Patrick Frew, Chairman of Cloughmills Community Action Team, explains how the group worked with local people to make their community a better place to live.
Our dream was to bring people together to create a more sustainable community – and we needed money to make it a reality. Winning the Big Lottery Fund’s People’s Millions competition in 2011 allowed us to take a big leap forward. It has spring-boarded us into doing a whole range of different activities, all with the theme of being more environmentally sustainable and making people happier. It has reinvigorated the whole community of Cloughmills.
We used the grant to turn derelict space into Incredible Edible Cloughmills, where people connect with the environment and each other.We are always on the look-out for ideas from local people – we want people to experience something different here. We try to include everybody in what we do.
At the moment we are working with a social and therapeutic horticulturist to deliver a gardening course for older people. We are about to run training for young people to cultivate high-end mushrooms like shitake and oyster and we’re running courses on cooking and bee-keeping. We 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. Older people get together with young people to share recipes and pass on skills. We have a low carbon footprint at the site, using energy from our solar panels as much as possible and we have a reed bed and composting system in place. For the Big Lunch that we hosted this year, local children used pedal power to mash up the fruit for their smoothies on a ‘smoothie bicycle’.
We use what we have – our kitchen used to be a shed. We put a wood-burning stove into an old stone building on our site and this is where we run our courses. We use the fruit and vegetables we grow for communal meals, cooked in our outdoor oven.
We have about 30 volunteers but welcome anyone who would like to come along to share a skill or learn something new.
Groups from across Northern Ireland regularly come to visit us and see what we’re doing. They go away enthused, and hopefully inspired to change their own communities for the better.