Community Organising in Woodley

The first blog from our CEO Anne Wallace OBE

Apparently I reflect too much. My daughter tells me it just makes me bitter and I shouldn’t look back but I think it is part of my learning style and it helps me to make sense of things and understand what has worked and why and what hasn’t worked and try to learn from it.

10 years ago we opened a coffee shop on a tatty 60s precinct ( not my words). I don’t even drink coffee ( my words). Our vision for Woodley was hanging baskets.

To us that meant people cared for this place and wanted it to always be there. It would look prosperous and alive. So Startpoint coffee shop opened. We had tables and chairs outside and approached all the shops to donate £20 for a hanging basket. Most of them agreed. We then asked the local flower group to make the baskets 40 of them. We asked someone who loved gardening to water them every day. Our vision was complete and they looked lovely. But by the end of the summer the baskets looked tired.

Our staff watered them when they had time but usually under sufferance. The flower class said they wouldn’t do them next year as 40 baskets was too much for a few old ladies. The following year we bought the baskets and took ownership of them but this wasn’t sustainable. So for 8 years we have had no hanging baskets and although the precinct has survived our vision didn’t.

Last year a local group of mums started a litter pick on Sunday mornings. They approached us just to open up to let them use the toilets. We made coffee and chatted about their vision for the precinct. They knew we were community organisers, weren’t sure what that meant but felt that they could trust us. Through simply listening to them we began to understand that they wanted to clear the overgrown flower beds and plant flowers. No mention of hanging baskets. That was our dream not theirs. We mentioned that there was a local fund available to support exactly that and found out they were meeting two days later. They went along and secured £200 to begin the work. They approached the local garden centre and supermarkets who donated bulbs and plants. Apart from the initial sign posting, a chat and a coffee we have had no involvement or ownership of the project. Now in its second year the flower beds are blooming . They are watered everyday and weeded weekly.

So if I had to reflect on whats growing in Woodley precinct and why, it is a case of don’t do for others what they can grow themselves.

(Photos from Clare Pflug and Amanda Millward)

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 17.19.11

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