Community spirit has empowering and infectious qualities yet it is something that can all too easily be eroded by hectic lives in this modern age.
Recognising that sometimes help is needed to inspire communities into action, a new campaign called ‘52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do’ has been devised by Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY).
The initiative gives residents precisely 52 ideas to help make their rural towns and villages even more vibrant places to live.
All the ideas are based on successful projects that could be rolled out more widely, and some have the added benefit of drawing in visitors, with all the economic benefits that brings.
In the North Yorkshire village of Ingleton, organising a local festival - number 46 on campaign’s list - has proved a big success. The Overground Underground Festival links together all of the features of the Ingleborough landscape, from waterfalls to caving systems, and brings them to life through walks, talks and demonstrations and scheduled outdoors activities.
Debby Kuhlmann, the festival organiser, explained how the event got started: “It was recognised that not enough was being done to celebrate the area in a joined up way, and young people were not being exposed to the range of opportunities available to them. The festival would address all of this as well as bring in more tourism and therefore more business to the area.”
As with all projects of this ilk, there were hurdles to overcome to make it a success.
Debby said: “In the past, we have found the usual problems: resources, manpower, time and even the weather. There is always help on hand though, such as from the local council, and the volunteer-led steering group are committed enough to see things through.”
A measure of the success of the festival is that a recent community consultation found that residents wanted the festival to continue annually and so, from 2016, it will be expanded to incorporate the whole of the Ingleborough Dales. It will also run for longer, with associated events taking place between May and September.
Debby said the festival was hard work to get off the ground but local enthusiasm had turned it into a reality.
“In the current economic climate, local people need to look at what is unique about their community and find ways of using their unique selling point to market themselves to a wider audience.
“Any event involves a large amount of time and fundraising but with the right group of people anything is possible.”
Leah Swain, RAY’s chief officer, hopes other communities will see the potential for starting something similar.
“Sometimes the hardest moment when thinking about a new project is knowing where to start and who to ask for help - ‘52 Things’ offers inspiration and advice.
“We also know it takes time and effort to launch something new in your community. That’s why we’ve called the campaign ‘almost painless’ because every new idea depends on the hard work and enthusiasm of its volunteers.
“But what has become clear through the campaign so far and talking to volunteers is that action inspires others to try something new too. Even though time and dedication is needed, projects are successful in bringing people together, creating a spark, raising funds and reinforcing community spirit.”
RAY offers assistance to people wanting to launch their own community-spirited projects. For more details, call 0845 313 0270 or visit website www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk
Businesses, groups and individuals interested in taking part in the Overground Underground Festival should visit www.ogug.co.uk