Loughborough in Bloom had dropped off for a couple of years and things were looking a bit tired. In 2008, as I drove into town every morning, I realised there was just the one flowerbed on my route and I thought 'c'mon we need to do something about this'.
I thought The Loughborough Echo [of which Andy is editor] could play a role in turning things around. It was pre-David Cameron and the 'Big Society' idea. I approached key individuals - councils, the MP, the university and town businesses - and we sat down together to see what could be done. We created the newspaper front page with the title: 'Loughborough in gloom' containing an image of one rose blooming. Then we added a call to action: ‘Together we can bring back the Bloom’. That’s where it all started.
I think it’s about having pride in the town and making a difference but you personally get a great deal out of it. Where there are no flowers, or litter, you notice this and how it affects people.
Bringing people together
There has been huge involvement with 30 RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood groups and more than 100 other individuals and community groups taking part. We’ve grown together to become part of Loughborough’s identity. Occasionally, you need to defend it by explaining why money and time should be spent on this. I tell people it's about community wellbeing and that it's good for businesses too.
I didn’t think people were apathetic, but I was surprised at how many people wanted to get involved. There are always individuals that really commit themselves, they not only cultivate gardens but they help people too.
It’s really galvanised the community by bringing together people from different backgrounds for a common purpose.
Spreading the news
It’s definitely a blessing to have links to the Loughborough Echo. We decided we could bring together the community and create a publicity campaign.
I would say to groups: don’t be frightened of bad publicity. If a garden has been damaged, for example, it can actually lead to wider support if you talk about it.
People relate to people. Sometimes you might have a heart-breaking story behind someone’s involvement, but readers often respond to this in a postive way and it brings people together. Community gardening can help individuals as well as making the environment a nicer place to be.
When I first came to the Loughborough Echo, many moons ago, I saw a story about the frequency of grass cutting and I thought 'Who cares about that?’. Years later, I realised that many people do care. Now, of course, I do too. I have been shaped by this town and my involvement in Loughborough in Bloom.
Do you want to share your community gardening story? Contact our communities team and tell us what inspired you to take part in Britain in Bloom or It’s Your Neighbourhood.
Images courtesy of the Loughborough Echo