In the current economic and political climate, good news on public and community services is thin on the ground – so I was very happy to receive news of a wonderful followup to story I featured early this year.
Back last January, Esther Allen of The Chasewater Strollers parent and toddler group contacted me to publicise their petition against the planned closure of both Burntwood Childrens Centres – otherwise known as ‘Surestart’ – the petition was successful, and the centres gained a stay of execution.
Thanks to the sheer energy and drive of Esther, Councillor ‘Aunty’ Sue Woodward and others, a new community organisation has been set up to take control and run the threatened centres.
This is a real grass roots success, and I congratulate and salute all involved. The new organisation is called Spark (Burntwood), and launches on Monday 7th September at 2:30pm at Boney Hay Primary School. All welcome.
You are warmly invited to come and celebrate the launch of Spark in Burntwood!
Magic, balloon modelling, face painting, children’s activities run by Little Owls, tea and cake… and a few surprises!
Spark is a new community organisation set up by parents and grandparents to run the former Children’s Centres at Springhill and Boney Hay as new community venues.
This is new and exciting for Burntwood and Staffordshire! Spark is formed by passionate volunteers and we would value your support at our launch.
Please join us for an open afternoon from 2.30-4pm in the school hall and Spark Centre. Information will be available about what’s on for families in Burntwood. You are invited to look round the centre and meet Spark volunteers.
Children are very welcome to attend (any age not just preschoolers) and there will be a variety of activities taking place. Please drop in anytime between 2.30 and 4pm.
Share the good news, invite your friends and let them know what’s happening for families in Burntwood.
I really do wish Esther, Sue and everyone involved the very best. A great example of community activism, right there. I gather Burntwood Town Council had an input too, and they seem to be doing some really good stuff at them moment.
Spark issued the following press release:
Started By One Little Spark: New Community Organisation Set To Take Over Burntwood’s Children’s Centres
When the proposed closure of both of Burntwood’s Children’s Centres at Boney Hay and Springhill was announced in January of this year, one local mum contacted her County Councillor to ask what could be done – and that was the little spark that started off a high-profile local campaign to save the centres and the services for young children and families provided there.
Esther Allen, local mum and music teacher, contacted Burntwood North Councillor Sue Woodward, they discussed a local campaign including a petition and now – after 8 months of work and negotiations – a new Community organisation has been set up and will take over the running of the centres in September. The official launch of the new organisation Spark (Burntwood) will be on:
Monday 7th September 2015
At Boney Hay Primary School, Chorley Rd, Burntwood WS7 2PF
At 2.30pm until 4pm. (N.B 2pm for invited guests/media)
Esther, along with others using the centres and many local mums including Shevonne Hodson-Walker, Tracey Matthews and Rachel Marlow organised a petition which attracted over 2000 signatures from local families. The petition was submitted by Cllr Woodward to Staffordshire County Council who also held urgent meetings with the Cabinet Member, Cllr Mike Lawrence and lead officers. A 6-month “breathing space” was given to enable the community to look into ways of saving the centres and Esther and a group of passionate parents and grandparents have set up Spark.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in such a short space of time; largely down to the incredible support from our families. We joked as Moms about the idea of being able to run our own children’s centres; and now it is a reality, although without Sue we wouldn’t have known where to begin. It’s been a lot of hard work and we’ve come across obstacles, but I’ve been amazed by the enthusiasm of those involved in the children’s centres and other community groups. There are too many people to mention who have given so much time, advice and support voluntarily to make it happen. Thanks also to those from the County Council, the schools and children’s services, who have supported this unique initiative every step of the way.”
Cllr Woodward said:
‘This is a real success story for the Burntwood community and for this fantastic group of mums. They saw a problem and, rather than sitting and wringing their hands, set out to do something about it. I’m delighted that Spark is about to be up and running and to have been involved along the way.
I’m delighted too that we can all now come together to celebrate at the launch event.’
Esther and her fellow Spark members would like all of the people who signed the petitions as well as the wider community to come along to the launch and to see the changes at Boney Hay Children’s Centre. Further information will be provided about the whole range of activities and services for local children aged 0 – 5 at children’s centres as well as activities and refreshments.
‘We’ll have one or two surprises at our launch too so we hope people will come along and celebrate with us.
And with all of these Sparks flying around, we’re really pleased that Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service will be on hand with their fire engine, just in case!’
Esther, of course, is the human dynamo behind the wonderful and remarkable Chasewater Strollers, a very popular buggy walking group for parents which is still going from strength. They meet every Monday, 9:30am at St Anne’s Church, Chasetown WS7 3QL – why not pop along?
Any questions please send us an email or facebook message. Otherwise just turn up and you will be made very welcome!