Category : Active Communities

Exploring how a community heritage project can impact the health and wellbeing of people [Guest Blog]

Guest Blog by: Rachel Gillies

Our partners at The Active Wellbeing Society have been supporting Represent as we explore how a community heritage project can impact on the health and wellbeing outcomes of participants.

At The People’s Heritage Co-operative we believe that connecting people with their heritage – with creativity and curiosity – can have a profound impact on their connection to the world around them. Knowing your own history can help people feel rooted and give a sense of belonging. Sharing important stories is important for individuals and communities alike.

That is why we have been using the ‘5 Steps to Wellbeing’ model in planning our workshops to help participants come away from sessions having had a positive experience which will hopefully boost their mental wellbeing.


From first meeting our two community groups it has been so apparent just how much participants love going along to regular sessions and just how important those connections with others are. It’s been fantastic to bond with members of the groups over tea, biscuits – and even homemade pakoras!

We have been nurturing these relationships through working around the needs of each group – supporting their social activities and encouraging plenty of discussion and sharing of ideas.

Be Active

Exploring on foot is not only a great way to get some exercise, fresh air and see a neighbourhood, it’s also a wonderful way to enjoy some informal conversation. Admittedly, one attempt to go for a wander on a windy day was swiftly aborted, but we have enjoyed some ambles around the roof gardens at the Library of Birmingham and Handsworth Park.

We particularly enjoyed discovering parts of Handsworth Park which we previously knew nothing about. The women from Saheli Hub were so generous with their memories and reflections as we wandered around. Actually being in the Park amongst the trees was so stimulating for us all. We used the opportunity to begin to visualise the space 100 years ago.

Keep Learning

With the eldest participant upwards of 90 years of age, it has been wonderful to see that increasing years have had no negative impact on anyone’s curiosity. This part of our project has focused on giving participants new knowledge – the next phase will focus on the groups developing new skills through working alongside a creative practitioner to develop material for a touring exhibition.

Give to others

This project has been all about sharing. There have also been so many valuable contributions – facts about the neighbourhoods we are working in, memories from childhood, connections between the past and the present day. We have encouraged everyone to contribute and this has been met with real generosity. Giving people permission and space to share their memories is one of the best bits of heritage work. These contributions will form part of the final exhibition for Represent in Spring 2020.

Be mindful / Take notice

We have literally been taking some time to smell the roses – and the many other plants in the open spaces we have visited. Our Summer workshops have fortunately coincided with good weather, so we have been taking sessions outside as much as possible.

One highlight has been taking members of Edgbaston Community Group onto the rooftop terrace of the Library of Birmingham. As well as taking in the Birmingham skyline and pointing out familiar landmarks, many of the group were also drawn towards the plants on the terrace.

Are we making a difference?

Planning a project partly around the wellbeing of participants has been really useful for encouraging us to think critically about what participants will come away with. With only a handful of sessions planned for each group, we aren’t expecting to make a huge impact on anyone’s lives – and anyhow, both groups already access a range of really great activities. But this is a learning project, so we will be seeking feedback from those involved in workshops to try and find out what is working and what we could improve on.

Could we do more?

As we develop the next phase of our project, we would really welcome comments and ideas on what we have done so far. Do you know of other organisations doing great work, or have you benefitted from being part of a community heritage project? Drop us a line at

Interested in doing a blog article for us?

We’re keen to hear from people on how they started their wellbeing journey or from partners who work collaboratively to make it easier for people to access local initiatives.

If you’d like to do a guest blog for The Active Wellbeing Society please email

17th September 2019  |  Adeel Khan

George makes lovely things in clay

I joined this pottery class at the beginning. We’re about two or three months into it now. I live very locally, virtually on the doorstep.

I came, firstly, because it was something for an older person to do.

As I used to be reasonably creative when I was a schoolboy I thought it would be a nice thing to join the pottery class to give me some interest and get me involved with local community.

I’ve made lots of things.  This is a cheese board. It’s a decorative.  The original thing we made was these leaves which were an introduction to handling clay, really. Anita, our instructor, thought that if we started off with a leaf, which was a big ordinary leaf out of the garden and cut around them it would be easier. As they dry up they firm up and now we’re in a position so if we want to glaze them we can. In the meantime we’ve had other things to do. We’ve had pots with decorative things. Last week we made various other garden pots. We’ve got about 5 of us who come here regularly.

It’s very pleasant and therapeutic. I’ve got an enormous amount out of it. First of all, it’s ideally placed where I live. Secondly, it’s very pleasant. We’re a slightly older group. It’s quite nice for me to talk to some of the other older people.

I’ve been here [in Balsall Heath] for about 25 years. I ride a bicycle everywhere and, until very recently, I used to have every child in the road wanting bicycles repaired. I used to sit on the doorstep outside my house and show them how to repair punctures and how to repair their brakes.

Now my wrists are a bit arthritic and it’s too much of a strain. I didn’t charge them anything but in the end I used to say to the kids, you have to bring a pound for your puncture repair kits otherwise you’re not getting anything done. You have to show them how to have a little bit of investment.

I’m the chairman of seven streets residents association.  A lady who has died unfortunately, May Pearson, was well known in the area – She got me involved because I used to take her and others shopping or to the hospital or the doctors surgery because I had a car. So I got myself quite involved in the community. I had never intended to stay but I found myself completely at home and now I don’t intend to go anywhere else. It’s been very good for me and I feel like I can do something useful.

Most people would like to come to this pottery, I think, but a lack of confidence is a problem but doing this improves self esteem. I’ve always been an outgoing person so it makes no difference to me. I enjoy this because No man is an island. You need human contact. One of the things I like about coming here is that you can come and just have a cup of tea.

I tell people that I go to St Pauls and they say, I didn’t know it was there. It’s such a shame. It’s brilliant for people like myself.

4th August 2019  |  Marcus Belben

Happening in Billesley and across Birmingham

Backs to the Future?

Air Quality on Clean Air Day

What our air quality looks like

To mark this day, additionally to events and workshops in and around our schools, Active Communities planned an air quality relay using it’s Air Quality Monitors with the aim of mapping air quality in as much of the city as possible. The aim was be to get as many people to use the air quality monitors as possible in a single day to increase the data available.


Running a Centre – ‘What makes it is the Volunteers’

Active Communities Across South Birmingham & Solihull

What’s stopping children biking to school?

Active Communities in Handsworth, Lozells and Aston

Festivals for all our Futures

‘Festivals for Future’ takes place this Saturday 29th June at Kings Heath Community Centre 10am to 8pm and is a collaboration between many organisations interested in how we can work together to tackle global problems locally.  Bringing people together, this event looks at how our local community centre can work for all our futures.