Working on behalf of the Community

Our Ryde – Reflection on Community!

I have always advocated the need for effective community development as a way of enabling grass-roots action that empower people to make the changes in their lives in the place they live.

We live in difficult times and we are all faced now with the realities of inflation and the cost of living crisis. We need inspiration, imagination and creativity to help us as a community to face the challenges awaiting us in the next 12 months. The words written in 2014 below sum up my current thinking.

“As a society, the changes being forced on us are mind-blowing. There is not much we can take for granted any longer. This is neither a minus nor a plus: it is a fact of social and economic evolution which happens to be breathtakingly sudden. How we react to it, whether we feel helpless or exhilarated, depends on how we choose to think.

There are a hundred and one starting points for local community action, but all have one thing in common. It is the day you or a neighbour step over a broken pavement or rubbish dumped in a corner and say, not ‘someone’ should do something, but ‘we’ should do something.

Many more steps will have to follow. Everyone has a role to play. Communities are full of unused energy, talent, skills and knowledge. Once this is unlocked, great changes can take place.

The first is a continuation of the current paradigm of laissez-faire. This is the mindset of those who promise growth and a better tomorrow, but connive at cutting communities adrift through the rationing of welfare and resources.

The second is a commitment to a new paradigm in which communities can become agents rather than victims, with programmes that enable them to attack the structures of dependency and retake control of their destiny.”

Community Action and Empowerment taking place in Ryde

Our Ryde is a movement of local residents who stood for Ryde Town Council in May 2021. There were 9 candidates and all nine won seats. Overall, Our Ryde gained 68% of votes cast. This was inspired by the flatpack democracy movement Power Tools for Reclaiming Local Politics – Flatpack Democracy The motivation was to enable local residents to have a greater voice on what happens in their local community and not be tied to any specific political philosophy or party. The focus on community action.

Our Ryde councillors (8 out of 16 elected councillors) have supported and influenced Ryde Town Council to be proactive in taking action which improve opportunities for the Town as a whole and opportunities for individual residents. Collectively, Our Ryde councillors can put forward ideas, strategies and motions that directly improve the lives of Ryde residents. Our Ryde councillors have the roles of Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Chair of Finance, Chair of Neighbourhood, Place Plan and Planning Committee. Our Ryde councillors are Cllrs Michael Lilley, Jenna Sabine, Jo Elliott, Georgie Carter, Phil Jordan, Richard May and Simon Cooke.

Some examples of Our Ryde councillor support and action:

Heritage and Historic BuildingsOur Ryde has supported Ryde and Ryde Town Council to be be fully recognised by Historic England and the Arts Council with the establishment of the Ryde Historic Action Zone in partnership with IW Council. This has resulted in RTC purchasing St. Thomas’s Church so it is preserved historically but brought back into community use as a modern youth centre for young people of the Town. Vectis Hall has been purchased to be a new eclectic community centre and future Town Council offices. RTC has supported local community enterprise, Shademakers, to develop the old Elizabeth Packs building on Cross Street in an Arts Centre and gain over £2.5Million from Arts Council. RTC now supports a working group exploring all the options for the old Ryde Town Hall and Theatre on Lind Street to be brought back into community ownership and be fully renovated. RTC and Our Ryde councillors have worked closely with Natural Enterprise charity and IW Council to attract investment into Appley Tower. RTC is now working closely with the Diocese of Portsmouth (CofE) in the restoration, preservation and long-term sustainability of three Ryde churches. Historic Ryde and its economic Ryde are one and the more vibrant buildings we have and less derelict buildings, the more the Town will grow.

A strong financial infrastructure for growth of the Town economically and socially Our Ryde Councillors have worked with the RTC staff team in helping the Town move from old parish council financial methodology to a modern 21st century accounting model that is able to gain and manage investment into the Town and has seen over the past 2 years over £15Million has been attracted whether in the Ryde Interchange or the High Street (HAZ) project or St. Thomas’s Church or Ryde Marina. In 2021, Ryde Town Council’s Town Clerk was voted the Best New Clerk in England and the council now has a well-motivated accountable team that is driving the Town forward.

