Last Saturday 12 June, I missed the Climate Change Festival in order to run a stall at The Get Involved Day in St Georges Park, Willis Street, Lozells. This is a sizeable open space in the heart of Lozells. Having had a history of misuse, the purpose of the day was to enable local residents to take ownership of this space and judging by the crowds who turned up, it was a great success.
I was housed with other voluntary and statutory organisations in a long marquee. There were representatives from the NHS, housing associations, the police, fire service and others, including some local businesses. Some fun things, a bouncy castle, face painting as well as a football competition. I was delighted when us stallholders were given food vouchers, that was me sorted with some delicious rice, samosas and other lovely specialities.
I gave away about thirty newsletters and a sizeable number of leaflets. These seemed to be most popular with children, who are a good way of getting an environmental message across, the colourful fold out leaflets we have on subjects such as Climate Change, Farming, Transport, appeal and they can be used to decorate their bedroom walls.
I got into conversation with a few people, always friendly, occasionally enjoyably challenging. Often people just enjoy a good argument and it isn’t that they disagree with you so much as they want to be convinced themselves that your arguments stand up.
I’m making good contacts with people in Lozells which is what outreach work should be all about! For example, I’ll be helping and encouraging a team of street champions which is a great chance to introduce Friends of the Earth, let people know about our work and campaigns. Its also about building on the succeses of Lozells, for example a small parcel of land called Carpenters Corner off Lozells Road has been transformed into a little green space which can be used by anyone (left). Recently its been the site of an arts installation. I’m working with Gillian Lloyd, neighborhood Manager, to start a grow site on land identified as ideal for this purpose. This will be used as a pilot project to learn from before two more, much larger sites, are created.
Theres a real buzz about Lozells at the moment, local people meeting challenges in an area which a few years ago had a very poor reputation. Theres an exciting media project run by a local school with an eco slant, check them out here, they have a jolly impressive website and make youtube videos of things happening in the local area such as a community garden planted at Anglesey Road school.
So theres loads of really inspiring and encouraging things happening.
Lozells Road has a great variety of independent stores including a proper old fashioned hardware store, a Lebanese patisserie where, for a moment, I thought I’d been transported to Lyon, never mind Lozells. Theres a tailor, clothes shops, hairdressers, several pharmacies and stores serving diasporic communities. You’ll find the African grocers proudly flying Ghana’s flag, a couple of Bangladeshi supermarkets with a fantastic array of fresh fruit and veg. Turn a corner and out pops a little park with a childrens play area, regularly enjoyed, well cared for and owned by the local community.
If you’ve been scared away from Lozells by lurid tales of gangs, guns and ganja, go and take a second look. Have a wander around what I think is an area with real character and potential.