Access to Nature, which is run by Natural England and funded by the Big Lottery Fund through the Changing Spaces programme, has run over 100 successful projects since it launched in 2010.
In this blog Kerry Rowe, Education Coordinator at Lawrence Weston Community Farm, tells us about an imaginative event recently held to engage the local community.
Lawrence Weston Community Farm runs a community-managed Access to Nature project, Discovering Nature, in the Bristol area. The farm aims to improve the quality of life for local people and its service-users through a range of innovative activities.
To celebrate the culmination of our Discovering Nature project we held a special event to give the volunteers and our supporters a big thank you for their hard work. We invited Whispering Woods group to hold a magical event which included fireside tales, aerial artistry, music, dancing and twilight adventures in our newly opened Water Vole Woodland.
A programme of activities led up to the big event, including a woodland trapeze workshop for children, storytelling and lantern making. Four young people received training from Knowle West Media Centre giving them the skills needed to act as our press photographers on the night.
At the event itself a cold and frosty evening saw 80 people gather, wrapped up warmly. As the crowd waited for the event to begin, quiet speculation grew about what the evening held in store. We started by circling around the fire. Young children sat on knees and older ones were already mesmerised by the jumping flames. The scene was set by the storyteller and then off we trailed, following huge fire beacons into the woodland.
Stepping over a bridge lit by candles we felt a shiver of excitement as up in the trees a beautiful figure swung on a trapeze strung between the branches. The woodland, so familiar to us in the day with its chirruping birds, was suddenly magical and mystical. Our journey around the woodland was interspersed with whispering storytellers, musicians and wonderful tree high performers leading us on a story of twists and turns.
The finale drew many gasps of awe as the performer bound in silk ropes danced high above our heads in the trees. The evening is still fondly remembered by everyone that participated and has inspired many to make return visits to the farm and the woodland.
To find out more about Lawrence Weston Community Farm check out their YouTube film.
The Access to Nature funding for Lawrence Weston Community Farm comes to an end in March 2014. The farm has recently been granted £456,544 from the Big Lottery Fund through the Reaching Communities programme. The funding will be used to build a Community Café and Training Facility. It is envisaged that construction will start in May 2014 and that it will be open for business towards the end of the year.
In this blog David Robinson gives his message to the Big Lottery Fund. From now until July 2014, we are inviting people to add their voice to a UK wide conversation around key areas of Big Lottery Fund’s work.
Do we know what a successful community looks like?
For me it is a place where we are all ready and able to benefit from opportunity, to learn at primary school, to thrive in secondary, to succeed at work, to be responsible parents and contributing adults.
And, because we all experience difficulties at some point in our lives, we are all equally ready and able to manage adversity, to cope with losing a job or a relationship, to rebuild after illness or bereavement, to adapt to change.
The language of ‘resilience’, so commonly used by policy makers, politicians and funders, presupposes problems, victims and perpetrators. It is reactive, reductive, pessimistic, discouraging and, even at its very best insufficient. The language of ‘readiness’ – becoming the best that we can be – identifies assets and builds on strengths. It is proactive, optimistic, aspirational and motivating.
Big Lottery Fund should make the “ready for everything” community its aspiration and its lodestar.
David Robinson is co-founder and now senior adviser of east London charity Community Links and Chair of the Early Action Taskforce. He is also the founder and chair of We Are What We Do and co-founder of the Children’s Discovery Centre.
In this blog, Robin Pye tells us about FC United and why they are welcoming Power to Change.
FC United started out as a wild dream. We wanted to challenge the issues in modern football and bring the game back to its fans, but would a fan-owned club for Manchester United fans work? Would anybody come? Well they did come, a new club was formed, the team rose up the leagues and next season we will at last play in our own ground in Moston, Manchester.
FC United challenges the accepted economics of football. In our fifth season, with the credit crunch affecting many of our members, we decided we would let our fans tell us what they could afford to pay for their season tickets. As a result, the amount we received per season ticket actually went up.
The stadium we are moving into is being paid for in part by a community share issue of £1.8million and a further £230,000 raised by fans through other fund raising activities. It’s amazing what people will contribute if they know that what they are investing in is secured for them, for their community and for future generations.
Roughly a quarter of our annual turnover is made up of our award-winning community and education programme which we deliver as a social enterprise. We work with children, young people, vulnerable people, unemployed people and older people suffering from social isolation. All our work is underpinned by the same values that are embodied by our football team, an insistence on inclusion and believing we can succeed.
And this work is only made possible by three things;
- The willingness of so many of our members to support our community work on a voluntary basis because they want to support our club and the values we represent.
- The trust placed in us by community organisations and public bodies which is engendered by the way in which we are run.
- Our willingness to take risks because we have faith that we can work together to overcome problems as they arise.
When I went to the launch of the Big Lottery Fund’s Power to Change initiative, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was about or why we had been invited. As I talked to more and more of the other organisations there I realised that among all the diversity represented at the event there was a common thread. What we all had in common was that we had affected change in our communities by coming together to take on risks we could not possibly have faced as individuals.
