Neighbourhood Challenge Awards Night

We are delighted to announce the results of our Lower Green Neighbourhood Challenge Awards Night, which we held just before Easter.  The event was along the lines of  Dragon’s Den (but not so scary) so rather than presenting their ideas to the judges, everyone involved talked about their projects to the four judges who paired up and walked round the various displays.

We had a fantastic evening, celebrating all that has been achieved as part of the Neighbourhood Challenge. There was lots to see and find out about what has been happening in Lower Green and it was great to all get together.

Our judges (one of whom had been on the real Dragons Den) did a brilliant job, both beforehand and during the evening and we can now announce their decisions. There were three levels of Award made on the night:

Red Awardsup to £2,000

‘Creative Connections’ –  ‘Knit & Natter’ and Joy & Joan’s Art Group 
‘Learning Dreams’ – Lower Green Learning Hub                     
‘Community Support Hub’ – Supporting Lower Green (including Foodbank)
Green Awardsup to £5,000
‘Get Fit’ – Keep Fit in Lower Green (including Zumba and Pilates)
‘School’s Out’ – After school and holiday activities 
‘YES’ – Youth Engagement and Support                                   
‘The Green Team’ – Growing things together in Lower Green                              
Yellow Awards – up to £10,000
‘Men Shed’     
‘Community Cooks’ 

The announcements
And the Winners!
Well done to everyone involved and we look forward to being able to tell you more about the projects as they develop….. 

Esher Neighbourhood Fund Update

We are delighted to announce that the Esher Neighbourhood Fund balance is now at £84,000, which includes donations from local people, as well as the  match funding from NESTA as part of our Neighbourhood Challenge.

A BIG THANK YOU to all those who have helped us to achieve this significant total!

The Esher Neighbourhood Fund is a permanent fund, which will continue to grow over time, and will always be available, and will help to make a significant contribution to the local community. Interest from the Fund will be distributed in grants to support a wide range of local community projects on an ongoing basis.

Selina’s Gardening Post

It was another wonderful day attended by a good number, probably about 20+ again which is amazing.  The weather was mild and even sunny and we had some people (at least 5 that I can think of!!) who had read the article in Essential Esher and came along specifically to help with the gardening. (Well done Alice!). Two young mums with their kids and a lady called Esther who lives a little out of area in Surbiton (must have seen the article at her job in Esher) also a lovely lady called Catherine who is a keen gardener and was a real asset to have around.  She has worked for a UK Youth charity and was full of common sense ideas and ‘can do’.  

 A lady called Marjorie was a real laugh…. she made a great job of the sign at the entrance, I’d got this special metal paint so hopefully it will last – it certainly looks much better than it was and she worked tirelessly on it.  Joan was there cutting down weeds and making teas (thank you so much)…  Joan brought a ‘real’ gardener along called Val who lives nearby and she even brought a wheel barrow which was great – it was really good to have a professional gardener helping and she has so much knowledge.

We painted the metal bollards and cleared litter and more weeds and also discovered and cleared a long forgotten path along the fence.   The wooden sculptures were cleaned up and hopefully will look much better when they dry – the rest of the peeling varnish needs to be scraped off so the beauty of the wood will really shine out.

Some of the children came back again and Leanne and her friend were amazing and so enthusiastic and hardworking. Lots of the younger children were there but stayed inside and Fiona had done an amazing indoor activity planting herbs and decorating pots. 

Four teenagers who happened to be passing really engaged with the gardening and stayed a good couple of hours. They had a real laugh with my Mum especially and also worked really hard cutting back the overgrown rose and also clearing the path.  They would have done more but by then we were all too tired to carry on.  One called Jack really knew about gardening and had lots of good ideas for future things to be done.  They all gave me their mobile number and asked to be texted next time we do another gardening day.  There is such a good group of people who have all enjoyed getting stuck in and making a difference – we’ve also had such a good experience of team work.  

Lots of people asked when we will be doing it again and I have been feeling that I am meant to facilitate a gardening club.  I feel that it would be a great opportunity to get people of all ages working together and building community.

Selina Botham, Designs for All Seasons

We’ve been Re-Generated!

Well Christmas has been and gone and we’ve been busy managing all the seed funded projects that have started – 25 in all.  Inevitably some haven’t really got going but others have flourished and in some cases have spawned other projects.

