Your Story: Blackbird Leys Belonging & Community Ownership 

Thank you to everyone who came to the Your Story event on Wednesday 23rd November in Blackbird Leys at the Owned by Oxford Dome – a pop-up space for conversations about Community Wealth Building.

The event provided a space to share stories about the life in Blackbird Leys, people’s relationships with community spaces, and explore what appetite and commitment there might be for greater community involvement in the use and control of spaces within the community.

We heard a fantastic range of stories, which all really demonstrated the deep sense of belonging that already exists in relation to the community assets in the neighbourhood.

One thing that came through clearly was how much people valued the community centre and the vital role it has played in community life over a number of decades.

We heard how its use had changed and how different groups influenced and shaped the activities on offer over time.

We heard how the organisations currently using the centre are constantly evolving the uses, introducing new ways for the spaces to be used, including clothes swaps, bingo nights, and community meetings.

And we found an appetite to be more involved in the running of community spaces, but that this was tempered with a feeling that people could only afford to contribute their time where it would be genuinely meaningful. They felt they couldn’t afford to spend precious evenings or afternoons to hear about the plans of others, but this might be different if they saw a chance to take part in the planning: whether that was developing ideas around a new community centre, organising to take on a new community asset, or developing new uses for the current spaces.

“This place carries a lot of memories for me. Four of my children [now grown up] are on the mural in the Glow Hall so it means a lot and I’ll feel the loss when it goes. Finding new spaces that could be community owned would be great but I’d like to see us make full use of the spaces we currently have. The uncertainty around it isn’t helping.”

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