We are now finishing after reaching 12 years after a wonderful and sometimes challenging journey and one of personal deprivation in parts along the way. it all started with £2500 of my own money back in 2008 to give something back to the area where I grew up. The website all started with a small website for Hillfields back in Spring 2008; the website was created which today is out of date in terms of the technology used but the content is similar. 10,000 flyers were used to promote the new website in 2008 and 6000 were posted through letterboxes and stored in various outlets and within days people were sharing their interest. Later I looked to start a Fishponds Voice newspaper but instead advised friends that’s the area they should take which has since been an overwhelming success for them.
Still working in London but visiting parents on some weekends, as the web designer here I had served Hillfields for over 20 years by initially helping to save all the council houses from being given to private ownership which will have left tenants vulnerable to capitalism so we ran a Tenants Association which saved them all and today in 2020 council owned housing is seen as the best option so it’s lucky we did all that hard work. I later served for 15 years as a youth leader in Hillfields and the community of North East Bristol in the youth district team and now wanted to do something a bit different.
In 2009 the website also covered Frome Vale (mainly Oldbury Court) as the neighbour to Hillfields Estate so the natural route especially as the community and youth centre was also at risk of being lost forever there which thrived in the 1980s and 90s and then in 2010 the website grew to include Eastville after the creation of the Greater Fishponds Neighbourhood Partnership by Spring 2010. This new alternative parish council for Greater Fishponds worked well; suddenly there was a real local decision making function for the area and money to invest in 100s of projects, money to renew the parks and reach people who had never been reached before, this new set up by the Liberal Democrats was amazing. Never in the history of Hillfields and Frome Vale had anything like this ever existed before. The website was a fantastic way to reach as many orgs as possible for them to get involved ranging from retirement clubs to rugby clubs and everyone in between to finally get things done for the area and retailers such as Coffee One, Sainsburys, Iceland and more opened in Fishponds after including the website in emails to them to show the potential and customer base of the area.
In Spring 2011 three of us set up the Hillfields Community Trust with the aim to save and develop Hillfields Library, Hillfields Youth Hub, Community Centre land one day and deliver community activities in venues including the new Cossham Hospital Community Room. We delivered huge fun days for Hillfields between 2011 and 2015 including a Diamond Jubilee Event with amazing help from members of the community and Julie (rip) of Community Resolve; £700 funding by Neighbourhood Partnerships, huge support by Abdul Razak Dahir and Denis Wise of Neighbourhoods and Lindsay Wall of Housing.
Abdul Razak also asked HCT to please apply for and manage Hillfields Community First Funding of £38,000 over four years which we did to help every corner of the ward and we attended meetings where £30,000 in grants (£10,000 per ward every year was available) to help allocated money to all groups applying for funds. Empowerment to the three wards made it possible for so much to be achieved between 2010 and 2016 after the first elected Mayor George Ferguson kept and made Neighbourhood Partnerships even better.
In 2015 with Cllr Lesley Alexander, Elaine Irwin and I helped found retirement clubs after realising there was a desperate situation of loneliness in the Begbrook area of Stapleton and Frenchay and community rooms built in the late 1970s to serve the local elderly community were available on some days but over time this had been forgotten but not by lifetime community activists such as Maureen and Brian Coles who knew that the rooms were for everyone in the wider community and were extremely popular while warden controlled. In 2017 Lesley Alexander was made Lord Mayor of Bristol and she chose Elaine Irwin as Lady Mayoress to assist here and wished to roll out this model of retirement clubs all across Bristol by working with communities across the city after the Begbrook Club was unbelievably successful and by now run by the members themselves. Neighbourhood Partnerships again helped with some initial funding of £1000 to get the group established for coach trips and some equipment and later PCC Sue Mountstevens community grants paid for new kitchen equipment including dishwasher and cooker for the community room for all of the room users in the community to use.
Community events we organised in Hillfields Park
Begbrook Retirement Club has had over 75 members
Events which helped to save Hillfields Library
Community coach outings have helped over 2000 local people in Greater Fishponds
Deigned and promoted 12 areas across North East Bristol with Destination Bristol
Cllr Ashar Craig helped get the years delayed path moving for Stapleton for us after she took over transport in 2016. Credit where it’s due, thank you Ashar Craig.
Our new path in Stapleton is finally in place with help of Cllr Lesley Alexander
Our request to have the path using a neglected UWE entrance and running it through the campus is implemented. A Neighbourhood Partnership success story.
Our other new path from College Road to Half Penny Bridge is implemented after we secured £102,000 from Barratt Developments 106/CIL money.
As Friends of the Railway Path Greater Fishponds section we have walls rebuilt, path resurfaced, routes reopened and areas maintained.
Coffee One, M&S Food (Eastgate in the end), Iceland, Sainsburys, Domino’s Pizza and more opened in the Fishponds area after we wrote to them.
Our dedicated Frome Valley website is at http://fromevalley.co.uk