Last week I took a trip to Swindon to meet, chat with and later interview the managers of three community websites at CLIP Penhill, a UK online centre on the Penhill estate that has been delivering talk about local training.
My first interview was with John Saunders, manager of the CLIP Penhill Centre and Jon Allan. Between them they manage and train other members of the community to use the website This is Penhill – ‘a site made for the Penhill people to keep them informed about local events, news and information’.
As well as creating a focal point for the community where local people can keep themselves updated, John and Jon also hope the website can help improve external perceptions of the Penhill estate, which has suffered something of a bad press over the years, by telling positive stories. John and Jon plan to introduce and involve more people with the website at a Penhill Forum event on 11th September.
My next interview was with Vicki Farthing, Secretary of a committee campaigning to for a splash park on an desolate old play park in Seven Fields. Vicki built the sevenfieldssplashpark.org website over one weekend to support their campaign to rejuvenate the empty field.
There’s some brilliant use of film on the website with YouTube video creations from committee member Lorna Breslin – slideshows of what the park was in its heyday and what it one day might become with a little money and attention. By far the best though is the above slideshow of the sorry state it is in today, with a particularly apt soundtrack of Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me to Life’ – “Because that’s what we want to do, we want to bring this back to life.”
Last but not least is Peter Hansen, who created the community website The Cricklade Bugle during a talk about local training session in February. Peter, who volunteers one half-day a week to maintain the Cricklade UK online centre, has since built it into becoming ‘a community and news website for Cricklade in North Wiltshire.’
Peter is currently the sole writer on the website, updating it with information he receives doing community work with the local leisure centre, church building Jenner Hall, Cricklade Bloomers and other community groups. “I’m slowly incorporating them into supplying further content for the website.” The website has already been used by Wiltshire Council to consult the local community about issues such as refuse collection and redevelopment of the leisure centre.
When I told a friend I was going to Swindon for the day they responded rather harshly with ‘eugh’ – I suppose it doesn’t have a reputation of being the most dynamic of places. But I left feeling very excited and enthused by the people I met, who are all working hard to make their neighbourhoods better and happier places and expressing this brilliantly online with three very different but equally simple community websites, that help make all their organising and campaigning that little bit easier. I can’t wait to go back!