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Springing into community action – the value of inclusive community spaces

21 June 2022 · Categories: Communities Care, Innovators Learn

It definitely feels like Spring is finally here. So, it’s a good time to connect with some great community-based gardening projects, (and hopefully pick up some tips to help me grow some vegetables at home).

As part of the community business project, I’m keen to see how community businesses can be genuinely inclusive of everyone. So, it was great to visit the Great Communities Eco Project run by MacIntyre at The Old School in Warrington…

Gardening at the Old School in Warrington

A photo of the entrance to The Old School community business. It includes a sign which is attached to a red brick wall. The sign says The Old School and includes a drawing of the front of the building. There is also an A board in front of the sign on the pavement – the writing is too small to read. The Old School is a community business that aims to create a safe space for people to grow. They provide a range of activities to bring out people’s creativity, plus meet new people, and where individuals’ talents are brought out by getting stuck in whatever ways suit them. Working collaboratively is key to this, including with MacIntyre via the Great Communities Project which was developed with, and supported by, Community Catalysts.

During Covid, when the building was forced to shut, demand for outdoor space increased. The Great Communities Eco Project saw the potential in the car park and set about to begin its transformation. Clearing the site was a big job, but now with new raised beds and a wooden ‘stable’ built, the project is really beginning to flourish. A photo of some raised wooden flower beds which have been planted up.

It was great to meet volunteers, including Darren who had made ‘grass heads’ to sell to raise funds for the project. Everyone I met, from Nat who runs the café, Emma who manages the building, Pete from Great Communities and volunteers, has so much energy and passion for ensuring there is something for everyone to get involved with. Other local assets have been drawn in too – using Pete’s local knowledge and links, the college helped build the raised beds and a local construction company donated wood.

A photo of 6 ‘grass heads’. They are each made of recycled items. Each ‘grass head’ has a silly face on the front and will eventually grow grass ‘hair’.By working together, the sum of everyone’s contributions means something very special is blossoming – not only the fruit, veg and biodiversity but people’s confidence, skills and the community too!

Another great example of a community business providing a range of activities for people to boost their health and wellbeing is Bradford Organics Communities Services (BOCS)…

Going eco-friendly at BOCS in Bradford

Bradford Organic Communities Service was established in 2004 with Bradford Community RePaint and expanded in 2017 to incorporate Wibsey Community Gardens and Scrap Magic.

The site is open to all. It’s a safe, supportive environment. We work with local families, local wellbeing groups and in partnership with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Council, Probation, schools and local homeless charities. We have a range of volunteer opportunities for adults. People gain confidence here, connect with services, and help themselves move forwards. We also save thousands of litres of paint from landfills and grow and sell fruit, vegetables, salad and honey.

Jen White, Manager at BOCS

A close-up photo of a jar of ‘Wibsey community garden honey’.There is also a kitchen on site for ‘cook and eat’ sessions and training courses to learn new skills: jam making, pickling and marmalade. Holiday clubs show kids how creative you can be up-cycling waste materials. During the Covid-19 lockdowns food and activities were delivered to isolated local families. Some families used paint to redecorate and improve their living environment.A close-up photo of several tins of paint, each has a different colour painted on its lid.

BOCS has recently joined the local providers framework with Adult Social Care to provide more opportunities for people with a personal budget and is planning some tester sessions this Spring.

A photo of a garden and beehive. It is sunny weather. There is a tree in the foreground on the left hand side that branches across the top of the photograph.What I love about community-run green, eco or horticultural spaces is how subtly they enable people to gain multiple benefits, without any stigma or ‘eligibility criteria’ attached, whilst protecting the environment and generating income to help keep funding their great work. All, easier said than done as it takes a lot of hard work, and knowledge, and at this time year, weeding!

Do you run an eco-based community business? If so, I’d love to have a chat – please get in touch

By Naomi Sampson – Project Manager (Community Business)

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