Residents involved with the Local Conversation project in Haverhill supported by Community Action Suffolk

A recent community event in Clements, Haverhill South, brought together more than 100 residents to celebrate their history and achievements.

The event marked 55 years since Clements housing estate, where the Local Conversation in Haverhill South in Suffolk is focused, gained its first inhabitants. Over 100 residents attended and contributed to the event, which included a range of arts and craft stalls, a large picnic spread, and various rides such as a bungee jump and rock-climbing wall.

Dave Smith, town councillor, resident and member of the Steering Group, known as - the People’s Forum - said: “It’s amazing to see how much Clements estate has grown since 1964. It has expanded from a small, secluded town to a thriving, vibrant community.

“The neighbourhood continues to develop; however, we lack the infrastructure and resources to support our residents fully. Initiatives like the Local Conversation are important to ensure that residents are maintaining a dialogue about local issues and that their voices are heard.”

The event kicked off at the recently opened BMX track, which was put forward as an idea from residents through the Local Conversation three years ago.

Helen Cullup, Community Engagement Worker in Haverhill South, explained: “The BMX track was a local dream, but there were many hoops to jump through, mainly from local authorities, before it became a reality. Since its completion in December 2018, it is being used by over 200 young people, as well as adults every month. Teachers from the local primary school have noticed that more children are cycling to school.

“We’re really hoping that the track will encourage children and young people in the local community to get more involved and lead the way for others to create further positive changes in Clements. They’ve already started to discuss ways in which to develop the space, including additional seats for spectators and an adjacent dirt track for racing.”

Residents have been involved in all aspects of the project, from the design of the track, to its upkeep and getting involved in user groups.

Residents developed the BMX track and an allotment as part of the Local Conversation’s three main priorities: children and young people; community; and health and wellbeing. The BMX track and allotment have been a source of engagement in the local community, creating an intergenerational conversation between residents.

During the event, there was a cooking club taking place in the community kitchen. Christina Sandra Tortellini, a resident, explained: “This is part of the Befriending Scheme, which holds weekly sessions for young adults with disabilities. Members always cook healthy meals and have lunch together, which encourages them to socialise with their peers. The befriending scheme was funded by a grant from the People’s Forum as part of the Local Conversation.

“My daughter, who has Down syndrome, recently joined the Befriending Scheme. She rarely left the house before; now she attends all the sessions and meets up with members outside of the scheme. Recently, they went bowling and had a BBQ.”

Christina added: “When my daughter is at the cooking club, I attend Meet-up Monday sessions, where I’m able to get to know my neighbours over a cup of tea and biscuits. It’s incredibly inclusive and we often spend this time planning events for the local community like the 55-year celebration.”

The Local Conversation in Haverhill is supported by Community Action Suffolk and funded by People's Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery East.

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