South Willesborough and Newtown Community Council (SWAN) is a new organisation based in Ashford, Kent. The Council formally came into being in May 2019, and represents both the village of Willesborough and the suburb of Newtown. It is run by a group of volunteers and aims to support the community it serves with local projects and endeavours, such as local events.
Reviving community spirit
The council decided to get involved in The Big Jubilee Lunch 2022 to help build a sense of community and the event was as a huge success, as Councillor, Sue Mullan, Chair of SWAN explains:
“Six months ago SWAN Council got a very clear message from residents that they wanted to see more social events and a revival of community spirit in this unique part of Ashford. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee gave us our first real opportunity to put on a large-scale event for them. It turned out to be a triumph of celebration and community!”
Bringing the whole community together
A few days after handing out over 450 commemorative medals to local schoolchildren and supporting SWAN Farm’s beacon lighting event, local families, many with young children poured on to Newtown Green for The Big Jubilee Lunch. 500 tables and chairs were laid out for a street party, with free red, white and blue cupcakes, a hog roast and a wide range of modern and traditional entertainment and music.
Councillor Mullan continued:
“My fellow Councillors and I were thrilled to see a record number of local families and children descending on the Green to participate in a moment of history and summon up the spirit of the SWAN community.
Around 550, Union Jack waving adults and children formed the shape of a swan which was filmed from above. It was a special moment that featured on Meridian TV news. They also watched on as the SWAN Jubilee time capsule was buried under the railway memorial on Newtown Green”
Team effort: community, borough and county council support
Councillor Mullen was generous in her praise of the team effort, across the different levels of local government involved. She said:
“I can’t thank SWAN residents enough for supporting this event but I would also like to thank Ashford Borough Council for allowing us to the use the Green and supporting the event financially, Kent County Council for its support, SWAN councillors for their vision, the army of volunteers who helped on the day, the Salvation Army and The Alfred Arms for their help, our event advisor, Roger Crouch, and staff members Sarah Evans and Rob Woods who worked tirelessly to make the event such a resounding success.”
The Big Impact
The Council is delighted with the success of The Big Jubilee Lunch, with only positive comments in council meetings, on social media, Meridian TV and in the media.
The event also contributed to five of the seven themes included in its Community Plan:
- A Well-Connected Place – connecting and reconnecting the community after the COVID-19 pandemic. Engaging with education providers, local businesses and youth groups
- A Better Feel to the Place – providing a direct response to resident’s wishes for more events and enhancement of the Parish’s “village” spirit. Creating a new marketing proposition and brand for the parish (human SWAN)
- An Eco-Friendly Council - encouraging use of unpowered entertainment, low use of single plastic items and eco-friendly food containers. Event promoted primarily to locals - to encourage walking rather than driving
- An Equal and Diverse Place - encouraging all those with protected characteristics (Equality Act 2010) to attend and participate, including practical support to assist donations to a local charity for the visually impaired.
- An Effective Council - an efficiently run project,responding to residents’ concerns and wishes. An inclusive and accessible event that increased volunteer capacity.
Five Top Tips for Councils
- Be clear about the purpose of the event from the outset and the added value it will bring to the community
- Engage an experienced organiser if possible to produce a management plan including legal, safety and licensing matters
- Treat the event as a project with key milestones agreed in advance and sufficient “wriggle room” planned in, in case things go awry.
- Agree the target audience in advance and choose appropriate entertainment. In our case, it was children of junior school age and their families.
- Consider any incidental expenses as an essential marketing tool/cost and not just a “nice to have” free memento e.g. Jubilee commemorative medals handed out in advance