After years of neglect, Walkers Heath Park, Birmingham, has been transformed from a forgotten wasteland to a thriving part of the community.
Walkers Heath, on the south side of Birmingham, has faced years of neglect. Set up in the 1960s as a recreation ground for the Kings Norton Three Estates (Pool Farm, Primrose and Hawkesley) and Druids Heath which are located nearby, it once boasted such facilities as a long jump, rugby pitch, basketball and tennis courts, agility equipment and even a Miniature Golf course.
By the 2000s however, these facilities had disappeared, and the Park was used merely by dog walkers or as a cut through on the school run. With no benches or bins, and barely legible signage, the Park had fallen into disuse; it has become known as ‘The Forgotten Park’. This was exacerbated by the fact that the Park was owned by one council (Bromsgrove) yet managed by another (Birmingham), and was the responsibility of two wards and three police forces. The situation was confusing.
Headed by Richard Page and Leanne Youngson, a group of residents decided to do something to make the Park a thriving part of the community once more. They set up the Friends of Walkers Heath Park in November 2011, a group representing all kinds of people living nearby – pensioners, students, the unemployed and people balancing work with family.
The Friends have become a catalyst in putting Walkers Heath Park back at the heart of the community. They have won support from two sets of ward councillors and the authorities, pursuading Birmingham City Council to re-name the Park, install £3000 worth of new bins and create new signage. They have even been promised a Community Orchard from Quadron, the Park’s maintenance contractors.
The park has recently been earmarked for £50,000 of repairs (from Central Government funding) and there will be at least two Community Space Challenge intergenerational projects at the park over the next twelve months with Catch22, a local charity working with disadvantaged young people on the Three Estates. These are the Community Orchard, learning the ancient art of hedge laying and Geocaching.
The next step is to re-engage local people with the Park and get them involved in its development, and this is where Community Games comes in.
The Walkers Heath Park Community Games will be the first big event hosted by the Friends, aimed at all the community.
There will be an opening and closing ceremony, and events including archery, football, rounders, tug-of-war, volleyball/tennis, British Military Fitness and bike polo as well as traditional sports day event for the small children.
During the Community Games the Friends will ask people what they would like to see put into the Park as a legacy of the day, anything from facilities to a sculpture to more benches as well as what activities and sports they want to see happening there.
Organiser Leanne Youngson has lived near the Park all her life, as have most of the Friends. She says “Walkers Heath Park will become whatever the local community feel best fulfills their needs. Community Games is a means of getting people interested and involved once more in these exciting developments.”
Community Games provide a great opportunity for individuals or organisations to bring their community together by organising a day of sporting and cultural activities inspired by, and in celebration of, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. A community can organise its Games in a way that works for them: they could take place in a park or inside a community centre, at any time of year, and with whichever activities they choose. Whatever the focus, Community Games provides everyone with the chance to get involved with London 2012.
Since the programme launched in 2010, over 165,000 people have taken part in a Community Games. It is expected that 500 games will have taken place by the end of 2012.
Community Games are inspired by London 2012 and are funded by the Big Society Fund and Legacy Trust UK. The programme was the brainchild of Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to help build a lasting cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and is delivered by the County Sports Partnership Network and the YMCA. The Community Games programme forms part of the Cultural Olympiad in the West Midlands.
For more information on how to stage your own Community Games visit www.communitygames.org.uk
People who are already involved in London 2012 inspired activities in the West Midlands can share their stories, pictures and list forthcoming events on www.facebook.com/thegamesandme
Learn more about Walkers Heath Park at www.friendsofthepark.co.uk