ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) celebrated its 70th birthday at an AGM last week (Friday 19 October) and looked forward with a focus on neighbourliness for the future. Over 50 delegates, including ACT team members, Trustees and representatives of a wide range of community organisations, met at Braithwaite Institute near Keswick for the formal AGM, a celebratory cake marking ACT’s support for communities in Cumbria since 1948 and the launch of ACT’s Neighbourliness Works campaign.
The business of the AGM was conducted with speed and efficiency by ACT President, Jolyon Dodgson and Chair of Trustees, Joanna Tate and concluded with the re-election of Joanna and Ron Munby as Trustees, giving a Board of eight in all. A special birthday cake was then cut and eaten to mark exactly 70 years since the first meeting of what was originally known as the Cumberland Council of Social Service.
“It was good to be able to celebrate 70 years of our work with so many people who are involved in their Cumbrian communities,” said ACT CEO, Lorrainne Smyth. “We welcomed community activists and former Trustees from past decades and the conversations over cake were fascinating. Our display of a range of reports and newsletters from across the years also gave an insight into how much has changed and, in other ways, how little.”
“Social isolation, the challenges of access to services and poor public transport have been issues throughout our 70 years but it was exciting look forward and to see how we can address these issues that were current back in 1948 and are still all-too-relevant for Cumbria’s rural communities today.”
The presentations that followed the AGM focused on support for rural communities, particularly as they address issues of social isolation and loneliness.
“Neighbourliness sums up the approach that we’re encouraging people to take,” said Lorrainne, “and it fitted well with recent Government announcements around the publication of its loneliness strategy, A connected society.”
“First, we had input from Tracey Robbins of the national Eden Communities Project and then some disturbing public health statistics and insights from Claire King of Cumbria County Council. These really got us thinking and were followed by, for me, the highlights of the day as four different community organisations talked about what’s already being done and where more action is possible. Thanks go to Joanna Coleman from the Big Lunch in Cumbria, Alan Rich and the team at Newbiggin Community Café, Kevin McGilloway of the Fellrunner community transport group and Joe Murray, Chair of the Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association. Their inspiring presentations were exactly what were needed to show what’s possible and where we can be making a difference, building neighbourliness in ways that fit each different community across the county.”
To close the meeting, Fran Richardson of ACTion with Communities in Cumbria explained the approach that ACT will be taking with its Neighbourliness Works campaign. “It’s not a formal approach at all,” she said, “but much more about nudging people towards considering social inclusion, using what’s already happening in their communities and creating new connections.”
She continued: “We’ll start by working with the network of volunteers who are already involved in Neighbourhood Watch schemes at community level. Then we have a role across Cumbria as ACT is responsible for bringing together different organisations and people who are working in this area to create a Cumbria Neighbourliness Network. By working together, we can maximise our impact and improve things for anyone in need of a neighbour.”
The launch of Neighbourliness Works included speakers from the national Eden Communities Project, Cumbria County Council’s Public Health unit and four existing Cumbrian projects that epitomise the approach to working with communities in future.
Picture: LtoR: Fran Richardson (ACT), Alan Rich (Newbiggin Community Café), Lorrainne Smyth (ACT), Tracey Robbins (Eden Communities Project), Kevin McGilloway (Fellrunner), Joanna Coleman (Big Lunch in Cumbria), Joe Murray (Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association), Claire King (Consultant in Public Health, Cumbria County Council).
Picture: Trustees look on as Honorary Vice President, Olive Clarke and current President, Jolyon Dodgson cut ACT’s 70th birthday cake.
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