Great ideas at a great event

The ideas were flowing at Make:Shift 2016 on Saturday as people from across the city shared their thoughts on how to ‘Change Wolverhampton with an Idea’.

Participants also received funding and business advice, and got involved in workshops designed to inspire people to create or enhance their own ideas.

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Ideas put forward at the event included:

  • skills sharing sessions where people can share any skill at all, from meditation to knitting
  • a follow up Make:Shift event in November to support people to come up with new ideas (details below)
  • a series of smaller Make:Shift get togethers in various parts of the city to engage people in localities
  • using networks such as the Ethnic Minority Council and the Interfaith Network to help reach out to new Make:Shift members

These activities will now be supported by the council’s economic inclusion team.

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Kim Harris was also on hand to display her hand made wood turned items which are now available to buy.

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Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “Make:Shift is in its fifth year and continues to be a truly inspirational forum.

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“The people of Wolverhampton never let us down when it comes to creativity – and we are delighted we can help foster the wealth of ideas put forward.

“Plans are already underway to expand the impact of Make:Shift all year round.”

Ideas from previous events that have taken off, include:

  • the Camera Obscura at Boundary Way Allotments – a space that encourages people to slow down and stop and stare at the beauty of the everyday
  • the Social Steam Engine – an organisation working with people with mental health issues and learning disabilities that provides community activities by encouraging people to pool their direct payments
  • Gatis Community Space – space on the site of the former adventure playground in Whitmore Reans, which encourages the whole community to have pride in their neighbourhood, have fun, get healthier, learn new things and break down any cultural barriers which may exist

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The Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council will be hosting an Active Community Session as a follow up to the Make:Shift event, at its Temple Street base, on Tuesday 8 November, between 12pm and 2pm.

For more information about this and Make:Shift please contact Sam Axtell (Tuesdays to Thursdays) on 01902 554918 or email sam.axtell2@wolverhampton.gov.uk.

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Make:Shift 2016 is here!

It’s been a long time coming but Make:Shift will be happening tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at The Old School Dudley Road, Blakenhall, Wolverhampton. 

We know that we’ve got some great people coming along to pitch their idea for changing Wolverhampton. We’ll also hear from some of the people who are already doing that, having pitched their idea in previous years. To add to the fun they’re all going to be pitching in two minutes!

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This year we will be carrying on making links into things that are already going on that can support your efforts. So we’ll be having some input on how to turn your idea into an enterprise, what more the Council can do to support community-led ventures, what funding is available to support your ideas and other great local initiatives like Creative Monday and the Junction Arts Festival.

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As always there will be drinks and biscuits on tap all day and a delicious free lunch.

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You bring the Make:Shift magic and I’ll bring the projector!

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Just turn up if you like or book your free ticket here.

 

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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The Social Steam Engine – a great idea open to everyone. By Will Ashworth

As you may have already noticed, here at Make:Shift we have a passion for anything that benefits the communities we live in. However, the various projects that have sprung up over that last couple of years have invariably been the passions of the most confident and tenacious people around. And this is a good thing of course. We rely on these people to keep pushing our communities forward (and also hope that they come to October 15 Make:Shift event!) But what about those people, who might want and need the benefits of community activity, but are not in the position to create it for themselves? Those people that are unfortunate enough to be held back by either mental, sensory, or physical health needs?

This was a problem that was spotted by care worker Hiran Patel who started the Social Steam Engine Community Association, a social care micro enterprise with the aim of giving back control to those receiving social services. Hiran recognised that the people who needed these services were at risk of becoming institutionalised if they were not provided with services that included the user’s choice.

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In order to achieve this, and after some advice from people he met at Make:Shift, Hiran decided to operate it using a pooled budget model. A system where service users could save up money and support to be used for a regular joint activity. Many of these activities have had a decidedly scientific slant, with the group even securing a grant in 2014 and help from the Institute of Physics. Recently they have rebuilt a broken nitro car and undertaken a project on rockets! They have also ventured into the world of photography, with an art project run with the help of Creative Black Country.

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This is what Make:Shift is all about. Giving everybody, no matter who they are, the opportunity to make Wolverhampton better!

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Get your free ticket here

Brains Wanted! By Will Ashworth

Yes, that’s right you read correctly. We want your brain, and we want it to come up with an idea that could change the place in which we live for the better. This is because, if you didn’t know already, this year’s Make:Shift is fast approaching – Wolverhampton’s IDEAS festival!

Have you ever wondered about how Wolverhampton could be improved? Or thought about undertaking a community project, but haven’t known how you would start such a thing? It’s probably safe to say we all have, but short of knocking on doors and running for election, it could seem like there is little you could do about it.

That’s where Make:Shift comes in. It is your chance to pitch your idea to those in our community that share your determination.

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But how does it work? I hear you cry.

Well, Make:Shift is run as an ‘unconference’. This means that there is no pre-set agenda, meaning it is all decided on the day. If you have an idea, you can pitch it to the room and after that it can be discussed, mulled over, pulled apart, and put back together again all on the same day! This might sound a bit daunting, but remember that everyone has the same goal as you do – to make our city a better place. You may even be able to find people with similar ideas and collaborate with them to turn them into a reality.

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You may also be asking, if don’t have an idea, is my brain useless?

Well, no! If you are interested in what Make:Shift is all about then you are more than welcome to come along and listen to everyone’s ideas, and throw in your own if you get some last minute inspiration. Added to which, there will also be free food and drinks provided. Woo hoo!

What to do next –

This year Make:Shift will be held on October 15 10:00 a.m – 4:00 p.m. at the Old School, Dudley Road, Blakenhall.

You can get your free ticket here.

