The Charity currently known as ACTion with Communities in Cumbria was formed in 1948. On the 19th October that year a group of partners, including County Councillors from Cumberland and Westmorland and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture met in Penrith at the first meeting of the Cumberland and Westmorland Council for Social Service. Despite the initial intention that the Charity operate across two counties, the reality was that within a few months the focus of its work was the county of Cumberland.
The Charity was born of a need for effective collaboration between the voluntary and statutory sectors if welfare needs were to be met. Of particular concern were the challenges faced by West Cumberland communities that were still suffering from the after affects of the depression years of the 1930s. There was concern too about changes affecting rural economy. These themes are reflected in the Charity’s early work. This included many activities with a social purpose, such as support older people, over 60’s concerts, craft exhibitions, holidays and a long-running programme of training for retirement.
With a more practical focus was the creation of the Rural Industries Sub Committee. This led projects intended to help rural people manage dramatic economic change, an example being the retraining of blacksmiths as motor engineers. The Charity also began a continuing programme of support for other groups, in its early days providing the secretariat for the Guild of Lakeland Craftsmen, the Churches Group for Social Responsibility and the Parish Councils Association.
Some of these early activities were to be a feature of its work throughout its life, including its Village Halls Advice Service and support, in various guises, for a Best Kept Village Competition. Also a continuing feature was its early involvement in social and community research which, in those early days, included reports on issues such as rural homelessness and the use of village halls.
With the creation of Cumbria in 1974 the organisation at last realised the aspirations of its founders, becoming active throughout what had been the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland and those parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire that were merged to form the new County.
Operating initially as Cumbria Council for Voluntary Action the organisation very soon adopted the working name of Voluntary Action Cumbria (VAC) that was to badge its work for the next 34 years.
The Charity took the opportunity presented by its 60th Anniversary to reflect upon its role in Cumbria and consult with stakeholders. It was concluded that the organisation’s focus on supporting action within communities was not well reflected in the name Voluntary Action Cumbria, which spoke more of its work in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Accordingly, in October 2008 the working name ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT for short) was adopted. The Charity feels that this reflects its commitment to supporting communities to:
Over 70 years there have been consistent themes, tackling disadvantage, working with communities, advising village halls and community groups, rural services, transport, rural retail, employment, in other words constant adjustment to change.
In the course of that time one outstanding feature has been the role of the Charity in supporting the formation or early years of a wide variety of other organisations that also continue to service Cumbrian communities.
Among those organisations that have their roots in the Charity are:
Communities across Cumbria are preparing for Village Halls Week – a national celebration of village halls, their volunteers, and the services they offer their communities. This year Village Halls Week runs from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th January, and begins with a launch event at the House of Commons, hosted by Defra Minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble.
Hellen Aitken from Cumbrian community development charity ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) will be attending the launch in London, together with David Anderson, Chairman of Kirkby in Furness Community Centre, one of three Cumbrian halls to recently benefit from funding from the Defra funded Village Hall Improvement Grant.
Members of the Cumbria Village Halls Network got together last week for a free workshop on using websites and social media. The group met in the cosy community room at Dufton Village Hall, using their recently installed broadband. With help from web-designer Phil Guest, the workshop was a whistle-stop tour of what makes a good website and how to make best use of social media for promotion.
The Village Halls Network is a way for committee members and trustees of community buildings across Cumbria to share practical ideas, relevant experience and to ask for help and advice. Members get together periodically, as well as supporting each other remotely.
Not only have the dedicated volunteers at Hunsonby Community Centre raised £300,000 to refurbish their community building, they’ve also been awarded a nationally recognised Hallmark quality standard for good governance.
Ofgem is carrying out a call for evidence for households who are not connected to the electricity distribution network, which we know at ACT is an issue for a significant number of Cumbrian residents
On the 13th November it is World Kindness Day, so as part of the #KindCumbria campaign we’ll be encouraging people to think about random acts of kindness and celebrating this on 13th November with our own very special 'Kind Cumbria Day'. Read more to find out how you can get involved.
The census rehearsal is in full swing and residents are being urged to complete their questionnaires online or at a community hub in Carlisle. The rehearsal will enable the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to test some of the systems and processes it has put in place ahead of the digital-first 2021 Census.
Registered in England as Voluntary Action Cumbria. Charity Number: 1080875
Company Number: 3957858
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