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Is glue binding us together failing in the principality?

Published date: 08 April 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


 

THE RESULTS of a BBC poll has drawn a line between Flintshire, Wrexham and Cheshire in terms of how involved we feel with those around us, either across the world or in our local area.

According to the thousands of people asked whether they felt as though they were more a part of both a global and local community than 10 years ago, we are becoming more together – but only in England, Ireland and Scotland.

In Wales, it’s a different story.

According to the BBC article: “Only in Wales did a larger proportion say they felt less connected globally than more connected. Indeed, the Welsh results suggest people in the Principality feel more disconnected with others generally.”

Speaking to the BBC, social anthropologist Kate Fox attributed the growing interconnectedness in England to the internet and social media. But could communities in Wales actually be quite active in the real world?

The Leader spoke to organisers, campaigners and ordinary people to find out more.

Lisa Fearn, the town centre manager for Connah’s Quay, said the  town did not seem to lack community spirit.

She said: “In terms of what goes on here, there are lots of events that bring people together.

“We run an annual festival which gets bigger and better each year. We’ve got various community groups and voluntary groups on board – as well as schools, clubs and support groups. It’s grown because of our community.

“Every Christmas we do the lights switch on, and again local businesses and schools get involved. We’re looking to do fun days. We’ve got community gardens and people have the chance to work their own allotments.

“We have a First World War project ongoing which involves all ages. There’s a lot going on here and it wouldn’t go on if people didn’t want to get involved.”

As town centre manager, Lisa is naturally at the heart of things, and she suspects that community disconnection might come from a fear of failure.

She said: “Sometimes people are reluctant to get involved because they think something won’t work.

“I remember one of the first projects I took part in was tree planting in a local park and there was a bit of negativity.

“People were saying the trees would be vandalised but they are still standing to this day.

“It's also possible that the people could feel less connected in Wales because large parts of it are rura – so we’re physically more stretched.

“But the idea that we are less connected? That’s not my experience of Connah’s Quay at all.”

Connah's Quay resident Claire Grimes is equally full of praise for her local community.

The barbershop owner has led a number of fundraising initiatives, including setting up a grotto at the Red Hall precinct to raise money for a charity called Little Miracles which supports families with special needs children among other things.

For her, community is about the little things, as well as the big.

She said: "We've done stuff like raise money for Stan Bellis (a 94-year-old Connah's Quay man featured in the Leader when he was targeted by thieves who took £300 and a necklace during a distraction burglary). We’ve done lots of things for charity.

“But there are little things too. There are kids who hang around outside because they’re bored. I don’t tell them to get lost – they’ll come in and help me out. I know all their parents now.

“I used to live in Ellesmere Port. It’s a very different place. As soon as I opened the shop here people came to ask if I needed help – and I didn’t even know them. It was lovely.”

Some organisers manage to be bring together global communities and local communities, like Ken Chisholm, joint chair of Mold Fairtrade Group.

He has helped organise events in Flintshire and Wrexham which have ramifications as far away as South America, Africa and Asia.

He said: “The group was set up by four or five very dedicated people but most of them eventually moved on – apart from one lady who I knew.

“My wife and I decided to get involved to keep the group going.

“It’s very much linked with churches in the area. I’m a Methodist but it actually involves all types of denominations.

“The idea is to push for a decent wage for workers abroad.”

As well as bringing people together for talks, coffee mornings, cookery demonstrations and more, the community of Fairtrade supporters have also tried to make an impact politically, pushing local supermarkets to offer more Fairtrade items.

He said: “I believe there may be some economics at play here about  community connectedness. People who work don’t have as much time to get involved in volunteering, spending time with neighbours and so on – and that’s particularly true for families with dual incomes when both parents work,

“Perhaps because Wales is in an economically tougher position than England, more people are finding themselves having to work longer hours. They don’t have time to worry about the community because they are just trying to get by.”

Some people, said Mike Jones, of THIS project in Wrexham, are united simply by sharing an interest.

The project, set up in 2012 after Wrexham’s Year of Culture, looks to boost art participation in the area, and includes workshops, gallery openings and open art events.

Mr Jones said: “I think people who wouldn’t otherwise have met each other have been brought together. We get lots of people dropping in to the shop, lots of new faces and regulars. We’re involved with the Wrexham Community Artists Network as well.

“It’s giving people a chance to talk face-to-face about what they enjoy. In my experience, the idea that people are less connected is definitely not true.

“People call in to Un Deg Un art project all the time and it’s people of all ages.”

l What do you think? Are you more or less connected with your community than 10 years ago? Email us on rhian.waller@nwn.co.uk to share your views.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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Comments are closed for this story.

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