The beginnings of a collaborative space built by people in Bearwood


#MakeItHappen so we can meet more people

Reflections on conversations at Bearwood Action for Refugees’ monthly Community Lunch

Last Saturday I was very excited to have been asked to share lunch at Bearwood’s monthly lunch for newly arrived families and local families. At this lunch, volunteers cook (and wash up!) so that families can rest, chat, play and get to know one another. After lunch there was a choice of more play and nattering or Baby Yoga or adult’s yoga.

Over a good lunch and for a good time afterwards I had some great conversations about the potential for a community hub. Ideas about a cookery school that others have mentioned before and I shared, were greeted with ready offers of help - “I’ll teach my friends how to cook Nigerian rice and stew!”, or another lady offered “I’ll teach how to cook affordable meals on a tight budget”. There were other conversations about the importance of such a space too. I obviously come with my own ideas about how it could be helpful in our community. But listening to others is the whole point of starting conversations and the #MakeItHappen meetings.

Loneliness came up as a big issue:

I have nowhere to meet people. My English is not brilliant. It’s lonely sitting at home all the time. If I had somewhere to go that I knew was always there, where I could practice my English and meet people, life would be easier. It’s easy to get depressed.

So did childcare:

I only have family help for a short time. When that finishes I will have to give up work because I cannot afford the childcare. I don’t want to give up work.

Flexible and affordable childcare is something that we have always envisaged attempting in the community hub space. It will be a huge challenge, but one that we don’t want to lose sight of.

There were other challenges and ideas shared that different individuals at the lunch said was also important to them - or they knew would be relevant to other friends, most of which we managed to capture on paper:

WhatsApp Image 2019-10-03 at 14.26.56 (2).jpeg

“I would like to teach ladies how to braid their own hair”

“The space needs to be open all the time - the community needs to know it’s always there”

“I would love to take part in a community cooking club - teaching and learning!”

“Today it was nice to come and share the food with the community. The pleasure will be mine to come again”

“A play group and a cup of tea”

“I need lots of space to do physical play”

“Toddler gym!”

“We need people near by to talk to or to help so we can feel less depressed”

“Meeting people is important”

“A choir with my children - I can’t get to the library one!”

Lots to build on and many conversations to continue - some of them on the first open #MakeItHappen meetings on 16th October. To end for the moment, here’s a message from 7 year old Lucy. At the community lunch she asked if she could have a piece of my flipchart paper. She took it away unprompted and came back with this:



Sally TaylorComment
Who was your favourite teacher? Learning about how other people engage their communities

A reflection from Sally Taylor

The National Lottery Communities Fund brought a load of black country people together today for their ‘Reaching Black Country Communities’ event - a day where we heard from the Community Fund, shared with others what we do, connected, and got to choose different breakout groups where we could hear all about how other social impact organisations do what we do.

All the sessions I chose to attend were related to community engagement - you can tell where I’m at! How do other people do it? What are the best approaches? How do you make sure you reach people who might never get to take part in stuff locally? Are the ideas we’ve got the right ones? Yep, loads of questions spinning through my head at the moment.

I had the pleasure of meeting the friendly guys from @PhaseTrust in nearby Halesowen who support young people to transform their lives, I heard from Dudley Voices for Choice who support people who have learning disabilities to speak up for themselves, and I spent a lovely half hour hearing how Ash Butt from Generation England who support people in disadvantaged communities, especially young people, to lead a better quality of life.

I learnt so much but today I’m going to focus on the things that I think we should be keeping top of our mind, as we start working together across our community. Much of it is common sense but I think it’s really important to constantly remind ourselves of the basics (and especially the harder stuff we need to put time into) to make sure we can create the very best stuff together. In no particular order:

  • Only when you begin to understand someone’s story can you:

    • Better understand their needs

    • Support them more effectively

    • Create a proactive, not reactive, culture

  • How do you get to know the story?

    • Make space to get to know someone, it’ll come. It’s not about a process. Be consistent, be around, be present.

  • If you find yourself thinking ‘what’s wrong with you?’, perhaps if someone is difficult, think instead: ‘what happened to you?’

  • Making positive connections is everything

    • Who was your best teacher and why?  Answers are generally universal; based on the people the teachers were, not the expertise they had

    • Programmes are important but people are the magic ingredient

    • “We make a difference because we give people space to hangout” (Phase Trust)

    • Make space to be more relational.  Make space for relationships otherwise engagement is hard.

  • To include people you don’t yet know, you need to use your network partners - who can they ask/put you in touch with/invite?

  • Go where people are

  • Chat… at the bus stop, in the queue at supermarkets… bring up subject of what you what to find out about it and get the natural, raw reaction about what people think. 

