Twenty-five years ago, a few of us formed the Milnsbridge Enhancement Group [MEG] to improve our village, Milnsbridge – once the heart of the thriving woollen industry but in decline at the end of the 20th Century. As the industry shrank, the mills closed, creating unemployment, shop and bank closures and a neglected village. We hoped that a few modest community projects would cheer up the place and its residents. We’ve been doing this work ever since.
First, we refurbished a children’s playground on the local rec, raising money locally, then receiving a Kirklees Council grant to complete the project. This has been our working model for many subsequent projects.
In the early 2000s we made a successful bid for a grant from the Landfill Tax Fund to create our popular Riverside Walk. And in 2007 we installed, at a picturesque site, two picnic benches made of tough composite plastic, but they didn’t survive the attentions of bored local youths and were burnt to the ground.
Our many attempts to fund replacements failed until we came across the Growing Great Places programme, run by Kirklees Council. It asked us to raise enough money by crowdfunding on Spacehive to earn the chance of a pledge from Kirklees Council, big enough to buy good-looking replacement benches, made from vandal-resistant steel.
To attract local support, two of us made a video about the project, using this to launch our crowdfunding in June 2020. In less than 3 months, with support from local residents, our Councillors and Growing Great Places, we raised almost £4,000.
Everything then fell into place, despite the pandemic. The benches were ordered and delivered on time; and, over the next 5 months, we organised their safe installation with volunteer labour.
Like all MEG volunteers, I am proud of the work we do for the community. I like to get stuck in and do things. The projects I’m involved with are a way of making a contribution, making a difference, doing something for the greater good. There is a real camaraderie working with others towards a common goal.
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Thank you to Jeremy for sharing this story after participating in one of our “How can more people come together to make local places better?” online workshops for Kirklees citizens.