Elaine's Quarterly Update - May-July 2015 - Toward Community

Elaine’s Quarterly Update – May-July 2015

2015_07_22_blog_ElaineQuarterJuly15

Moving toward community. Are we there yet? Old Trafford’s alleys may give us a clue.

Ok so I have had it pointed out by one of my extended family members (Andy in Finland) that I am more likely to be found with a mug of tea in my hand rather than a glass of red wine. It is true to say maybe I was trying to impress you all with a more quirky and exciting rendition of my life! Trust those who know you for longest to point out home truths! Or maybe I have become more emotionally connected to myself as I have grown older (this will make sense later on in the update).

Life in my community continues – with tea (and red wine!). What has been interesting me since writing for Toward Community is my motivation in life and work. My younger sister (Pam in Carlisle) has a tireless work ethic in supporting the LGBT community of Cumbria. During a conversation with my Mam we got round to how similar my own and my sisters career paths have been. Very strange, as I trained as an artist and she trained as a hairdresser. We both went into youth work and now both work in community-based organisations. I often wonder if it is something to do with our upbringing. Were we somehow indoctrinated to participate in community from a young age? I remember my Dad being involved in running the local youth cricket team; organising games for local kids; supporting local village events. Was my penchant for community work something to do with this? Small rural communities (like mine growing up) tend to collaborate more readily as this helps them face adversity when external help has limitations; something that may have stuck with me when I moved to the city where increased services reduces the need for such collaboration.

My Mam reckons that there is an inner personal drive. It is a need to be recognised, loved and accepted. That we put ourselves in the centre of community to seek personal worth. Thanks Mam, I will be doing some wrangling to see if this might have some simple truth at its root. Although in accepting this hypothesis it means further acknowledgement of my own personal weaknesses and foibles. Maybe that’s one for further red wine drinking rather than mugs of tea – when inhibitions are lowered and home truths can be considered. Tea is more for `stiff upper lips’ and `carry on as normal’ times, glossing over deeper emotions to be able to cope with the wrangling!

As for my community, this week I went to a meeting in an alley. Old Trafford where I live has many alleys. Why an alley? I am part of a group called LOTS (Love Old Trafford) who are local residents who have come together in moments of passion on issues that concern them regarding their local environment. The alley meeting came about due to a previous LOTS meeting (a normal meeting, one in a building, with chairs and tables and tea!). A large group of people at this meeting were angry about litter and fly tipping in their neighbourhood. I personally can’t get that upset about it – but other people do, and I’m all for supporting them turning strong emotions into positive actions. This group started a campaign “not in my alley”, where they actively return neighbours’ tipped waste; look out for culprits; and generally keep their back alleys clean and neat. At this point I must mention Malc, who is the driving force behind “not in my alley”, a man of tireless action, one of those people I aspire to be `more like’, a genuinely good guy. Luckily someone took this idea to the next level and now has a grand idea to further beautify the alleys; to make them into a feature; a piece of art; a local attraction for Old Trafford. So we met in the alley to hear `Kitty’s Beautiful Alley Idea’.

The meeting was well attended – it really caught people’s attention – some came just to “have a look” or find out more, some wanted to get involved with their community further. What struck me most was that Kitty got to talk to us about her beautiful idea – it was a red wine moment, rather than one of tea, (actually for the occasion Kitty had provided Pimms that she’d found left over in the cellar). At the end of the meeting Kitty gave me a hug – I will remember this moment. There is something very touching in personal contact with a relative stranger. For me it magically cements a common bond, it brings down those tea-drinking barriers and connects on a more emotional red wine drinking level. Not that I’m going to be running round hugging everyone and the trees. Some of my wariest moments have been on requests for “group hugs” with “is that Ok with everyone? if you feel uncomfortable then you don’t have to participate!” But a well placed red wine-fuelled hug or a squeeze of the arm should be available in attempts to make community more real. Thanks to Kitty for reminding me.

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Elaine Eland

Elaine Eland is a development worker at the St. John's Community Centre in Manchester, UK. She develops activities for families and children within St. John's Centre and events and activities that use St. John's Church, in order to encourage wider community use of the space for activities other than worship.

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