Posted by: alexbrompton | January 6, 2012

Blowing Away The Cobwebs

ImageBack to work this week and what a blustery start we have had. That has blown away even the most well hidden of cobwebs.

What a great start we have had. Some great  with people of all ages who have some great ideas to improve where they live. From engaging local youth in more meaningful activities to the widening of a road or provision of parking spaces. Keep looking out for more on those ideas.

I would like to say a quick thank you to Alexa who has spent and is going to spend lot’s more time supporting the work here in Newark. It is great drawing on the varied experience of others who have seen the process a little further on.

Well that’s all for now folks. Look out for some more news and great pics next week.



Posted by: alexabellingham | January 6, 2012

New Year, New Start

Traditionally the New Year is a time for reflecting over the previous 365 days and looking towards the coming ones, and it is clear that a lot has happened in Newark over the last year.

I am delighted to join the Newark team full time as of this year and having looked at the timeline that we pieced together yesterday and today, what a lot has been achieved already in this project!  From Family Fridays, to 1:1 support, from gig nights to football clubs, this project has truly shown very fast development, as well as the breaking down of barriers within the community.

The weekend before Christmas I was incredibly lucky to visit a Family Friday night at the centre, a night that saw over 70 people in attendance.  The variety of people there was incredible, from very young children, right through to parishioners in their 70s, this project,  developed from RE:generate’s Root Solution Listening Matters Process and from the enthusiasm, drive and vision of parishioners, has crossed generational divides, brought together members of the eastern european community with the parish community and engaged new volunteers.  As somewhat of an outsider, although I have sporadically been involved with the work here in Newark, I felt so welcomed into the community.

Now, as we approach the final few weeks of the first phase of RE:generate’s work in Newark, its full steam ahead with new project ideas developing every day, new volunteers, customers, leaders and entrepreurs emerging all the time.  I am looking forward to working with the team here, and learning all about this beautiful and historical town, and the people that live here!

Posted by: alexbrompton | January 3, 2012

My African Reflection

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The church that I attend have been running several schools in The Gambia for a few years now so when the opportunity came up to pay a visit to these schools my son and I jumped at the chance. We were part of a much larger group of 19 people to go out this time to visit the schools in Kannifing and Half Dye both in the Serrakunda area of the Gambia.

This was my first visit to Africa and certainly won’t be my last. It was an unforgettable experience. The highlight of the trip for me was to see some very enthusiastic teachers who had come through the school itself and had been sponsored through college and were now teaching at the schools that they attended. What a great investment those sponsors are making. It was also great to meet the many and varied people who made us feel very welcome not just in the village but also into their businesses and homes.

A couple of things made me think about how we use our resources with the best of intentions. For example the amount of people who ask (or even beg) for goods to be left behind and clothes etc to be given and provided for free. Now at first theses things look like kind deeds and do very often meet an immediate need and may feel in some ways rather cathartic however I cannot help but feel that these actions, and much larger ones can in time develop an attitude of dependency that works against what we really want wich is to empower people to support themselves and there families to live a dignified and purposeful life.

This has made me more aware of how careful we should be when giving and supporting to make sure that we are empowering and not dis empowering people. We must not do for others what they themselves can do.

The Gambia recently held an election and reelected President Yahya Jammeh. I was amazed to see posters that used very strong religious language to encourage a vote for Jammeh. This for me raises a lot of questions as to the validity of a “free election” when the country itself is a very religious one. I will look out with great interest at what is happening in the Gambia in the future.


To sum up it was a great trip wich raised as many questions as it answered. The difference in communities was stark however the wants and needs of people to live happy and fulfilled lives were the same. There was great need and great challenge but also great opportunity. I can’t wait to go back and investigate how we can support our Gambian friends to make real and lasting improvment and change.

Posted by: alexbrompton | October 31, 2011

Back to School

Apart from the odd occasion I have delivered some percussion workshops it has been a long time since I was at primary school. So I must admit the task of facing a class of year 5 pupils was not filling me with excitment.

However when we arrived we were given a very warm reception, although that may have been due to the juice and biscuits we were carrying. We were then shown into the school hall  wich we set up ready for the arrival of our class for the session. We were already getting intrigued looks from one or two wandering pupils.

Time to start and we are all set to use photospeak to encourage engagement and conversation. It doesn’t take long and in no time at all pupils are sharing with each other what they liked about an image they had chosen and how it  made them feel. It started with quiet contemplation then progressed from sharing with a friend, a small group and eventually the whole class. Next using the same process was time to find out what people really loved about Newark and how it made them feel. There was so much to be positive about, pupils told of their love for Sconce Hill Park, The Castle, The town centre and it’s many and varied shops. My favourite part of the day is when one group opened out their flip chart paper like a scroll and announcing all of their favourite things about Newark with an impromptu fanfare, backed up by a quote  “I feel privileged to live in Newark

As in every great lesson at school there has to be some homework. I won’t spoil it and tell you what it is . You will have to wait for part 2. coming soon…


Posted by: Caroline Hirst | October 26, 2011

Listening weekend after Mass with the Parish Listening Team

The weekend of the 15/16th October saw the first weekend listening session with the parish listening team.

