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Whitfield Changemakers Event

Overview of the day: There was a relaxed, productive and very positive atmosphere underneath a bright sky for Whitfield’s own Changemakers event hosted by ScrapAntics. On approaching the event, nearly 100 attendees were offered free coffees from Dundee’s own Bean Machine coffee van. They were then greeted by friendly faces of the ScrapAntics team, who gave them a quick run-down of the day, and offered to keep in touch as the project develops. Your eyes and nose were then drawn towards a gazebo full of delicious food from Whitfield’s RoundHouse cafe, which now solely serves free community meals.

After filling and enjoying a plate, your options were then clearly laid out in front of you. All strategically placed surrounding a roaring central fire pit was; ScrapAntics’ Loose Parts Play, showcasing real recycled imaginative play; a badge-making station with local Dundee artists; an opportunity to have your face wonderfully painted by Dundee’s Funky Monkey

Facepainting; keeping the party going was Dundee’s favourite musician, Callum Irvine, who’s cheerful vintage tunes you could enjoy from ScrapAntics’ very own smoothie bike, on which you could pedal power a blender to make yourself a smoothie made from real fruit. Yum!

Overlooking the playful chaos of the smoothie bike was an opportunity to reflect on the space itself, which we were kindly given the use of by Alan at the Community Learning and Development department of Dundee City Council. Alan runs the Old Bowling Green Community Garden with Whitfield Greenspace Group, working with a group of dedicated volunteers from various backgrounds. He is a key person in the Whitfield community and we owe much of the success of the day down to his helpfulness and generosity, as well as that of his team of volunteers. His stall was gathering important insights and gathering new publicity.

And last but not least was one of the most important stalls of the day - the interactive feedback station. This was displayed using low drawing easels on large boards to make it accessible at all heights, and engaging for all attendees. In this important feedback you were asked to describe what you dreamed of happening in your community. Then, you were asked to articulate which skills you would require better access to in order to enable this, followed by an opportunity to identify what is preventing you from making your dreams happen.

Attendees were lastly encouraged to identify a ‘changemaker’ they know and to capture what they do in their community using a fun printing camera, and a short description of the person. These people that were captured represent how as communities we can thrive and move forward together: bringing resources, access to funding, and support to those who are already working incredibly hard to create resilience locally, in the face of adversity amidst a human made social wellbeing and climate crisis.

A particular highlight to me was the magical moment when musician Callum Irvine handed over the mic to a very keen singer who I suspect is no more than 5 years of age. She sang passionately to the backing track of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ over the loudspeakers, and truly captivated the entire garden, if not Whitfield.

I have seen something very similar happen at a community event in Whitfield's Lifegate Church, and both memories have similarly stuck with me. The importance of having a space that is safe, supported and inspirational enough to stand up in front of a large home crowd and belt out your favourite tunes, is immeasurable. As It is in these spaces, these networks and these bonds that we find the strength and confidence to continue caring for and building for ourselves and for our communities - increasingly now against a system so hostile and invested in separating us, and increasing vulnerability to our suffering environment.

So I hope it is with shared enthusiasm that I anticipate more work and more bold, tangible efforts with the Changemakers Hub. Not coming into these communities that are already struggling and telling them what they need, but instead listening and giving people the tools to continue doing what they know is really needed, in the places they know far better than us.

And it is the days like that in Whitfield that allow you to pause, to see and to realise all of that.

I would like to give special thanks to all members of the Whitfield community for being so kind, welcoming and encouraging during the preparation and delivery of this event. Particularly to Joe at the Whitfield Community Larder who runs an incredible free service, ensuring that residents are always fed and listened to, and always receive dignity and support. Joe kindly opened his toilets to the public event, and we cannot thank him enough.

All those at Lifegate Church have been incredibly supportive throughout and have provided invaluable publicity, advice and networking amidst their numerous free community activities. Again I would like to thank Alan from CLD and his volunteers for their ongoing support and facilities access, as well as the RoundHouse for providing their food. Dundee Bean Machine; FunkyMonkey Facepainting; Callum Irvine; Ballumbie and St Francis Schools; Ben Douglas; all Changemakers partners; and finally all in the ScrapAntics team - an enormous thank you.

Before this project, ScrapAntics were new to Whitfield. In order to bridge this gap - from our side of the Dichty to theirs - we were forming connections in every direction we found them. As we met with different groups, often via other contacts we had made, we were slowly but surely finding ourselves to be recognised and accepted into the community and its many branches of committed voluntary and third sector groups.

In order to make our integration both smooth and effective, clarity and honesty were essential qualities to ensure in our communications and continued contact with the network of Whitfield’s groups. We wanted to be clear about our intentions and our ambitions in the community in a simple and tangible way. Put simply, we wanted to create an event that allowed the local groups and individuals to connect with both each other, and larger groups from the rest of Dundee who are also doing important work in other areas. Then from this event, we wanted to build stronger working relationships between all of the invited groups, and encourage further participation in future Changemakers Hub events and opportunities.

What was very important within this process and during our Whitfield event, was genuinely listening to the needs of the community. Whether this was when chatting to someone whilst popping a flyer in their shop window, or as we were gathering the feedback at the event, the views of the locals were acknowledged and are exactly what will be brought up at the next events, and those that have come forward have been encouraged to apply for £300 microgrants in collaboration with, or as part of a constituted group. This important step was about building trust and making tangible and fast efforts to both support pre-existent efforts.

As attendees to the event left with hopefully a clear image in their heads of what the future of Whitfield may look like, we were also reflecting on how this image was caught and how we encouraged the people of this kind and welcoming community to open up and to share their thoughts, hopes and struggles in seeing this future - and the roles they would like to play in it.

With just enough time to think about their roles in Whitfield’s future, attendees were invited to the next Whitfield Changemakers event called ‘Whitfield Soup’. This will be held on 23rd May 2024 from 6pm - 8:30pm at Lifegate Church, 50 Haddington Crescent, Dundee DD4 0NA.This will be an opportunity for locals to pitch for microfunding and collectively vote on who receives the funding. The event is based on the famous Detroit SOUP, but in Whitfield fashion.

It is very important that we see as many of you there as possible, as this event is about you. The Whitfield Soup is for elevating the voices within these communities; to not only identify the problems faced in Whitfield, but also to discuss and realise the solutions collectively. On the whole, our work with Whitfield through the Changemakers hub is about understanding that the hardworking people here already know what the solutions are. It is, for us, about bridging the gaps between the third sector organisations, and the facilities, funding and resources needed: gaps which are stopping them from continuing with their incredible work.

Real change will come from you, when you are playing your role in your community. We are all impatient for change by now, and we are at a point as a society where we would rather get on with it and do it ourselves, than keep waiting for a government to make decades of decisions which will not be delivered, and spend a lot of our money along their tedious way. So as ScrapAntics, part of Dundee Climate Action Hub’s Changemakers project, we would like to know who you are, and we invite you to come along; and let us know how we can help you.

See you at the Soup!

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