  • Partnership agreements don’t need to be full of legal jargon.  Turn them into an Easy Read document, use pictures and symbols. Make them accessible to everyone including those with learning disabilities. 

  • We discussed translation – if you have 42 languages in your community translation is difficult.  But keeping everything plain English/ Easy Read really helps with that. Google translate is a friend!

  • Openness and honesty with people you’re working with. If their dream/aspiration might not be achievable instantly, could there be a plan to support progress towards it? Is there something different that could be done (e.g. becoming an astronaut might not be possible, visiting the Space Centre in America could be).

So to answer the question in the title of this blog…. my favourite teacher was Mr Roberts, English teacher. He was kind, funny, warm, gave us space in the classroom to develop our own ideas, trusted us to get on with our work, offered support when we asked for it. When the Phase Trust guys asked us the question, we all answered like this. Nothing at all about how good they were at their subjects or what specifically we remembered learning. Just who they were and how they built relationships that mattered.

That’s my big take away. It’s hard to put time into building relationships when there’s so much to do and relatively little time to get stuff done. But it’s everything and we need to remember that and prioritise it. Bring it on!

Learning as we go... Stop 1: Gather Dudley CIC

Author: Sally Taylor.
I took myself off to Gather Dudley CIC on Wednesday. Gather Dudley is a community interest company, a “coffee shop and creative community venue enabling and encompassing everything that good people are doing in Dudley”. Sound good? Sure does, and I went with the intention of working there, seeing what they do and how they do it - without prearranging, just turning up and observing. What I got instead was an incredibly warm reception from lovely people dedicated to social impact in their community and totally willing to share what they’ve done and how they’ve done it. I’m going to use the blog updates to note my learning, often in bullet points, so we can be as open as possible with everyone who wants to be involved in Bearwood Community Hub CIC. Here’s what I recall from over 1.5 hours of conversation - in no particular order!

  • Community gardens can be tiny and still work well. (There’s a little courtyard area behind St Mary’s church where we are exploring setting up)

  • Invite people in, find out what they enjoy and what they need. Say ‘yes’ to them and let them run with their ideas in your space. Then it becomes their space, their activity, you’re just the enabler of good stuff.

  • Start as soon as you can. Show up. Be consistent. Even if the whole space is not yet developed, just get going in what space you can use. It’ll grow over time.

  • Maker spaces don’t need to be massive. Just use space well. Ask for donations of old tools. People need to make things, and they can do it here.

  • Be open and honest always - it’s the only way partnerships work.

  • Shout about what you do and let people know it’s you doing it. Then they’ll know who to come to, who to work with. ‘Own’ what you’ve created.

  • A coffee shop is good - people have a reason to drop in.

  • If you’ve got an idea don’t be shy about trying it. See if others want to do it. That’s okay, you’re part of your community too!

  • If people don’t turn up on the first day of a new group or activity don’t worry about it. If they don’t turn up on the second or third don’t worry. You have to show up. Others might take longer to decide if they can. Be there, be consistent, before you say ‘it didn’t work’.

  • Incubation of new start ups, social enterprises, projects and ideas is really important and worthwhile. People need space.

  • You can start with very little, don’t worry about getting going.

  • There’s so much you can do to reduce isolation, help people feel like they belong more.

Loraine @GatherDudleyCIC

Sally with Loraine at Gather Dudley

One half of the Gather dreamteam!

Amy MartinComment
Follow us - here's where to go for all the latest details

For those of us who have been desperate to get started but have struggled to carve out the time (that ol’ Bearwood Street Festival was a lot to deliver!!), it’s been a long time coming, but the Board have now charged project lead Sally Taylor to ‘get on with it’. A series of updates on the website and in social media have got us started, and now we’re just securing dates and space to kick of our first ‘Make It Happen’ meetings, where all are welcome to muck in and start designing what this thing should do, look like, and enable.

Take a look at our website updates. As they say, the devil is in the detail so dive in (and get a cuppa to keep you going):

Make It Happen meetings - we’ll be finalising dates very, very shortly, just waiting to hear back from venues. In the meantime, take a look at what the meetings are for:

We’re new to instagram! Follow us @bearwoodcommunityhubcic

We’ll be on Twitter soon, but in the meantime @sallytaylorbrum will be posting on our behalf

And of course there’s Facebook:

Amy MartinComment
Let's get real!

Funding bids successful! | The plan | Keep in touch

We’ve done it, we’ve managed to attract enough funding to develop the idea of a Community Hub and co-working space on Bearwood’s high street!  

Thanks to our funders SCVO and the National Lottery Community Fund, we can crack on with exploring the potential, collaborating locally, and business planning. If you’ve been with us since last summer’s pilot, thank you for your patience! If you’re new to this whole idea, welcome!

What’s the plan?

