Astronauts Launch From Community Space

Coalville CAN is a model of community development which is bringing new life to the town.

Astronauts Launch From Community Space 

Last week, we released a film of a workshop hosted by Jess Steele as part of her coaching relationship with Northern Heart & Soul CIC of Wigan

Deana of Coalville CAN is also a fan of, and influenced by, the work of Hastings Commons.

Northern Heart & Soul CIC followed in Deana’s footsteps when they invited Jess Steele to chat with them about community ownership. You can see the presentation from Jess’s visit to Coalville on the Hastings Commons website.

Deana multitasking at Coalville CAN.

Deana acts locally and seek to change policy nationally, and is one of the community leaders driving the We’re Right Here campaign for a Community Power Act.

Angela asked Deana to try out the possibility orientated questions that are framing the Neighbourhood Democracy inquiry.

Deana responded to the questions at 4:30am, and when she read them back she liked the honesty and unplanned rawness. She hopes people get that it’s not supposed to be a well thought through interview, or rationale. It’s more off the cuff – what’s on the mind and in the heart. As we shared and reshared the words, the responses widened and deepened.

What is it that’s giving you a spring in your step? 

Seeing the tiny transformations that lead to change in people’s lives that were previously stuck in some way. Watching two kids play for an entire day in a small nature area, creating their own dens and making up their own stories when they would otherwise have been on their Xbox all day. The guy from the local timber merchants. I’ve visited, emailed, rang for months, never gave up. After one visit he now gets it and is helping. It took massive perseverance on my part.

What are you most hopeful about in community life?

Hard question. Personally, I'm hopeful that we can continue to provide the space and energy to get those initial connections going and that things will proliferate without us, that Mychylo will continue to believe he can be an astronaut and will inspire others to connect and do things they are passionate about.

Things take time, the speed of trust is slow. What does the question even mean? Which community? From whose viewpoint? 'Community' needs space, connections 'tiny or massive', and people need places to live that are affordable. We need ethical landlords – what word can we use that isn’t even ‘landlord’?

How’s this making you feel?

Answering these questions? Or doing what we do? Knackered, invigorated, determined, proud, scared...

What possibilities are you seeing?

How long have you got?! I'm seeing Eden, teaching someone chess, coming along to help others when he was stuck. How did we help make that happen? What will he do next?

What is the courage you need to take you in that direction?

Courage of our convictions, belief in what we’re doing and things will just happen. I must admit, having the basic wage covered for the next two years makes it much less scary for me.

What is the best thing that could happen?

Oh god! That's impossible! For me… the kids get the chance to build their bike track and it becomes a sustainable business. I get to watch and know I've been a part of making it happen. And a thousand other stories.

For Coalville… people believe that it's possible to take on these spaces and make positive change happen. People come together to take an active interest or ownership in the spaces we’re trying to secure, and there is a proliferation of other projects and things happening as a result. That we manage to get the building we’re in.

For the country… that it's made a damn sight easier for these things to happen! Access to funding, a community right to own. That a non watered-down version of the Community Power Act is in place and working!

What would you like, want or need from the community to make your next steps as wonderfully successful as they possibly could be?

Let’s focus on here... I want to get our first building totally buzzing. I want to walk in and not recognise people as I haven't been the connector. I want someone else to spot that the bins need emptying and the bills need paying.

Who do you know who’s working on something you admire, and whose story deserves to be shared? 

The collective stories of people. Just noticing the tiny things that people do from where they are. Mychylos nan, she just happened to mention while we were making boxes yesterday that she could barely see as she could only afford one pair of glasses so didn't get any for herself and got her grandson’s.

It was just matter of fact – that and another thousand tiny stories. 

And just one more question to Deana...

Now that you’ve had some space and time to read this again, what might you add, retract or change?

I'd also like to say something about replacing ‘vulnerable’ with valuable! If I hear the word ‘vulnerable’ it makes my blood boil. We should focus on what's valuable – everyone has value.

I remember being on a workshop with an amazing woman from a homelessness charity. She got us to think about all the things we weren't happy about in our lives – things that hadn't worked out, things we weren't happy with, things we were ashamed of, things we would change.

The Coalville CAN van.

Then she said, “Share them with the person next to you, then repeat with someone else in the room. How does that make you feel?” Her charity took a valuable approach – it stuck with me.

We are a no lanyard zone at Coalville CAN. It's interesting, the response of those that come in with lanyards. We know we have found our tribe when they want to rip them off or put them away. It's interesting when they want to cling on to them and understand the reasons behind that.

Thank you Deana for your grounded words of wisdom.

Story | 19.09.23

community, Local Area Coordination, Neighbourhood Democracy, England, Story

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