| Linda Hutchinson
Recently I had a fantastic conversation with Angela Longsden, the District co-ordinator for Chadderton in Oldham. She had come to speak to a meeting organised by the GPs in Chadderton who have formed a cluster and were starting to develop their ways of working. She told me about ghost walks and how they are helping connect people and get them active! But first, a bit of background.
Angela was there to talk about the work of the Chadderton District Executive. That sounds a bit bureaucratic and in some senses it is – it’s Oldham Council’s approach to working as a series of districts. Councillors, partners and residents come together to agree priorities for their district and develop projects to deliver these. One of their priority themes is Improving Health and Wellbeing but the example she highlighted in her talk covered this and a number of related themes on Improving the Environment and Community Resilience.
The example concerned an overgrown alleyway at the back of two roads used as a dumping ground and antisocial behaviour. Residents were complaining that ‘the Council needs to do something about it’. Angela and her team got involved and the problem became ‘what can we do about it?’ As Angela says, those who complain are engaged and a great source of energy and ideas for solutions.
It turned out that the residents included an ex-builder, a gardener and others with useful skills. They got together as a ‘Friends of’ and together arranged a big clean up and renewal of the alley way and a linked open space which now has seating, barbeque area and flower beds. It is a safe space for residents of the two streets to use. One neighbour with agarophobia feels safe to go there and meet others. Birthdays and other events are celebrated together. I love the part about the ex-builder who suffers from back problems so he could not do the brick work himself and instead taught teenagers how, watching and advising them as they did it on the day. So back to the ghost walks.
There is an active historical society in Chadderton who were keen to be involved in the priority areas. They organise ghost walks, visiting the scenes of famous crimes and murders. With help from the District team to connect people, these are now attended by those who want to be more active, by young and old, connecting people. I’m not sure how suitable it is as an activity for those who live alone – not sure I’d want to go back to my own place after being reminded of nasty crimes that happened locally (I used to live near a Cut Throat Alley which to this day is a narrow crooked alley with blind corners and 10ft walls either side – you always took a deep breath and ran through!).
Anyway, I was inspired and now tell everyone I meet about Chadderton and their great mind set. Add in locally focused and organised primary care to this mix and it will be an even more powerful example of community assets at its best.
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or contact Angela at email@example.com
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