What Is Really Going On?
Chris Connelley, 7 Streets Community Development Worker
Welcome back to the blog.
My very first post was very much a scene- setting entrée, attempting to outline what we are trying to do at the point of ‘going live’. Reading it back, it has that ring of virtue that tends to come, almost as standard, with any promotional puff for a new social venture, usually prompting me to ponder what is really going on, and what people based there actually do, when I read about other projects and activities.
Others will doubtless ask the same of us and, in the spirit of candour that we would like to characterise our work, here is a guide to what we have actually been doing over the last three weeks.
A lot of it has been very practical stuff relating to getting up and running.
Like buying a cheap mobile so we are easily contactable. Make a note. The number is 07974 500 083.
Like putting a basic Facebook site together so we can connect our emerging network of supporters, ask questions of them and share stories and pictures between ourselves with minimum fuss.
Like writing a basic newsletter and trying to get it produced to a good enough standard. We still need help on this one, so don’t be shy if you live in our patch and have design or desk top publishing skills, as we know many of you do. Alternatively, if you can help train us up to do it, that would be great too.
Like opening up the Community Information Centre again after a period of closure and committing to a regular opening time every Thursday morning from 10.30-12.30.
This ‘drop in shop’ has now been running for three Thursdays as a chance for local people to pop in, meet the team, have a cup of tea and make some new links. And the message we are picking up is that lots of people in the 7 streets do not have family locally, or live alone or want to know more people, often broadly like the place and, most important this, have thoughts and ideas and hopes and dreams for the little patchwork of heavily populated roads they call home.
Some of the ideas are very specific, like trying to get the communal street bins adapted to take bigger deposits and to avoid the dumping around the base, consequent seagull damage and littering that make the surrounding streets look like it is the day after a minor riot has been going on.
Others are much more general, like getting people thinking about what they want for their area without issuing yet another ‘tick box’ questionnaire.
Here in St.Leonards, there is a sense that some of us are a bit sampled out, to put it bluntly, and not always clear what has happened to all the feedback we have already given. More cynical souls will argue that it is simply a device used by the council and other agencies- what we used to call ‘the authorities’- to demonstrate they are committed to community consultation, and that the issue of the questionnaire is more important to them than the analysis of, and action on, what is said. Others will argue that the invariably poor response rates allow them to suggest that either not a lot of people are interested in their community, so let them keep doing it for us, or that the low poll implies general happiness and contentment, so, once again, let them keep on doing what they are already doing.
Other will struggle with the strangely worded questions and scoring as an irrelevance to busy and often-pressured lives.
Which is why our first action is to work up something very different. A small group of residents have come up with the idea of Doodle Day as a way to capture local peoples’ thoughts about what we’d like the 7 streets to look and feel like. Using paper, pens, 3D models and photography, the idea is for anyone living in our patch who is up for it to come together from 11-3 on Saturday August 3, at the start of the school holidays, to talk and draw and snap and make and walk around and eat lunch together; and over the day, to work up something that we think captures our imaginations. To celebrate and share.
To make it work really well, Doodle Day needs careful planning. We need to greet people and make them welcome, to have a range of materials to hand for people to use and a team able to put together a basic working lunch. A kind of basic but tasty indoors picnic as a reward to all those who come along. Our thinking is that sharing food is a simple way to get us sitting down and finding out more about each other and maybe starting that journey to making new friends and acquaintances.
The first meeting of the Doodle Day group is on Monday July 1 from 6-7pm at the Community Information Centre, 16 Silchester Road. All are welcome.
If that is not to your liking, the other help we are after is for stewards for the now very imminent St Leonards Festival, back in its regular weekend slot on Saturday July 13 after last year’s midweek Olympic Torch special. Stewards have a number of roles, from directing the crowds, giving out information on what is happening and making sure everything generally runs smoothly. We have lots of 3 or 4 hour slots that still need filling so if you are interested, or just want to know more, pop into the Community Information Centre or email our friend Sharon Farrell, from the Community Forum, with an offer of help on email@example.com.
That’s enough for now.
The bottom line is that we are open for business and up to hear your good ideas. We absolutely do not come with a pre-written agenda, and want to find out more about what you are thinking. And wanting to act on. Chances are, you are not alone.
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