Like many housing estates up and down the land, Craighead Housing Estate suffers from the impact of low-level anti-social behaviour, which makes the lives of older residents difficult. This project was a partnership between the local council, Boys’ Brigade and an environmental group called Carts Greenspaces. It ran for a couple of months and led to the creation of a garden and mosaic. It was similar to many other projects that I have set up, such as a graffiti art workshop which were effective at getting young people involved and directing them towards other local groups.
Reflections on the Community Garden
The Community Garden still exists today, and I remember the older residents, at the time, came up to me and said that the young people weren’t as bad as they thought.
If you would like to try setting up an environmental project in your area, I suggest you contact your local authority and nearby community groups to see if they will get involved. You never know what you’ll achieve if you think strategically about the issues that affect your neighbourhood and community.
That’s not the point of this post
I was involved in many community projects in Craighead Housing Estate in the early 2000s. I got nominated for an award by the local newspaper for my work. But that’s not the point of this post.
Set up one or two of them in your area
I’d like to use the time we have together to share some thoughts about a few of the smaller projects I was involved in. I hope you can be inspired to set up one or two of them in your area
- The Craighead Christmas Message
- The Craighead Car Boot Sale
- The Craighead Garden Party with a Clean Close Competition
- and Good Neighbour Award
But there will be some highs and lows
Doing neighbourhood community work isn’t always easy but is very rewarding.
- I’ll tell you what I did
- I’ll try to show you what you can do differently
- I’ll encourage you to make these projects your own.
But first let’s talk Strategy and Win-Win Situations
The truth is some the projects I carried out in Craigheads like setting up an arts and crafts club for kids in the Community Flat didn’t last long; the Council couldn’t continue to fund the Community Flat. But on balance, even the small projects I ran from the Community Flat like taking a group of children from the estate to the East Renfrewshire Running Festival had a great impact.
It’s just a fact of life that the resources for many community projects come and go. But building strong, independent communities is all the more urgent in a time of austerity.
- Think about what you have locally that will help you.
- Look for win-win situations.
- Craighead Housing Estate also has a church and social club, and I used them.
- If you have something similar nearby, use it.
- Involve the tenants association and other groups.
- Remember you can’t do it all by yourself
- It’s okay if you don’t achieve everything you wanted to
With a bit of strategic thinking, the assets around your neighbourhood can be used to do many different community projects.
Try these out in your neighbourhood
The Craighead Christmas Message
I do this every year at Christmas, and it requires little time. Its existence owes itself to the fact that not everyone is as fortunate as you or me, not everyone has someone in their lives who cares about them.
The sad fact is, for many people, Christmas can be a very lonely time. The point of sending out 300 Christmas Cards, one for every resident in Craighead Housing Estate, is to offer some comfort and fellow-feeling during the festive period
What I didn’t expect
And no one could have foreseen, was that one of my letters helped to save a life. After all, It’s not every day that someone comes up to you on the street and says something you wrote stopped them from committing suicide. If you like the sound of this project, but wonder about the practicalities of doing it, here’s how I do it.
- Buy 300 Christmas Cards for £10 from Card Factory
- Spend an hour or two writing the message
- Print out 300 copies
- Cost of paper and ink roughly £20
- Spend a few hours folding the message and putting it into cards
- Walk up and down closes and walkways posting the Christmas Cards
- Total cost of project £30
- Total Time 1-2 days per year.
You can do this project whether you live in a large estate or a small cul-de-sac.
The Craighead Car boot sale
- Worked with the council and tenants’ association
- Tackled fly tipping and litter
- Helped residents get rid of unwanted items
- Raised money for good causes
Look at the state of the place
It’s amazing how a small thing like a piece of furniture fly-tipped or some bags of rubbish left lying around can affect the quality of life of dozens of people. But of course, the reason places like Craighead Housing Estate have a problem with fly tipping and litter isn’t necessary about the morality of the individuals.
The economic reality is that paying the council something like £25-£30 to come and uplift your broken washing machine or old mattress, is a bit steep for those people who are working low paying jobs and may already have difficulties paying their household bills or credit card debts. To put it another way, £25-£30 could cover the cost of your monthly mobile phone bill or perhaps even you TV licence and landline phone.
Faced with the choice of paying your direct debits or paying the council to lift a broken washing machine, lots of people are going to opt to pay their bills.
How to organise a car boot sale
- Stick up posters in the closes
- let the local paper know the car boot sale was on
- inform the police of the event
- get permission from the council
- make sure people know where to park
Did it work? Well yes and no is the answer. It certainly helped utilise an eyesore, the car park, to promote community spirit. Along with the hire of a skip or two, it certainly helped to clear the estate of a lot of broken furniture and rubbish for a bit, but ultimately economic realities set in. The council still charges a high rate for uplifting large items which isn’t going to solve the problem
But should we rely on councils to do everything?
For the price of a lottery card
Nothing’s stopping your community self-funding a community project yourselves. Why not encourage your fellow residents to make a contribution of £1 or £2 each to hire a skip. For the price of a lottery card per resident, you could tackle fly-tipping in your neighbourhood and improve the environment
The Clean Close Competition and the Good Neighbour Award
I came up with this idea to raise community spirit. It operated as a small award ceremony at the Garden Party which was organised to launch the Community Garden. It involved designing and printing some awards which recognised the efforts residents made to keep their close clean and for the small acts of kindness they did for each other. I arranged for small prizes like a cheap DVD and boxes of chocolate to be given to those that got nominated.
Help them set up a micro-business
Of course, in an age where some councils now hire companies to clean their closes and then add this to the Factoring fee, it might be possible to help young people to set up a micro-business and reduce the cost of things like the Factoring Fee
Use the money for what matters
You could help young people get into the business of cleaning the closes in your neighbourhood. After all, if some company can get a contract from the council to do this, why can’t some enterprising young people or local community group not take on the job and use the money they get for what matters to them? There’s obviously money to be made in this, isn’t there?
But what do you think? Let me know if you think you’d do any of these projects.