So here’s a quick run down of what’s been going on: 

Joy’s art group – now meets every Monday at the Community Centre and has several new members.  Joy and her friend Jean did run a few sessions for the youth but these have stopped for the time being.  However the youth are involved in a separate Street Art project which has just started.

 Our Zumba class, run by local mum Zoe has been a winner.  In just a short space of time it has a regular group (or is it a troupe?) of ten ladies who Zumba away every Wednesday evening.  Zoe is also a kick boxing instructor and the same ladies now come on Tuesday evenings for a Boxercise class.

 It’s great that this has taken off as our two previous attempts to run Zumba classes both failed because they were not financially viable.  Having the seed funding available to kick start the class (literally) and get it established has made all the difference.  Now there is a regular group attending, the £2 class fee should soon be enough to sustain the class.

 Also going well is our Pilates class run by Fiona – our very own Pilates teacher who has recently moved into Lower Green.  She has also established a regular group of ladies who come for their weekly session of body conditioning.  Peeking through the door on a Friday morning it is clear from the smiles on their faces that everyone enjoys Fi’s sessions.

Knit and Natter has been another notable success thanks to the efforts of Jenny  Smith our ESOL teacher who volunteered to start the group.  It’s now attended by several of her ESOL students many of whom work in the local ‘Cookie man’ factory together with some native English speakers.  Already the group has produced several hats and many metres of scarves.  Sometimes the level of concentration is so great that there is not much nattering.  At other times the nattering gives way to peels of laughter!  One surprise to come out of the class is that inEastern Europethere is a completely different way of ‘casting on’ where both needles are held together and the wool looped over them to make a stitch.

Stars of our Knit and Natter class are Alia, from Morocco, who had never knitted before and arrives each time with another great length of scarf that she has produced and Dorota, from Poland, an accomplished knitter and seamstress who is going to teach the others to sew.

 The best thing about the group, apart from the obvious fun that is had, is that it has only cost a few pounds to establish.  Most of the wool has been donated and the local charity shops’ supply of knitting needles has found their way to the Community Centre.

 The Book Club hasn’t been quite so successful (yet), as the ladies are all too busy knitting to read!

 So what about the men?  Well, some do attend Joy’s art group but despite lots of invitations and encouragement, none has picked up a pair of knitting needles – but we live in hope.  Instead the talk is all about Man Sheds inspired by our recent visit to the Greenwich man Shed.   On a cold January day, we borrowed the local scouts’ minibus and crawled through theSouth Londontraffic to meet Pauline, an amazing bubbly lady who runs the Man Shed for Age UK.  I don’t think any of us knew what to expect – what we found was a room which had been made into a dedicated workshop in Progress Hall an old community building in the middle of Eltham.  Outside there was an area where they stored the wood and some examples of things they had made.  My favourite was a tortoise house with tiled roof and turrets.

 Back at the Community Centre we’re busy clearing a room where we can start our own Man Shed.  The room used to be the cellar for the bar and doesn’t currently have any windows, but who needs air when you’re busy sawing and making things!  It’s definitely a case of watch this space…

Back with the ladies the Community Cooking continues to go well.  The group meets once a fortnight in Denise’s house and we take it in turns to cook.  (I say ‘we’ but I usually just turn up in time to eat what’s been cooked!)  Last week it was Marjorie’s turn and she produced some lovely pies, stuffed mushrooms and a trifle so ‘Lower Green Pie Lab’ could be just around the corner!  It’s been great to use Denise’s kitchen but in the long term the group would love to start a community kitchen with maybe a community bakery and family diner attached.

 Still on food, the Food Bank idea is taking off and a large group of people who are interested in getting involved has been established.  Most are from the local churches together with a representative from Esher CAB.  A group of us descended on the offices of nearby Walton Charity who have just set up their own food bank with links to some of the local churches in Walton.  It was really helpful to see a food bank in operation and it made us realise that providing a food parcel for a family in a crisis situation was just the tip of the iceberg.  We are now looking at how we can provide a full package of support to people in need or at least direct people to other sources of assistance.

 The gardening project has continued to grow with another Gardening Action Day being held during half term on 14 Feb.  The Valentine’s theme was ‘Love Your Doorstep’.  It was too early for planting so a team was organised by Selina, our local gardening expert, to paint the rusty posts and scrub the wooden bollards around the car park.  You can read more about the day in her blog post (coming shortly).

