Justice Prince CIC's annual fair, organised as part of the Local Conversation in Longbenton, Newcastle.

In July, the Local Conversation in Longbenton, Newcastle supported by Justice Prince held their annual fair in the community garden.

The carnival brought together 240 residents from across the community and had a range of activities including football, face painting and a bouncy castle and stalls with various competitions, crafts and food.

This year, there was a special reason to celebrate as Justice Prince have bought the garden from the local Council, which is on the site of disused allotments, having recently successfully negotiated a community asset transfer. It has become a thriving environmental community hub and is used all-year round by groups from across the community.

John is one of the volunteers in the garden and was at the Carnival selling planters he’d made from reclaimed wood. He said that if hadn’t started volunteering, he wouldn’t be leaving the house at all, and that he felt so much less isolated now.

Another volunteer, Winnie, was at one of the busiest stalls doing the face painting. She has lived in Longbenton since having her first child 11 years ago, and explained that she’d got more and more involved, and now runs weekly Tai Chi and chair-based exercise classes, as well as being on the Steering Group.

Carnival - Volunteer Winnie facepaints at the event

Residents are working on a number of priorities: improving the physical environment, unemployment, support for older and vulnerable people and improving community cohesion. These are issues that have formed the basis of the Local Conversation and there are various resident-led groups leading on different areas: a Steering Group, a Funding panel distributing small community grants, and four Environmental Action Teams for each area of the neighbourhood.

Our local environment has an impact on our health, and residents from across the Local Conversation programme have chosen this as one of their main priorities. Taking action to improve the local environment also brings other benefits through building confidence and skills and strengthening local control.

The community garden in Longbenton is a great example of this because it provides a space for residents to come together and build connections, volunteer, learn new skills, meet people and get involved in a huge range of activities.

Members of the Local Conversation running a stall

Karen Clark, one of the Founding Directors of Justice Prince explains “Those facing daily battles find solace on the community garden as they work alongside others who share similar experiences. The community garden provides a great opportunity for informal learning and a huge amount of work is carried out through peer support.”

One of the main ways the Trust’s funding programmes are aiming to address the health gap is through the development of collective control, because when people have more control over decisions and actions that affect their lives, they have a better chance of improving and maintaining their health.

Karen adds: “On an individual level, the Local Conversation in Longbenton is helping people to feel more in control of their local area and in their own lives, and giving them increased confidence in their own power, and their ability to influence others, including politicians and other decision makers and service providers.

Julie Cruddas, Director and Co-Founder of Justice Prince added “Our annual Carnival is a great way to bring the community together and for residents to get more involved in the Local Conversation. This was the first year that the Carnival was fully organised by volunteers and the process of organising it in the months leading up as well as on the day really demonstrates how our volunteers have grown confidence and are in control.”

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