so he’s leading on putting together a drive-in cinema event in December, with a giant screen showing a classic Xmas movie alongside a half hour film of local performers.
Another event in the planning is Celebrating Colwyn Bay Zoo. In Spring next year we’re partnering with a large housing provider (Cartrefi Conwy) to put on a community event to celebrate the zoo, to help them through the tough times they’re having and to provide a Big Day out for local residents.
It’s been a challenging year in many ways but we’re hopeful that in time restrictions will ease and that there’ll be many more opportunities to engage with the energy, imagination and sense of community that exists in this area.