Over the course of one year we’ll involve as many people as we can in designing and planning what the hub could be and what it would deliver. We want to get to the stage where we have:

  • a clear business plan that we’ve developed together as a community

  • a location and an architectural vision if remodelling is required

  • a strong team of supporters/leaders

  • funding/investment applications ready to be submitted.


We want to involve as many people in Bearwood and surrounding areas as possible to build the vision together.

In response to people’s ideas at the Build, Make & Mend day and the co-working and creche pilot last year, we’ll be creating opportunities for local people to come together to build on those ideas and imagine .  There will be creative and collaborative activities for anybody to join, and we’ll be asking for help to be as inclusive as we possibly can to ensure we’re involving different groups of people, bringing people together:

  • We’d like to give young people the opportunity to come together and be supported to let their ideas fly.  

  • We’d like to continue ideas developed with the #RadicalChildcare movement about how to make Bearwood the best possible place to bring up children.

  • We want to talk to the people who are living on our streets about how we could be a more understanding and supportive community.

  • We Are Bearwood’s community survey highlighted that there are men in our neighbourhood who find it hard to make friends or get involved in something other than work - if you’re one of them, we hope you’ll join us on this journey to develop more good stuff with more people, including you.

  • And we know from online discussions and partnership with existing community groups that newly arrived families and new parents can struggle with isolation.

This will be a process of open co-creation: creating a vision, creating connections, building a community hub. Together. Whoever you are and however you connect with Bearwood and its surrounding areas. Please join us.

And then?

And then, dependent on what vision emerges and the support of funders, we make the vision happen.

A reminder of the original ideas for a community hub:

Here’s the Beartopia we imagined last year, which we tested a little bit when we did a pilot co-working space with creche and our Build, Make & Mend community day. And here’s what we think a co-working space is.

So finally, imagine…

An open, welcoming, collaborative space on the high street where anyone, whatever their age, can walk in, feel welcome and use the space to work, meet, create or play.  They can find out what’s going on around Bearwood from our community calendar, they can get a cup of tea and have a natter, they can connect with others to get the community project going they’ve always dreamed about. It’s central, on Bearwood Road, and perhaps they just happened upon it when popping out for some groceries.

Imagine a space that stands in the centre of our busy community and shares what other community organisations and spaces are doing, to further connect people and activities. A place where people can work, get to know others, find out how to volunteer locally, and contribute to Bearwood as a place that makes a positive difference in life: a fantastic place to live, work and play.

Please sign up here to be on our mailing list to receive updates or help out.


The team (so far!):

Sally Taylor - Project Manager & Board Member

Jo Capper - Board Member

Julie McKirdy - Board Member

Nicola McAteer - Board Member

Amy Martin - Board Member

Thank you to the National Lottery Community Fund

Reaching Communities Programme


And thank you to Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations

Amy MartinComment
It's more than a desk...

Sally Taylor shares her experience of co-working and explains why ‘it’s not just about the desk’.

The vision for co-working as a social enterprise in Bearwood is about creating community.  Yes, there will be desks. There will be quiet space. There’ll most likely be a kitchen and free tea and coffee. We’ll definitely have wifi, obviously!

But what else?

Co-working is a growing movement that’s been around for yonks.  And it’s different to simply renting office space. The essence of a successful co-working space is the hosting, the collaborative feel, the ethos behind it. It happens in people’s living rooms, in local coffee shops and in dedicated spaces designed purposefully to enable and encourage collaboration.

When I started working from home as a social impact consultant in October 2017, I thought I’d arrived.  All those years of trying to convince bosses to let me work from home just a little bit more were behind me. I could see my family more, spend less time in traffic jams, have more quiet space than I had in the office or be as ambitious as managing to cook dinner before 8 o’clock at night (what an ambition for a working parent!).

But it wasn’t like that, not all the time anyway:  

The first week was great.  I was free, in my joggers, making a tasty lunch.

The second week I was really glad that I knew a couple of people locally who might be up for going for a lunchtime walk.

The third week, I booked my tour of Impact Hub Birmingham and signed up to their flexible co-working membership.

It’s all about the people and how they connect

It’s all about the people and how they connect

I needed people around me.

Of course I needed people around me! That’s where I get my energy.  That’s how ideas are generated and developed! But I also wanted the quiet comforts of home sometimes.

The Impact Hub enabled me to connect with people - many of them working in similar areas, but not all.

There’s a lot of cross-fertilisation of ideas that happens at the Impact Hub between different business or social sectors, there are opportunities to network for business in a way that feels more organic than a networking ‘event’.  And best of all, there’s the opportunity to make more friends and meet people who encourage you, who want to share what they are learning about how to make change, do business or inspire.