Community and Leisure events – Ryde has always had a programme of events over the year which have local benefit but also attract visitors/holiday makers. During Covid-19, many of these events were stalled, but Ryde Town Council saw not only the importance of these events to the Town but invested in them with 2022 being a real celebration of Ryde in all its glory especially the fantastic community spirit of the Town. Ryde Mardi Gras, IW Pride, Ryde Carnival, Beach Sports Festival, Scooter Rally, Classic Car extravaganza and IW Harp festival are some of this years events. New events are planned including hopefully the Tour of Britain (Cycling – sadly cancelled due to death of Queen Elizabeth) and the South Sevens sporting event.

Creative Industries in the Town create opportunities and jobs – RTC and Our Ryde councillors in particular have supported the incredible creative talent within the Town to develop. Ryde Arts has been active in the development of the Ryde Historic Action Zone. Shademakers, a World renowned carnival company, was a major participant in the Queen’s Jubilee procession in London in the Summer. Shademakers have gained major funding from Arts Council to develop the former Elizabeth Packs building into an arts venue. Monkton Arts has become a major base for artists and musicians in the Town. The Island’s Got Talent was held in Eastern Gardens in 2022 and many of the finalists came from Ryde including the winner. This strong creative base in the Town is attracting new businesses and shops.

Young People and Future Generations – Ryde Town Council is the only Town/Parish on the Island that has invested into a full bespoke youth service (Network Ryde) after IW Council cut the service in 2017. During 2020-21, Network Ryde and RTC ran a Kick-Start youth employment project in collaboration with DWP. Over 18 jobs for young people were created.

Partnership agreement with University of Ryde – Our Ryde councillors have led the development of Ryde Town Council, Hovertravel and Ryde development a working relationship with the University of Portsmouth. Already a project is being developed with the University’s Architectural department to develop a project in relation to St. John’s Wood/Park as a nature reserve.

Responding to Crisis – Cost-of-Living Crisis support for residents during Winter 2022/23 is now urgently needed and Our Ryde councillors have put forward successful motions to make sure those in need this winter in the Town get support. Our Ryde councillors were in the forefront of getting RTC to respond during Covid19 and are now doing the same through the cost-of-living crisis. The transformation and flexibility of RTC has means that it can adapt quickly to the need of the Town.

Climate Change/Energy Crisis and Future Development of Renewable energy sources Town-wide – RTC has developed links with Wight Community Energy and other renewable energy expertise including the University of Portsmouth to undertake an audit of energy needs of the Town and explore how renewable energy such as solar can be effectively used to reduce future energy costs for all residents, community organisations, schools and businesses.

Community Development Worker post – Our Ryde councillors were instrumental in creation of a new community development post to look at all the needs of Ryde residents particular the most vulnerable and tackle the issues of poverty in the Town.

A Mental Well-Being Town – Our Ryde councillors put forward a motion to ensure the mental well-being of all residents is an essential component in all that RTC does. This included the development and appointment of the role of Ryde Mental Health Champion.

The Veteran’s Hub, Tidal Family Support, Aspire and Ryde’s vibrant voluntary sector – Ryde Town Council has a community grant fund and this year, Our Ryde councillors pushed forward a new fund of £250 to be allocated to all RTC Councillors so they could actively support charitable/community causes in their own wards. The Ryde voluntary sector is crucial in the Town and the Town showed during Covid19 how important the sector and volunteers are in the wide range of activities that benefit us all from social history projects to food banks.

Transformation of the Town from a seaside heritage perspective – Ryde is an historic seaside town with an amazing coast line. A big focus has been bringing the Esplanade alive with a range of activities from colourful banners to revitalising the Marina.

Our Ryde – A Reflection of a Year in Ryde (2021-22) event is to be held in October 2022 and further details will be promoted shortly. A key aim and motivation of the Our Ryde group is positivity and looking at solutions and opportunities. The concept of smarter thinking and collaborative working.

If you wish more information about Our Ryde, please contact: michaellilleyiow@gmail.com

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