East Cleveland Villages – We need to find some good listeners, is this you?

Lloyds Bank Foundation is  involved in long-term People and Communities work in Redcar and Cleveland (and five other communities across England and Wales). The Great Listeners approach in Redcar and Cleveland will be an essential part of the work, enabling residents to take the lead in researching local needs and views.

Supported by an independent community worker, Nick Beddow (Shared Places), the Great Listeners will be creating  a community-led research approach in Redcar and Cleveland, to find out what 600 local residents feel strongly about in their neighbourhoods: what do they currently like and wish to see continue? What do they dislike and want to see change? And what are their own ideas for making life better for all?

What difference will it make?

Consultation has become a dirty word in the past because communities can feel that they are being used by big organisations in a paper-exercise which leads to nothing changing and no further communication about what’s been discovered in the research.

The Great Listeners approach is tackling this head-on:  it is led by communities listening to each other, connecting and and learning about their different views, needs and priorities, and then using these conversations to create a long-term community voice on local issues. The Great Listeners conversations will be gathered into a report which will be available to communities and used at action-planning and decision-making events to guide everyone towards collaborating better on community priorities. The Great Listeners will be bringing together many voices from many backgrounds and perspectives.

These 600 conversations will be a starting point for learning what’s important to communities; we will be listening to people who often aren’t being heard.

In March 2022 the findings will be shared with communities, service providers and funders, to help them consider future actions to meet local people’s needs. We are ‘learning as we go’ and trying to evolve an approach to community engagement which will continue and be built on further. We hope that the learning from the Great Listeners work will inspire new approaches to how we involve communities in helping to shape local services and influence decision-making.

How it will work:

These conversations will be happening in three areas of Redcar & Cleveland: Grangetown, Redcar and neighbourhoods in the East Cleveland area. These sites were chosen because they offer different environments and we want to see if that creates different priorities for people who live there.

The research will be undertaken by ten residents who will be chatting to others in their neighbourhood from January to March 2022. We will be recruiting the residents from the three areas during November and December, and paying them in shopping vouchers for a couple of hours work each week, over three months. This ensures that people who are receiving benefit payments can be involved, as we will be keeping to a maximum of £20 payment each week in the form of vouchers. Anyone over 16 can be considered. The only qualifications required are that they are good listeners and care deeply about their communities.

How Can Residents Apply?

We will be sending our recruitment poster to communities throughout November and early December to invite people to express their interest in becoming our “Great Listeners” or “Community Explorers” (we’ll ask the recruited residents to decide on their own name).

The first step is for interested residents to contact Nick Beddow by phone or text (07985 570168) or email (nicksharedplaces@gmail.com).

Nick will contact each person to explain the project in more detail, and ask about their interests and social background – where they live, age, involvement in their community, etc.

As we have only ten places available, in mid December we will choose ten people who give us a good mix of backgrounds (where they live, and a mix of all social factors such as ages, gender, ethnicity, mobility, etc).

Everyone who applied will be contacted by Nick before Xmas: those chosen for the ten places will be asked if they still wish to go ahead, and everyone else will be asked if they are willing to be kept on a list of reserve places if any of the ten Great Listeners can’t continue.

In mid-January the ten Great Listeners will meet Nick in a local venue to train together as a team; a three hour meeting will look at their views on the issues locally and begin to use the chatting tools on each other. We will be deciding together the best ways to begin the local chats. Each Great Listener can decide when to use their own time each week (usually two hours to complete ten chats each week), and will be paid by Nick fortnightly at update meetings (usually one hour).  They will also be paid for the training and meetings.

Tees Valley Rural Action supporting village halls bouncing back.

TVRA wraps a supportive arm around our village hall communities, with support and expert advice.

What a sad and surreal day it was in spring 2020, when hundreds of village halls across the country had to close their doors, literally turning off a life-line for many who relied on the facilities as their safe haven and for social interaction.  Buildings that were a hive of activity providing coffee mornings, library and health and wellbeing activities etc – suddenly became silent.  Volunteer management committees now had to consider their new role, that of managing an empty building, they could not just lock the door, walk away, and wait for the government to tell them what to do.

At the start of lockdown, Tees Valley Rural Action’s (TVRA) staff and Village Hall Advisor were inundated with enquiries as to what was happening and what they should do.  Tees Valley has over 70 village halls who grabbed opportunities to come together virtually with expert partners/agencies such as Martyn Ingram from Norris and Fisher Insurance Brokers Ltd who was able to give guidance on behalf of insurers for village halls.

