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Making an inspirational difference in north Wales

May 10, 2016

Big Lottery Fund Wales chair Sir Adrian Webb explains how inspired he felt after visiting projects we’ve supported who are making an incredible difference in their communities.

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Sir Adrian Webb

I had a fascinating trip to north Wales to visit four projects. They were all very different but all had in common hugely passionate and professional staff plus highly committed volunteers. It was a real privilege to meet them and witness their enthusiasm.

The Rabbit Hole Café, Llandudno (Aberconwy Mind) is a bright, modern, centrally located café/social enterprise with a keen interest in mental health and wellbeing which offers volunteering/training opportunities and support into employment – and meeting/office space for local organisations. Try it out for good coffee and an excellent lunch, or just admire the dedication, good work and Alice in Wonderland themed décor (Alice Liddell holidayed in Llandudno).

Can £3,547 change the world? Well, for some people – certainly – if it is invested in TVConwy, a small but increasingly successful community TV company that is running 6-week training programmes in digital photography/film for older people with the aim of enriching their lives and those of their families and friends. The company has no permanent base and depends utterly on volunteers including some students from the local FE College, yet it has created a network of skilled devotees able to record and share local events (including that morning’s small tornado!) via social media.

TVConwy

TvConwy

 

Coastal Community grants help fund a wide variety of projects, including a Llandudno Junction Welsh Language child care centre (Meithrinfa Derwen Deg). It was hard to believe that in this part of Wales there was no dedicated child care facility operating in the Welsh language, but that gap is now being filled for up to 30 children in a very attractive centre – attractive in appearance internally but also in its atmosphere of calm competence. The centre also runs after school care for children up to the age of 11. Worth visiting if only to marvel at the skill of the babies’ applique Fferm wall posters!

I was standing on the very balcony at Llangefni Town hall once graced by Lloyd George – and I have the photo to prove it! The town hall is an iconic old structure at the heart of this market town but it had deteriorated to an alarming degree when it was rescued by some truly inspirational, or simply foolhardy, enthusiasts (Menter Môn Cyf) – part funded from a Community Asset Transfer grant. Inside the original exterior is a stunningly modern, high quality complex of offices and multi-purpose spaces that now serve a variety of local third sector organisations. Not the least of the good news is that this social enterprise is a going concern, a sustainable community asset. Though the building and its success merely reflects the even more potent local asset, the people who have made it fly and have even had the courage to tackle a further three old buildings to equally good effect.

The trip had everything: sun, rain, high winds, hail stones and snow (not to forget the mini tornado)– but the torrential rain saved itself for the visit to the Plas y Brenin outdoor centre! The Outdoor Partnership (Y Bartneriaeth Awyr Agored) is focussing on bringing outdoor pursuits to local Welsh people; the centre has catered for people from around the world yet seemed alien to many in the locality. Volunteers have been trained in outdoor leadership skills – some going on to more advanced levels – enabling many local clubs to be established and supported, but the focus now is on women and girls and the disabled. The results have been impressive: 300 local unemployed people placed in jobs; 748 volunteers in clubs, 50% women, and Welsh speaking instructors up from 5% to 25%.

During the two days we had the opportunity to discuss the progress of the Building Communities Trust in north Wales.  We also met officers from Medrwn Môn to hear how the Community Voice Project on Anglesey is making a real impact to support communities to become actively involved in the design and delivery of services.

Great and very varied projects; all delivering for local communities and for north west Wales as a whole. Inspirational!

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