The reason the Bearwood Co-working space & creche was tried was because the folk at the #RadicalChildcare movement that was born out of Impact Hub Brum, were interested in trying some of the things I’d been thinking about. So, Bearwood resident and #RadicalChildcare founder Amy and I got talking. We thought imaginatively about funding possibilities. And we started collaborating.  We were coworking.

Why was it different?

It’s not just the space.  Yes the light flooding in and the well designed interior and the sofas and the big spacious desks are important and better than I have at home (or ever had in any workplace, actually).  But the real difference - the difference between renting a desk or office and joining a co-working space - was the hosting, ethos, the atmosphere. It felt the same when I visited The Melting Pot in Edinburgh recently.  There is the welcome when you come through the door (EVERY time), the people who offer to make you a cuppa, the pot-luck lunches where you can’t help but connect with people over food, the ‘Food for Thought’ programme with some inspiring people talking about what they do, why and how while you eat cake and ask questions or contribute to their ideas.

Why here in Bearwood?

The Melting Pot workspace

The Melting Pot workspace

Active hosting to create community by enabling and encouraging connections, is what leads to more socialisation, better understanding between people, and the potential for people to support each other and collaborate together.  These things are important for wellbeing - as individuals and as communities. And research by local community groups has shown that more of this is needed.*

When we tried it earlier this year, the response was huge. We sold out in days. Providing high quality childcare alongside the space was key for 50% of our participants too. People reported the energy they got from just working alongside people. Many made new business and personal connections. Others had a space where they could collaborate well with colleagues in a space that felt happy and productive.

And that’s what we can create in Bearwood for the longer term.  It’s not just about creating a viable social business that can sustain community action in a community hub, even though that’s an ultimate aim.  It’s about the co-working space itself being an integral part of our communities’ development - one of a number of spaces within a hub where people can connect, collaborate and create in our place, Bearwood.

The Bearwood Community Hub CIC is a new venture.  It’s a social enterprise set up by people who live in and love Bearwood.  We hope to find a suitable location and be open within a year (by Autumn 2019). We are open to all in our communities who identify in any way as a Bearwood (or surrounding neighbourhoods) resident, worker or visitor.  We are particularly focused on ensuring that people who are more vulnerable to social exclusion, isolation or simply not having a voice, are involved in co-creating the vision for the community hub. Please get in touch with Sally Taylor in the first instance if you’d like to contribute your passion, skills or knowledge -

*We Are Bearwood will shortly be releasing research findings. Other groups we are in contact with, such as Bearwood Action for Refugees and Soho/Victoria Friends & Neighbours are constantly informing our work and community engagement plans by sharing their experience and knowledge.

Amy MartinComment
What's next?
Graphic developed with participants at our 3rd June Build, Make & Mend day by Annabel Evans.

Graphic developed with participants at our 3rd June Build, Make & Mend day by Annabel Evans.

Bearwood Community Hub CIC is born  |  Looking for a space  |  Engagement & Consultation  |  Finances

In this update we tell you about progress to creating Bearwood Community Hub (click the link to find out more detail!), co-working space and flexible creche.

Here's a quick-fire update - 4 key things you need to know.  After that we'll explain how you can get more involved if you'd like to. 

One: we're official!

Sally and Amy, who started off the co-working space trial, have set up a community interest company (CIC) alongside the following lovely locals who make up the Board of Directors: Julie McKirdy of Thimblemill Library fame; local artist and Bearwood Pantry co-op member Jo Capper; and local musician, parent and social entrepreneur Nicola McAteer.

So now Bearwood has Bearwood Community Hub CIC. 

Being a registered CIC means we're a not-for-profit business and we can get on with some key activties: we can apply for funding to get us started, start trading when we're sure we've got something that serves our local communities well, and negotiate with potential landlords to find a good space.

Two: space

We're looking for a location on Bearwood's high street to start up a more permanent community space.  In the meantime we might consider where we could house temporary co-working, or a flexible creche, or community activities - but only if we can manage to secure funding to pay for staff time to do this properly. 

Three: engagement and consultation

As soon as we have funding to pay for some time, we will start a period of more intensive community engagement to ask what could this hub be, why, and how people in Bearwood want to be a part of it.

Setting up a simple co-working space would be relatively easy.  Providing a few hours of creche facilities per week to go with it is a bit more complicated, but vital to respond to the need for flexible #RadicalChildcare for freelancers.  Taking it a step further and working together as a community to set up our very own community hub is a whole other ball game - albeit an incredibly exciting one.

