‘It's a wrap!’: Community initiative SO18 Big Local goes out in style

SO18 big local chairs cut cake jp 600px“We have shown the power of putting money into the hands of local people,” said the chair of SO18 Big Local, at a celebration of its resident-led achievements, as the community organisation winds down after 11 years.



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It was joyous, yet at times bittersweet, as SO18 Big Local shared stories of community successes, people, and working together for over a decade, at their event on Thursday (Feb 15) at St Mary’s Parish Hall.

SO18 big local chairs cut cake jp 600px Chairs past and present: Left, current chair Kim Ayling and right former chair Helen Pain

In 2012, the organisation received Big Lottery funding aimed at making a positive impact in select areas of SO18. Now the project is winding down, with funding set to finish at the end of March.

Nationally, Local Trust says it has provided at least £1m of lottery cash to each of 150 communities in England, to be spent by Big Local projects over years “at the communities’ own chosen pace, and on their own plans and priorities”.

In SO18 the priority was to make the areas better places to live, and increase skill and confidence among residents. It set out to create a number of small projects which would each make a big impact on people’s lives.

“It’s been 11 years of wonderful, positive, and creative community collaboration in our neighbourhoods of Harefield, Townhill Park and Midanbury,” said Kim Ayling, SO18 Big Local chair, in her address.

SO18 big local cake jp 600px The celebratory cake

“And to celebrate the projects, the partnerships and the relationships that we’ve created during that time … we are going out in style!

“So, it’s a wrap! Just like in the movies.”

She thanked past, and present SO18 Big Local workers Jo and Michelle, for supporting the organisation "loyally, ably, and fantastically," and also expressed gratitude to all the other organisations, volunteers and other individuals they've partnered with.

She concluded saying: “Since the decision was made to bring an end to SO18 Big Local we have endeavoured to not be sad … but we have always tried to be full of pride and joy that we were here at all.”

Kim was thanked for showing “fantastic bravery, enthusiasm and passion as a leader and a learner” during her journey as chair.

Her presentation was followed by a short film celebrating SO18 Big Local’s successes and legacy – and the cutting of a celebratory cake by Kim and former chair Helen Pain.

One organisation that will carry on aspects of SO18 Big Local’s work is Townhill Regeneration Is Leaving Legacy (THRILL), which will continue to “challenge the Council over the estate regeneration”.

SO18 big local audience 2 jp 600px The gathering at St Mary’s Parish Hall, off Wessex Lane

Wild Thyme Community Gardeners, and Friends of Townhill Park Environment will also continue, while Oasis Community Hub is taking on the Harefield Hub from the end of February.

Talking to bitternepark.info at the event, Darren Paffey, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Southampton Itchen, said that it had been wonderful to celebrate “what has been an incredibly engaged community project”.

And council leader Cllr Lorna Fielker said that the initiative has shown all of Southampton what difference residents on their own can make to their communities, and how solutions should always be driven from the bottom up, rather than imposed from the top.

“I think the work they’ve done is absolutely amazing,” she said.

“I’m so proud to see them having succeeded in so much, and I’m really really pleased that they’ve spun out into THRILL, and I know that they’ll do some amazing work there as well.”

Photos: Jo Proctor

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