About this blog

Thursday, 22 December 2011

An update on the evaluation of DBI

Following discussions in recent months, the board of DBI Ltd has taken the decision to review its approach to the evaluation of the Deighton and Brackenhall Initiative. 
Since this blog was part of the original evaluation plan, it will no longer be updated, but the material produced so far will be retained as a resource for those interested in the story of DBI.
If you would like further information about DBI, please contact Andi Briggs at mail@dbilimited.org

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sport and more: working with young people

Throughout the history of DBI local people have been concerned to provide activities for young people in the area and help them feel proud of where they live.

Sport has always been at the heart of the community -
but today's young people need more than football
Many of those activities have revolved around sports. Almost as soon as the renewal programme was underway, local residents came together to form Deighton Sports Council.

Its first objective was to support a bid to the Sport England lottery panel for money to build a new sports centre. The bid was accepted in 2000 and in November 2001 the Deighton Community Sports Arena opened to the public.

A second successful bid to the Sports Lottery funded two development workers for the arena, who set up the Deighton Into Sport Project (DISP), building links with local schools and starting clubs for football, athletics and basketball. Over the last four years DBI has ploughed around £95,000 from the community dividend into DISP’s activities.

DISP can claim to have had a profound effect on the lives of many young people from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds. It is particularly proud of the fact that several children who became involved with the junior football club at the age of five were still active in sport as young men. Some have gone on to train as coaches and have found jobs in local schools.

But not everybody enjoys sport or feels able to participate. This is a particular concern for Daneeka Simpson, who runs the Youth on the Hill project, based at the Chestnut Centre.

‘A lot of what’s available is sports related. There’s nothing for young girls to do and if you don’t like sports there’s nothing to get involved in, which is why we’re trying to switch - we’re doing some gardening stuff with kids and going out and playing some activities in their community rather than them feeling they need to be really good at football or really good at basketball.’

Youth on the Hill works with groups who are often seen as hard to engage, particularly those who are not involved in education, employment or training.

It runs a volunteering scheme which helps young people to identify with the community around them. Volunteers are asked to commit to a certain number of hours and offered opportunities such as working in the community café, planning Deighton Carnival, caring for elderly people and mentoring young people. There are also opportunities to undertake practical DIY work with Fresh Horizons projects such as the empty property and home security schemes.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A new look for Sheepridge

Demolishing the old 'Catholic shops' has removed an eyesore
Sheepridge village is on the main road from Huddersfield into the DBI area. For years it was blighted by derelict shops and a burnt-out Co-op building and residents felt it was a major contributor to the area’s negative image.

Sheepridge resident Helen Chatterton says: ‘You drove through and you just assumed the whole area was the same. It was a real mess.’

This year DBI has arranged a £500,000 revamp of the eyesore with the aim of creating a place where businesses can thrive and residents feel proud. The Co-op and a former betting shop have been demolished and a shoppers’ car park constructed in their place.

Shops have been given new doors, windows and matching signs, and stone houses and walls have been renovated and cleaned. A derelict shopping parade behind Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church was also demolished and the church received a fresh coat of paint.

DBI has also bought the old Gaukrodgers bakery and reopened it as a sandwich shop, providing jobs for local people.

It is hoped that local residents will now feel more inclined to use the village shops, rather than travel to Asda or the centre of Huddersfield.

Mrs Chatterton says the change has been dramatic. ‘I live opposite where the little lane is that goes down, and it didn’t matter what time of day or night I went to my window, there was always somebody down there drug dealing. It’s very rare now that I ever see anybody.’

A second phase of works is planned to improve the other side of the village centre, from the working men’s club to the turning onto Brackenhall Road. This will again include improvements to buildings, and there are also plans to renovate a neglected area of land in the middle and turn it into a communal area for public use.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A new heart for Brackenhall

Time for change: the current church and community centre

While the Chestnut Centre is impressive, there’s a need for a centre closer to the heart of Brackenhall. A second centre is now being built which will replace the existing Brackenhall church and community centre with a £2m, purpose built facility in a more central location on Holt Avenue.

Inside the new centre there will be a hall, café, church, meeting space, IT suite and changing rooms. Outside, there are plans for two football pitches and a multi-use games area.