 Other projects to engage the younger members of the community include Playball and an emerging homework club.  The Playball sessions started really well with the parents getting together and bringing in food after school on a Friday. However the re-opening of the Sports and Social Club bar on Friday afternoons has meant that the sofas have been moved to a smaller room which doubles up as the Community Facilitators’ office.  So now many of the parents just drop their children off to the Playball session and go home until it finishes.  Also some parents no longer come as they don’t want their children being in a building when the bar is open.  On the plus side there are more people coming into the Community Centre because the bar is open and the Social Club has been revived.

One other after-school activity that has started thanks to the seed funding is a junior chess club.  This is run by Natalie, the sister of a local mum who has set up the group.  There are only a few children attending at present but with the seed funding the class is viable.  Hopefully as more people get to hear about it the numbers will increase so the class can sustain itself.

 The projects involving the youth have had mixed fortunes depending on who turns up.  There was limited interest in the skateboarding lessons at the skate park on the recreation ground but after several attempts the youth football sessions have a small following.  Similarly support for the youth café idea comes and goes (much like the young people!) We have found that we need to persevere with the activities for the youth and not to get discouraged when no-one turns up even when they said they would.  There have been other challenges too with organising sessions and activities for young people in the Community Centre, namely our lack of anyone trained in youth work.   Claire, one of our facilitators, has done a great job in setting up meetings with the County Council Youth Service to request help in this department.  So far we’ve been successful in funding bids to the County Council and the High Sherriff to pay for youth activities. 

 Our martial arts project is a great example of finding the one thing that sparks an interest in each individual.  Before Neighbourhood Challenge (BNC), a local Martial Arts Academy ran some sessions in the Community Centre hall for the Lower Green Youth Group.  They offered scholarships to five promising students which entitled them to train at the academy and to gain their first grading.  One of these students, Sophien, so impressed the instructors that they offered to fund half the cost of his training as a martial arts instructor.  Sophien is currently seeking funding to pay his share of the training costs and hopes to teach martial arts to others in Lower Green one day.  He will be a great role model.

 One other physical activity project is the Community Gym – so far it consists of a punch bag and some boxing gloves in the hall but the big idea is for a dedicated gym that local people could use at an affordable price.   Like many of the seed funded ideas, the associated big idea requires more space – something we are increasingly short of in our small community centre.

 The lack of office space now that the bar has re-opened has been a major challenge for our administrators (we have two now – welcome Maggie!) and our three Community Facilitators.  We are getting some doors put on the room currently being used as an office (when it is not used for ESOL or any of the other groups) to make it into a secure area.  Until that happens we have to put everything, including printers and other equipment away each day, so setting up each morning really eats into our day.  Working from home is really the only way to get things done at present.  Despite the challenges, everyone has done a great job supporting the projects and keeping them going.

 Looking ahead we are busy preparing for our Challenge Awards night on Wed 28 March.  We are planning a ‘Show and Tell’ event to showcase and celebrate all the projects that have started.  Those who have chosen to apply for a further Challenge award will then have a chance to explain to the judges more about their ideas and how their project will make a difference in the community.  We’ve appointed four independent judges so it will be a bit like ‘Dragon’s Den’ but not so scary!

Prior to the event we will be out in the community canvassing the views of everyone about the proposed projects.  Nick and Alexa from Re-Generate came down last week to do some training with us on talking (or rather listening) to people in the community and they are coming back for a second session next week.  It was great to have them with us and we got a lot out of the day.  Our only regret was that we didn’t have their input at the beginning of the project as it feels a bit late in the day to be starting now.  But, hey, Neighbourhood Challenge might be coming to an end but our work in the community is only just beginning!

 Our next major challenge will be to secure funding to keep our Facilitators and Administrators in post as without their support little would happen.  Our other challenge is to build up the Community Association itself as the level of activity that has resulted from Neighbourhood Challenge has exposed the organisation’s weaknesses.  However the links that have been made with the wider community as a result of the publicity we have received has provided a number of potential Trustees and general committee members.  Hopefully with a larger Board of Trustees we will be able to maintain and support the level of activity that has been generated and to release the potential within the community that has begun to be recognised.

