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How People’s Millions reinvigorated a whole village

May 7, 2014

There’s just over a week left to apply for the People’s Millions and transform your community. Read the inspiring story of Cloughmills Community Action Team, who won the People’s Millions for their Happiness Project – Peas and Love in 2011.

Written by Patrick Frew, Chairman of Cloughmills Community Association

Our dream was to bring people together to create a more sustainable community – and we needed money to make it a reality. Winning the People’s Millions competition allowed us to take a big leap forward. It has reinvigorated the whole community of Cloughmills.

Patrick Frew, Cloughmills Community Action Team

Patrick Frew, Cloughmills Community Action Team

We used the grant to turn derelict space in the village into a vibrant Incredible Edible Cloughmills. People come together here to grow fruit and vegetables, cook their produce and host community events. We also try to encourage people to look after the environment.

But three years on from the People’s Millions, we are doing so much more. We went on to access other funding – including from Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS programme. We used the grant to develop a micro brewery and run training courses in horticulture and traditional activities such as weaving, wood cutting, bread baking and arts and crafts. Maybe one day we’ll have a Cloughmills beer.

We’re also training young people to cultivate mushrooms like shitake and oyster and running courses on cooking and bee-keeping. We’ve teamed up with a free range pig expert to allow local people to buy shares in free range pigs. We bake bread, plant trees and press apples to made fresh juice.

We are also running a John Muir award for young people. It’s an environmental award that encourages people to care for wild places. As part of that, the young people have planted an edible hedge with plants that you can make jams, chutneys and cordials from. They also cleaned out the river beside the allotments.

One of the most important things we do is to link up with other communities. We use our fair trade Mongolian yurt to host get-togethers for people from the village and further afield, whatever the weather. We use the fruit and vegetables we grow to cook communal meals for everyone in our outdoor oven.

Cloughmills

We try to include everybody in what we do. At the moment we are working with a social and therapeutic horticulturist to develop a gardening course for people with learning disabilities.

We took on the People’s Millions competition with great gusto and went round campaigning in the local villages and towns with loud speakers. Then on the morning of the vote we got the voting line phone number out to people really quickly.

People really got behind us. The People’s Millions helped us attract a lot more volunteers and build a higher profile.

Although Cloughmills was a vibrant community before, winning the People’s Millions has really given us a boost. This has really brought people together – that was the nucleus of the whole thing.

We have won a number of awards for our work. Cloughmills Community Action Team recently received the runner up award for Best Community Project at the Action Renewables Energy Awards in Belfast.

Every week there is at least one group from somewhere else in Northern Ireland coming to visit us and see what we’re doing. They go away enthused, and hopefully inspired to change their own communities for the better.

Watch our film about Cloughmills Community Action Team here

To apply to the People’s Millions, go to http://www.peoplesmillions.org.uk. The deadline for applications is noon on Friday 16th May.

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