The chair of the Brackenhall Community Trust, which is overseeing the development of the centre, is 79-year-old Joan Mallinson, who has been attending Brackenhall church since she was seven. ‘The current centre is full most days,’ she says. ‘There isn’t the space to develop it as we’d like.’

The current centre was built as a church in 1939. In the 1980s it was taken over by Kirklees Council to be run as a community centre, with the church retaining a small room to worship in. Joan is looking forward to the extra space the church will have in the new centre.

‘The church and the work we do there mean a lot to me,’ she says. ‘We’ve done a lot of work, particularly with young people. We’ve had a Boys’ Brigade since 1947 and it’s still running.’

Work on the Brackenhall Centre started in July and DBI is putting up 75 per cent of the funding. Joan was full of praise for the organisation. ‘Without their input it would never have got built,’ she says.

But she isn’t relying on DBI to make the project succeed, or on Fresh Horizons, which will manage the new centre. ‘It belongs to the community and it’s up to us as the community to see that it works,’ she says.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Arts at the heart: ten years of Deighton Carnival

The first Deighton Carnival was planned as a one-off celebration. However, it was such a success that people clamoured for it to become an annual event.

In 2011, the carnival celebrated its tenth anniversary. It has grown over the years and now features all the ingredients of a traditional carnival, such as a procession, cheerleaders, a fun fair and lots of music and dancing. It aims to bring together all the different sections of the area’s multiicultural community and to make sure that people coming in from outside, whether they’re stallholders or the public, feel welcome.

Organiser Howard Belafonte, who was Fresh Horizons’ first employee, believes it has played a crucial role in improving the area’s reputation.

‘A lot of people only ever come to Deighton for the carnival and they can’t believe that a place that has got this stigma has got this positive, relaxed family event,’ he says.

He believes the carnival has helped to forge and strengthen links between people in the community. Each year it has a different theme aimed at celebrating the diversity of the area. These have included ‘Deighton in action’, ‘Deighton through the ages’ and ‘Deighton – community of culture’.

‘The carnival is what everyone looks forward to,’ he says, adding that it has often been a way for newcomers to start finding their feet in the area. ‘The majority of the community get involved and feel ownership of it and part of it.’

Arts and creativity of all kinds have always featured in DBI’s approach to regeneration, with Kirklees’ Council’s arts organisation LOCA being involved in some of the early consultation work.

The Laurence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield has been involved in numerous local outreach and community projects. They have been involved with residents of all ages, running everything from adult training workshops through school holiday circus training to activities with the Playmates nursery.

The recent You Live and You Learn Theatre Project aims to help people overcome barriers to education and employment by taking real life stories from the local community and turning them into theatre. It recently won a national award for excellence for its innovatory and inspirational qualities.

Outreach arts worker Maggie O’Keefe says the DBI funding has made a big difference as it has enabled the theatre to deliver projects over the long term.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The local effect: Darren’s story

When Fresh Horizons managing director Mike McCusker first drove into Brackenhall, he thought: ‘Bloody hell, it’s all boarded up.’

At the time much of the estate was about to be demolished. Since then, he has witnessed a ‘radical transformation’ of the area. The transformation might be most obvious in the buildings and environment, but for Mike there has also been a dramatic change in opportunities for local people.

It wasn’t just the negative things that struck him. The other thing that leapt out was the strong sense of community. ‘You’re driving down the road, there’s a car in front of you, all of a sudden he sees someone he knows driving the other way, so they stop, wind down the windows and have a chat,’ he said. ‘There is constant beeping as people see people they know even if they’ve seen each other 20 times that day.’

The community was far more close-knit than any Mike had experienced previously and it strengthened his determination that Fresh Horizons should make a genuine difference in people’s lives. ‘This isn’t playing around, this is local people,’ he said. ‘If we can get local people to identify local issues and address them, then that’s something really powerful.’

A friendly space: the Chestnut Centre library
As described in this post, Fresh Horizons has gone from employing two people in 2002 to a staff of almost 70. Nearly all these employees live locally: 85 per cent of them even live and work in the same postcode.

