Meet the campaign leaders
Our campaign is driven by seven remarkable community leaders. They’re making a huge difference to their places and neighbours, but in the face of obstacles that simply should not exist. They share what they do, what keeps them going, and why they’re part of We’re Right Here.
Charlotte Hollins, Fordhall Farm, Shropshire
It shouldn’t have to be so hard to make this kind of thing happen
My dad was a pioneering organic farmer in Shropshire. When he died in 2005, we were faced with losing the farm. But instead of just accepting our lot, we turned to the people around us and made Fordhall Farm the first ever community-owned farm in the country. Ever since, the farm has been at the heart of the community, providing a place for people to come together and connect with nature.
We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, but it shouldn’t have to be so hard to make this kind of thing happen. It’s a constant battle. Right now a crucial piece of land which the community wants to buy is in danger of being sold off, and the developer’s plans have nothing to do with what the community wants.
That’s why I’m part of this campaign. It’s time to challenge the assumption that power is something that is used on people rather than held by them. It’s time for community power.
Andy Jackson, Heeley Development Trust, Sheffield
Imagine where we would be now if we had the power to just get on.
My family are Heeley born-and-bred so it’s really important to me that I lead on strategy and development for Heeley Trust – I have to give it my best!
Now 25 years old, we are Heeley’s community anchor organisation. We’ve grown from a small team of volunteers involved in creating a local community park. Today we deliver social prescribing and health projects for primary care, active travel projects across South Yorkshire, a social enterprise bike shop, a heritage regeneration programme – and our park is more beautiful than ever. We are independent, not-for-profit and determined. All our work starts with community – and every conversation with a cup of tea.
The projects we have delivered should not have taken 25 years to complete. Risk aversion, bureaucracy and deficit thinking got in our way for the whole journey.
Imagine where we would be now if we had the power to just get on. Imagine what would get done if we didn’t spend all our time fighting, bidding and re-tendering for every scrap we claw out of their hands!
Neelam Heera, Cysters, Birmingham
It shouldn’t be so difficult for us to get a hearing when these are the decisions which so fundamentally shape our lives.
I suffer from some chronic health conditions, and over the years I got increasingly frustrated that issues around reproductive and mental health were being trivialised by healthcare professionals and sexualised by the ethnic community owing to outdated cultural beliefs.
That frustration turned into a conversation with others around me, and eventually into the charity which I run. Cysters is all about insisting that women, people of colour and marginalised communities have real influence over the decisions which shape their lives.
My work is all about my community in Birmingham – bringing those voices to the table and changing the conversation around reproductive and mental health. But it shouldn’t be so difficult for us to get a hearing when these are the decisions which so fundamentally shape our lives. That’s why I’m proud to be part of this campaign and ready to make big change happen.
Sacha Bedding, The Wharton Trust, Hartlepool
The fundamental hope… is the legal right not to be ignored just because of a postcode.
I work for a small estate based charity and community anchor, The Wharton Trust, in the Dyke House area of Hartlepool.
Built on a community organising approach, we work with local people to support them to take action on things they care about.
This covers a wide range of activities from delivering fun and games to being a social landlord; addressing food insecurity to challenging school exclusion policies which compromise our children’s rights to an effective education.
The fundamental hope of a Community Power Act will be that the people of Dyke House, people who day in, day out, look out for one another and their place, will have the legal right not to be ignored just because of their postcode.
Inayat Omarji, All Souls, Bolton
Talent and passion is out there. We just need to be empowered and supported to make a difference.
I live in Bolton and see myself as a connector for individuals and communities who want to make a difference – whether it’s a grassroots football or cricket team looking for support, or helping service providers engage with marginalised communities.
In 2007 I started talking to the Churches Conservation Trust to bring a redundant church, All Souls, back into use for the local community in Bolton.
Fast forward 14 years on – that church is a thriving business and community venue, serving a diverse community and delivering conferences, events, martial arts sessions, women and children’s activities and so much more.
The hardest part is to get your vision embedded into local strategies and getting the support you need whether it’s funding, business planning, or even an acknowledgment from local decision-makers which helps keep the community momentum going.
Having a Community Power Act which shifts power to the local community alongside the right level of support would ease the constant ‘us and them’ mentality and the frustrations of having to break down barriers at every hurdle.
Talent and passion is out there. We just need to be empowered and supported to make a difference. Therefore we are asking for a Community Power Act to help make a difference right in the heart of our communities.
Angela Fell, Movement for Neighbourhood Democracy, Wigan
We know we have a treasure chest of strengths, but our potential is stifled.
I’m a community builder in my hometown of Wigan. After 30 years of working with and alongside communities of place and interest I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my working life at home, where I live.
Together with friends we have a bold vision of becoming a self-organised and renovating neighbourhood.
We know we have a treasure chest of strengths, but our potential is stifled.
We see landlords extracting wealth whilst providing poor quality accommodation to people having a tough time. We see public space and buildings sold for housing development with community levy waivers or the levy spent elsewhere. We see nationally contracted services parachuting new people into the neighbourhood with no invite into community, contributing to polarisation. And we see children exported and cared for by companies with offshore accounts leaving behind trauma and pain and huge budget deficits for the council.
Shift power and unleash capacities. We know what to do. We live here, we care. It’s time for the community way.
Deana Wildgoose, Coalville CAN, Coalville
If we give communities the space and time and resources to take control… people might start to believe things can actually change
I am part of Coalville CAN (Communities and Neighbours). We’re passionate about genuine community democracy, ownership and control.
We’re inspired by co-operative values, asset-based community development, Camerados and the ‘Be More Pirate’ movement… amongst others!
What we do is put the community in the driving seat. We have plans to take over spaces and places and run them for the benefit of the community.
We know people in the local community have all the necessary skills and talents; we have given ourselves 15 years to help make this happen!
A recent example of our approach includes employing 58 young people and working alongside them using the Kickstart scheme, supporting them to connect with each other and in their community, and even writing their own job descriptions.
It’s hard to get access to spaces and places that are controlled by others who are either focused on private profit or are risk-averse, bureaucratic institutions. And it’s hard to get access to the timely, cheap, long-term finance we need.
If we give communities the space and time and resources to take control, and lots of people start doing it, people might start to believe things can actually change and want to get involved in making change happen in their towns, villages and cities.