In the second of this series looking at some of the remarkable hyperlocal blog and websites Talk About Local has been involved with I visited a Walsall community which successfully celebrated a new identity for the area.
When the Caldmore Village Festival organisers came up with the idea of an annual event to bring the community together little could they know how things would escalate.
An online training session with Talk About Local to help get started with a blog followed in 2009 but, as the current website manager Kerry Hodgkiss explained, there was no particular expectation for the site.
We wanted a platform to tell people about the event. At that time I was just taking the minutes, I had dabbled a bit online but I never had anything I wanted to talk about on a blog until that point.
Two plus years on, and not only are the organisers looking at their funding options for the annual festival but they are also co-ordinating regular events to clean-up the area, helping organise live music in curry house events, taking over a disused caretakers’ house for community use and working out how to breathe life into a donated piece of unwanted land.
But one of the biggest achievements for the group has been around the pride and identity of the area.
As an area that had become synonymous with prostitution and drugs, Caldmore revisited its past to find a new identity.
Local councillor Mohammed Arif, vice chair of the Caldmore Village Festival, said: “A few of us sat down six years ago. We were fed-up with Caldmore’s old reputation and we wanted to rebrand it.
“We thought about the best the community had to offer and build on that. Caldmore has such inspiring diversity and has a strong reputation for food with many balti restaurants.
“At first we brainstormed and gradually things snowballed.”
And so started a change of emphasis which has now resulted in the area being gradually rebranded with that village feel – even down to finding funding for new signage for the area to reflect its new image.
I’m so proud of community spirit in Caldmore and how a small number of committed people have rejuvenated this area culminating in Walsall Council changing the the status to a village. So much of that is down to the festival and festival group which grew from that first meeting.
Planning for the 2012 annual festival is already well underway but now the small committee are facing new issues associated with running a successful event rather than an unknown entity – organising funding.
See a slideshow of images from the group’s Flickr pool here.
There’s also concerns about how to best collaborate with the local and popular Mela, how to raise awareness further afield and how to keep everyone in the loop with the myriad of spin- off activities which have come about because of the festival but which now take place all year round.
Having the blog as a focal point has helped to galvanise the community – but what’s next?
Kerry said the next online challenge would be to incorporate the blog into other platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and ultimately get more people involved.
“I am hoping that people will start to write their own posts to upload, initially people were a bit scared of the technology but now they can see there’s not much more to it than creating a word document.”
* Caldmore Village Festival is at http://caldmorevillagefestival.wordpress.com