The Imagining North Shields Workshop – ‘Community Development & Engagement in North Shields:From the National Community Development Project to ‘My Community’ – was held on Wednesday 13 April 2016 at The Meadows in North Shields. It was attended by 51 people from academic, policy and practice backgrounds. Sarah Banks (Coordinator of Imagine North East) opened the workshop with an introduction to the Imagine North East research project before moving on to explain the National Community Development Project (CDP) and North Tyneside CDP, which was located in North Shields and ran from 1972 until the end of 1977. Following the introductions, there were perspectives from three former North Tynside CDP workers: Bob Davis (former research fellow) focused on industry and employment; Dave Byrne (former research director) spoke about housing and planning and Penny Remfry (former assistant director) discussed play and women’s issues. An overview of the legacies and lessons from North Tyneside CDP was provided by Andrea Armstrong (Durham University) and Fred Robinson (Durham University) considered the post-CDP period, focusing on subsequent regeneration programmes in North Shields and drawing on census comparisons between 1971 and 2001. There was a short discussion before Hugh Kelly (Swingbridge Media) introduced the exhibition (of North Shields Imagine North East community projects) and film screening. The lunchtime screening consisted of three Meadow Well films by Swingbridge Media:

  1. Church Action on Poverty (1991) a campaigning video looking at experiences of poverty in Meadow Well, Benwell and Hunwick.
  2. An English Estate (1992) a film for Channel 4 to counter arguments after the riots in 1991.
  3. Poverty – it’s a crime (2001) a film commissioned by Cedarwood Trust with three young people investigating the effects of poverty on young people and its relationship to crime.

The afternoon programme started with critical perspectives on current challenges from local community organisations and the local authority. Mike Burgess (Phoenix Detached Youth Project)  began with an excerpt from the graffiti art film they produced for Imagine North East. Mike explained that young people use art (e.g. graffiti, dance, music, social media) to put messages across. Phil McGrath (Cedarwood Trust) discussed their Imagine project that focused on the history of families on the Meadow Well estate. The project primarily worked with older adults. He then explained that they have been working with a community organiser who has had about 2500 conversations with residents and according to these, the current challenges include: the austerity agenda, food and fuel poverty, increased cuts, increased demand and a reduction in resources, feelings of isolation and that no-one cares and friction and a lack of understanding between generations. Paula McCormack (Meadow Well Connected) provided an overview of their Imagine project which was a community response to a Channel 4 documentary that reflected poorly on the estate. Residents wanted to demonstrate that their experiences on the estate were vastly different than what was portrayed so they developed a timeline over the area from the 1840s to today. She then detailed current challenges for Meadow Well Connected and for residents. Paul Hanson (North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council) explained ‘why we care and why I care’. He noted that the Mayor has made clear her ambition for the Borough in the Our North Tyneside Plan. The Plan’s goals are to have 1) young people ready for school, 2) everyone to be ready for work and life, 3) people to be healthy, cared for and safeguarded, and 4) North Tyneside be a great place to live work and visit. He noted that while this is true in much of North Tyneside it isn’t the case for everyone in North Shields. In addition to the commitments of the Mayor and Cabinet, Paul explained his personal commitment, North Shields having been his home town since 1967. Paul described the critical challenges as: North Tyneside is a borough of contrasts and stark inequalities. In 2015, the Mayor and Cabinet agreed a different approach to tackling deprivation in North Tyneside and this is being piloted in Chirton and Riverside Wards.

There was then a choice of 4 roundtable discussions:

1. Issues and challenges for young people and youth work facilitated by Mike Burgess (Phoenix Detached Youth Project) and Patrick Harman (Hayden Harman Foundation, N. Carolina, USA).

Youth work, play and recreation was a key issue identified by North Tyneside CDP in the 1970s and when the CDP ended many North Shields regeneration initiatives had a focus on engaging youth through recreation, art, and education opportunities. It seems that this task will become even more difficult as young people and their families face additional stressors from welfare cuts and limited economic opportunities.

  • What are the key issues facing young people in North Shields?
  • What are some of the approaches to work with young people that have been used and which ones have most potential?
  • If you had the ear of government (the Prime Minister or Department for Communities and Local Government) what would your message be about issues for young people in North Shields?

2. Communities in control? facilitated by Paula McCormack (Meadow Well Connected) and Andrea Armstrong (Durham University).

According to the latest policies of the Department for Communities and Local Government, central government wants communities to be ‘in control’. Examples of this in practice include neighbourhood planning, transferring ‘assets’ (such as community buildings) from local authorities to community organisations, the ‘community right to challenge’ and play a role in shaping, redesigning or running services. 

  • What are your experiences of this and how did it work in practice?
  • Is this what communities want?
  • If you had the ear of government (the Prime Minister or Department of Communities and Local Government) what would your message be about neighbourhoods in North Shields?

 3. Forty years on urban policy – what can we learn? facilitated by Fred Robinson (Durham University) and Daniel Wise (North Tyneside Council)

There have been numerous regeneration initiatives in North Shields since the 1970s, including the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation (from which came the Royal Quays), Enterprise Zones, City Challenge, Single Regeneration Budget and Neighbourhood Management. Community engagement in shaping regeneration has varied according to the initiative.

  • Looking back over 40 years of regeneration and community engagement in North Tyneside and nationally, including your own experiences, what went right?
  • What can we learn from this?
  • If you had the ear of government (the Prime Minister or Department for Communities and Local Government) what would your message be about regeneration and community engagement in North Shields?

4.The role of research in promoting and supporting community development in urban neighbourhoods facilitated by Liz Robson (University of Newcastle and Meadow Well Connected) and Sarah Banks (Durham University)

The CDPs included a significant element of research. The Connected Communities programme, of which the Imagine project is a part, is promoting ‘co-produced’ research by universities and communities in partnership.

  • What can we learn from the CDP approach to research?
  • How can communities and universities work together, using an action research model to work for better communities today?
  • If you had the ear of government (the Prime Minister or Department for Communities and Local Government) what would your message be about neighbourhoods in North Shields?

After the roundtable discussions everyone gathered again in the main room for the closing plenary, chaired by Patrick Harman (Hayden Harman Foundation, N. Carolina, USA). The panelists were: Mike Burgess, Phoenix Detached Youth Project; Paula McCormack, Meadow Well Connected; Liz Robson, Newcastle University and Meadow Well Connected; Daniel Wise, North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council; Paul Hanson, North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council. Each panellist was asked for the key messages from their roundtables and then Patrick opened the discussion to the floor.

Sarah closed the workshop by thanking everyone for their participation. Photos on the day were taken by Hugh Kelly (Swingbridge Media) DSC_0001 DSC_0004 DSC_0007 DSC_0009 DSC_0011 DSC_0012 DSC_0016 DSC_0017 DSC_0019 DSC_0023 DSC_0026 DSC_0027 DSC_0028 DSC_0029 DSC_0031 DSC_0038 DSC_0039 DSC_0040 DSC_0041 DSC_0043 DSC_0044 DSC_0052 DSC_0053 DSC_0055 DSC_0058 DSC_0060 DSC_0061 DSC_0062 DSC_0064 DSC_0066 DSC_0067 DSC_0068 DSC_0070 DSC_0071 DSC_0073 DSC_0075 DSC_0077 DSC_0078



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