I can’t finish without saying a huge thank you to Carrie from NCVO who has provided much need support and and encouragement in the final stages of the project.  What are we going to do without you !


Christmas Post

Hello Everyone!

It’s now six weeks since Jo, Amanda and Claire, our three Community Facilitators started and the Community Centre has been a frenzy of activity as all the seed funded projects begin to take off.  We now have 19 projects approved by our Steering Group for up to £500 seed funding each.  There’s quite a lot of overlap between some of the projects, but they generally fall into three categories – ‘creative’ ones, ‘activity’ based ones and those providing ‘facilities /  resources’.

Here’s some of our Steering Group:


 Laura, Cathy & Joy                                Stephanie and Jo 

And that’s me facilitating the Steering Group meeting:

Here’s an update from the Facilitators on what’s been happening this month with all the projects:

First off the ground was Playball – we had about 18 children coming to the first few sessions after school on Fridays.  We ran two sessions each time for the different age groups and we encouraged the parents to bring food to share while they waited.  This worked really well as it brought people together, often for the first time, and lots of connections were made.  As a result the parents and children have suggested running a homework club at the same time and there has been a request for a TV screen so we can put on DVDs to keep the younger children amused.  Our ideal is to be able to have a homework club running every day after school at the same time as other after school activities.

The teachers are on strike so let’s plant bulbs!

Our next emerging project is a gardening club – we have been really blessed by Selina Botham our award winning garden designer who inspired the young people when she came to talk to them about ideas for improving the area outside the Community Centre.  We decided to make a start by planting some bulbs and, on the day of the teachers’ strike, we invited everyone to come and help.  Lots of people turned up – young and old and we even roped in the local PC!  Everyone worked hard clearing, digging and planting.  Cups of tea,  soup  and bread kept us going.  It was a great way to bring people together – a real example of ‘community in action’.  The day ended with a  rain storm followed by a rainbow – a promise of good things to come!

We had a morning where we ran taster sessions for three of the more creative projects – the Art group – led by Joy, a self-taught artist,  who brought along several of her friends and neighbours; a book club with groups for both English and non-English speakers, co-ordinated by Jenny Smith, our ESOL teacher and our cookery group – run by local mum Stephanie.  We also started a group called ‘Knit and Natter’ which came about when Jenny Smith discovered that a Polish lady in her ESOL class liked to knit.  Jenny S suggested that she brought her knitting to the Community Centre so she had some company and now a group of them are knitting hats for the men at the local homeless hostel where Jenny S used to work. We also discovered someone who wants to teach sewing so we’re on the lookout for a sewing machine – maybe we’ll get some curtains made like The Mill – perhaps not denim though!

For the cooking group, Stephanie demonstrated making dough which people could take back to bake – the lack of a kitchen in the Community Centre is beginning to be a real drawback and is restricting what we can do so we are having to find ways round this at present.  Stephanie, a native French speaker, has also offered to run some French classes for local people so some of the seed funding will be used to pay for her to take a basic PTTLS teaching course at the local college.

Then we have the food bank that we have started to establish, a necessary facility for some in the community.  We are running it on a very informal basis at present but are planning a trip to an established food bank in the New Year to learn how to run one properly. There’s been lots of interest in this especially from some of the local churches who have already donated goods and funds to purchase some Christmas items for those facing hard times.

We had a successful trip with 14 of the young people to a community centre in nearby Walton where they ran a youth cafe.  As a result three of them have signed up to take forward the idea of setting up a youth cafe themselves.   They had a great time at the cafe and it made us realise that our own building is not well designed for running youth activities – it has six entrances / fire exits which people can come in and out of and the building is a bit of a rabbit warren, so keeping track of who’s coming and going is not easy.

We discovered this when we ran an event for the youth combining a taster session for our football project with a disco (who’s idea was that?!)  Despite the rain most of the youth went out on the football pitch with Scott the coach.  Two of the boys were keen to take the lead on this project which will provide some football coaching to develop skills and also to identify candidates for the FA Young Leaders and Level I coaching courses which they can take.

Highlight of the evening was the arrival of local Eastenders star, Charlie Brooks (aka Janine) – needless to say everyone wanted their photo taken with her! Here’s wannabe TV stars Jo and Selina with Charlie.

