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:
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The Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) appointed a new Board member as its Voluntary and Community Sector representative at its January meeting.
Lorrainne Smyth, Chief Executive at ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, has been appointed to replace Professor Patricia Allen, Chief Executive of Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw Children’s Hospice, who has stepped down.
Following on from a highly successful Village Halls Week that involved over 700 village halls, actively engaged 18 MPs and attracted coverage from BBC’s Countryfile, national newspapers and resulted in #villagehallsweek trending on Twitter, ACRE has launched a national survey for England’s Village and Community Halls.
ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT), the ACRE Network member and community development charity for Cumbria, is encouraging all of the county’s 300+ village halls and community buildings to take part.
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.
ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) are delighted to welcome Gareth Douglas-Brown and Katie Milburn to their growing team as two new Development Officers, this takes the small - but perfectly formed - team size to seven members of staff. Gareth has taken on his home patch of West Cumbria and will continue the fantastic work delivered by his predecessor Rose Lord.
The Lakeland Canoe Club are based in Kendal and has been in existence for sixty-seven years they have fifty-two members from around the South Lakes who regularly paddle with them. Over the past five years they have become much more active in river and sea kayaking, having held club events on 153 days during 2018. Membership is being built slowly through an inclusive calendar of events.
In response to demand from prospective members they were successful in a grant bid to us (ACT) for Cumbria’s pilot Sport England’s Lace Up Project. This funding will provide a facility for those in rural communities to become more active in sport. Lakeland Canoe Club has purchased four new river kayak, paddles, spray decks, helmets and buoyancy aids as part of their 'Be Inspired, Kayaking For All’ project.
Registered in England as Voluntary Action Cumbria. Charity Number: 1080875
Company Number: 3957858
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