But if you're up for it, we are.  We've already worked with lots of people locally to understand what people need and want, but we're not even half finished yet, lots more to do! We'll be doing some social media engagement, but we'll also be meeting up for more in-depth chats with local residents from January, when we’re hopeful we’ll have got some seed funding. We know from our engagement work so far that there are some people locally who struggle to get involved or find the support or activities they want to be part of - but many of whom have incredible skills, talents and experience to share and offer.  This idea of the hub is open to absolutely anybody who identifies with Bearwood as their place to live, work or visit but we’ll specifically we'll be putting effort in to chatting with teenagers, people who've experienced homelessness, newly arrived families, single parents who are feeling isolated and older people who experience loneliness.

That's just the start.  Can we come and chat with you about what you need? Please email if you'd like to invite us to your event, an existing group or group of friends, as a family or as an individual. 

Four: finances

We're crunching the numbers.  How can we make this work? What funding could we attract to help get us started? How do we develop a more sustainable social business in the long term? If you would like to help with any of this then please, come on board.  There's lots to do, we'll need to come together as a community if we want a community space that works for all.  If you're an individual who's great at writing bids or a business who wants to support in-kind or financially, or perhaps you'd be up for helping to run a crowdfunding campaign... whatever your interest we'd be very pleased to hear from you. 


What's the key thing that ties all this together? Building a collaborative community.  The opportunity to connect and work together for the good of people in Bearwood and its neighbouring communities.  Let's create. 

If you'd like to help or if you think this space could help you, or both... please get in touch:, 07832259658 or through our Facebook page

Amy MartinComment
Playing Out in Bearwood

A little bit of neighbourly magic happened on Milcote Road in Bearwood last weekend. Residents closed the road so children (and adults!) could play out.  In this blog, co-organiser Sally Taylor tells us about the day and how residents got it going. 

It all started with a video shared on Facebook from, the Bristol-based organisation helping people across the UK to enable kids to play out safely and easily.  "Let's do it here" said Anya. "I'd love to get it organised" typed Hannamari. "I'm in," I said in the comments box.  And we were off...

A few weeks later and we managed this: 

We had encouragement and support from the #RadicalChildcare initiative at Impact Hub Birmingham and we got in touch with Playing Out and Sandwell MBC.  All these partners helped us discover just how easy, rewarding and worthwhile it could be to close a road and get neighbours talking, playing, and making each other a cuppa. 

How did we do it?
The first task was to send a letter to everyone on Milcote Road, with a 'reply' slip inviting them to indicate if they were supportive or not. This ensured we had informed everyone potentially affected and offered people the opportunity to object or raise concerns. We also door-knocked the closure area.  This was the fun bit - having a reason to knock on the doors of our neighbours and say hi.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, excitement was brewing. 

Now that we'd got confirmation that people were interested, we contacted Sandwell MBC about what we needed to do: apply for a Temporary Street Closure Order.  Expecting reams of paperwork, we were pleasantly surprised that the form was easy to fill in.  It's the Safety Advisory Group at Sandwell MBC that reviews the Closure Order applications and they were very helpful. They were happy to approve the event, and clear about what we needed to do:

  1. ensure safety of participants (including sufficient numbers of stewards, well briefed) and be insured
  2. get red and white striped tape and a 'road closed' sign for both ends of the closure area
  3. as an extra safety precaution arrange for a car to be parked just inside the barrier tape at both ends
  4. get majority support from residents within the closure area
  5. ensure that anyone who wanted to move their car out of the area, or back inside the area, during the closure would be able to.  

After the application was approved we had to provide the insurance certificate and risk assessment to the Safety Advisory Group.  Then we were good to go. 

We confirmed to residents that Playing Out would be taking place with another little flyer, made sure we had at least majority support from residents within the closure area, and that was it.  Simple. 

Having done this we now have the know-how and resources to help others across Bearwood and in neighbouring Sandwell communities make it happen.  If you'd like to close your road for playing out, here's what's available to you:

Support from We Are Bearwood

I am chairperson of local voluntary organisation We Are Bearwood.  The rest of our committee were very excited to hear about Playing Out on Milcote Road and are keen to help the idea develop more widely across Bearwood, so we've formally teamed up and put all our resources on  You can go there and find:

  • Sandwell MBC Temporary Street Closure Order form, plus a copy that's been filled in with example text to help you.  
  • An example risk assessment for a street closure.  This is an example only, you must conduct your own risk assessment for your street. Every event is different and will have different risks. We Are Bearwood will need to agree your risk assessment in order to support you with insurance. 
  • Example letter and confirmation flyers for you.  Others are available on
  • A calendar that tells you when the 'road closed' signs have been booked out. 

