The following is a list of all entries from the Somerstown Stories category.
Great article about the Somerstown Stories project and the work done at Somers Park Primary, in the local newspaper: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/lifestyle/tn2-saturday/a-weekend-with/colourful_history_of_a_community_celebrated_1_3227477
So pleased that it reflects the project so well and all the hard work that the school put in!
And so we move on to the next exciting chapter!
And that was that! The Somers Park Primary School ‘Somerstown Stories’ project went off with a bang, and I would like to thank all the staff at the school for all the amazing hard work and energy they put into it.
The project was launched with the opening chapter of the ‘Somerstown Detectives’ story, featuring Carrie, Edward & Ben. It was a collaborative piece, where the children were invited to contribute to the shape and development of the plot, and both they and the teachers enjoyed it immensely.
This specially crafted story was set in Somerstown just after the war, and I’m hoping to have further opportunities to share it again with other children in the future.
Now the project moves into the wider community phase, which has been made possible thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund. We’re planning the various activities and events that will take place across the area between late January and Easter 2012. I’m delighted to say that a significant number of local groups and organisations are getting involved, including:
- Omega Centre – offering free adult literacy sessions and the chance to explore Somerstown’s history for yourself
- The Brook Club – offering workshops for young people to find out more about the history of their club and the surrounding area
- Southsea Community Centre
- SureStart Somerstown – they will be running a series of workshops and activities throughout February, culminating in a 1940s Family Fun Day
- Portsmouth Film Society
- Artspace – we’re hoping that one of their resident artists will run an interactive workshop to create an installation reflecting the changing face of Somerstown
- and more…
September has been a busy month in The Potting Shed (apple-seed HQ) hence why its been a little quieter on the blog. Here are some highlights that explain why…
It is with great delight that I can finally announce that Heritage Lottery Fund have formally agreed to fund the Somerstown Stories project! Although we knew this some months ago, there were some hurdles to overcome in processing the grant payment and so we couldn’t formally announce anything until that had been resolved.
The project itself started at Somers Park School in early September and its been great to see how enthused the staff and children have been as they’ve learnt more about the area where they live! My role for the school has been varied, including on-going research, sourcing materials and resources, meeting with teachers to help them with specific subject knowledge and also preparing activity sessions.
One of the most enjoyable aspects has been story-telling: I am co-authoring with the children a story called ‘Somerstown Detectives’ about three children known as Carrie, Edward and Ben who get involved in a mystery which takes places in Somerstown just after the war. I have deliberately tried to include factual evidence about the area as well as details of everyday life which would have been common at the time: rationing, empty houses due to bomb damage and familiar landmarks and transportation. The staff and children have really been enjoying the story, which is being serialised and told to the school on a fortnightly basis, as a special assembly.
One of the staff commented: ”They really are enjoying it, even my new little one who was adamant he wasn’t going to listen but then wanted to say thank you!”
Fratton Big Local is ‘on pause’ at the moment, while the new round of consultation funding is applied for. Click here to see the report on Round 1: FBL GPI1 Report Aug 2011 Appendix A Appendix B Appendix C Appendix D
The element which had the greatest potential for long term empowerment and sustainability has also been the hardest to achieve: the recruitment of volunteers. Despite offering high quality training with support and the opportunity to be a part of significant change in Fratton, very few people have shown any interest at all, which was very disappointing. No doubt a more conventional method will yield some of the more conventional results that one might expect from a consultation, but I would question how sustainable or valuable a ‘tick-box’ exercise could be?
Each of the areas could have up to £30k to fund its consultation and in Fratton this is coming in two parts. The first part was called ‘Getting People Involved Round 1′ and the local steering group requested £10k. That money has now been spent, and although the intention was to begin the application process much earlier and thus have an overlap or a fairly short hiatus, the project then ran into external political difficulties which had to be addressed.
The next round of funding is being administrated by the Community Development Foundation (CDF) and they have appointed an agent in each area to support the local groups with their Round 2 proposals. Once Round 2 has been completed, each area must have a ‘Community Plan’ drafted, which is essentially the blue-print for how the £1m will be spent. This is a crucial time for the programme, and it’s essential that not only are we as effective as we can be in gathering information and envisioning local people, but also that we are supported and aided by the key organisations and agencies in the area. We only get one shot at making this work, and I sincerely hope we can make the most of this rare opportunity.
