Category : Activities

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

Walking with others – Josephinas story

Whether you walk much or not, the chances are you spend more time walking alone rather than with other people. However, walking can become a much more fun and enjoyable activity when you do it with others. Working as a team to support, motivate and encourage each other, walking groups can be particularly great for those who spend a lot of time solitary or indoors.

Some of the many benefits of social walking include:

  • Improving both physical and mental health
  • A way to meet and connect with others with similar interests
  • Explore your local area in a new way
  • Get some fresh air
  • Make new friends in your community

Josephina lives on her own and admits she enjoys her own space, but a routine visit to pick up a prescription ended in her joining a walking group- and loving it!

She says “I discovered the walking activity at my surgery by chance a year ago, when I saw a group of people getting ready to go for a walk and I joined them instantly with the wrong flat shoes on, after all I was only picking up a prescription when I noticed the excitement as I entered the surgery that day”.

“The group standing there made me feel I wanted to try it, join them for one day only to see what it was like, so I did, and I have been going since. I noticed straight away that there were others like me from all ages living alone, some with families living not far away and I also discovered as days went by that not only people turned up to keep fit, had health issues but that we had a lot of things in common such as gardening, sharing historical stories from the local area, laughter, sewing, art ideas, DIY, photos, triviality too”.

There is a real sense of community in a walking group, and no one is made to feel left out or like they slow the group down- even four legged friends are welcome to join.

“The walking activity is not a marathon; we wait for each other. Some walk faster than others but kindly wait or come back and join the slow ones, smiling. Charlie the leader’s dog joins us every Thursday morning and she is an invaluable piece to the puzzle, she brings joy to the session no doubt about it”.

For Josephina, the walking group has become a regular fixture she relies on and looks forward to in her week.

“The walking activity makes me get up, get ready to meet a group of kind, caring people, and it has become very important to me. I need them but I don’t tell them. I have health issues like everybody has and it really helps me, winter temperature does not discourage me either once the 1 hour 15 minute session is over I go back to my world of solitude which is still there waiting for me and I adore, but not before we pay a visit to the local library for a cup of tea and a biscuit where everybody is also very kind, fun and friendly”.

If you would like to see what walking activities are available in your local area, and discover the benefits of social walking yourself, visit for a full list of activities, as well as The Big Run Project who also offer walking groups at  

16th 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

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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.


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