The result is that people in Deighton and Brackenhall are getting the opportunity not just to work, but also to develop and move on in their jobs. A case in point is Darren Thomas, whose career at the Fresh Horizons base in the Chestnut Centre parallels an important change in attitude among council employees from outside the area.

Darren is now the senior customer information adviser at the Chestnut Centre and manages all the front of house staff. However, he started out as what Mike calls ‘basically a bouncer’.

He was taken on when Kirklees Council’s neighbourhood housing office moved into the centre. ‘They’d come from a fortress and wanted to try to replicate that fortress but that didn’t fit with the ethos of the building,’ says Mike.

‘So we said no, you can’t have bulletproof screens, no you can’t have wire cages, you’re just going to work out of an office because no-one will shame themselves in front of kids and neighbours, you’ll have a different experience here.

‘However Unison argued that they wanted some security so we had poor old Darren, bored out of his brain waiting for nothing to happen, until it clocked with them that this was an expense they didn’t need, and Darren moved to be a customer information adviser, went through all the training, then took on a deputy role.

‘So you have a local person, in a relatively short time, moving into a management role and on the management team of Fresh Horizons. And everyone knows who Darren is, knows his background and where he’s come from, and I think that sends a powerful message to local people.’

And as Darren points out, the effects extend beyond the walls of the Chestnut Centre. ‘When I was younger places like this wouldn’t have existed because they would have got broken into and vandalised,’ he says. ‘When I was younger strangers wouldn’t be able to walk up and down. It’s a lot safer than it was when I was growing up.’

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Fresh Horizons - a case of local empathy

Men in black: Fresh Horizons makes a point of employing locals
Allowing local social enterprise Fresh Horizons to run the Chestnut Centre has been a crucial factor in changing Deighton and Brackenhall for the better.

Not everybody was happy with the idea in the early days. There was an assumption that public services would and should be delivered directly by Kirklees Council.

DBI chief officer Andi Briggs remembers the challenge of changing people’s opinions. ‘At the time it was very difficult to get the wider political approval because it was seen as a big risk,’ he says. ‘There were also some issues with unions and others – it was seen as the slippery slope to undermining public sector jobs.’

The fact that European money was being used to fund the centre’s construction gave DBI some leverage and when it opened in 2005 Fresh Horizons took on the management of the facility. Fresh Horizons has a wide remit but its key role is to provide sustainable employment, mainly through contracts to deliver public services. It achieves this by working in partnership with Kirklees Council and other voluntary and private sector organisations.

Andi Briggs believes this commitment to giving responsibility to local people is crucial to the long term success of a regeneration initiative. ‘There has to be real engagement and investment in local people,’ he says. ‘You have to give them real, proper assets and buildings to manage that are of significant value and status so they’re not the fringe things – they are real empowerment.

‘At the same time you have to support them in such a way that they stand or fall independently of us. In that sense they are not part of the programme directly because otherwise the risk is they go when the programme ends.’

When it was launched in 2002, Fresh Horizons had just two employees. The credibility it has gained through successfully running the Chestnut Centre has enabled it to expand to the point where it employs almost 70 local people and last year had a turnover of £1.3m.

One of Fresh Horizons’ first ventures, which still continues today, was to recruit and train local people to deliver research projects for the public sector. The approach has been cited by Ofsted as an example of best practice in using adult education to boost community renewal.

Fresh Horizons also runs a building maintenance company, covering all aspects of the building trade, from repairs to refurbishment, and is recognised by industry accreditation bodies to help experienced workers gain recognised qualifications in their trades.

It has won Ministry of Justice funding for a project to reduce the number of burglaries against vulnerable people, and is working with the police, Kirklees Council and Victim Support to fit security equipment to 1,000 houses and flats across the area each year.

In recent years Fresh Horizons has extended its work to focus on empty private properties, seeking to bring clusters of empty homes back into use to prevent areas falling into decline and turning problem properties into opportunities for housing, employment and training.

As Fresh Horizons managing director Mike McCusker says, though, this is more than just a series of projects.

‘If you take the library and information centre that’s a contracted service from the local authority. But if you look at the way we deliver it, it’s local people delivering a service to other local people. It’s about the empathy you get.’