Friday, May 27, 2011

Don't you know, we're talking about an evolution...

Life changes, even here in my little Suffolk village, and quite often, it only needs a push from one or two people to make it happen.

One thing that I had noticed in Creeting St Peter when I first moved here was the apparent lack of social activity. Yes, it is a small place, with only a church room as a social space, and given my backstory in the big city, I wasn't hugely concerned, especially as I was still working in London.

There was, I was told, some activity in the past, organised by the Community Council, summer fetes, barbecues and the like, but with the loss of key members, this had ceased.

But it does pay to make an effort sometimes. Alice, the Chair of our Parochial Church Council, and her colleagues initiated a monthly coffee morning on the second Saturday of each month and suddenly discovered a hitherto untapped desire to meet fellow villagers. So much so that they rapidly became standing room only.

I've done a small amount to support them - by advertising the event on my village blog, by suggesting that the scheduled visit by the mobile police station be sited outside the church room at the same time - but by simply getting things started, more volunteers to help have come forward, making them more self-supporting. It is, if you like, a perfect example of the 'Big Society' in action.

And I learned a lot too. I learnt about the delicate web of personal relationships that sustains or, occasionally, harms a small community, of the history of the village, of the ups and downs of community. As a rookie Parish councillor, that kind of knowledge is invaluable if you want to do the job well.

Of course, I then ran as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the ward which includes Creeting St Peter. Running a classic campaign of the kind I approve of, heavily local in focus, a lot of canvassing, I met a lot of my fellow villagers, some for the first time. It was another immersion in the often small things that exercise people. And people were really friendly (with a few exceptions...).

Meanwhile, the Parochial Church Council had become more ambitious, with plans for a village pub night (we don't have a village pub). Unfortunately, Ros and I couldn't be there - ELDR Council in Dresden intervened - but it was an event that I wanted to succeed.

There was a brief local difficulty when a sign on the village green advertising the event was removed by the Parish Council, for perfectly justifiable reasons, but even that had its benefits. I had wanted to publicise the news of a local road closure, and it provided the perfect excuse to deliver another leaflet - this time as a local resident and not as a politician. So, six days before the event, Ros and I leafleted the entire Parish with news of the event. After all, we want our village to be a better place...

The event went well, with fifty people turning up to drink local ale, raise money for charity and meet, and I hope that Alice, Russell and all of those who made it happen feel that it was worth the effort. I'm certainly looking forward to the next one!

And the consequential effects ripple outwards. There is more interest in the long-standing Community Council project to refurbish the playing field, talk of improving communication, of engaging village residents. All because a few people have shown some willing to contribute...

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