Also on the sporting theme, some people had come up with the idea of outdoor gym equipment on the recreation ground.  A visit to an outdoor gym had been proposed but this has been put off until the spring.  In the meantime we have purchased some gym equipment and have arranged for a gym instructor to come to show people how to use it.  One of the pieces is a punch bag which has already proved popular so we’ll be expecting a reduction in stress levels from now on!

Other projects which are emerging from the ideas of some of the younger residents are for skateboarding instruction and an after school  junior chess club.  We’ve also discovered a Pilates instructor in our midst and she is running some taster sessions with a view to establishing an affordable class for people living in Lower Green.  Likewise with Zumba – which several people were keen to do – a mum at the local primary school is an instructor and she is going to run some classes and mentor anyone who is keen to become an instructor themselves.

Finally there is the toy library idea which we hope will provide an opportunity to connect with parents who would not normally come to a parent & toddler group or to a Children’s Centre session. 

Jenny: With all these projects  beginning to happen the three facilitators have been working flat out co-ordinating everything and encouraging local people to become involved.  It’s been a real advantage to have three people dealing with everything and we’re beginning to wonder how Lesley, our previous facilitator, would have managed all these different projects at the same time on her own in the timescale we have to work to. 

Although we miss Lesley, it’s been great to have Jo, Amanda and Claire on board and there’s a real buzz in the Community Centre when we’re all there. It’s a lot of fun working this way and we never quite know what each day will bring – it’s certainly never boring!  Managing a three-way job share is not without its own challenges though and we have to be careful to make sure we don’t duplicate things and ensure we keep each other up to date with everything that is going on.

Having three people working at the same has also created a problem with space as we don’t have an office at the Community Centre.  We have plans to convert our tiny kitchen into an office but we don’t have the funding yet to create a full size kitchen elsewhere in the building.   Instead, Jo, Amanda and Claire set themselves up in the bar area with their laptops and mobile filing cabinets.  We recently purchased a concertina style room divider for Jo, who is also our Administrator, to ‘hide’ behind so she can work without being interrupted.  The screens also provide some much needed space for pinning all the notices, posters and sign up sheets for all the projects.  We’re thinking of installing a bed behind the screen to save Jo from having to go home each night!

Our other challenge is the time and effort it takes to tell local people about all the things that are happening now at the Community Centre.  We post things on Facebook a lot but we’ve found that the only really effective way is word of mouth together with a flier thrust into people’s hands.  But this means getting out into the community and being where people are as the Community Centre is tucked awayout of sight.  Some people don’t even know it’s there.  Our chief ‘bumping places’ where people congregate are outside the local shop and at the bus stop.  There are also a couple of places where we can stand when school’s out to catch all the people walking back from both the local High School and the primary school.  This is difficult to organise though as we all have our own children to pick up at that time.

We’re all agreed that our New Year’s Resolution is going to be ‘we’ve got to get out more’!  So come January you may find us, like the Darwen project, setting up a sofa outside the local shop or in the middle of the recreation ground – I hope our Facilitators get lots of warm hats and scarves for Christmas – it could be chilly!  (Maybe we should ask our ‘Knit and Natter’ group to make us some.)



As well as all the projects starting, we had a visit from Tessy Britton with her fantastic Travelling Pantry.  We made Lego models, discovered unknown community assets and were inspired by Tessy’s stories of innovative community projects elsewhere. We’ve now got our eyes on an empty warehouse for our very own Manshed!  Thanks Tessy for a great day – our horizons were broadened and we learnt loads about new ways of doing community development.  We even demonstrated the value of people getting together and connecting with each other – we linked up someone who could teach knitting with someone who wanted to learn and we had the offer of someone’s kitchen where we could to run the first cookery classes.  We also discovered that we had a real shepherd and sheep on our doorstep (in the middle of Esher!) – but that’s another story.



You can read more about the Travelling Pantry in the December issue of ‘Essential Esher’ which is produced by local resident Alice Aird.  Alice has been a great support and has introduced us to a professional photographer who came along to our youth group and also to Charlie Brooks.

There have been several opportunities this month to get out and about in the rest of Esher to tell people about our Neighbourhood Challenge project and to promote the Esher Neighbourhood Fund.  I was invited to speak at the Esher Resident’s Association AGM and also spent a morning with a class of Yr 7s at Esher High School as part of their enrichment day.   I told them about Asset Based Community Development having been inspired by Cormac Russell and Jim Diers at the Manchester ABCD workshop I had been to the previous week – the kids really got the concept.  They produced some great posters for our youth football event and disco and then came up with their own ideas about what they would like in their community.  They loved the idea of a Menshed  and came up with lots of other off-the-wall ideas including a stress room full of punch bags!  We could do with one of those at the Community Centre for when Neighbourhood Challenge gets too much for us!

