Friday, February 1, 2019

Reading about a heart-warming new community enterprise

It always lightens my heart to hear about a successful community project which is breathing new life into rundown city centres.  Nothing has equalled the glow that spread through me when I read an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian on 24 January, with the title “Could this local experiment spark a national transformation?

He wrote about a visit he made to a 5-year community project called Every One, Every Day, set up by the local council in Barking and Dagenham, and inspired by a group called The Participatory City Foundation

I quote from his article:  “They launched Every One, Every Day in November 2017, opening two shops (the first of five) on high streets in Barking and Dagenham. The shops don’t sell anything but are places where people meet, discuss ideas and launch projects. The scheme has also started opening “maker spaces”, equipped with laser cutters and other tools, sewing machines and working kitchens. These kinds of spaces are usually occupied by middle-class men, but, so far, 90% of participants here are women. The reason for the difference is simple: almost immediately, some of the residents drew a line on the floor, turning part of the space into an informal crèche, where women take turns looking after the children. In doing so, they overcame one of the biggest barriers to new businesses and projects: affordable childcare.”

He goes on to say: “There are welcoming committees for new arrivals to the street, community potluck meals, cooking sessions and street lunches. There’s a programme to turn boring patches of grass into community gardens, play corners and outdoor learning centres. There’s a bee school and a chicken school (teaching urban animal husbandry), sewing and knitting sessions, places for freelance workers to meet and collaborate, computing and coding workshops, storytelling for children, singing sessions and a games café. A local football coach has started training people in the streets. There’s a film studio and a DIY film festival too, tuition for spoken-word poets and a scheme for shutting streets to traffic so children can play after school. Local people have leapt on the opportunities the new system has created.”

George Monbiot finishes by writing: “Perhaps it’s not the whole answer to our many troubles. But it looks to me like a bright light in a darkening world.” 

And it does to me, too.  So I hope sharing this will lighten some of my readers’ day, too.



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