I appreciate I’m taking something of a risk launching Rural Action Yorkshire’s campaign ‘52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do’ the same weekend that 50 Shades of Grey hits the big screen.
I guess what they both have in common would be trying something new? For us it’s about people thinking about new projects for their village, and for the film… well, let’s not go there.
Our campaign aims to inspire people to think about starting something new in their community. It might be a film club at the village hall, a Good Neighbours Scheme, an open gardens event, a Good Life event or a pop up restaurant. It could be taking the small step of asking neighbours if they would like to start a book club or be as ambitious as planning a local festival or an affordable housing development.
The new book club started in my village is amazing - just one email and the majority of the ladies of the village had signed up, young and less young (I daren’t call Granny Helen old). Most of the time we even read and discuss a book. The rest of the time we swap news, find out how we all are and generally have a great time. The gentlemen of the village have got jealous and started their own film club on the same night.
One new activity in a community often leads to another. A chat at our book club about an ambition I have to learn Argentinean Tango led to eight couples joining me in lessons at the local school hall. The point is that action inspires others to try something new and before you know it you have a community raring to try new ideas, a busy social life, and new friends, of all ages, across your community.
The reason we had to slip the ‘almost’ into our campaign title is that no community project is ever completely without effort. Taking new ideas forward relies on volunteers giving time and energy to make it happen. Invariably there are hiccups along the way and some projects are difficult to get going. We spoke to many volunteers to develop the campaign and all of them said you need to persevere - but not one of them regretted getting their own such venture off the ground. They spoke of how their project brought people together, created a spark, gave a great deal of pleasure, raised funds and created a community spirit.
In my job I work with many amazing communities and volunteers. I’m in awe of the amount achieved by individuals across Yorkshire who have an idea and then give their all to inspire others, find support and make it happen. We should celebrate the strength of our volunteers and encourage others to get involved. You might not want to be a long term member of a local committee, but every one of us can find an hour to complete a task on behalf of the community we live in, even if it’s delivering some leaflets about a local coffee morning.
My advice for this weekend is to forget the cinema and instead start talking to neighbours about your big idea. It really does just take your vision for something amazing to happen in your village.
To find out more about the ‘52 Things’ Campaign, visit www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk