Making a film
Up until this point Pidley has been tricky to engage with – when we started asking  the village ‘would you like to have your say on film’ we were pessimistic about our chances of anyone wanting to be involved.  But Pidley came up trumps!  The village was really keen to be involved and some residents put themsleves out considerably in order to make it happen. We got footage from local residents, the Mountain Rescue team, the Male Voice Choir and a special film made entirely by two girls in the village (on the mini camcorder they won from the ‘One Day’ event) campaigning for a play area in the village. We have tried to create a film which represents all the various points of view from the community and which is balanced and fair in its representation of people and opinions.  The film has been shown at the co-production event so far with two Parish Councillors from Pidley present . In late November we will take it to the Parish Council to view and then will be having a ‘film night’ in the village for everyone to watch it.  After that it will be put  onto Youtube.

Screenshot from the beginningof the film - the most you can see so far....

Co-production Workshop
This took place on the 28 October and a range of council representatives, (county, district and parish) and other service providers were invited along to a workshop lead by Julia Slay from the New Economics Foundation. The  event was very successful with the Pidley film sparking off many interesting conversations around co-production.   Many of the attendees gave positive comments about the content and there were several lively discussions as to how ready both rural communities and they themselves are to commit to co-production.



These are the Action Days in Tydd St Giles and Prickwillow under another name.   When we started promoting the Somersham Action Day in August we  asked ourselves ‘why would you want to come to this event?’    and found it difficult to come up with  really good incentives in order to engage residents who would not normally attend this type of community event.   In order to improve attendance we decided to change the emphasis of the  Action Days by making them  entertaining  events at which residents could discover what is on offer in each village  and also have some fun.  Each event had a mixture of  information stands relevant to the community (Neighboourhood Watch, local businesses/attractions, NHS, Community Safety, ) and entertainment (face painting and story telling, crafts, tombolas, village quizzes) .  We displayed the photos from the One Day events under themes with some suggestions as to how these themes could be addressed and then gave everyone 10 stickers when they signed in and asked them to sticker the ideas they thought they could manage/ were a good idea.  Post-it notes were also provided for original ideas and suggestions.  These two events were also timed for the school half term when we thought there would be children (plus carers) around.  Prickwillow’s event went into the evening as the village has such a high proportion of commuters.

It worked!  We got lots of attendance, everyone enjoyed themselves, looked at the photos and commented on them.  Breaking the actions down into more manageable steps seemed to have enabled residents to get to grips with local issues and start thinking about how they could make a difference.

Two girls from Tydd doing their own thing - we liked it!


Tydd St Giles is a Parish in the far north of Cambridgeshire.  It is an extended Parish consisting of the villages and hamlets of Tydd St Giles, Four Gotes, Foul Anchor, Tydd Fen and parts of Tydd Gote.   In total the Parish contains just over 1000 residents.

We have two main challenges to deal with.  The first is how we can engage residents in the smaller settlements and secondly how we can take an existing Parish plan (produced in 2009), update it and develop an action plan from it.  The existing plan was created from an extensive survey performed in 2009 however, for a number of reasons the Parish Council was unable to develop an action plan from it.  Using a survey did reach out into the surrounding settlements but did not reach many younger residents.  We hoped that our consultation methods might address this and any information we gathered could be used to supplement and update the existing plan. 

Changes to our approach

To tackle the outlying villages and hamlets:  we still used the consultation through photography and held our One Day event on the 8 October however we did broaden the way residents could respond.  We handed out the questions to the outlying villages in advance so that they could photograph their village and download the photos onto a Facebook page we established especially for this or via Twitter.  We also gave them the option of phoning for a USB and sending this Freepost back to us or handing the USB back to us at the event.  We also gave residents who came on the day an opportunity to reply by USB as we felt from previous events that some potential participants wanted more time to consider their answers or did not have the time to spare on that particular day.

Was this successful:  not particularly!   No one from the outlying villages turned up on the day or used the online/USB facilities.   Some Tydd residents did take a USB and we had a few returned. The USB option does seem to offer a viable alternative to those who cannot participate on that particular day but are willing to turn up and collect one.  We did engage children (a visit promoting the event/leafleting at the local school always works!) and in fact the ‘One Day In Tydd’  event did seem lively and engaging.  In all 27 participated on the day which we didn’t consider too bad for a drizzly, cold Saturday!

Taking part in the photo challenge in Prickwillow


Prickwillow is a small village four miles from Ely.  It is not in itself a parish but is represented by the City of Ely Council.  The village does have a village council – a group of interested residents who meet to discuss village matters.  Prickwillow has no shop, school, church, broadband provision, very few local interest groups and a bus service on Thursdays only.  It does have a village hall, a museum (Prickwillow Engine Trust), a phone box art gallery and an active WI.  The village is also home to some creative people – architects, writers and artists with a number of uniquely designed houses.

Social Media in Prickwillow: The village council had a website however the password had been mislaid and as a consequence the site hadn’t been touched for several years.  The village council was of the opinion that it was doing more harm than good as it gave the impression that the council was not functioning any more.   After some detective work we discovered who hosted the site and arranged for a transfer over to wordpress which a village resident has arranged – the address is The site is under construction at the moment.  The village council also has a Facebook page: – also follow the link for the Prickwillow Zombies!  It will be interesting to follow the development of these sites as they are more in the ownership of the community than the social media sites we have helped to establish in Somersham and Pidley.

One Day Event: we held this on Saturday 24 September in the village hall, with catering by the WI.   It was promoted by a leaflet drop, banners, through local schools and posters.  We also decided to give residents the opportunity to participate in other ways – i.e. we handed out  six USBs before the event to those who requested them and also gave out six at the event to those who couldn’t spare the time on the Saturday but still wanted to take part.  As the broadband is virtually non-existent (there is a community facility but photos are heavy on the download limit) we thought USBs were the only realistic answer. We have a return deadline for the 8 October. The mayor of Ely City Council also attended as the council is keen to forge better links with the village.  Six residents collected USBs and 14 residents took part on the day (this includes 5 children). We will be interested to see how many USBs are returned (one so far…).  We will be using the USB/Facebook/Twitter option in Tydd St Giles to gauge the level of interest in the community in responding this way.

Other community activities:

  • Written up and presented the action plan to Pidley Parish Council for feedback
  • Two girls in Pidley have been inspired by the project to make their own film about the need for a playing area in the village (something they have been campaigning about for a while) – this was a bit of a surprise but we have all agreed that their film can be incorporated into the filmed community plan. 
  • Held a groups and organisations event in Somersham for all the various local interest groups to come together and share information – this will be put onto groups tag on Somersham4u.
  • Written up and presented action plan to Somersham Parish Council and waiting for feedback.
  • Somerhsam4u and Our Somersham Facebook page starting to become more active – possibly as a consequence of the groups event.

First ; I have put a selection of Pidley photos on their blog and will  be adding new ones over time.  The link is:

Looking at the photos in Somersham

Action Days:

These were held in late July/mid August to give the community a chance to view the photos taken and hence issues raised and then suggest some community action based around these issues.

 The Action evening in Pidley was not well attended despite a letter inviting every household to the event being distributed.  However the ideas and responses of those community members who did attend were valuable and thoughtful.  Key issues addressed included: traffic and parking, youth provision, shops, community facilities and housing.  The competition was also introduced to the community at this event as we felt it was important to capture any existing interest and build on it.

 The Action Evening event in Somersham was well attended with a good mix of ages participating. The competition and seeing their own photography on show seemed to be the main attraction for the younger people but they were willing to think about community issues as well. The photographs were valuable tools for initiating conversations about the village although many were reluctant to put their thoughts on paper.  The overall feeling was that most people considered themselves lucky to be living in Somersham because it has such a wide range of facilities and community groups.  The evening had a good ‘buzz’ to it and felt lively and upbeat.

The issues which emerged in Somersham were: transport and parking, anti-social behaviour, older people’s issues, open spaces and footpaths, children and play.  In discussion at the Action evening traffic and parking seemed to be a main concern along with the possible loss of local shops and in particular the Post Office due to the opening of the new Tesco. However not everyone was against the arrival of Tesco in the village and this was also demonstrated through the photography results (approximately 50% for and against).  Another major theme emerging from the Action evening was that there was a lack of information in the village about events, groups, and village facilities. 

We were surprised at how many young people were prepared to return to the Action Evening in Somersham as we did not consider it had much to attract them – we think the competition was largely responsible for the evening’s popularity with the younger age group.  We are also considering changing the format of the Action event; the casual ‘drop in ‘approach seems to have worked (we stressed this point in the Somersham promotion) and we will be keeping this approach but also adding some other elements to make more of a ‘Community Fun Day’. Of course we will need to be careful that the main reason for the event i.e. developing actions from the photographic consultation is not lost  – we will need to strike a balance.

“’The village is a through route with various HGVʼs passing through so it’s very busy.”

We have been busy this month promoting, organising and finally delivering these two events; one in Pidley and one in Somersham.  We held a trial run with the staff at ACRE first to ensure that the processes were workable and that we could get useful information as a result.  We then moved onto promoting the One Days in both villages through a mixture of visits (schools, WI, Scouts, social clubs and pubs), banners, posters, flyers, emails and social media.   Through talking to people at the events, the school visits and banners followed by individual emails seemed to have been the most effective promotional tools.

Community members were asked to bring along a camera or borrow one of ours and walk around their village taking photos. They were guided by a worksheet of 10 questions which they had to answer through photography.  If they were unable to find something to photograph to express an opinion they were invited to write/draw/model it and then photograph that.  In Somersham 37 young people and 17 adults participated (54 in total); in Pidley 8 young people and 14 adults participated (22 in total). 

'' This is my favourite place. The lake is a tranquil setting with its wildlife''

Many people were enthusiastic about the process and considered it to be a much more engaging consultation method than the more traditional, pen and paper approach and particularly suitable for reaching the views of younger members of the community. However we do accept that this method is limited in that participation is reliant upon community members being mobile, able to walk some distance and use a camera:  modern cameras have very small buttons which arthritic fingers find difficult.  We realised that because of this limitation we were in fact collecting the perceptions of the younger community members about the needs of older people and not the actual views of older people themselves.  In order to rectify this we intend to visit some of the older community members (tea rooms chats!) to gather their opinions.

The information contained within the photos was of a high standard and we were particularly surprised by some of the thoughtful opinions expressed by children.  The photos will be used to develop actions for each community at a second event (Action Evening) and ultimately used to inform a community plan.

''The litter situation needs to be improved as it is contributing to pollution in the Lake''








To view some interviews about the ‘One Day in Somersham’ event go to  Young Lives also took more footage which will be contributing towards the community plan.

''A plan for the park''

Somersham Social Media meeting


June 2011 update

 New blog

After community consultation and two evenings of discussion, training and debate the community of Somersham will soon have its blog up and running.  In the last week of June interested community members got together to decide on a name and to discuss the aims and content of their blog.  There was lot of flip chart and marker pen activity but the chosen name is;

New communities

We have chosen two more communities to work with.  We hope that these two new villages will contrast with Somersham and Pidley and that these differences will give us opportunities to try new approaches and methods.  One community (Prickwillow) is parished within Ely City Council and hence is part of a large group of villages, it will be interesting to work outside of the more traditional parish council based approach with this community. The village also has limited broadband access, which also might influence the effectiveness of social media as a communication tool.  This lack of broadband is not uncommon in Cambridgeshire; Prickwillow is only 4 miles from Ely, not miles down a sleepy country drove.  We visited their Village Hall AGM and they are willing to give the project a go and the City of Ely Council are also keen to support the process.

Our second new community will hopefully be in the far north of the county (Tydd St Giles) ,  in rural Fenland.  It started a Parish Plan some years ago but this has never been properly adopted, we are hoping to regain this initial momentum through the project and also work with a community which has a larger than average (for Cambridgeshire) out of work or elderly population.

From these communities we hope to learn the following;

  • How to use social media as a community communication tool
  •  New methods of improving the reach of community engagement and consultation through the use of multimedia;  the pros and cons of this approach
  • How variable levels of parish council activity influence community ambitions
  • Whether Cambridgeshire communities are ready for the challenges and opportunities that localism will bring them.

Community members were asked which social media methods  they would prefer to contribute/visit in order to discuss local issues in Somersham : Facebook or  a blog?

Social Media Feedback

Response: 31

Would you like Somersham to be on-line?  30 people agreed.  One said that they are happy with the parish council website

  Facebook Local website Should have both Neither
Which do you like best? 4 * 16 10** 1

 * – All those who chose the Facebook only option were young people (under 18)

** – The majority of those who suggested using both Facebook and the Local website felt that the website should hold the main content and that Facebook should be used to promote the site


  • Use both – Website will be easily accessible to all and Facebook will engage whole new group
  • Is there a way of linking Victory Hall site and others?
  • You’ll get silly comments from Facebook.  Website will give good promotion for charities
  • It could be something like an online version of ‘Voices’.  Plus could have volunteer requests.
  • In our experience it’s difficult to get people to contribute to an on-line diary
  • Must be on Facebook  as young people live their lives through it.
  • Shops could pay for advertising.  Plus could be a one-stop shop for clubs and societies.  Could link to schools too.
  • I’d use website if one existed.
  • Could include info on local research e.g. family trees (Friends of Somersham Parish Church)
  • Could help coordinate people who want to volunteer locally, even small amounts of time.
  • Good for people to find out what’s going on if they are moving to the village
  • Should link Facebook to website, but need website for full data.
  • Website is easier for older people
  • Many people use facebook and it will spread the word about Somersham much quicker and easier
  • Would be better to have things in one place rather than lots of different ones.
  • Can’t stand Facebook
  • Happy with Parish website
  • Able to control the website more efficiently.  Also Facebook is not always user friendly for all generations
  • Groups interested in featuring on/contributing to a website:
  • Library Access Point
  • First Step Playgroup
  • Friends of Somersham Parish Church


May 2011 blog: Events and decisions

What have we been up to?

We have held two more events this month to introduce the project to communities in Cambridgeshire, made a promotional film for the project (which we also intend to use as a video diary) and come to a decision about the two communites who have been reluctant to be involved in the project.

What’s gone well and why?

  • Pidley event: this went well; we had traditional community engagement running alongside the Jam Van for young people.  More adults than we expected turned up but fewer young people – we subsequently discovered that there was a birthday party in full swing on the evening of the event.  However one young girl and her friend took time out from the  party to come to attend the  event and read out a letter she had written on behalf of the young people of Pidley  voicing their need for somewhere  for young people to  meet in the village. Flyers for the event had been sent out with the village newsletter to attract the community and the Parish Clerk put a post on Facebook.
  • Somersham event: again a mix of traditional engagement and the Jam Van but this time lots of young people went to the Jam Van and we got good feedback from them about how they would like to see Somersham develop.  Not too many new adult faces apparently (despite the lure of a cake raffle!) but early days.  We did meet a lot of local interest groups and will be contacting them to try and promote the next event.  Somersham has decided to go down the route of a blog and we and the County Council are arranging some training for the Parish Council in order to get this up and running. This event was promoted through the Parish newsletter, posters, word of mouth and the Parish website.  The Jam Van outside the venue helped to attract the young people.
  • Promotional film: we have created a short film to describe the aims of the project and act as a video diary of the process.  This is very much us experimenting with new techniques to get messages across and also to monitor our work.  We played it at the two events this month but on a laptop – a bigger screen and speakers are required for more impact.


The big challenge faced by us this month has been dealing with the fact that two of the communities we have asked to participate in the project have not wanted to be involved.  They were initially chosen due to a perceived lack of social capital on our behalf (Parish Councils not responding to ACRE correspondence and no signs of community activity on village visits) however on further investigation we have discovered that we were wrong.  Now the weather has warmed up both villages are demonstrating that they are thriving communities, capable of taking action when required.  Our initial contact was in the winter when things were quieter – never underestimate the impact of rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures on village activity!  Another point to register is that a community can be active and self-reliant without necessarily needing to engage outside support. NESTA have agreed to us looking for communities which would benefit more from this project than those initially identified.


  • Two community events held and attended by local interest groups, interested community members and young people
  •  Communities consulted about aspirations for their villages, ideas for change, current levels of involvement and use of social media.


The main surprise has been the need to find two more communities to work with.  We have reflected upon this and will blog further.