It was quiet but successful! Saturday night, was very quite but Sunday Morning saw an increase in interest and interaction and it was good to see people sitting round tables chatting about the things they love about not only about where they live but also about Holy Trinity community too.

People were interviewed and others showed an interest but didn’t have time to chat so left their details to be followed up at a later date.

Those who spent time with members of our parish listening team gave very positive feedback saying that interviewers were polite and friendly, that they enjoyed talking with our volunteers and that they felt the relevant questions had been asked them.

Several people who were spoken to both briefly and at length mentioned that they would like to have more information via a newsletter. It was good to be able to let them know that we are in the process of putting a Neighbourhood Challenge update newsletter together, and it will be available shortly.

Sunday night saw  different members of the Parish Listening team and they spoke to a couple of people  some were reluctant at first but when they realised there was no agenda for the conversation other than people wanting to listen them they opened up and shared some views. From the Sunday evening session also came several follow-up sessions which will be explored by a member of the parish listening team alongside Alex or Alexa our community animators with RE:generate.

We have learnt several things from this weekend.

The first being that it would possibly be better received and attended if it was mentioned by Father Michael at the end of Mass (instead of just advertised in the newsletter) so parishioners know that there are people there and available to talk to.

 We also learnt that having an updates newsletter of some sort would encourage and develop conversations more deeply as people were quite amazed by actually how much has happened within the parish. 

Finally we learnt that huge numbers alone don’t necessarily mean success. Positive reactions from those who were listened to is one of the most important and fulfilling parts of this role! To have been able to reach out to someone who may feel that they don’t have a voice and for that person to go away happy and know that their opinions were noted and valuable gave our volunteers a real feeling of satisfaction!

We have plans to have another listening weekend at the end of November/early December and we are going to use what we have learnt this weekend to make the next session more viable and interesting and we hope to reach even more people next time.

Posted by: Caroline Hirst | October 15, 2011

The Parish Listening Team

Every good conversation starts with good listening

There were two meetings in September to discuss with the Parish Listening Team where they are, where they see themselves going and how they would like to get there!

Concerns were raised with regard to the number of parishioners who have been listened to…are we getting out there and listening to enough and the answer was NO! So how can we address this, in general the best way forward was to hold Parish Listening weekends after each Mass. There is provision in the centre on Sunday morning and evening so it would be a case of getting access to the centre on Saturday evenings.

One of the groups that met suggested that the information could go both ways – it could be used as an opportunity to let people know what has been happening on the ground and what progress is being made.  This in turn led to a discussion about the first events that were held when the project started back in March/April time. It was voiced by several members of the PLT that something similar would be good for the parish community as there is a wide-spread concern that although things are happening people don’t know what is going on where and another “catch-up” event could allow information to be given to all interested parties.

Moving from updating the parish back to listening to them it was decided that a menu of available options should be produced for the parish listening team to use, so if someone showed an interest in X activity which is already provided for within the parish the listeners could give people details about who to contact and how to get involved.

Following on from weekend listening meetings someone mentioned that it would be good to hold a listening session after nursery or “at the school gates” for parents to express their concerns and voice changes  that they would like to see.

So having decided to run the listening sessions after Mass, we just needed to book them, 15/16th October 26/27th November. The Listening team will go to their normal Masses and then be available after Mass for parishioners to approach and talk to. It was also mentioned that having some people available at the Christmas Market would be good, just to take follow-up details as people may not want to get into in-depth conversations when they are out for a family Christmas event.

Posted by: alexbrompton | October 5, 2011

When September Ends

Newark is certainly the place to be at the moment. There is so much going. September was a fantastic month for listening on doorsteps, in homes, Churches, coffee shops and even the occasional pub.

After lots of great conversation we have uncovered some great dreams and aspirations from the people of Newark. keep checking for regular updates and if you are really good might even throw in a video or two.

A lesson I have learned this month is that people go away feeling great when someone has taken time to listen and consider there views and opinions. What a great job I have.

We have lots to look forward to in October including gig nights, my first listening session in school and the kick off of an inspirational training programme for people wanting to get involved in making things happen.

Remember to keep checking for updates. See you soon.

Posted by: alexbrompton | September 20, 2011

In The Market For Listening

Sat outside on a warm July day(that narrows it down). It was decided that we should get into the Market place and listen to lots of people. Now forward on to a not quite so warm and sunny September and we are there with our stall set out and ready to go.

The times of listening are interrupted by gusts of wind, rain showers and flying picture cards. But despite these untimely distractions we have learned that people are passionate about the Market place, the architecture and the people around them.

We also heard about a great project that is supporting those who cannot meet the costs of doing things like D of E awards etc. Brilliant

In conclusion these listening sessions were invaluable but I can’t help thinking that the nicer the day the more likely we are to converse with people in greater numbers.

Yet another few degrees covered on the learning curve that is Community Animation. I shall be writing again very soon and letting you know what I have been up to.

Posted by: Caroline Hirst | September 19, 2011

Family Friday’s, a huge SUCCESS!!!!

