Thursday, 18 March 2010

Fundraising is go

The first step in getting our much needed funds was to make a document explaining who we are and what we need to make the meadow amazing. Which is money. To be frank. So we did. The amazing Simon Nicholls (who's also a talented photographer) helped out with the design and my work generously 'donated' the colour printing. So the next job is to take copies round to local businesses around the Wick and see if we can drum up some support. Fingers crossed.

In case you want to do something similar, here's what ours looked like.

Sue's top fundraising tips

Sue from Friends of Homerton Station is amazing. She's doing a fantastic project that will cheer up thousands of people as they catch the train every day. And she's done it all under her own steam, which has taken loads of initiative and resiliance. So as we needed to raise some cash (and fast) I met up with her to see if she could sprinkle a little fundraising magic on the Mabley Green Meadow. And she was a great help. So if you're looking for money to set up a community project too, here are her top tips:

Awards for All - As part of the Big Lottery Fund, they give out grants for all kinds of projects and if you ask nicely, you can get up to £10,000. It helps if you know someone who's successfully applied before, because apparently, if you word things in a certain way, you're much more likely to get the money. It takes a few months to process applications, but they're a great place to start.

UnLtd - Rather than giving you money for your project, UnLtd grants are designed to support you as a social entrepreneur until your idea gets off the ground. How much they give you depends on your idea and your circumstances, but they give out anything from £500 for small projects to £15,000 for really big ones.

Housing Associations - if you want to do something in an area where there are housing association flats, definitely get in touch. Housing associations often have a pot of money put aside for projects that will benefit the community, and make the area around their flats a nicer place to live. If you're not in an housing association place yourself, it might not be obvious which associations have flats in your area. But ask your neighbours, keep your eyes peeled for signage (new builds always have a sign saying whether or not they're housing association) or just get on the phone.

BTCV - A quick win this, but a good one. BCTV are an organisation that support people who work to improve their local environment - in lots of different ways. When you register with them, they'll give you £50 for your set up costs. Which is a good start, and when you apply for other grants it helps if you can show you've already been proactive and got support from other funders.

HCVS - These guys are well worth looking into. The Hackney Council Volunteering Service are a hub for anyone wanting to do community projects in Hackney. They can give you support and advice, but something that's really are the hundreds and hundreds of grants and funding bodies listed in their newsletter. Sign up, seriously. The last had enough listings to fill 80 (yes eighty) pages. You do have to trawl through a bit to find ones that are suitable for you, but it goes to show if you want to get something started, there are loads of people who want to help.

And one of my own: Hackney Council. Other councils are probably good too, but personally I couldn't think of a more helpful, supportive group of people than the team we're working with at Hackney Council. So special thanks goes out the people in the Parks Department, especially Sam Parry, Paul Foinette Andy Day.


At the start of this project, it seemed like everything would be pretty straight forward. The community loved the idea. Hackney Council had offered to give us any support we needed, and even pay for the seeds too. It was all going swimmingly. Which, in hindsight, should have made me a bit suspicious!

Because just when we were about to buy the seeds, we got word from the Council that there's an internal funding freeze, so no money can be spent on anything new. Which has meant we suddenly have no funding, and only a few weeks to get it before spring starts.

But we're not giving up. No way. Though we might make ourselves a cup of tea and feel sorry for ourselves for an hour or two!

The group votes 'yay'!

The Mabley Green User's Group meeting was a huge success. There was a lot of other business to take care of, and plenty to talk about. With some fairly heated discussions thrown in. But when we pulled out our plans and diagrams for the meadow, they got unanimous thumbs up from everyone. Which is exciting news. Transformations should be on the way soon!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Sailing over the first hurdle

The first step in getting the meadow started was to get permission from the council (it's their land after all). To be honest, I was expecting to spend hours being shunted back and forth across the phone system, or days trying to disentangle myself from all the red tape.

In short, I thought it'd too hard. Too strange. Too much work. But is was none of those things. In fact, the people at Hackney Council loved the idea and couldn't wait to offer their help or support.

So we've got past the first hurdle. Sailed over it in fact. The next step is to present the idea to everyone else at the Mabley Green Users Group. Then if that goes well, we'll be all set.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The big idea

There's a scrap of land on Mabley Green that's been lying pretty much unused for years. Sandwiched between a row of houses and the A12 flyover, it's a real patch of nowhere. A place you walk across to get to somewhere else. An 'in between' place. Somewhere that's neither good, or bad. It's just there.

But what if it could be more than that? Something amazing even?

There are plans for the green though. Big ones. So when the public consultation was announced and the proposal was published, it showed this piece of land to be designated as a 'community garden'. But after chats to neighbours and calls to the council, nobody could really shed any light on what that actually meant.

As it turns out, what it means is that as a community we have an opportunity. We can take ownership of this unused piece of land and make it into something everyone can enjoy. So the idea is to make it beautiful, colourful and nature-friendly by turning it into a wildflower meadow.

It'll be a lot of work. And we'll need a lot of help from the communities of Hackney Wick and Homerton. But if we do it together, we can make a positive change to our area. And hopefully get to know each other a bit better along the way.