Springfield, Beech Hill & Gidlow Community

Angela Fell – It’s a pleasure to introduce Gill Wright, a community animator from Wigan. Gill and four other women bumped into each other at the start of the Covid pandemic. They discovered that they shared a passion for community-led change.

Guided by the eight touchstones, that is, the reoccurring practices in communities where residents act powerfully and compassionately together, they set off on a journey of discovery. Hosting community conversations, connecting streets, sharing gifts, connecting passions and celebrating every step of the way. In October of this year, the community shared popcorn and tissues as they watched the premiere of the film.

Gill introduces the film and shares how she is shaped by a deep sense of connection to people and place. A knowing that much of what we are yearning for, is already present, waiting to be made visible:

Gill Wright – When I was little we had loads of community events. The school car boot sale had 500 cars on every year, I remember playing dress up in my friend’s posh frocks that she wore to the May Day parade. There are pictures of Walking day in my Brownie Uniform. We performed at the church summer fayre and on the hospital car park as part of some celebration with the local dance school. I played Hide and Seek and Curby with my friends from across the street and down the road. Our summers were spent exploring school grounds, playing on the stadium running track, riding down ‘the valley’ on carboard boxes or making a bridge to cross the orange river. My friend’s street had a bonfire every year, the neighbours working together to ensure a safe and fun evening with a mountain of black peas for everyone to enjoy.

On a Saturday morning, we’d visit the local butchers (which always took ages because of the queue) to pick up the meat for Sunday roast, pay the papers at the paper shop and if we were lucky a quick visit to our local sweet shop Westhead’s. Unfortunately, none of these local businesses have survived the last 30 years as technology and supermarkets have supersized. The bonfires, car boot sales and May Day parade evaporated, probably down to the risk assessments and red tape. My children can’t explore schools anymore following the horrific events of Dunblane, the valley is fenced off and so overgrown you can’t even see it. I now live on what used to be the old running track and walking days have dwindled along with the number of Scouts and Guides across Wigan in general.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The pandemic gave us permission to reconnect as neighbours again. Our street connected, as so many did across the country, through WhatsApp, and the past 18 months have seen the start of some new traditions being formed. We are now a community that puts posters up in their windows. We have a community Facebook page that celebrates businesses, local events and local people. We have a local food pantry where people come to chat as much as for the food. We held our first community dog show, complete with fancy dress and catch a sausage, and it’s already pencilled in for 2022. We have re-discovered our community garden and hosted garden parties and we are planning a community Christmas dinner.

As a local mutual aid group, our aims were to uncover the treasures in our area. In this short film, you will see just some of the amazing treasures we have uncovered in Springfield Beech Hill and Gidlow. We don’t know what will come for 2022 and beyond in our community (other than the dog show). We may never get the maypole out again but that’s not for us to say, our task is to listen:

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