The other day I went to Peterborough to catch up with two UK online centres delivering the talk about local training in their areas – the Peterborough Womens’ Centre and The Deepings Centre in the small, picturesque town of Market Deeping (about a half hour’s bus ride from central Peterborough). I’ve been visiting a lot of UK online centres participating in the project recently and they never cease to amaze me. They come in many shapes and sizes – embedded in community centres, training centres, libraries, schools, one on a bus and some peripathetic trainers without a base at all.
Where the centres do take a bricks and mortar form I can always tell quite quickly when they have the potential to do something extra special with talk about local. They are the centres which are the hub of the community, where IT training can be quite a small part of what they do when it’s delivered alongside things like yoga, creative writing groups, exercise classes and counselling sessions. The type of centre like Enterprise House in Bishops Castle, where people pop in to catch up on local goings-on, do their photocopying, brush up on their IT skills and have a cup of tea whilst they print off their holiday snaps from a memory stick.
When I first walked into the Deepings Community Centre in December I immediately knew from the timetable behind reception that this was one such centre. Everything seems happen here – as well as being the local Citizens Advice Bureau there’s Weight Watchers, psychotherapy, zumba, art group, camera club, carpet bowls and Spanish, to name but a few. The UK online centre trainer there was particularly keen to start publishing an online local newsletter so I went along and met a group of five local people very active in the community to give them a few pointers around working with WordPress, website layout, content ideas, getting contributions and raising local awareness of the site. We tweaked Deepings and Villages Online Newsletter whilst I was there and afterwards I interviewed local resident Martin about how a community website might help the area.
I dropped by again today for a catch-up after going to the Peterborough Women’s Centre to introduce myself. Just like The Deepings, this is a centre where an awful lot happens – from arts and crafts to an in-house creche. The Peterborough Women’s Centre is a newcommer to talk about local but already have plenty of bright ideas of how they will deliver the project. They’ve already created Women who shaped Peterborough, to celebrate women past and present who have helped shape Peterborough and are planning to train a group researching the subject to contribute to the site. They are also looking to involve their Older and Bolder Ladies‘ group, local residents‘ groups, a friendship group, an Indian women’s group and the volunteers who work at the centre.
Both centres seem to be well and truly embedded in their local community and are keen to use talk about local to help their many local contacts create useful community websites for their areas and groups. They are also eager to get involved with John Popham’s proposed Peterborough social media surgery, which is part of his social media tour for the RSA taking place later this year (the Peterborough Women’s Centre has even volunteered itself as a venue), so there should be plenty of willing surgeons and patients for John at this one!