8 Nov 2012
There have been a lot of recent developments, especially concerning the free organic gardens project. I have been told that we will have access to the sites in Wednesfield and there will be a meeting on Monday the 12th to discuss this with people from Catch 22, the high school and the Tenants & Residents association. Also there will be a new member to the Our Own Future team, Gwen, who has come from New York to live here recently and has a wealth of experience and skills in many different community group and environment areas. She will be working with me on several ideas but at the moment we are focusing on the gardens.
I have organised a meeting for Wed the 14th for Our Own Future at the City Bar, King St, W’ton at 7.30pm. This is to invite people especially interested in joining the organic gardens project in whatever way they’d like to. It doesn’t matter if you already have the skills or not, there will be plenty of ways you can get involved.
Gwen and I also met with West Park Rehabilitation Hospital today to discuss their involvement in the project. They would like to have opportunities for stroke patients to do so we are going to look at maybe finding a few gardens in the city that other volunteers could join and support the patients to take part in learning organic gardening skills. I think this is a good way of expanding the project so that we are not only relying on getting unused council land, which of course takes time to arrange.
The other things that have come about are funding opportunities. I have been passed on information about Spacehive to try to get funding for the organic gardens but I’ll wait until we’ve had these meetings. Another one is to get funding for a shop in W’ton via the Portas Project, which obviously would be very useful considering the obstacles I’ve come up against recently.
So, the blog updates are getting more frequent, fortunately and I will update it next week, too. Hopefully, I’ll have news on the indoor market stall by then as well.
16 Nov 2012
We had a very positive meeting on Monday about the Wednesfield garden. Wolverhampton Homes has kindly allowed us to use it for this purpose and initially, it will remain their land but we will probably apply for it through asset transfer after some time. We met with the previously mentioned people except for a rep from the TRA, who couldn’t make it at that time.
We discussed the project together and agreed on practically everything. Wednesfield High will be allocated a section of the garden to continue growing food which they will make into soup for the homeless and of course, that should be supported fully. The rest of the land will be for other people in the community there to work on together, rather than have individual plots. Essentially, it will be that if someone works the land or helps with the building, etc., they will be able to take some of the produce for free. We will work on making the garden as productive as possible but of course, there are many details to work on, which is what each of the groups involved will do over the next weeks.
Wolverhampton Homes has also kindly informed us that they will clear the land, which is useful!
So, after getting the ball rolling on the first big project since the furniture giveaway, I was also waiting to hear about getting the stall in the indoor market. Gwen and I went to speak to some people from Access to Business, who have been giving me advice on how to start up a new business, about applying for funding from the Portas Pilot scheme which is going to provide up to £50,000 for developing new local businesses. I went into the market office afterwards to ask and was told that I can have a stall so that is very good news in terms of being able to get things on sale in the run up to Christmas. It will open on 27 Nov, meaning there will be 4 weeks to try to engage the Christmas shoppers and use it as a stepping stone for getting the message across about what we’re trying to do, not only to the public, but to shop owners and the council. I will be able to use the stall for 12 weeks rent free so we will work on promoting the idea of giving opportunities to local people as much as we can. Obviously, I’ll keep you informed of the setting up of it over the next week or two.
Because of this and the organic gardens project coming to fruition in the same week, we have agreed that Gwen will take over the reins of that one while I busy myself with getting the stall ready and working there when it’s open. It will open for 4 days a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat from 9am to 4pm). I need to get some tables for the products to be displayed on so am asking the community to help us out with this so people can feel they played a part in developing new opportunities for their own city.
Later that day, we had the first meeting for Our Own Future. There were 8 people present and we talked about the above two projects with plenty of questions and ideas from those attending. We also talked about the council’s plans to spend £5m on developing the city centre. They essentially want it to look attractive although it has met with a lot of opposition from the public as there appear to be no plans to support local businesses to open some of the many closed shops. Because of this, I wanted to ask people about what they thought would be good things to have in the centre. Along with the ideas left on the facebook thread on the council’s page, we now plan to put together a survey for people to vote on the kind of idea that people have suggested and those that we feel will bring true development to the city. I will let you know when this is ready and the idea is to then submit it to the council if the residents want their voices to be heard.
The week ended with my attendance at an Access to Business event on the Friday about help for self-employment and there I met a few more people who are interested in having their hand-made products on sale at the market stall.
Overall, a very exciting week for Our Own Future and I hope it leads to more inspiration and many more projects developing from these!