Contact details: if you'd like to do this and you'd like We Are Bearwood support, please liaise with We Are Bearwood playing out rep Dani Waugh via


  • 2 x Road Closed signs, which will be loaned to you by We Are Bearwood on a first come first served basis.  If your closure area goes across a side road you'll need additional road closed signs, which We Are Bearwood can help you order and will cost around £35 each. 
  • Red & White tape, which can be loaned out by We Are Bearwood. 
  • Foam balls! This is the only 'kit' we provided - the whole idea is that children bring their own entertainment.  No one wants a broken window though, and We Are Bearwood has 3 foam footballs you can borrow. 
  • Printing.  You'll need a budget for letters and confirmation flyers, so you might want to see if a few neighbours would chip in.  Photocopying can be expensive so depending on the size of your road you'll need to budget accordingly. 

What did we learn?

  • That playing out is definitely not just for the kids, it's for everyone.  What games can older people on your street share? Can you make sure there's a few chairs out for people who might need them? 
  • One person fed back they would really like to have had a meeting to ask questions and quell any fears about the potential for litter, property damage etc. Playing Out advise this too and you might want to think about it - another chance for neighbours to get together and for people to feel they've had a say. 

What are the next steps?

Sandwell Play Service would like to chat about how they can support Playing Out across the borough.  We're looking forward to meeting with them and will report back any ideas discussed.

We've already heard from lots of parents wanting to do enable their children to play out.  Other local authorities around the UK have agreed to have one temporary closure application for multiple roads on multiple dates.  This makes it easier for council officers and for organisers - less form filling and reviewing for all.  We're going to chat with Sandwell about this and, again will report back.  The requirement for public liability insurance is also something that is dealt with differently across the UK - some do require it, some don't.  We'll put any updates about this on the We Are Bearwood playing out pages. 

So the scene is set - head over to We Are Bearwood to get started on closing your road so children can have the freedom to play out safely. 


Amy MartinComment
A Community Hub in Bearwood: inspiration & discussion at Build, Make & Mend

Build, Make & Mend / Sunday 3rd June / 11am-4pm / Free / Dorothy Parkes Centre, Church Road, Smethwick, B67 6EH

What can a community hub do for us in Bearwood?

We’ll be finding out at our Community Hub Panel, 2pm-3pm.  

We have a great line-up of visitors to Bearwood who are going to share their experiences of setting up community-led hubs and workspaces.  All are very different, to inspire us and get us thinking about what a community hub on Bearwood’s high street could be. We'll introduce you to those speakers in this blog. But first, what's the point of a community hub?

Community hubs, or ‘bumping places’ (we like this phrase!), are walk-in places situated in the heart of a community and run by local people to connect, support and inspire local people.

They can take the shape of whatever is right for that community. In Bearwood we know there is a huge community of creative people connecting and creating together.  We know there are people who have lots to offer but are marginalised, needing the local food bank or living in local hostels or on the streets.  We know from the workspace and creche pilot that a collaborative place is important for home-workers to feel less isolated or for home-working parents to access flexible, affordable childcare. And we know that our communities abound with people and organisations doing great things to bring people together, improve wellbeing and get new things going. 

Research shows that community spaces are really important in helping individuals, communities and parts of communities to connect and create together.

Community hubs can promote social cohesion, by bringing together different social or generational groups; increase social capital and build trust; increase wider social networks and interaction between community members; and increase individual’s knowledge or skills.” from What Works Centre for Wellbeing.  



Spaces that we can identify with, feel welcomed into, and be a part of, are important. You probably know that from experiences at Thimblemill Library, at Warley Woods Community Trust, Lightwoods Park, or local faith centres.  So we know that, and the research proves it. Then let's act.  Let's build something that connects all these things, right where the mass of residents, businesses and visitors can easily come together to work, play and create - our high street.

At our Community Hub panel session Bearwood local Sally Taylor will welcome our guests and explain the vision for a Bearwood hub, so you can think and talk around how you want to help build that vision, challenge it, or perhaps re-work it.  Then our guests will tell us about all the great things happening or planned in their communities, through their community spaces. They are:

IMMY KAUR from Impact Hub Birmingham.  

"At Impact Hub we believe those that are willing to dream, dare and have a heart for a better Birmingham need a place where they can realise these dreams." This Beartopia project has been enabled in part by the incredible support that Sally Taylor has received from much of the team at the Impact Hub.  Amy Martin and Sally Taylor recognised partnership potential for this and developed the #RadicalChildcare local pilot.  The wider team have helped develop the thinking and helped in the most practical of ways, including building this website, creating graphics and photographing our progress. Partnership specifically through skills sharing has been a really positive model.

How could we build this kind of skills-sharing model in Bearwood and what do we dare to dream together?

DANIEL BLYDEN, another Impact Hub team member, will share stories from the development of Gather Dudley + CoLab Dudley.