And finally: a tentative window may be opening around a small community cohesion project run with some students from Kaospilots. Its early days yet, and negotiations between the students and one of my former Creative Partnerships schools, Admiral Lord Nelson are proving to be a little hiccupy (not least because of the added international dimension!) However, Kaospilots are interested and the school is open to the idea, so I’m hopeful that we can work something out that will be beneficial to both organisations AND meet the stated aim of building towards community cohesion.
Not quite “it is finished” but more like “it has started”. I can’t show you quite yet, but any day now…
I have been doing some background research for Fratton Big Local (www.frattonbiglocal.org.uk) recently, reading the Portsmouth Anti-Poverty Strategy (http://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/media/cab20110606r4app2.pdf). Although the research has been triggered by FBL it will naturally have implications for all of my work, as everything I do is people and community based.
A person or family are considered to be living in poverty if they have a household income of 60% or less of the ‘contemporary median’ before housing costs (this varies depending upon whether you’re a single person, lone parent with child etc). The contemporary median is the figure that averages out the various costs of differently composed households, and presents a figure of what the ‘average’ household would need to have available as disposable income.
In 2008/9 the weekly income figure for a couple with two children under 14 was £374. 60% of that is £224 so a family having that level
of weekly income or less, would be considered to be living in poverty. My family is composed of two adults and two children under 14. My husband and I both choose to work part-time (he has a job working 21hrs a week, I work freelance), in order to be available for our children. Our ‘average’ weekly income is less than £50 greater than the contemporary median, so technically we’re less than £50 away from the poverty line.*
*sometimes this gap feels a lot smaller, whilst waiting for invoices to be paid
This got me thinking, because until I’d sat and worked that through, I wouldn’t have said that we were living in or near poverty.
Certainly things get tight from time to time, and we don’t own a car, for example, but we do have what I would view as luxuries, such as broadband and cable TV. More than 1 in 4 children in Portsmouth live in poverty. Based on these calculations, might that figure I wondered, at times include my own children? Now clearly, poverty is based on more than just financial income, and there are a number of contributory factors, but it got me thinking: Do people with lower incomes feel or believe that they live in poverty, or at risk of poverty? How would someone in this lower income band define poverty? What would they think are the things that would indicate to them ‘yes, we’re living in poverty’ or ‘no, its tight, but we manage’?
As someone who works with and trains others to work with young people, I watch the ebb and flow of society closely. As Kenda Creasy-Dean, Lecturer at Princeton Theological Seminary so aptly put it: “if you want to know about the state of a society, look at its young people”. (Practising Passion; Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church, 2006)
I observe that the society I live in seems to value people based on what they have, or what they can do. So if you don’t have, or you can’t do, do you still have value? Young people copy what they see adults demonstrating: they see older people acquiring goods and services, because they’re deemed functional, necessary and because they add status. And so young people act in the same way: they choose goods and services that they believe will add to their own sense of social value and intrinsic value. The Youth Marketing Trends assessment from 2009 offered a variety of key trends and values that advertisers should be aware of. One of those was: ‘How will owning this product give me significance?’
And this then brings me back to poverty. Do people living in or close to the poverty line feel/believe/perceive that they have less intrinsic value because they may not be able to access the goods and services that society as whole seems to suggest will give someone added value or status? Might someone become inexorably drawn into a cycle of debt, trying to buy the things that society seems to suggest will make them valuable (large TV, car, fashionable wardrobe, latest phone/laptop, blu-ray player etc etc) but in fact having less and less disposable income, because they don’t think they’re valuable enough without those things? If value is based on what you have or what you do, and you don’t have or you can’t do, do you still have value?
Poverty is about more than money, although income is clearly a factor. But having a sense of value, place and purpose*…now that’s something worth its weight in gold.
*Spirituality and Youthwork - Value, Place and Purpose, originally presented at CAMHS Conference 2006 as part of a paper ‘The Ethos of Youthwork’ D Raper and S Court . Copies available on request.
