Barnet Post

Barnet Post

Residents take the lead

Empowering grassroots change gives residents ownership of community projects in East Finchley

Hero for Residents take the lead
Residents enjoy Barnwood N2 community garden
By Mariella Hill 10 August 2021

The problem with trying to make changes to a local area is, most of the time, it doesn’t really work. But that’s because a lot of projects are initiated by people who do not have direct experience living, working, or existing in the area they are hoping to change.

Located in a small pocket of East Finchley, Grange Big Local (GBL) is one of 150 neighbourhoods in England being funded by the National Lottery under the Big Local project, to encourage resident-led change.

Rather than the typical ‘top-down’ approach to funding local projects, Big Locals are uniquely organised by those that live in the area of need. We are halfway through a ten-year plan based on resident consultation and research, that provides a long-term vision of the impact we want to have in East Finchley. We will fund projects working with residents, the environment and the economy, overseen by our board who live and work in the local community. Like this, we can ensure that our work is representative of the diversity of the area. We also offer a space for collaboration enabling the community to take responsibility for projects that represent their needs.

People in our area said that playgrounds have been neglected and there are not enough community spaces so they would like more activities for children, preservation of green areas and skills training.

To better protect the natural environment we supported Barnwood N2, a community forest garden, situated between some of the most important children and adults’ services in the area. Once an overgrown space, we helped to support the residents who decided to completely regenerate Barnwood. Volunteers cleared the space and planted food, trees and shrubbery. It is now an essential outdoor space where residents can bond with neighbours whilst learning about food growing systems.

Now a registered charity in its own right, Barnwood N2 is a sustainable project that leaves a legacy to the community. By empowering individuals to come together, resident-led funding allowed us to support something of value.

This year, we have also granted funds to residents who wanted to run projects that would benefit people in the area. Having access to an outdoor space has allowed us to hold in-person events when restrictions allow. At the Wild About Our Woods event over 55s came together to take part in a free Afri- can drumming workshop. There’s also N2 Mums speak which is an ongoing event where women with children can meet and connect over their shared and varied experiences of motherhood.

We would like to use our scope to link together more community groups in the area, supporting good-value local projects in the hope that we will leave a legacy that exists beyond our ten-year plan.

To keep up to date with our work, and to see what you may be able to get involved in, please visit our social media: @Grangebiglocal on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Also, take a look at Barnwood’s socials: @BarnwoodN2 on Twitter @our_barnwood on Instagram.

Work underway at Barnwood N2 community garden