Our Own Future -you bet it is. By Will Ashworth

In relation to my last blog post about ‘potlucks’, the practice sharing of food between a community, I have been looking at a Make:Shift inspired project in Wolverhampton that also uses food as a tool to bring people together, but in a slightly different way.

Allotments have been a feature of British life for generations, stereotypically run by time-rich retirees, eager for some time in the open air or to get away from her/him indoors. But they have had something of a resurgence in recent times, with waiting times for plots stretching into years in some areas, possibly brought about by the recession or people wanting to get more organic vegetables into their diet.

But why should the benefits of an allotment be limited to those lucky few who have managed to bag a plot to themselves? That is a question that Elliot Lord must have asked himself when he came up with the idea that he pitched to Make:Shift in 2013. That idea was to turn a piece of unused land into a free organic garden that is run and owned by the community. A very simple, but a very Make:Shift-y concept that we are greater than the sum of our parts.

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Elliot eventually managed to acquire the use of an abandoned allotment on Lich Avenue, Wednesfield from Wolverhampton Homes, a plot that had been suggested to him in a brainstorming session at Make:Shift. Wolverhampton Homes also also helped to prepare the space ready for the first seed to be planted, and with the added help of local volunteers and businesses, they also kitted out the garden with essentials like a shed and a greenhouse, made from entirely reclaimed materials. Not surprising then that renaissance man Elliot is also the inventor of the innovative cardboard bed designed for the homeless that received national press coverage. A keen community campaigner, he is also founder of ‘Own our Future’, an organisation that promotes the empowerment of people to take control of their own destinies through community led projects such as the organic garden.

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Over three years into the project and it is still going strong, churning out organic produce which is consumed by the volunteers that grow it and then the surplus being donated to foodbanks and local charities. Another fine example of how great an impact a simple idea can have when our communities pull together to make it happen. Or rather, Make:Shift it happen!

 

Pot Luck by Will Ashworth

Here at Make:Shift towers we are always interested in ideas that involve bringing our communities together and the idea that we are greater than the sum of our parts. After all, Make:Shift is all about sharing your ideas with the wider community to help improve the city. A great idea will remain exactly that unless it is shared with other people.

This week I have been looking across the pond to see what our American friends can teach us about getting people together and I came across a long held tradition of theirs that, unlike gangster rap or chocolate with peanut butter, has not quite managed to take root on our shores.

In our quaint British way, community gatherings are often only supplied with refreshments in the form of a cup of lukewarm tea, a pack of biscuits, or possibly an overcooked fairy cake. But as with many things in America, they do things a bit bigger with what they call the ‘potluck’. This isn’t a type of bingo, but a gathering where all the attendees bring along their favourite dish to share with everyone at a big community dinner.

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After my online research on these events, it seems that the received wisdom is to decide on a theme so that curry isn’t sat alongside pasta. But I’m not sure I agree with this. Surely by calling an event a potluck should mean that dishes should be random?! Also, if it is truly potluck, then any event would surely show off the diversity in food and culture, especially in a place like Wolverhampton. Chocolate cake with your chow mein? Yes, please!

There are so many ways of bringing a community together, and food seems to me like something we all have in common. So why not organise your own potluck? Or, of course, if you have another great idea, come and tell us about it at Make:Shift this October. Don’t forget the biscuits!

 

Take a walk on the Wildside

When you think of Wolverhampton, you might not immediately conjure images of the idyllic scenes found in something like The Wind in the Willows. This might be even less likely when talking about an area like Whitmore Reans, a place that many would sooner associate with stretches of terrace houses rather than grassy riverbanks.

But like many places in our city, it is home to something that you might not expect to find there. That something is the Wildside Activity Centre, a small independent charity that has been operating for the past twenty years. Its aim? To provide outdoor environmental education to the people of Wolverhampton via a wide range of activities that the centre is able to host.

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An oasis of nature in the midst of this urban environment, Wildside is quite unique in its location. Situated on the bank of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, it offers visitors access to a diverse range of natural habitats that include the waterway, as well as surrounding wooded and meadow areas. This enables them to provide a staggering array of activities all designed to get people off the sofa and into the great outdoors.

Such activities include everything from bike rides and canoeing, to pond dipping and treasure hunts. While being fun for visitors, they are also created to educate and inform about environment and conservation issues that affect everyone in the local area, both now and for generations to come. They also boast their very own narrow boat ‘The Trebalisa’ which they are able to operate as a ‘floating classroom’ taking groups out for trips to learn about the natural and social history of the canal. Water way to have a good time!

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All this nature on our doorstep is also something Wildside believe should not be the preserve of the few. They have a dedicated team of four part-time and one fulltime staff, plus many volunteers, whose aim it is to deliver this environmental education to the people of Whitmore Reans and beyond. Catering for schools, youth groups, families, private and corporate groups, there isn’t anyone who cannot enjoy the centre. In particular, they are proud of their work with disabled people and those with mental health issues. Even The Trebalisa is set up for disabled visitors ensuring that no one misses out.

And all this isn’t just what they do. They are also running various environmental projects at the same time. At the moment they have an active group of conservation volunteers that are working with the Canal and River Trust to improve the wildlife habitats along the canal. This recent work has seen the re-introduction of water vole into the area, so maybe we will see Ratty and Mr Toad down this way after all! As well as this success, another project has seen the centre recently acquire an allotment that can be used by the local community.

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It’s amazing how something as simple as nature can be used to improve the lives of so many people in Wolverhampton. Wildside are making this happen and are also working with organisations such as Creative Black Country, Newhampton Arts Centre, and Whitmore Reans Connect to spread the message and get more people to enjoy this incredible place.

If you would like to find out more about Wildside Activity Centre, or would like to make a booking, call 01902 572240 or email info@wildsideac.co.uk.