Framework sections highlighted: Leadership, Listening, Reach

Parkgate community lights the way with lantern walk

Over the past few months, local people of Rotherham’s Rawmarsh and Parkgate area have been organising around a much-loved area of natural beauty called Green Hill.

The community’s love for Green Hill, which overlooks Sheffield and the Peak District, was heard loud and clear by Sarah – a community organiser at Rotherfed Social Action Hub – when she went out listening in Rawmarsh and Parkgate. Through the listening process, Sarah also discovered some concerns from the community about the threats Green Hill was facing at the time.

Green Hill was a prime location for anti-social behaviour, including litter and fly-tipping, and had suffered several arson attacks throughout the summer. In addition, the area was subject to the threat of excavation by a local road resurfacing company who were testing the site for steel slag. Some members of the community had already begun mobilising in opposition to the potential excavation and had started a petition to save Green Hill which gathered over 100 signatures.

Wanting to reach out and connect with more people about this issue, Sarah tried to hold a public meeting for people to discuss the problem and potential solutions, but with little success. Knowing that there was an appetite for action, she went back to the local people who had shown interest to find another way.

“As an organiser, I had tried to get a public community meeting and failed massively – no one was interested,” explained Sarah. “So, I consulted people living there – through listening; which was the best way – and it was their idea to raise awareness through an event.”

Local community members Xylia, Audrey, John N, John W, Dave, Rob, and Amanda joined forces with Rawmarsh and Parkgate Friends of Green Spaces and Arc Church – and they began to plan a winter lantern walk through Green Hill, in order to bring the community together to appreciate the area and raise awareness about the issues currently affecting it.

As an organiser, I had tried to get a public community meeting and failed massively – no one was interested. So, I consulted people living there – through listening; which was the best way – and it was their idea to raise awareness through an event
Sarah, community organiser, Rotherfed

Through the organisation of the lantern walk, the small coalition of individuals and groups reached out into the wider community, inviting local individuals, groups, organisations, and businesses to get involved in the run-up to the event.

They held lantern making workshops at a local community hub which brought a diverse group of people together from around Rawmarsh and Parkgate.

Lantern making workshop.

The winter lantern walk itself attracted around 85 people, 40 of whom signed the petition to save Green Hill. But more importantly, the community had been brought together and given the opportunity to connect around their common love of Green Hill, so people could see that this is not just a space they individually enjoy using, but a community asset

By the end of the walk, people were asking if the lantern walk is going to become an annual event, already looking ahead to the future use of the space.

The winter lantern walk, held at the Green Hill area of Rotherham with the aim of raising awareness to the problems facing the area.

Fortunately, the road surfacing company who had been testing for steel in Green Hill did not find what they were looking for, so the area’s immediate threat has gone (for now). But the community’s organising around the lantern walk and future events is paving the way for a more powerful community who are able to combat the ongoing anti-social behaviour, and fend off any future excavation plans, through collective positive action.

Members of the group are also going through community organising training, to enable them to take further action with less support from Sarah. Rob and Xylia, who had both emerged as leaders through this process, completed their first training in March and Rob is now shadowing Sarah door-knocking one day per week.

“The plan is now to get them all trained up and leave them to it,” says Sarah. “I’ve taken more of a step back than I did with the first project. Now I’m into the second project with them they’re already deciding on roles and doing things they didn’t do in the first project, so it’s given them some of the power back. It’s great!”


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