On the fundraising side we haven’t found our secret millionaire (yet), but we have had two amazing concerts which together have raised about £4,500 including the 50% NESTA match funding.  Gerry Cott, co-founder of the Boomtown Rats, captivated everyone with his virtuoso acoustic guitar performance in the Recital Room at Reeds School.  Equally enthralling was VOCE (Voices of Cambridge Ensemble) who did a Christmas concert at All Saints, Weston Green.  Dominic Raab, our local MP, spoke about the Fund and how it will support the local community, at both concerts.  Dominic is a great supporter of the Lower Green Community Association and even mentioned us in his maiden speech last year!

We have also got the support of two of the local private schools both of whom have collected money for us at their Christmas concerts and the parish church is donating all of its December collections to the Fund.  The children at one of the schools, Shrewsbury Lodge,  brought toys to their carol service which were then distributed at our Christmas party.  It’s been really encouraging to see how people are motivated to give by the fact that they can make a difference to their own local community. 

Our final event before the Christmas break was the  children’s party.  We had no idea how many people would turn up.  We catered for about 40 and had nearly 70 including all the parents!  Fortunately  there was enough food, craft and presents for all. Thanks to Aussie Fiona for doing a fantastic job with children making Christmas door hangers. It was great to see the building full to capacity with people enjoying themselves. We’ll need a bigger building before next Christmas if the numbers keep increasing like this!

So finally, we can wind down at the Community Centre and say hello to our own families again! 

So Happy Christmas to everyone at NESTA, NCVO and Icarus and to all the other Neighbourhood Challenge projects.   Have a good break and see you in the New Year!


All change at Lower Green!

It’s not only the colour of the leaves that has been changing this autumn in Lower Green!  At the Community Centre we’ve had a major change of personnel.  Lesley, our Neighbourhood Challenge Community Facilitator, sadly left us for a permanent post with the Alzheimers Society but in return we’ve gained not one, but three, Facilitators who are sharing the role! 

So hello and welcome to Amanda, Jo and Claire!  We’ll get some photos posted of you asap.

Jo and Amanda, both local mums, were already working at the Community Centre as Administrators while Claire, who until recently worked for Elmbridge Council as a Health Development Officer, was instrumental in setting up activities for the youth at the Community Centre and organising playchemes for local children in the school holidays.

Lesley did a great job engaging with local people to help develop their ideas and at the time she left we had nearly 20 projects ready to go forward for seed funding. 

Lesley’s departure inevitably  caused us a few headaches and at times, I wondered if I might be one of her first clients if she comes back to set up a Dementia Cafe at the Community Centre!  

Although we miss her, it’s been great to see how already the Neighbourhood Challenge has resulted in local people being appointed to take an active role in the development of their community.

Our Neighbourhood Challenge Steering group has also gone from strength to strength with more local people joining our fortnightly meetings.  When Alice and Halima came to visit us last month it was exciting to observe local people wanting to be involved in decision making and suddenly finding that they had a voice that was listened to.

With three people now working at the Community Centre and with all the other activities going on, space is at a premium in the building.  On several occasions we have had activities or classes going on in every room and have had to hold meetings outside on the patio!  Fortunately the mild weather has made this possible but I’m not sure we’ll be meeting out there much longer!  Talking of cold, we’re looking forward to being nice and warm in the Community Centre this winter as we’ve finally had our new heating system installed.  Gone are the days when we would sit there in our coats and scarves and shiver!

So, after a difficult month that slowed our progress somewhat, we are up and running again with the facilitators helping people to get the seed funded projects off the ground.  We’ve already run two “Playball” sessions and were amazed when 20 children plus their parents turned up the first week with only a few days notice!  We were able to use the opportunity to talk to the parents about their ideas to enable the classes to continue – all the parents understood the concept of giving something back whether it be time, skills or money.

