Marc Read, Wiltshire Council's Community Engagement Manager for the Tidworth Community Area spoke to us about why he is organising Family Learning Festival again this year
What is your role? I work for Wiltshire Council as a Community Engagement Manager and am in charge of the Tidworth area.
How is Family Learning important to your role? Every couple of years Wiltshire hold an ‘Our Community Matters’ event, where members of the public decide what our priorities as a community are. Child Poverty was the number one priority raised in the Children & Young People discussion group.
As part of my role I work with the local community, services and businesses to tackle the priorities raised. As Family Learning raises aspirations and encourages a love of lifelong learning, I thought the Festival was an ideal way to support the priority of tackling poverty. In addition to this, we have lots of army families being redeployed to the area. Whilst families most immediate needs are school placements, the Festival is an ideal opportunity to signpost them to other services in the area.
You organised FLF for the first time last year what do you feel your community got out of it? Last year myself and my colleague Joyce Stretton, Community Support Development Worker for the Army Welfare Service co-ordinated the Festival, we had 30 events with nearly 2000 people attending. The feedback has been phenomenal with families requesting more activities. The long term effects have been to grow sustainable activities and groups.
One instance of this was the pottery class we ran as part of the Festival in 2017. As this was so popular we ran additional sessions over half term and Easter.
A great example of a business partnership was with the Wessex Community Circus who ran a session over the Festival. It proved so popular that they will be running weekly sessions at the local youth club in September.
How long did it take you to organise and what were the costs involved? The actual co-ordination itself took no more than a weeks’ worth of work. Last year we had no budget for activities and delivered 30 events for free by pulling in favours. Tidworth Area Board did provide £400 to print leaflets.
What made you decide to organise FLF again this year? The demand is there!
We had such a fantastic response and some real positive stories of learning. Joyce from the Army Welfare Office was able to engage with families that she hadn’t been able to reach before.
Have you managed to leverage any resources through funding or pro bono following the success of last year? This year we will have nearly 50 activities organised. Tidworth Area Board have given a grant of £2500. We also received £1000 from the Tesco Bags of Help grant. In addition to this we have been fortunate to receive support from the Army Welfare Service and Ludgershall Town Council. In addition to this all the venues have offered their spaces free of charge.
What are the advantages of organising an event under a national campaign banner? Knowing that there are other activities happening all over the country and that there is a solid evidence base behind the benefits of family learning helps us when we organise our event. The national campaign adds credibility to what we do here in Tidworth.
How will you incorporate this year's theme 'Try it Here and Take it Home'? This year we will have cookery and craft sessions where people will learn skills that they can take back home. We are thrilled to have Parenting Expert, Jane Evans, running a session at the children’s centre.