How it all started
PCG started in 2017 as a group of people who wanted to live in a safe environment and be able to get to know our neighbours and have fun together. To create Community.
A conversation between Jaqui Smith and PCSO Gary Lynch became key in developing the beginnings of a community group and gradually the means by which Paganhill would become a safer place to live. In the same time frame Jaqui and Merethe Turner, Pastor, were introduced by a mutual friend and began sharing their vision for a community event in the summer. This had been a vision that a number of residents had put forward as a good way for people to get to know each other and have fun. The beginnings of a community group were formed as we planned the Summer Party.
The Summer party in 2017 was a great success with around 200 people coming along to a pay as you feel BBQ, home made cake stall by local residents, face painting and fun and games for children. A local man, a clown, came and entertained the children. A lovely surprise. However a big part of that success was in those people who came forward to help plan the music or seek out donations of food and gifts for the raffle. Some were elderly or disabled and found a renewed confidence by helping in this way. More residents became interested in what we were doing and talked about what they wanted to see happening in Paganhill.
One of the young Tesco employees turned out to be a guitarist and singer and sang in public for the first time at our Summer Party. He comes back every year even though he is at University now.
See Youtube – Paganhill Party – filmed by Philip Booth. Barnwood trust.
Following the party all residents who had helped make it happen, some 20 in all came together and decided that because it was such a success, we wanted to keep going and so formed Paganhill Community Group.
Research in the early days
We began our research by talking to residents outside Tesco Express. It became clear that there were few areas in Paganhill, with some 1,500 homes, that gave us the opportunity to come together. Tesco express, The Post Office, Maypole hall and The Church of The Holy Spirit formed a small hub on Stratford Rd but apart from 2 Public Houses there are no other meeting places. On the edge of town and next to Paganhill the Stratford Park and the Museum in the Park, Stroud and South Gloucestershire College and Tesco were an additional resource and within walking distance for those able to walk or catch a bus. However the only cafe in this large area is in the Tesco store, almost a mile away.
Meeting places or places to hang out did not exist. We acknowledged that there was a lot of isolation, mental health and addiction problems as well as few activities locally for people to take part. Although there were various activities in the Maypole Hall, they were not always attended by and not affordable by local people. Our Youth hang around in Bus stop shelters or make a nuisance of themselves in the alleyways around the bungalows in the Supported Housing Scheme or in the summer in Stratford Park. Addicts also frequented these alleyways and many did not feel safe to go out at night.
Focus on what is strong, not what is wrong
Jaqui Smith joined the Maypole Hall Committee and started conversations to enable us to open a cafe there.
October 2017 – The cafe started on a Friday afternoon by just offering drinks and cakes but soon developed by offering hot food, on a pay as you feel basis.
We joined Fair Share Go and our local Tesco Express supplied us with bread and cakes and sometimes fruit. Later more people came forward to help and the cafe blossomed into a Community Hub: A place where people could come and chat and do some crafts, have some food.
Leaflets and information about services in Stroud were available and put out at each event.
A resident, Shannon Carter, came forward and offered her skill in Card making and craft work. Another resident, Bill Ims, was interested in music and played at the summer fayre as well as eventually playing in Homes for the elderly.
One of the craft ladies, Mel, also went to Homes for the elderly with her card making skills. Mel learnt this skill from Shannon and has become passionate about her card making and they have become great friends.
A knitting and crochet group started and became a regular meeting place for some residents. A number of local people have also worked in the kitchen making it a welcoming place to be a part of. Achieved through conversation and inclusion.
The cafe now
The cafe has been closed during lockdown. We are meeting to look at starting it up again in late 2020. There are many local people who have missed it and ask when it will open again.
Safety and Inclusion
We purposefully made it a safe and welcoming place and it didn’t take too long before people coming along also reinforced this by being welcoming and talking to newcomers. This is at the heart of all we do.
From this we also did many other events, a skittles evening one Xmas, carol singing and Wreath making. Musical events and Xmas parties. A car boot sale and jumble sales. Finding any excuse to have a party and have fun and get to know each other.
Not all Plain Sailing
We also experienced some problems between residents. We felt this inevitable and to some extent accepted it was going to happen and we couldn’t take sides. These difficulties led to an important understanding. We were aware of the need for safeguarding and health and safety training as well as risk assessments and first Aid training. However we now understand that some procedures are also useful and that key people need to be responsible for implementing these systems when needed. We are all voluntary and the templates online are for paid work. However Jaqui adapted a Grievance procedure and Community Dispute procedure to give us a working understanding of how a dispute can become formal once informal methods have been tried. Sally and Jaqui have adapted other policies that are needed by a voluntary group of residents but who may need a DBS check when working alongside some residents. This feels an important step.
A Youth group was started at what was the Old baptist Church during the winter of 2018. A group of enthusiastic members along with support from SDC Youth team held a youth event every Friday evening. The youth did not want to continue this activity during the summer months and a key person went back to work so we have not had a youth group since then.
However Sally-Anne Wherry recently became a Director of PCG having shown up during covid and quickly became a key person in our covid response. Sally has been talking to The Door, who have offered to do a survey in this area. We have just been awarded a grant to pay for that survey. We are also in touch with Stroud Youth Council which has promised its support, and with Play Gloucestershire.
We first approached Stroud District Council (SDC) in 2018 about starting up a garden/play area in the green areas in Paganhill. There are some large areas that can be utilised and a plan was drawn up. We had a meeting with Michelle Elliott at SDC about our plans and later with Elaine Booth. The plans were agreed on in principle but we were informed of the regeneration in Paganhill so we were asked to put the plans on hold.
In 2019 we started working with Will Mansell, (Grace Network) who helped us become a CIC and became our treasurer. He later took the license for the Baptist Church from WEBA and is currently the landlord for the building and grounds. Early in 2020 we launched our garden group along with Longtable staff. The event was a great success and more than 70 people turned up and offered us the opportunity to talk about the work of PCG and the garden group. A garden was started at what is now known as the Octagon just before Covid started and lockdown. It has remained open on the understanding that people follow Allotment society guidelines. It has been important for local people and since inception has started gradually bringing more people in to enjoy the open air. Something that has been important for many in lockdown.