Friday, April 03, 2009

A real community with a real community spirit

Being a councillor can be an intensely frustrating experience. You can battle for years against intransigence, a lack of finance, a lack of imagination and a lack of commitment from those who are in a position to effect the change that is needed. Sometimes I get despondent and wonder whether we are making enough difference, despite most councillors working many long hours each week on behalf of their constituents. Sometimes I wonder if it is really worth it, if I would not be better going into social work, or the church, or voluntary activity in just one aspect of need, rather than the tough job of community leadership, which can feel virtually impossible at times.

But then the clouds shift and everything is seen in a very different light.

Over the last few weeks I have been to lots of different community events, some social, some civic and some for ward business. And in each of those events I have seen a real coming together of our community. Kensington and Fairfield is buzzing with activity and so many people now are part of it.

The International Food Festival held in Kensington primary school really warmed me, it was fantastic to see people from Africa, India, Pakistan, Poland, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Russia, Romania, Trinidad, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, Jamaica and heaven knows where else, all mixing together, with their children. The kids were all dancing together in front of the stage, waving their balloons with their faces painted by our wonderful United Colours of Kensington multi-cultural face painting troup. The parents were chatting together over bowls of food from all corners of the earth and we were being entertained by the Congolese choir from the Bethlehem church opposite Kensington library, by Tarib, the Kurd musician and by local singers (and there were others that I was not there for the peformances of). And how great that at least two of the OBV graduates were there too, enjoying community engagement.

And two weeks before that I was in the same school for the International Women's Day celebrations with a different set of Mums and children from all over Kensington and all over the world.

There was the opening of the new swimming baths at St Anne's which I now realise I have forgotten to blog about (that was on Wednesday, more of that to follow then I guess) which although outside the ward, had still attracted residents from the ward who are part of the board of Kensington Regeneration who had helped hugely with the funding of the revamp.

And tonight we had the Merseyside Polonia celebrations I have already blogged about. Last week we had the African Business Forum, and the week before that, also in the Police club, we had the Congolese Association's social event.

We have had our highly successful Your Community Matters meetings and of course our Community Safety Task Group, our Neighbourhood Services Task Group and Putting Neighbourhoods First. And then we have our Neighbourhood Assemblies and our TRAs and always we can count on the police being there, the C7 wardens being there, people like Steve Faragher of Kensington Vision (in a bit of bother over some of his April Fool jokes in the latest Kensington Voice magazine), Gosia and George from Yellow House, Healing Space, HEAT, RSL staff.... I could go on.

What I am trying to say, rather clumsily, is that Kensington and Fairfield is really coming together around the central point of community engagement. The tentacles extend and more people are drawn in, and the opportunities for us all to be together and to celebrate our community are increasing and are ever more successful.

When you can feel, as I did on Saturday at the International Food Festival, that Kensington and Fairfield is becoming more integrated and more appreciative of each other, as we all become on first name terms with each other, then you can believe that Thatcher's efforts to destroy the concept of society have completely failed.

Tonight I looked across the room to where our fantastic, newly promoted Chief Inspector Dave Charnock was eating cake and clapping along to Polish music, close to the organiser of the Polish Saturday School, who sat near to Matthieu and Petronelle from Africa who had come to offer their support, who were on the next table to some disadvantaged young people from Yellow House, who were taking photos of local Liverpool residents engaging with visitors from Bootle who had come to join in the fun. And do you know what? I felt great, just because I cannot make everything happen straight away, just because some cases are very hard to resolve, it does not mean that our efforts to bring our deprived community together are in vain.

I would be amazed if there is another ward in Liverpool, if indeed there is another ward in the country, that has come together quite as much as ours has in the last half-year. I cannot truly say why that is, but it has much to do with the quality of the individual people I have described. There is not an agency or a publicly funded organisation within our ward that is not fully engaged with local people and not a one that does not go the extra mile, I think that is what is making the difference, the enthusiasm felt right across the public and voluntary service spectrum for real engagement and involvement.

So tonight I am feeling good about our work, thank you Kensington and Fairfield!


Steve Faragher said...

Yeah it's alright here innit, pity we havent got an Ice Rink though!

Anonymous said...

Louise what a brilliant day Last Saturday was my Grandchildren realy enjoyed it as did my son ,Daughter in law it was brilliant we want more of these and as for being a councillor Love your are one of the best glad you liked my Easter Card only send them to hard working Labour Councillors hope you have a good easter gerard Xx