I’m off to the City of Portsmouth Girls School (CPGS) this afternoon, leading a session with some Yr8 students to launch the Somerstown Stories project with them.
In October, as Yr9 students they’ll be going to SPPS to teach the Yr5 and 6 pupils some of the things they’ll be learning from me today.
Some of the Yr6 girls from SPPS will go to to CPGS as their secondary school, so both schools have been building links together to help with the transition process.
I think its going to be a fun and engaging afternoon!
The Fratton Big Local meeting was with Ogroshol, the Bangladeshi Women’s group. A significant number of their community live in Fratton and they used to meet in the area, until the venue they were using became unavailable. The women I met this morning were lovely: very hospitable and welcoming and they had some very creative, thoughtful and positive ideas, including (in no particular order):
- better signage to community venues and facilities (this could include a map with local amenities, good buggy routes, recommendations for cafes, shops etc, as created by local people)
- local residents and businesses encouraged/subsidised to put up window boxes, hanging baskets and vertical gardens to make the place look more friendly and inviting
- using one of the vacant shops (there’s a large vacant lot near one of the carpet shops near the station) as a shop-front cafe/information centre, deliberately linked to FCC, so that people can go to FCC and make use of its facilities, but also to offer space & information and a street-level shop-front for the community
- invest money in FCC and possibly create an annex for a small-ish swimming pool (this was v popular)
- renovate the derelict warehouse behind the carpet shop, on the Fratton station side, to become a venue for a market, selling a wide variety of goods, produce etc. This would create a space for small/micro businesses, and also add diversity to the shopping
- offer funding to smaller community groups, such as Onglashal, but obviously others too, to help them with their running costs and/or development work
Ground rush: the feeling of the ground rushing up to meet you when you’re falling from a great height.
This is something of how I’m feeling at the moment, with several projects and deadlines all clamouring for my attention at once. It’s great to be able to involved with so much good work across the city, but with Creative Partnerships wrapping up and Somerstown Stories and Fratton Big Local just starting to get into their stride, there’s a lot going on!
My writing has been forced not just to the back burner, but to someone else’s back burner, in a house two doors down the road… All the Creative Partnership projects are now due their evaluations and Project End forms, as well as budget reviews to plan for any underspends.
We’re about six weeks away from finding out whether Somerstown Stories will be successful in its bid to Heritage Lottery Fund http://www.hlf.org.uk/HowToApply/programmes/Pages/yourheritage.aspx This is very exciting, but while we wait, I need to create a Plan B, in case the funding doesn’t go ahead.
Fratton Big Local too, is waiting to hear if they will be successful in their attempt to get the second tranche of money for the consultation http://frattonbiglocal.org.uk/ We held our second public consultation event last Friday, and despite having my purse stolen by someone, while I was speaking to someone else, we did get a good range of responses. It was a useful exercise and helped me work out how I need to change the layout of the stall in order to get people’s attention more effectively. Its surprising how many people dismissed me and what I was saying without really listening or understanding what I was trying to tell them about. Maybe something like a giant interactive Monopoly(C) board featuring Fratton localities or a spinning wheel where people can nominate areas they feel are most important…? I think fun, interactive and creative approaches can be more effective, but in the end I can’t make people listen.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I have now embarked on the Kaospilots summer programme. This is a joint venture between the Kaospilots School in Aarhus, Denmark http://www.kaospilot.dk/ and the Centre for Enterprise at Portsmouth University http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/pce/ led by Richard Sant. I and the other participants had to produce a video outlining the project we would be focussing on during the programme, and I hope to post that here shortly. The summer programme is funded by the Diocese of Portsmouth Council for Social Responsibility and Portsmouth University, so for me, many of the costs are covered, which is a great blessing. This includes a week long trip to visit the Kaospilots in Aarhus in June, which I’m looking forward to (despite the burden I know this will leave on my husband at home!).
So, plenty going on. Plenty to do and plenty to look forward to. Ground, here I come!
I am on the brink…of submitting the HLF bid for Somerstown Stories. I met with Jan and Esther today to review the text for the online form. Jan suggested only one small addition, which was a very sensible one, so other than that, we’re done.
