Communities do it for themselves
This summer, WPA has been supporting communities to get out and play – from Jubilee bank holiday and June half term events, to those happening across the six-week summer break. Amidst all events that have been held there is one that has stood out as a shining example of ’Communities Doing It For Themselves’.
Jane, a resident in the Packsaddle area of Frome, came to us in May looking for support in asking her community about the play space at its heart and how it could be developed so that residents of all ages could make the best out of the open space which connects them.
Supported a little by our Volunteer Coordinator, Jane organised a community picnic as a consultation event, where over 50 people turned out in the driving rain to the play park on top of a hill exposed to all the elements! Welcoming the opportunity to have their say, residents shared ideas and played with their children with ropes, nets and swings alongside WPAs Community Playworkers.
Inspired by the community spirit and commitment of the residents to create a truly intergenerational space, Jane held a Jubilee Lunch. This is Jane’s story…
‘Wow! The residents of Packsaddle certainly know how to party. Sunday 3rd June was ‘The Big Lunch’ in celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee. At the Packsaddle Play Area on Pedlars Grove the bunting was up, party tents erected and WPA were there with free fun for all ages.
And then the people started to arrive… carrying fold up tables and chairs and plates laden with food to share. Despite the challenging weather, amazingly from around 150 houses, approximately 120 people were counted (it’s not exact – they wouldn’t stand still!). The BBQs were lit, trestle tables laden with tempting treats, neighbours from 0 – 90, some who had never met before, built new friendships over lunch, one saying he had lived here 11 years without meeting many of the people. The rain didn’t stop the fun, we sheltered in gazebos and under umbrellas and partied on late into the afternoon.
Phil, Emma and Martin from WPA provided plenty of activities; there was the crown making workshop where the children could also write decrees (a poor parent somewhere will be walking on their knees on Wednesdays) and have a Coronation ceremony. Katherine, age 3, showed great skill making bubbles from a loop of rope and a bowl of soapy water and several children were seen swinging voraciously in a hammock tied between the trees. A couple of locals who couldn’t attend gave money towards the party and this was used to provide flags for all the children, a lucky dip and a donkey pinata affectionately named Ernest crammed with sweets.
Amidst the fun it highlighted the lack of facilities this area has. People who had played in the park as children years ago reminisced about the play equipment long gone. Phil Birch, WPA’s volunteer coordinator, did a splendid job canvassing partygoers opinions on what they would like to have in the park – ‘bring back the mushroom’ was mentioned by several! The first consultation held in the park in April was well received with lots of ideas for play equipment, seating, a boules pitch and has sparked enthusiasm amongst the residents to really make this a place for our whole community.
There is even talk of making this an annual ‘Packsaddle Party’ but I hope it’s not that long before we all meet our neighbours again!’