Updated: Aug 17, 2018
Clare is talking to me – a lot. We’re sitting in her kitchen, I’m nursing a cold tea and eyeing up the last of the chocolate Hobnobs. Outside the weather is a gorgeous sunny day and it’s too warm to be indoors. She said she’s had a great idea and wanted to share it with me. We’re an hour into the conversation and she’s in full evangelical preacher mode, waving a little yellow book at me. If I didn’t know better I’d think she was trying to perform a miracle.
But in a way, she is. The little yellow book is called “Flatpack democracy” and it’s about a small community called Frome and how they got fed up and decided to take things into their own hands. She can quote extracts from this book with the fervency of religious fanatic. I’m thinking she has that as an alternative career path if she ever wants one.
And then it hits me. She’s not ranting about the state of our town – her passion is directed at our future. For some years I’ve known I’m not the only person in Wickford who feels like the place is slowly decaying. I’ve felt like we’re a “forgotten” community for some time. I’ve tried various ways of knocking on the doors of Basildon Council, but once those doors open there’s a vast network of complexity, administration, committees, governance, bureaucracy and it leaves me cold. That’s not my idea of how community empowerment works. It's not fun.
“I’ve got the answer…” She’s repeating herself more and more now and her tone says I’m being slow on the uptake, so I try to shift my focus away from the lone Hobnob and back to her.
And then *boom.* There’s an abrupt epiphany and it feels like a spotlight has been switched on in my brain. Either that, or I’m having a sugar rush from too many Hobnobs. Obviously my expression changes, because I see on Clare’s face something between “finally” and “OMG she’s so slow.” But I’m there now. We’re both there. We’re suddenly on the same page and the world (or more precisely Wickford) is brimming with opportunity.
“A Town Council you say?” I mull the words over as I say them.
“Yes, a Town Council. Residents, taking control of what residents want.”
These are powerful words indeed. It’s a seed change. Something which Wickford hasn’t got and which it desperately needs.
“Residents making decisions? I like that.” I say. I like it a lot. And now the little yellow book is in my hands and I’m the one reading sections out loud to Clare.
Her passion is infectious and she’s infected me. Just scanning the book I can see what a world of difference it would make to Wickford.
“We need to tell people about this.” I say, sounding a lot like she did 5 minutes ago. “This is important!”
Her expression is somewhere between “no shit Sherlock” and “you’re so late to the party.” But she’s pleased. She’s got another convert and together we’ll get more and more people aligned to the idea. Clare and I are different in many respects - I’m a planner, she’s bursting with ideas - but we’ve always had a common goal to make Wickford better. Now we’ve found a way to achieve that and it’s gonna be amazing.
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