This week, we feature Tony Hedley, who began his Nextdoor neighbourhood in Holme Hall, just outside Chesterfield. Like many of our Leads, Tony isn’t one to blow his own trumpet. In fact, he says that much of the work he does to help the local community benefits him as much as anyone else; and that he got involved with improving his neighbourhood because he was retired and had too much time on his hands.
But it’s clear that the community in Holme Hall is very lucky to have someone so dynamic, dedicated and motivated to making a difference in the lives of local residents.
I caught up with Tony to hear about Nextdoor, daffodils, lunch clubs, and much more besides…
Why did you start Nextdoor in Holme Hall? How has it gone so far?
Our community group was formed a couple of years ago and has a very active website – but that is usually one-way communication. When Nextdoor came along it seemed an ideal opportunity to get the neighbourhood talking to us – and to each other. It took off immediately, and now there are 20 nearby neighbourhoods too.
The two sites complement each other perfectly, and our Nextdoor site now has a very active community.
Holme Hall has a very strong, active residents’ group. How is Nextdoor adding value?
It’s allowing the residents to work together and making it easy to communicate with each other. For example, we have a local care home and we had the idea of some residents going along each week for an hour or so, to meet the care home residents and show them a few knitting / sewing skills (and maybe learn some new ones too). A quick message on Nextdoor and the group was up and running.
Tell us about your lunch club and community garden projects…
We are surrounded by green space, which is nice – but there is nowhere to actually meet apart from the one pub on the estate. There’s no central meeting room, for example. So we have had to think a bit outside the box. Instead of getting the older people together for a chat – we have a Lunch Club which goes out somewhere different weekly for a pub lunch and a get together. We’ve also organised some day trips for the isolated, and have more planned this year. At Easter we distributed some free Easter Eggs to the locals who may live alone.
We had the idea for a community garden when we first formed Holme Hall Unite. It is now coming to fruition with construction work to start within a few days. We’ve been very fortunate to bring together a stellar support team who have donated time, equipment or cash to make the garden happen. Marks & Spencer are the project managers, as part of their “Spark Something Good” campaign, but we’ve also had support from numerous other places and firms – from the National Trust (who have given us rare Derbyshire fruit trees for the garden) to the Eden Project (who have supplied seeds and plants to go into the holders that the local school-children will be hanging on the pergola).
What sort of things have you been doing to promote Nextdoor to local residents?
Obviously via our website, but also via the tools available to all other Leads.
One thing I’d recommend is to make sure you have a “tag line” on every e mail you send out to alert people to the benefits of Nextdoor. And use the postcards! We have found people can sometimes hang onto them for awhile before joining – but they definitely work. We also produce a regular flyer to promote the work of the community group and Nextdoor is featured on that too.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to bring Nextdoor to their area?
Just go for it! There is no better community engagement tool available. Once your members can see all its benefits they will take to it readily. For example, all the members of your local school football team can have their own group making it easy to keep everyone informed of matches / practice sessions, etc.
I notice that you posted recently about how certain forms of social media can increase loneliness and social isolation. Do you think Nextdoor is different?
Yes I do. It’s far more inclusive. It brings people together. It makes people proud of their neighbourhood, and makes them want to improve it even more.
Nextdoor is partnering this year with the Great Get Together. Are there plans for a local event in Holme Hall?
Yes. We did a Big Lunch last year to tie-in with the Queen’s birthday. It was supposed to be in our local park – a big picnic – we even arranges some entertainment (Punch & Judy / face painters, etc.) On the day it poured with rain – but we simply went inside the park pavilion and carried on. I know this year The Big Lunch is working with the Great Get Together and it’s an excellent way to get the community to actually meet each other and for everyone to get to know their neighbours.
What else have you got planned for the next few months?
I was at the Houses of Parliament a few weeks ago (giving evidence to a select committee). We are now working with Parliament to organise some events later this year as part of Parliament Week. There are more lunches to organise … more day trips to plan … and that community garden will also need some tending. I think we will be rather busy!