Our featured blog this Friday is from the Street Connectors on the Firs & Bromford estate on the outskirts of Birmingham, near Spaghetti Junction.
The Street Connectors blog tells the story of how local people and street connectors are connecting people, places, ideas, skills, talents, hopes and dreams. The Street Connector programme is a local partnership between the Open Doors Community Foundation and Firs & Bromford Neighbours together.
Paul Wright coordinates and supports the project as a Street Connector Mentor. People who live on the estate take the lead and do the connecting for themselves.
Bumping places and creating community
On the Our Stories of Connecting tab you will find stories about what people can give and what people are passionate about. These are in the ‘bumping places’ where people might encounter one another as well as the public spaces such as the Village Green in the above photo. The stories are beautifully set out and easy to navigate your way around, illustrated with lots of pictures which show the strength of the community bonds. The whole idea is about being with not doing for neighbours, recognising the treasure of gifts and talents that are already present in the community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an extra dimension to consider when connecting people on the estate. After all, the whole point of the Street Connectors is to reduce social distancing! Some of the questions that the Street Connectors are still grappling with include:
“How does physical distancing not mean goodbye, farewell, and separation, but promote news ways of presence, closeness, lovingness, and nearness?
How does social isolation not mean loneliness, segregation, and seclusion, but would require new ways of thinking through radical inclusion, solidarity, and mutual support?”
More than ever this means focusing on what is strong within the community, not on ‘what is wrong’ when people have been told to shield because they are vulnerable. The first blog reflecting on how to respond as a neighbour to COVID-19 can be read here. More recent blogs reflect on some extraordinarily creative responses, the joy and the momentum generated in finding new ways to be present to one another, and the lament when something goes wrong. There are also stories of continuing resilience and hope too which can be found on https://streetconnector.com/ourstories/