Other projects that are getting off the ground include a gardening project where local people are keen to grow their own produce.  Next week we’ve got a local garden designer who exhibits at the Hampton Court Flower Show (just up the road from us) to listen to people’s ideas about what they would like to do and to give us some suggestions about how to go about it.

One local mum who is French is keen to run cookery classes to show how to save money by using basic products. She has already whet our appetites (literally) by bringing in some home made bread and green tomato chutney.  We are already thinking about going into production with ‘Lower Green Tomato Chutney’ with the tomatoes we hope to grow next year!

Setting up a Community Cafe is another idea that is being explored and we have a group of young people who are keen to run a Youth Cafe.  We are planning to visit some existing youth cafes in the local area so the young people can find out what is involved and hopefully be inspired to set up their own. 

We’re planning an event for the Youth on 1 Dec when we’ll have a taster football session with a company who will train young people as coaches. We’re also hoping that we might get a visit from a local celebrity and there’ll be a disco as well.  We’ve asked the DJ to talk about how he trained and set up his business to inspire any budding DJs.  We’ve also got our Community Association Trustee’s meeting that evening so we may need to provide ear plugs!

The other part of our Neighbourhood Challenge project is raising money to establish a permanent endowment fund to provide a source of income for funding future projects and innovations.   Whilst the Community Foundation for Surrey have been working with their contacts, we’ve organised a couple of local events to raise awareness of the fund.  The first of these was a Ladies Pamper evening, ably organised by a local mum, Lydia who is helping us with marketing and fundraising.  The venue was a meeting room in a pub in the centre of Esher which was provided free of charge by the landlord. We had lots of support too from Alice Aird, the editor of Essential Esher a local magazine.

Alice and I also stood with our charity collecting buckets at the firework display at Imber Court (the Met Police Sports Club) which is near Lower Green.  Apparently it’s illegal to rattle collecting buckets but none of the police there stopped us!  We didn’t collect much money but we did  meet some key people including Dominic Raab, our local MP, and his wife Erika.  Dominic is a great supporter of the Fund and of Lower Green and we even got a mention in his maiden speech last year.

Dominic is also coming to our next fund raising event at Reeds School – a solo acoustic guitar concert by virtuoso guitarist Gerry Cott, co-founder of the Boomtown Rats.  Gerry will be playing pieces from his album ‘Urban Soundscapes’ . Tickets are still available!

We’ve also welcomed three new members to the Neighbourhood Fund Group – here we are at our latest meeting.

So, despite a few setbacks, we’ve made lots of progress thanks to everyone who’s still on board.  Special thanks to Carrie at NCVO and Alice at NESTA for sending out the lifeboat!

Jenny French, Secretary, LGCA

Lower Green Neighbourhood Challenge August 2011

Welcome to Lower Green

Hello everyone,

Well,  July seems to have flown by already and  I have been very busy meeting with local residents to start putting their ideas into practise. 

Here is a flavour of  some of the  ideas that we have been working on  so far in July:

Playball –  offers  a multi-skill programme of sports activities, fundamental movement skills and games for children aged 2-9 years

Youth Cafe –  A safe and relaxed  place for young people hang out. Lots of them end up in a dangerous place because they have no other space to just be with their mates and chill out. The great thing about youth café is that they are set up and run by the young people who use them.

Football – To introduce football opportunities for 10-17 years old children and youths to partake in a structured football experience and coach education programme.

Art Class – The class will be a safe, relaxed and creative environment with the main aim of encouraging local people to enjoy the pleasure of learning and sharing skills with local people who have a common interest – art. Opening up new possibilities for people to learn different ways of painting and to find out more about artists and their work. Creativity and the arts can and have a powerful effect upon people` health and well-being

Creative Dance – To provide dance classes for 5-16 year olds, including Hip Hop, Jazz, Disco and Ballet helping to  promote self-esteem  and encouraging  a healthy lifestyle.

Cooking class – Basic cookery to boost  confidence and increase skills in the kitchen, including cooking nutritious meals on a budget.

Foodbank –  The Food Bank provides local families and individuals with essential food supplies at a time when they need them most, covering the days or sometimes weeks before other parts of the social care infrastructure can come into play.

What next?

All these fantastic ideas have come from the local community and we are working on putting these ideas into practise.  The first  meeting with the Steering Group for the initial seed funding  of up to £500   is due at the beginning of October. We are hoping to have at least 20 ideas to put forward by then.

Until the next time,