By David Jolley
What’s good for a park – Lessons in transfer.
At the last meeting with Friends of parks Groups we were challenged to offer a suggestion which would help other Friends Groups to make progress. There is the offer of a prize for the most promising suggestion: Our Friends have mulled over this repeatedly since & here’s our thoughts.
We would say that one initiative by itself is unlikely to have an impact, but there needs to be a comprehensive approach.
These are key elements which we recognise in what we do, and which we believe have a general applicability.
We hold weekly meetings of the core committee group.
As we have a daily presence in the park – attending to the aviary and birds daily, collecting litter or dog poo before it accumulates, we identify problems and bring these to the attention of the relevant Council Officer or Authority. We meet people using the park and are always prepared to listen. Actions from our daily activities are then discussed and tracked at our weekly meetings.
Other weekly agenda items include discussions and agreement about what can be done to maintain and improve the park facilities and activities and approaches to raising funds through grants, donations, car boot sales and eBay to allow us to carry out our projects.
These meetings also provide a forum to track our annual events calendar and look for new ways to welcome visitors to the park. This year we trialled a new event, a Teddy Bear’s picnic for the very smallest park visitors. These events are a valuable source of fundraising as well as an opportunity to increase our membership.
Following our weekly meetings, we schedule monthly walkabouts with senior offices of Trafford MBC and Amey. This gives us the opportunity to agree actions and discuss issues raised by park users or identified at the weekly meetings. We believe this fosters good relations and mutual respect with the Trafford and Amey staff who come to work on the park and with their line managers.
Occasionally we have involvement with local councillors and sometimes our MP.
These approaches are used to help us resolve issues and to keep them up to date with our work and activities.
We have involvement with other voluntary activity groups and charities:
Duke of Edinburgh and National Citizenship Service participants are given the opportunity for young residents to gain valuable skills and learn more about our park as well as providing valuable help with some of our projects.
At some of our events we are able to make donations toward other charitable groups (Barnabus, Boaz, and Marie Curie) We also hold weekly health walks and organise social bowling to encourage fitness and use of our park facilities. These can also help with social isolation for our local residents.
Local town centre businesses support our activities. Sometimes this is free help and advice or by helping promote our events by putting up posters and distributing flyers.
We are actively involved with the regular meetings of Friends Groups with Trafford MBC and Amey We participate fully in Friends of parks meetings and visit other parks and their Friends groups – to learn from them and improve the way that we work. We are also active in NW in Bloom and the Green Flag Scheme.
We use a variety of communication methods with our members, residents and community in our local area as we recognise that everyone is different in how they like to receive news of our activities and updates as to what’s happening on the park.
We circulate weekly communication with all members by email or hand-delivery of news and deliberations of the core group.
We have a website which is kept up to date.
We are active across social media with use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We put together a quarterly newsletter: a printed version, which is delivered to 2000+ local homes and which is displayed on the four noticeboards in the park and is available via the website.
We use posters and flyers to advertise our events, delivered to local businesses and put up around the park.
We have visibility in the town centre to remind residents of our park. We are involved in the North Altrincham in Bloom, with a planter outside Altrincham Hospital and we now look after the Manchester Road corner, a prominent gateway to the town centre. There is probably more, but this goes quite a way.
Can we ask other Friends Groups individually for their observations and suggestions – to be shared across all groups? Maybe the prize can be shared between all who offer a serious attempt to answer your challenge.
This feels like a useful blueprint for any community service – Dementia – Older People – Whatever – getting close to the people and the ground – doing it gently but with determination and persistence. Even red tape can melt.