Gather Dudley can’t join us as they have a community Big Lunch on the same day - good luck with it folks! - so we’ve asked Daniel to share his perspective. Here’s how the team in Dudley describe themselves:

“We invite participation by people with diverse experiences, skills, talents, knowledges and interests, from different sectors of society. In Dudley we have met and connected hundreds of doers; people with all kinds of skills, talents and knowledge who want to connect and co-operate in practical activities and projects which make the place they live feel safe, kinder and creative.”

How can we best invite and encourage participation in Bearwood, to help our neighbourhood feel safe, kinder and creative?

LORNA BREWSTER will talk about her new leadership role at co-working space Moseley Exchange, as she develops her thinking about next steps for the Exchange in involving and serving the local community.

“At The Moseley Exchange, we have worked to create a flexible place where you can find the people and resources you need, whether that be a quiet place to work, printing facilities, intelligent conversation, or simply just a hot cup of coffee.”

How do we design a space together in Bearwood that works well for everyone, whether worker, resident, shopper, visitor or passer-by?

PATRICK WILLCOCKS is going to tell us all about the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath. A large building with a cafe, over 40 workshops for designer makers and craftspeople, a coworking space, yoga studio and more.

The Old Print Works is “a space for making, creativity, sustainability and localism"

What kinds of spaces would Bearwood people need in a high street hub? How would we all be enabled to make the space our own and what difference could this make to small businesses locally?


Build, Make & Mend will take place at Dorothy Parkes Centre on 3rd June 11am-4pm.  The full programme and booking details are available at  Refreshments will be sold, prepared by and in aid of Bearwood Action for Refugees. Join us!  

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PLAY in Bearwood at Build, Make & Mend on Sunday 3rd June

Build, Make & Mend / Sunday 3rd June / 11am-4pm / Free / Dorothy Parkes Centre, Church Road, Smethwick, B67 6EH

A day for residents, children and families to explore the potential of a new community space built by and for the people of Bearwood. We’ll hear from experts, host talks, workshops and family making sessions too. All this to help us think about how to make Bearwood an even better place to raise children with a community hub at the very heart. Please, come and help us to imagine what’s possible.

In this blog post we're featuring how we’ll be exploring PLAY at Build, Make & Mend on Sunday 3rd June at Dorothy Parkes Centre, Smethwick.


But why are opportunities for good quality PLAY important in our community? All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and wellbeing of individuals and communities. Sadly we’re hearing that oppportunities for play are being eroded, 88 percent of people over 65 played out as children, whereas only 21 percent of today’s children claim to do so.

So what happens when children don't get access to good quality play? Playworkers in the UK have coined the phrase ‘Play deprivation’ which details why play is important for a child’s developing brain and what can happen if access to good quality play isn't available, some of these include; depression, anxiety, obesity and poor mental health. But play isn’t just important for a child’s health, physical wellbeing and brain development. Play is important for future proofing our children for a world we can't even imagine.  By 2030 Robots could replace 800 million jobs and there is no way we can teach our kids to compete with machines. We have to teach our children something unique so that machines can never catch up with us, they must learn to think independently, to empathise, to think creatively and all these things are learnt through PLAY.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about Play in Bearwood and to provide some opportunities for children and young people to play and tinker at our Build, Make and Mend event on Sunday 3rd June - here’s what is on offer exploring all things - PLAY.

Playtopia / 11am-4pm / Drop in  Workshop

Throughout the day we’ll be providing inclusive play opportunities, including junk modelling to imagine your Beartopia, den-building and more! This session is for children of all ages.

Toy Swap 'n' Mend / 11.30-1.30pm / Drop in Workshop

Join KIONDO and a group of families as we squeeze some glue, clink our ratchets, twirl our screwdrivers and brace our needles, repairing and exchanging our accumulated kid's Toys & gadgets. Even better, why stick to traditional tools? Let's go digital with Laser-cutters, Mini-CNC's and 3D Printers!

PLAY panel / 12.30-1.30pm

There is a lot of research to support the importance of play in our lives, especially in our formative years. In this session we’ll hear from projects, playworkers and initiatives that enable different types play in community settings and talk about opportunities for play in Bearwood. Our speakers include brilliant playworker and play expert Ali Wood from Meriden Adventure Playground in Chelmsley Wood. Lisa Walke and the awesome play project ROAM that champions children’s free play in the natural environment in Cotteridge. Members of the Cooperative Alliance - Children’s Quarter who serve children and young people at risk of social isolation, & who believe children and young people who are disabled or have mental health or other additional needs, and their families, should be fully included in society and properly served by public services. We will also hear from our Sally Taylor, who will be fresh from running a safe street play session on Milcote Rd in Bearwood the day before (2nd June, 10am-1pm), we’ll hear how it went and explore whether safe street play sessions can happen in more streets in the area.

