I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Developing Community Approaches to Tackling Poverty Conference in Newbiggin, Northumberland this week. It was great to take the train down that coast from Edinburgh to Morpeth – if you never have I would heartily recommend it.
I was kindly invited by my friend and ex-Renfrewshire resident Emma Richardson. Emma may be known to you as one half on the dynamic duo who worked at ‘STAR’ in Paisley alongside another good bud of mine, Sharon McAulay. Emma is now in the ‘North’ (but south to me) heading up the area’s poverty approach and doing a dang fine job. It was great to see Emma and get a chance to catch up.
The conference was really well attended and had a real sense of direction. I spoke about our experiences in Renfrewshire – reminding myself as I was speaking that we’re all in partners in the tackling poverty agenda and we can be ‘timorous or bold’ (thank you Seamus Heaney) in our approach. So why not be bold?
Emma gave a passionate address (no change there!) covering what can be done if we are all committed to partnership, work with each other and willing to adapt to new ways of working – including digitally which can offer many advantages.
One of the local speakers was from the Full Circle Food Project – a charity that educates people living in Northumberland about growing food to eat, healthy cooking on a budget and supporting people to lead healthier lifestyles. What came across was that the programme places community members at the heart of its service delivery and is manned by those who have been helped and have now gone on to help others. Another presentation was from the Newbiggin Learning Hive, a project which helps local community members get back in to work, gain new experiences and brush up on core skills such as ICT and literacy. The Learning Hive, again, was another very positive example of a person centred approach to support.
Those in attendance seemed interested in the work happening in Renfrewshire and were keen to question me over the detail. I was of course happy to oblige (talking is good eh?!). Anne Lyall, the Chief Executive Officer of Northumberland CVA, who organised the conference and made me feel very welcome has been daft enough to suggest that they’d be keen to have me back. So, there you go – I hopefully didn’t let Renfrewshire down.
It’s always great to get a chance to share what you’re up too in you’re working life but it’s also excellent to hear what others are doing. To be honest my take away from the event was that people and community organisations in Northumberland are passionate and energised by the potential to change things for the better – so, it was very much like home.
Enjoy the sun!