It’s all around – really – the Big Society!
Yesterday it was in the form of Hillfield Park annual street party. Hillfield were ahead of the game with street parties. They started years ago and one of theirs is probably the first one I ever went to after being elected as a Muswell Hill councillor in 1998.
What was so great then (as now) was the formation of a community of neighbours. At that first one – I remember people wearing a little badge with their house number on. You could hear – ‘oh – you’re from No 28 – I love your front door’ and so on. For the first time – people knew each other – in a good way.
I read a statistic somewhere that there is a direct correlation between the number of people you know to talk to within 15 minutes of your home and the crime level – the more people you know the less the crime. Not rocket science.
Anyway – Peter Thompson and the Hillfield Park team always put on a fabulous array of games and competitions for the children (and some adults!). Yesterday – outside of the usual tug-of-war, race up Hillfield Park on bikes (an impossible gradient) and the dog contest – there was the guess how many balloons it will take to lift the house (small and made of card), the ‘grown at home’ contest and the eco sculpture contest – amongst others.
That last one – the eco art contest – produced some fantastic structures made by local children from the street. Sadly I don’t have the photos yet – so can’t show you – but they were amazingly imaginative.
I had to depart before the night time festivities started – that is when the food, the wine and the music ensure even more neighbourliness. Congratulations as always to Hillfield!
So – when we hear about the new coalition government’s ‘Big Society’ – it’s really about Hillfield Park – or at least – the community being the key place where we look out for each other!
Hillfield Road isn’t a fabby example of David Cameron’s Big Society. It pre-dates him considerably and isn’t likely to have as one of its centrals tenets the fact that it will be the sole focus for community in the neighbourhood. People who put on events such as these have been hard at it for years, making efforts to make our communities better. And they will have thrown up their hands in horror a few months ago at the suggestion that they – already stretched – would be expected to do more to support the people around them. And now you point at them and label them as ‘the community’ – meaning that they will represent the only available option after you have finished slashing public services. If you have a genuine concern for neighbourliness then you would have opposed George Osbourne. Have you done so?
We need more community spirit developed. I also feel that this needs cascading into supporting our local businesses, shops farms etc. I am a firm believer in that we need to cultivate a sense of belonging as part of an equality driven society.
I wondered what Dave meant by “Big Society”. Now I know – it means having street parties with tea and buns in leafy suburbs of North London. Brilliant. That will certainly take the minds of the low paid off the VAT rise and the cuts in benefits.
This is a very good way to get people to integrate as a community, yes you are right crime figures will go down in this community, this type of event can also help with discrimination as research has shown.