Child-Led Arts Workshop / 2.30pm-4pm / Drop in  Workshop

Join MotherShip, a community arts company that seeks to connect communities through culture and creativity, for this child-led creative session for children of all ages and their adults.

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Toy Swap 'n' Mend at Build, Make and Mend

Build, Make & Mend / Sunday 3rd June / 11am-4pm / Free

A day for residents, children and families to explore the potential of a new community space built by and for the people of Bearwood featuring a packed programme of talks, workshops, an exhibition and lots of free play for all ages.

In this blog post we're featuring one of the sessions at Build, Make & Mend, the very awesome Toy Swap 'n' Mend with Community Led Design & Fabrication experts - KIONDO and Design specialists PopIN, which will be held in the main hall at Dorothy Parkes from 11.30-1.30pm on Sunday 3rd June. 

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Join us and a group of families as we squeeze some glue, clink our ratchets, twirl our screwdrivers and brace our needles, repairing and exchanging our accumulated kid's Toys & gadgets. Even better, why stick to traditional tools? Let's go digital with Laser-cutters, Mini-CNC's and 3D Printers!

In today's society it is very easy to pick up something new and simply dispose of what has become no longer relevant to us. Sometimes these things are broken and forgotten, and at other times we simply got bored of them. Nevertheless, we find that these items begin to clutter our lives and we find ourselves needing to free up some space around our homes.

With a little T & C, most items can be given a new lease of life. KIONDO & PopIN want to share this experience with you. Join our friends at #KiondoLabs for our Toy Swap 'n' Mend Workshop, learn how to fix things, make new friends, swap what you no longer need, get your kids involved learning & sharing too!

What will we be doing?

1.     Gather, Greet, Mingle and Share Food & Experiences with others

2.     Nominate your items for Mending, Swapping or Both?

3.     Join the Mender’s Area – Learn & Repair together using all the available tools & techniques

4.     Or - Enter the Swap Shop to trade your items for something else you or your child will love

5.     Share in a social post-reflection & help award trophies to our most notable participants.

Do I need to bring anything?

KIONDO Labs provide the tools and the safety equipment you will need to get started. You will need to bring:

-        Any childhood item that you would like to share by swapping or have mended for a new lease of life. (toys, dolls, instruments, kid’s furniture, kids clothing, etc.) There is nothing too big or too small, as long as you can get it the venue safely.

-        Bring Food or Drinks to Share - or - Support the Venue | sharing is caring, and is the way we like to encourage people to break the ice at our workshops. It does not cost a lot, but the rewards go a long way.

Do I need experience?

No experience is required. All you need is curiosity, the drive to learn or the urge rid yourself of an unloved object.

Are there any Age Restrictions?

No, this is a family friendly activity.  Any one from 0 - 99+ is able to get involved (be it spectating or getting stuck in). All children should be accompanied by an adult.

This workshop will take place at Dorothy Parkes Centre as part of the Build, Make & Mend .  Full programme available at, refreshments will be provided by Bearwood Action for Refugees.

This community day is part of wider programme by Bearwood residents Amy Martin and Sally Taylor, the #RadicalChildcare programme based at Impact Hub Birmingham, and informed by research undertaken by We Are Bearwood.

Places are limited so please register your attendance at our eventbrite - here.

Amy MartinComment
Ideas Forum

Always thought there’s something you could change to benefit people in Bearwood?

How do you go from idea to action? Always much easier when there’s people around you that want to help make it happen.  

If you’ve got an idea for Bearwood or you want to hear what others are thinking, come along to our ideas forum on 3rd June and find out who else wants to get ideas off the ground.

We have two slots - one at 11.15am and one at 3pm.  Register for a slot here  and we’ll be in touch.

Here’s who’s already booked to share their big idea:


Care & Community

Bearwood resident Jo Capper wants some help thinking through how we could better care for each other across the generations living in Bearwood.  As a mum of tweenies and teenagers, what more could we be doing as a community with and for our young people? And how do we better connect with and involve older people in our communities? It’s an open discussion, come and share your views, develop ideas or just be curious.

Soft play with a purpose

Bearwood mum, teacher and musician Kim Newman has exciting ambitions to set up a social enterprise - an inclusive soft play centre in Bearwood where parents from all walks of life and children of all abilities have space to connect and build a supportive community. The idea is in its infancy.  What do you think? Would you like to be involved? Come and discuss the potential with Kim.


Indoor skatepark & hangout

Local skateboarding pro Bob Sanderson developed his talent at the Lightwoods skate park.  He’s recently been seen helping kids from 5-15 in his Easter skate schools at Lightwoods. But what about when it rains? What potential is there for an indoor park to keep our kids safe, active, connected and developing their skills through the winter (and those wet summer days)...? Bob’s a passionate speaker, will you help him develop some ideas?