Community Resilience

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic in September 2017.

Transition Malvern Hills & Malvern Youth & Community Trust – Community Resilience.

When the Transition Towns initiative was set up it was recognised that helping individuals reduce their Carbon Footprint needed to go hand in hand with supporting the development of community resilience. As this would assist individuals and communities feel more able to face the challenges ahead.

Sadly we now regularly see extreme weather events from around the world on the news and of course more each year as global warming increases. We can see how devastated communities can be. Also there are many examples of how communities get together to create enhanced conditions and possibilities in times of need but not devastating crisis.

In this article I want to talk about what felt to some of us a local crisis and has been turned into being a wonderful local resource, doing great things daily. It is a story of great collaborative effort by Malvern residents committed to supporting the Community.

In 2012 Transition Malvern Hills heard of Worcestershire County Council’s plan to demolish most of the Youth Centre on Albert Rd North and it was decided to join the group that was emerging to support the campaign to save the building as a Youth and Community Centre. After much sweat and tears by all the campaign team our efforts succeeded in WCC leasing the building to the organisation we helped to set up, the Malvern Youth and Community Trust. Whilst the lease didn’t require us to pay a rent it didn’t come with any support and we are responsible for all the costs (running, maintaining and developing what was a very dilapidated building). This meant the building had to be used extensively by the community to generate sufficient funds to at least pay the running and minor maintenance costs (approx. £75,000 per annum). In addition there would need to be a major effort submitting grant applications to charities and potential donors for all the repairs and development of the building and projects.

The centre’s new name was the Malvern Cube and we have recently had our 5th birthday.

What a vibrant place it is serving over 3,000 residents a month. Where else in Malvern can you see/partake in the variety of activities and support groups on offer and go to a café that has all ages and all abilities sharing the space.

Whilst many residents might just come for their Bridge Group, French Lesson, a favourite band or wellbeing group many will notice the enormous variety of offers and people using the Cube. When we encounter difference in a relaxed and friendly environment it helps us break down our stereotypes and reduce any tendencies we have to isolate ourselves. This together with joining, engaging, learning with others and supporting one another are a key part of creating resilient communities. Unless we have the meeting spaces where we “bump in” to difference rather than stay in our same grouping this doesn’t happen. (To get a snapshot of what goes on see the calendar of events on www.malverncube.com).

The Malvern Cube is designed to be such a space with Jon the welcoming manager, a café, 7 different sizes of meeting rooms and a building slowly developing and improving. The Volunteer Trustees group and all the volunteers, so essential to making the place work are very proud of what we have created, for and with the Community, which of course we are all a part of.

Have you visited lately, this August and September after lots of grant applications we were able to resurface the Basketball court/car park, improve the disability access to the rear Theatre entrance with an automatic door, lay new flooring and decoration to the entrance lobbies, bring the Theatre floor it back to its former glory and install energy efficient windows to the back stage rooms and toilets.

Over the 5 years we have spent over £250,000 improving the building. The grant giving organisations and local businesses who have supported us are listed on our website.

In line with Transition Malvern Hills energy reduction aims we have dramatically improved the energy efficiency of the building replacing one of the boilers and heating systems, insulated the wall and installed new windows. The Co-op we created (Malvern Community Energy Co-op) enabled 60 local residents to raise the £40,000 needed to install 120 PV panels on the roof. They generate the same amount electricity that the Cube uses altogether (but because they only generate in daylight hours this provides half the Cube’s consumption and balancing the import and export with the grid).

We mustn’t forget to mention the lovely garden with the community vegetables in their raised beds, the Quaker Peace garden, the Connect learning disability beds and the new Pizza oven. All helping to remind us of our connection with Nature, the wider community of life.

If you would like to find out more so you can use/benefit from the Malvern Cube or offer help as donations or volunteering contact www.malverncube.com or Jon White  manager@malverncube.com, also transitionmalvernhills.org.uk/wp/events/ Robin Coates robin@robincoates.com