Our Burslem began life as a Facebook page back in 2011, and since those early beginnings, it has grown into a powerful local community action group, backed by the thousands of people who care passionately about their Burslem.
The first Our Burslem intervention was to raise over £5,000 in the town, to support Christmas lights and festive activities in the Mother Town over Christmas 2011. Our Burslem has ensured that we’ve celebrated the arrival of Christmas in Burslem ever since.
That first project was a success because of the approach which was adopted through working together, opening up communication channels in the town. Partners were found in Warwick's Funfair, which had been coming to Burslem for decades, local pubs and businesses, Burslem schools, Community First, Port Vale FC and its supporters, and some community grants. Success came through a positive approach, grounded in the enduring community spirit, and by not accepting 'no' as the answer.
That first Christmas lights event showed that small pockets of money could achieve a lot when brought together, and the achievement was recognised with a 6 Towns Radio award for community action.
It was a simple model, and it has seen the Our Burslem committee grow in confidence, making strides each year, culminating in an acclaimed first edition of the new A5 magazine, Our Burslem News. This was distributed through local retailers and venues, and delivered to over 4,000 Burslem homes in Autumn 2016.
Our Burslem's partners include Burslem Regeneration Trust, The Prince's Regeneration Trust and Burslem Police. We also work with and support local churches, schools, and community organisations. Sponsorship partnerships include working with Autonet, Steelite International, Synectics Solutions, Holdcroft Heating and Burslem Park. We will look to extend our partnerhsip network as time and resources allow.
From its early days, Our Burslem has been helping to bring the community together, creating new networks, giving a voice to the people and the town, in the wider context of Stoke-on-Trent and beyond. Our Burslem aims to promote the town as a great place to live and work, somewhere with plenty to offer to locals and visitors alike.
Our Burslem has focused on developing participatory events and activities in particular, operating on very limited resources. The group believes that interesting, quality events organised with Burslem folks in mind will also help attract footfall to the town, people who want to spend their cash, the essential ingredient for developing a more prosperous town centre.
Our Burslem's annual events programme currently includes the Christmas Lights Switch-On, the Burslem Festival in Spring, and Burslem Unites! which celebrates the Burslem community, on August Bank Holiday. Along the way, the committee also supports one-off events such as the performance of works by local writer and artist, Arthur Berry, and Halloween celebrations down in Trubshaw Cross. It's hoped that more events will be added to the programme in the future, to reflect the genuine pride in our local culture.
As well as concentrating on the lighter side of living here, Our Burslem has also been involved in making the town a safer place to live. Members of the group have taken part in Police anti-social behaviour discussions alongside other community groups, and the co-ordinated approach appears to be paying off, with Police reporting improvements as vulnerable people are channelled towards help and support. The committee is also involved in trying to restrict alcohol consumption in the town centre, supporting the implementation of a Police Special Protection Order.
Our Burslem has thrived through the dedication of a small group of individuals, bolstered by the whole-hearted enthusiasm of a very committed and proud community. Stoke-on-Trent appears to have a slightly Jekyll and Hyde character, in that local people are almost unanimously fiercely loyal, and yet they are also not slow to 'knock' aspects of living here. Our Burslem aims to make all the news about Burslem wholly positive.
Writing, printing and distributing 5,000 copies of Our Burslem News has opened up a whole new world of possibilities and new beginnings for Our Burslem's future activities. It has consolidated the committee's activities, and laid the platform for potential future growth. All of Our Burslem's activities are funded by local fundraising, from raffle ticket sales and events, to the generous support of local businesses. Maintaining a steady and guaranteed stream of income is essential to ensure the consolidation of output, and the revitalisation of our town. We have already demonstrated that a little can go a long way, we've shown the massive potential for our town.
Funding permitting, the events programme will continue to be a strong focus, with a continued commitment to developing the capacity of the local community to support itself, to celebrate itself, to be proud of itself. We take pride in the Potteries, and pride in Burslem.
Continuing themes are supporting development of the independent retail sector, encouraging local people to support local businesses by spending their money in Burslem, supporting local creativity and diversity, improving the environment and supporting the fight back against litter, celebrating and protecting the beautiful buildings in our town. These are all defining elements which still make Burslem the Mother Town.