The budget seems fairly modest for a project of this scale, so we agreed to increase the amount of money for training for staff and volunteers, and also for resources and the contingency. Currently the budget stands at around £21k, with around half of that being the Project Leader’s time, at a 1.5 days a week. Even with the proposed increases it’ll still probably come in at just under £30k, and yet hopefully we’ll have involved at least eight venues across the locality and reached hundreds of people. One might consider that to be a bargain!
I also managed to meet with Amanda Burgess from the Omega Centre today. We’ve been trying to arrange a meeting for ages and knowing I was due to be at SPPS I rang Omega on the off-chance and managed to get a meeting in, before my meeting at the school.
The Omega Centre is a key venue in the area. http://www.omegacentre.org/
Its one of the oldest buildings in the locality and emerged mostly unscathed from the bombing raids of the Second World War. It was previously a school, and there are people living in the area now who used to teach there. The building is now leased from PCC by the WEA (Workers Education Association) which is national organisation with branches across the country. Their primary goal is around education and training, and Amanda was very pleased to for the WEA to have the opportunity to engage in the project. She explained that they could run a literacy course based around local history, and because it was literacy based, it would be free to take part. In addition she said they could offer cooking sessions and art sessions led by their Art tutors.
The building itself has very good facilities including a cafe, a large hall with a built-in projector and a range of different sized rooms. Amanda had already undertaken some research into the history of the Omega Centre when the WEA first took on management for the site, and she has a really interesting range of photographs which I haven’t seen before, and which she was very happy to share with the project. I’m really pleased that we can get Omega Centre on board and I think they might be able to provide an exciting and unexpected range of activities and events.
Amanda also pointed me in the direction of the Motiv8 section of the building, which I confess I’d overlooked before. I popped in and managed to chat with one of the staff briefly, but the person I really needed to see, Sarah Morris was on leave, so I’ll need to follow her up when she’s back. The Motiv8 team in Somerstown are keen to involve their young people in practical projects that make a visible impact on the area such as the Garden of Eden which saw a team of young people involved in revitalising a derelict piece of land next to St Peter’s church: http://www.youtube.com/user/CommSpaceChallenge?feature=mhum#p/u/9/3utmzhbgd4U
The Somerstown Stories project could lend itself very well to a specific piece of work that this group might be interested in…I’ll wait to see what my meeting with Sarah Morris reveals…
I met with a chap called Tim Raw who’s the Marketing and Communications Officer for Somerstown Regeneration. Jan Fleming put me on to him and we had a very useful meeting where I was able to update him on the Somerstown Stories project and its scope, and he in turn explained to me about the next campaign they want to run called ‘Supporting Somerstown’. This is where the Housing team will work with the residents to find out how they can support them in developing their locality “beyond the bricks and mortar”.
I’m very excited and pleased to hear that people within the Housing team are looking beyond the built environment and acknowledging that a successful, sustainable community is based on more than good street lighting and regular rubbish collections.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: lighting and rubbish collection can do a lot to improve an area, as well as well-planned streets, green spaces and good transport links. And that’s just the start of the list. But to make a community truly successful, everyone living in it needs to be able to understand that they EACH have a part to play and contribution to make. One drop of water won’t fill a bucket, but if everyone adds just one drop, the bucket will overflow. In the same way, successful communities have co-operation and a shared sense of ownership and belonging. People know and understand that its a symbiotic relationship: what happens over here has an impact on what happens over there. Positive and negative events create ripples that touch more than just those who might be immediately involved.
As we talked, Tim explained that he didn’t really know quite how to launch the campaign, or how it might link to the heritage element of this project, but then we realised that Somerstown Stories actually provides a really good platform form which to launch this forward thinking campaign.
Having looked back at where we’ve come from, and understanding more about why and how we are now where we find ourselves, people in the locality can look forward, with a greater degree of informed understanding and a better grasp of the implications of the decisions they might choose to make.
We can’t fix people. Its not our responsibility and we haven’t the right. But maybe, through a good combination and variety of activities, opportunities and events, we can help people to choose to fix themselves.
PS Tim Raw from PCC sent me details about a local heritage project taking place in Leigh Park that has also been funded by HLF. I’ve contacted the project Director to see if she’d be willing to share some top tips with me!