The distress of the lockdown and the effects of coronavirus have been devastating and the impact on people and communities will be long lasting. But it is also bringing people together. We’ve heard about it in communities, where barriers are coming down. And remote connections have also given us a chance to reconnect with past people and projects C2 has been involved with.
After bumping into each other virtually during a New NHS Alliance online forum, C2 founder Hazel Stuteley caught up with Tele Amuludun, a community development lecturer and executive member of NNHSA who lives in New Cross Gate. This triggered a vivid memory for her of the very first C2 community exchange visit back in 2003, when the inspirational community led Somerville Adventure Play Park, created on derelict wasteland by a dedicated local volunteer and opened in 1971, was under threat of closure. Although they didn’t meet, Tele was a community worker then.
Hazel was overjoyed to learn that not only was it still open (temporarily closed during crisis) but it had expanded in recent years continuing to offer a vast range of play, arts and employability activities for all ages.
Hazel takes up the story. “In 2001 I had a chance meeting with a great group of residents from New Cross, who had heard about the Beacon Project in Falmouth. They were fed up that three years into New Deal for Communities, who had a £45m budget, they were still not being listened to about the things that really mattered to them like the playpark, which didn’t feature at all in NDC regeneration plans. They really wanted to know how the Cornish community had achieved so much for themselves with no start up funding at all. So, on spur of the moment, I said come down and meet them and they’ll tell you how they did it!”
Together we made it happen and the Beacon partnership also visited them. Both visits were defining, emotionally charged but most of all-powerful learning for everyone taking part. It changed everything for the New Cross group who now had a new narrative, evidence and a strong voice with which to challenge NDC bureaucracy. Joyously the playpark was saved and they went on to achieve a great deal more.
And this was how community exchange visits, now an integral part of C2 7-Step Pathway to Partnership, first began.
Bonding and sharing
The abiding memory for Hazel is how readily and easily these two totally diverse communities bonded. They very quickly shared ideas and friendship, and fed each other’s enthusiasm. “We took a risk because culturally they were chalk and cheese! But it was life-affirming,” she said. “There was an almost immediate invisible trust between them. They learnt so much from each other and stayed in touch for many years.”
These are difficult times, but reconnecting and sharing positive long-lasting stories and happy memories can soften the edge of difficulties and harden the resolve to continue to strive for positive, supportive and nurturing relationships. And we’ve pencilled in a trip to a playground when all this is over – we’re hoping it’s the Somerville Adventure Playground in New Cross Gate!