The power to change lies in our willingness to come together and work together. We wish the Big Lottery Fund’s initiative every success.
The second instalment of his blog sees former drug user, Mark, still on a roll after the excitement of the Multiple Needs grant launch last month. There’s great news through the letterbox and a proud moment of realisation after a pep talk…
Hi – it’s been a week since the national launch and what a week it’s been. I get the sense that there has been a real injection of momentum and motivation around the country. In Birmingham we are waiting on the go ahead from The Big Lottery Fund to start. We recently took part in a five hour core group meeting where we discussed critical elements of the project. The facilitator of that meeting later said, ‘I was very impressed with the Experts by Experience – probably the most confident and perceptive group of service users I’ve ever come across.’ This comment was from someone once a high level commissioner in Public Health and who now holds a senior position at Birmingham University.
For me the week has been full of emotion and at times difficult to completely take in. On Wednesday February 12th, we saw the national launch and my first blog was published. This same day I celebrated 18 months with my partner, the first time in my life I have ever been in a loving and healthy relationship. On Thursday I saw the amazing comments that were left for me on my blog, thank you. Then, on Valentine’s Day, I arrived home to find in my letterbox an Incorporation Certificate for the Community Interest Company I have been developing for the past twelve months. In that moment, it felt as though I had finally stopped just being an ‘ideas man’. Later that evening I came to realise that the goals I had set myself for 2014 were being achieved externally as well as internally. My goals for 2014 are simply –
Tonight, I have just come back from a meeting of recovering addicts, some of whom are in long term recovery, some only a few days in, and a few who have the desire and have made the decision to get honest with themselves and ask for help. There is something very powerful about one addict helping another.
There was a guy there this evening (I will call him Abe to protect his anonymity) who had relapsed over the weekend after ten months of abstinence. He was so distraught that he had ‘lost’ his ‘clean time’, saying to me that he believed he was ‘a failure’. He’d been sleeping on the canal side for the past three nights as a consequence of his actions, but something was different this time. He had spent the entire day at homeless services today and had secured a bed for the night. He had no money to travel, so literally walked miles to get to the ‘mutual aid’ meeting. I felt such pride and hope for Abe witnessing his tenacity and strength, at his rock bottom he refused to give up and pushed past any doubts or fears to make it to a place where he could experience the love, compassion and support that is freely given here.
I asked him if he knew what failure really was and he replied, ‘no, not really, I don’t know much of anything at the moment.’ I quietly said, ‘Abe… failure isn’t in falling down… it’s in quitting trying to get back up, and I don’t see a quitter.’
Seeing Abe’s face in that moment, the realisation of what he had achieved in his darkest hour was priceless. Right now, in this moment, I’m contemplating all the times others have done for me what I did for Abe tonight. I guess we are all just walking each other home.
I am filled with optimism now that I know Big Lottery Fund will be funding the Multiple Needs programme in Bristol. Things are really tough in the current environment with many more people presenting as homeless, many more sleeping rough and real pressure on everyone trying to help homeless people. Not only can it be a thankless task, but too often we see the same people becoming homeless over and over. We have had a strong focus in our commissioning on preventing repetition and yet this is clearly not yet having the desired outcomes.
A few months ago we took a quick snapshot of people we were unable to place in any services – and came up with the astonishing answer of about 50 people per year. That’s 50 individuals that no housing or support providers were willing to accept; 50 people, whether on the street, or in B&B because their needs were too great for any provider! And when we got round the table with colleagues from probation, mental health etc. it quickly became apparent that we all had involvement with this group and they were often moving from prison and mental hospital, to hostel to drug treatment, to the street…. and then back again. And all at huge personal and financial cost.
So why did I become involved in the Complex Needs project? I have responsibility in Bristol City Council for preventing homelessness and managing our housing advice service; both operational and commissioning roles. We have nearly completed re-commissioning all of our homelessness and prevention services based on a ‘pathways’ approach and remodelling our in-house services on the same basis. For those households with more straightforward needs we now deliver a good service, and reported outcomes are steadily improving. Yet for clients at the top of the ‘needs triangle’ it was clear that something more holistic, based on system redesign, was needed.
So once Second Step became the lead agency I readily agreed to join the Partnership Board, feeling not only that this was a great opportunity ‘to do things differently’, but also knowing that it would require my authority and leadership to help bring about some of the required system change. At the same time the Council is going through a fundamental redesign of how it both commissions and delivers services. Here was the opportunity to bring the learning from the Big Lottery Fund project into a much wider spectrum of changes built around customer needs.
Now finally, we have the resources, the commitment and all the agencies ‘in play’ such that we can genuinely re-design the whole system and create solutions that people with complex needs, as well as commissioners, know are possible.
Second Step, a mental health charity in Bristol is celebrating today after receiving a further £9,949,500 in National Lottery Funding to continue developing its pilot project for adults with multiple and complex needs.
The Golden Key pilot project is led by Second Step and brings together a number of service delivery and strategic partners including Bristol City Council.
Nick Hooper Service Director, Housing Solutions & Crime Prevention