Community matters
Community / People

Community matters

Words: Gwyneth Holland
Published: Summer ‘17

The Redmond Community Centre is a unique place: a hub of inspiration, education and relaxation for the growing community around Woodberry Down. Residents are rightly proud of this special space, now a winner of two prestigious awards for its collaborative approach that combines the needs of the local community with the support and vision of the Manor House Development Trust. We speak to Carolina Correia, project manager of MHDT, about what makes Woodberry Down’s community projects so successful.

“Really, the award is not for us, it’s for the community.”

Created as a cornerstone of the Woodberry Down redevelopment, the Redmond Community Centre has become a cornerstone for the local community too. Hosting a library, creative gardening club, exercise and dance classes, kids’ events, training courses and even art exhibitions, the centre has become a place for the community to meet, learn and play.

“The centre was built into the regeneration plans as a key feature – a communal space for residents to use for their needs,” says Carolina. The Manor House Development Trust (MHDT) created the space to be run by, and for, the community, with the organisation working as a facilitator for their needs. “Early on, the organisation considered, should we deliver services or give local people the tools to do it for themselves – what’s more sustainable? We think if you give someone training, resources and support, they will create something they love, they are proud of and that lasts. So, as part of our vision, we focus on giving the tools and the means for the community to develop.”

And it’s a method that’s clearly working, with MHDT gaining awards for its innovative approach. The organisation was awarded the SE100 Impact Champion award for social enterprises, recognising the real community benefits and long term impact of its projects. “Whenever we develop a new project or event, we ask the community what they want, then we help them to get it running, and check what’s working: We ask people how it transformed their lives, and what they learned from the experience.” Projects can range from one-off adult learning classes and weekly football clubs and to festivals and volunteering opportunities.

And as Carolina highlights, “Volunteering has become a really important way for the community to meet, support each other and share their expertise”. Volunteers support the running of activities at the centre, as well as mentoring and befriending other residents. They also play a key role in the planning and organisation of events like the annual Hidden River festival – a true community event, with local musicians, local food plant and craft stalls, but more importantly, says Carolina, “It brings people together – people come down from their flats and meet each other. The festival builds and bonds the community, and makes people feel like the area is truly theirs. It’s one of the best things we do and perhaps the fullest example of our ethos at work.”

“It’s important for us to create a platform for people to connect with each other and with local services – events, festivals, classes and projects. That all comes together at the Redmond Community Centre. It’s our priority that people from all walks of life can feel like this is their space.” Another key goal for the MHDT team is to ensure the sustainability of the work done in the community through fostering community services and events that residents can run themselves for many years to come.

As part of the Woodberry Down 2030 development plan, the team’s intention is that the community’s services become increasingly self-sufficient. “Our aim is to make sure the community develops socially and economically, so there is no more need for a specialised community development team in place.” It’s this attitude to sustainable community-building that has garnered The Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, an honour that MHDT and locals are rightfully proud of. “Really, the award is not for us, it’s for the community. Everyone is really proud of the Redmond Community Centre, and all of the events and programmes we create together, and the award is just confirmation that we’re going in the right direction. Everything we do is about giving people ownership of their own future,” says Carolina.