Barnwood Trust spends quite a lot of time talking about and looking at ‘community spaces’ in Gloucestershire. We even have a dedicated grant fund and several members of our team focused on the subject. So why is all this time, interest and investment being spent?
I guess the first thing for us to decide was; what is a community space?
In order to talk, learn about and potentially fund community spaces, we need to know what we are investing in. After all, the phrase ‘community space’ is open to all sorts of interpretations, probably because (and the clue is in the name) ‘community spaces’ are very much determined by what a community would like them to be. And this can vary, because communities vary such a lot too! But that is OK, because we are led by the community and they are the real experts.
So, when we are approached by any Gloucestershire community about investing in a space in their area, we are very open to their interpretations and knowledge. For them and us, a community space is somewhere for local people to gather and connect, to do things together and pursue shared interests or activities; both serious and fun. This can mean a community space could be a wide range of places – indoors or outdoors, new or old and in-between or even just an idea for something they would like to develop. This can mean they are a local hub or hall, a garden, allotment, sports or pastimes space or something less obvious like – well, you decide!
(The pictures in this article feature Glo-Active, a local community group visiting a Saintbridge Community Allotment
People harvesting together at the community garden.
A ‘community space’, for us, is neither a private or public space. However, we do still have an interest in those spaces and the expected benefits that our funding could bring for that particular community.
‘Community spaces’ should be for the ‘whole community’ and that includes people so often marginalised and isolated including those with physical disabilities and mental health challenges. That is why Barnwood Trust was established and these are the values which we still work towards today.
For Barnwood, the determining factor in what makes a great ‘community space’ are the outcomes which that space brings, not necessarily the physical space itself. So, these spaces do not have to be fancy or beautifully designed, although we appreciate fine aesthetics as much as anyone. What they need to do is function well for that community and that means being welcoming and accessible to everyone. We believe this it will bring local communities, meaning everyone, together. There is a lot of evidence that the opportunity to gather together and pursue shared interests brings many benefits to personal, and community, physical and mental health, well-being and strength.
Finally, for Barnwood, it is about ‘bang for buck!’ We are a charitable foundation in a privileged position with funding to invest. However, we always need to be mindful of spending that money very wisely to benefit the people of Gloucestershire, while still working to our charitable objectives.
So that’s why we are so interested in and why we fund community spaces. They enable people to do stuff together, being a vital community resource and particularly important in these times where many of us have very busy lives and others are isolated for different reasons such as cuts to services, poverty, disadvantage or discrimination. This context can make it much more difficult to connect and simply have time to meet and share experiences with close neighbours and those from the next street or village. Hence Barnwood’s determination to support these vitally important and fun (or sometimes serious!) community spaces.