Throughout the pandemic, TVRA has provided advice, guidance and support to village halls and community buildings across the Tees Valley.  This has included funding advice and encouraging the management committees to apply for the government business support grant, regular interpretation of the guidelines coming out of central government and helping them to understand what they could and couldn’t do.

Fast forward some 15 months and there is an excited buzz in the air!  Why?  Because village halls are planning their re-opening and diligently working to ensure their users and visitors feel confident that they are entering a safe environment.  Returning once again to providing a facility for communities to meet and services that are paramount in small villages and go a long way to reduce loneliness and social isolation.

Rita Lawson CEO, “Throughout the pandemic, TVRA has never been so busy.  The team has been at the end of a phone providing advice and guidance on following the government guidelines.  Also, as TVRA is your regional network member of Action with Communities in Rural England, (ACRE) we have had access to simplified updates which again we have been able to share with our village hall and community building management committees.  One of our village hall members did say that without TVRA’s help and support they were fearful of doing things wrong and putting people and themselves at risk.  We’re coming to, what will hopefully be the end of this current lockdown and applaud everyone involved in our communities for diligently following the 4 step road map.   We do need to be continually mindful not to become complacent and undo all the good that has been done in keeping our communities and each other safe.  As we emerge back into the new normal of life, TVRA will be there every step of the way as ‘together we are stronger’.”

Village halls in England are being encouraged to sign the online record to mark 100 years of rural community action. Has your hall signed the national record yet? There is still time to get involved.

Many of England’s Village Halls date back to the 1920s. There are over 10,000 village and community halls to be found across England. Many were established in the 1920s when there was a national drive to improve social and educational provision in rural areas. In a survey undertaken by ACRE last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals too are reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.

The online record has been set up by national charity, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE). The Domesday Book is a colourful, and arguably historical record, so far featuring 700+ village halls whose volunteer custodians have taken time to explain their charity’s history, their response to the pandemic, and hopes for reopening and supporting their community in the future.


Notes to editor 

TVRA work to ensure all village halls and community centres are well run by professional management committees working for the betterment of their communities.  TVRA encourage and support hall redevelopment projects, provide grant funding advice, give regular information and advice on running a hall in your local community and provide advice and guidance on all aspects of village hall and community building management.

  • There are 10,000+ village halls in England
  • 1,000 village halls host a community enterprise such as shop, café, post office.

Please feel free to contact Janice McColm at Tees Valley Rural Action on 01642 213852 info@teesvalleyruralaction.co.uk

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Tees Valley Village Halls

The Prince’s Countryside Fund

The Prince’s Countryside Fund is now accepting applications from locally-focussed, legally-constituted not-for-profit organisations who are working to create resilient rural communities across the UK in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grants of up to £10,000 are available for up to one year. Projects must be completed within one year of their start date and no later than 31 March 2022. Some match funding is required.
The grants will cover revenue costs that are directly associated with projects that are helping rural communities deal with the negative effects of the pandemic.
To date the funding has been used to address and combat issues such as isolation, financial pressures, and issues with physical and mental health.
Groups are advised to apply early as a large number of applications are expected and the fund may close earlier than the published deadline.
Application Deadline: 3rd November 2020.

The Prince’s Trust Countryside Fund 

Tees Valley Rural Action Rural Garden Competition Winners Announced

Tees Valley Rural Action, (TVRA) would like to thank everyone for entering our Rural Garden Competition.

The judging was done by Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, who did tell us he had a very difficult time choosing the winners. We thank him for taking the time to judge your amazing photographs.

We can now announce the winners as follows:

  • 1st Prize Barbara Irvine from Elwick, Hartlepool
  • 2nd Prize Brian Chapman from Thornton, Middlesbrough
  • 3rd Prize Clare Wren from Stainton, Middlesbrough

The three winners will receive a wonderful canvas of their photograph, and a garden centre voucher. The first 1st prize will feature in TVRA’s Rural Evidence Report due to be published in early 2021.

Rita Lawson, TVRA’s, Chief Executive commented, “During COVID 19 our gardens and yard spaces have become our place of sanctuary, allowing us to enjoy a safe and happy space.  We are thankful you have taken the time to share with us and showcase Tees Valley in all its summer glory.  This pandemic has impacted on everyone in some way shape or form, and we have been truly blessed to be able to glimpse into your spaces which have played a part in lifting, not only your emotional wellbeing but also ours at TVRA, and keeping us all connected.”

We hope you enjoy the video of our 3 winners, Everyone is a winning entry in our eyes and we will showcase more of the fantastic entries in the coming weeks.

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