On Friday 5th August a group of volunteers arrived at the Community Centre a little apprehensive but very excited, waiting to see what the opening night of  Family Friday’s would hold.

It turned out that well over 50 people came down to the centre and the atmosphere was brilliant. Young people were out playing games on the field, people were playing table tennis and pool. The hot dogs were very well received and tasted great (so I am told) and the tuck shop also went down brilliantly with old and young alike! Adults were catching up with one another and young people were either joining in with their families, playing games or sitting having their own conversations. It was fantastic to see people interacting together so freely and the concerns about ages and parents being around appeared to be unfounded as a good time was had by all.

At 9.00pm it was time for the quiz and as families and friends gathered round tables our quiz master Sally took to the microphone. There was much hilarity at some of the questions and conversation during them. The bar team in particular got quite a few giggles when it came to marking their answers and occasionally forgetting not to shout out the answers!! The winners of the quiz were Marie Hinch and her team and she kindly put her winnings into the tuck shop pot along with other anonymous donations to help with the continuation of the tuck shop.

There were people of all ages there from under 5’s to over 60’s and the interactions were wonderful to see. Several people remarked on the night and since how surprised at the numbers and the success of the evening. All we can hope is that Family Fridays continue to grow and develop. When term time starts up hopefully the word will start to spread and that  even more people will interested in coming and seeing what is on offer of Family Friday’s down at Holy Trinity Community and Partnership Centre.

Finally, a HUGE thank you to everyone who came and supported the opening night it wouldn’t have happened without you, and we look forward to seeing you all again!!

Posted by: Neighbourhood Challenge | July 30, 2011

reflections on personal, local and wider society impacts and influences

London seems a long way from Newark, but the Holy Trinity Community and Partnership has been very much in my mind while I’ve been in meetings, conversations and discussions in the capital city, and other parts of the country!

So what’s been going well this month from my perspective?

Firstly, the work on the ground is fantastic and the community is getting more and more involved at all levels. Parishioners are getting involved, getting trained as listeners, blogging – and discovering the impact of deep dialogue that triggers people to get up and walk the walk of community leadership and responsible action. Two local people have been employed as local Animators and are now busy building and extending trust and relational networks into the wider community. Secondly, relationships with local residents and local organisations are developing and there is a growing interest in exploring how people and groups can work together to benefit the broader neighbourhood community and communities within it. Local strategic partners are getting interested in the approach as they see the potential for good outcomes and a different way of working.

As for the challenges – apart from the physical distances travelled, and the impossibility of being physically present in more than one place at a time. Challenges are part and parcel of the work of community development and organising. Managing time, keeping focussed on the important – not just reacting to the urgent or being distracted by the interesting. Balancing demands, being present to people and their perspective, naming the nub of a problem or conflict, negotiating solutions that encourage collaborations and don’t leave people feeling exploited. A listener’s, animator’s or organiser’s key challenge is often to stay positive in the face of the cynicism and hostility coming from people who watch rather than participate. Learning comes down to reviewing and reflecting on life experience and on actions taken. From listening to people on benches, in homes, caravans, boats, mud huts or on streets, in board rooms, in city halls or Westminster, I’ve learnt a few things about challenging and changing the way things are for the common good. Here are six aspects of action and being to chew on:
1. optimism – and being realistic about what people will do;
2. openness to surprise – and being ready for tough reactions;
3. acting intuitively – and planning in detail;
4. energy and impulse – and being calm and reflective (at the right time!);
5. leading from the front, beside and behind – and being prepared for attack from every quarter!;
6. honesty and trust in relationships – and having honest and trustworthy colleagues.

I know that being in touch with the team in Newark – even from a distance – helps keeps me grounded and confident when I’m faced with questions about training 5000 community organisers, or dealing with partners and groups that are struggling to work with new thinking and reduced budgets. It’s good to have had the opportunity of meeting folk in Newark, to share a meal with Caroline, to be working alongside Holy Trinity Community Partnership to develop and share their resource, to exchange ideas with Jo about the voice of the VCS, to have a robust dialogue with Helen from Icarus, connection with Richard from NCVO and to see blog comments as well as have occasional conversations with Alice from NESTA. I was sorry not to witness the commissioning of the listening team, or to join the social media workshop, but I heard all about it – and have read the blogs and seen the pics! I love Newark!!

The surprise has been some incredible opportunities to bring stories of people in Newark, and the work that’s going on there, into the wider frame – into the Community Organiser programme, and into the minds of independent thinkers and national stage academics and thought leaders. Last week I had conversations with Philip Blond from ResPublica, the week before with Profs. Anne Power and Marilyn Taylor, and the week before that with Dharmendra Kanani, England Director of BIG. My own personal challenge is to try to make sure that spending time in such influential circles really does do something to shift power, does help towards unlocking some of the resources needed so people and communities – in NG24 and everywhere – can be supported to tackle root causes of problems affecting them and can contribute to shaping the neighbourhoods and communities they need and want. Now how would I evidence that?

Julia Olsen, REgnerate

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