Monday, September 26, 2022
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
It's one of the things about moving from a city to a small village as I did more than a decade ago, you become much more aware of how communities survive and thrive. In a city, because the level of population churn is greater, you may not gain a sense of continuity, and of individual contributions to civic society. That's not to say that it doesn't exist - there are no end of community groups operating in our towns and cities - but it can easily feel impersonal.
In our small towns and villages, however, where the presence of local government is less "overt", the importance of volunteers is more evident. From Parish and Town councillors to good neighbour groups, from village hall committees to Parochial Church Councils, you're more likely to know the people who make things happen, who go that little bit further to improve communal life.
And, in Suffolk, three key umbrella groups have come together to recognise those people - the Suffolk Association of Local Councils, whose Board I have the honour to serve upon, Community Action Suffolk, where Ros is a trustee, and Suffolk County Council. The Suffolk Community Awards are open to nominations from across the county, and last night saw the awards ceremony.
Now I ought to note that the awards are not just for small towns and villages, with Felixstowe and Carlton Colville being recognised for their achievements in the fields of health and physical activity and community building respectively, but my particular interest is in how small villages and hamlets face up to the challenge of sustaining communities in the face of the challenges wrought by the shrinking of local government in the tiers above them.
And when Bredfield won the award for the best small village in the county, I was amazed to hear what they've achieved in terms of creating opportunities for residents both in their village and in its neighbours to take part in a range of activities. Given that Bredfield is barely larger than Creeting St Peter, with a population not much above 300, it sets the bar rather higher than I could have envisaged. I'm not daunted... much...
Other awards went to young volunteers, and to groups working with young people to enhance their lives and to create opportunities, and it is rather moving to hear of the impacts they have despite limited resources.
The organisers, whose efforts should really be applauded, had managed to persuade Mark Murphy, the former BBC Radio Suffolk morning show host, to present the awards, and he enthused the audience and engaged with the various winners in a very natural and encouraging way.
All in all, a really invigorating evening, and one almost perfectly designed to spur on those of us in the audience to give just a little more of ourselves in the campaign to build stronger communities across our county.