Feelgood Choir has plenty to sing about: Grant funding success!

The Feelgood Choir really does have something to sing about, after being awarded a grant from Awards for All!

I’m really pleased to have been able to help the Feelgood Choir to get established and to access some funding to give it a great kick start!

The Feelgood Choir originally started as Dudley Mind Feelgood Choir, with the idea that group singing could be a wonderful aid to mental health. The choir regularly sang at shows and events, including at two Dudley Volunteer Awards where they really revved up our attendees.

Late last year, two choir members contacted me to explore the idea of setting the choir up as an independent group that might be able to manage itself and make it more sustainable. Due to cuts to the voluntary sector, Dudley Mind could offer the choir limited support and a free venue for rehearsals, but could no longer cover all the costs involved with running the choir.

I got together with Jan and Val and talked them through setting up as a voluntary group. I helped the group get set up on a firm footing by explaining the role of the committee and helping to develop the constitution.

The next step was to think about planning the group’s work so that we could identify what difference the group wanted to make to people’s lives and how it would do that. This also involved thinking about what costs were involved so that any funding application we worked on would be as detailed and specific as possible. We came out with a simple plan and I recommended Awards for All as an appropriate funder to approach.

Jan worked incredibly hard on the funding application, putting in research, stories from members and learning from running the choir with help from Dudley Mind. I was on hand to review the application and make some suggestions for improving it so that it was completely clear. It was a great application; you can always spot a good application but these days the competition is so tough that there’s never any guarantee.

feelgoodAfter a few months of waiting and nailbiting, we finally heard the great news! Jan popped into our July DY1 drop in, with a beautiful orchid and a beaming smile to say thank you for the support. It really was a pleasure to help them and Jan should get great credit for all of the commitment she’s put into making it happen.

While working on the bid, Dudley Mind had to close Dove House where the Feelgood Choir rehearse because of further cuts to its funding. Thankfully, the Feelgood Choir was able to secure another venue – DY1 itself! – to continue rehearsing and now it has room for many more members. So if you’d like to join a fun, welcoming group, you can go along at 6.15pm on Wednesday evenings (except in August). It’s £4 per week and no experience is necessary. They don’t do auditions either; everyone is welcome.

The Feelgood Choir is also holding a summer fundraiser on Friday 21 July, 6.30-9pm at the Carlisle Centre in Stourbridge. Admission is £5 and you’ll enjoy homemade cakes, a quiz and of course performances from the choir itself. For more information on this event and to learn more about the Feelgood Choir, visit its lovely website: feelgoodchoir.co.uk

A year of DY1-stop shop!

It’s been a year since Eileen and I launched ‘DY1-stop shop‘, our monthly drop-in for anyone with questions about community groups, charities, social enterprises, getting involved in community activities or volunteering.

Here’s a little infographic that gives you a little bit more detail about the kinds of conversations we’ve been having over the first year!

DY1-stop shop

I’ve really enjoyed working in this way. It’s a non-threatening way for people to make their first contact with us and it’s quite fun not knowing what to expect from one month to the next! I think Eileen and I have both benefited from each other’s differing knowledge and skills, on top of those of our colleagues we’ve been able to call on by virtue of simply being in the same place – thanks to Donna, Nicki, and Melissa from Healthwatch Dudley for being there for us! It’s meant that people have left us buzzing with new ideas, contacts and lines of inquiry.

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Most recently, Eileen and I met Cllr Steve Waltho and his wife, Jayne, who are part of a new group being set up to keep alive the legacy of Dudley mountain climber and peace campaigner Bert Bissell. I gave Steve some help with a constitution to help formalise the Bert Bissell Memorial Society and Eileen had lots of ideas for connections the new group could make.

At April’s DY1-stop shop we’ll be joined by our Funding Officer, Martin and Inderjit Nijjer who’s the External Funding and Community Grants Manager on the ESF Programme at Walsall Council. Inderjit will be available to answer any questions you may have about the ESF grants programme.

DY1-stop shop is open on the first Wednesday of every month, 10am-1pm in the coffee shop of DY1, Stafford Street, Dudley. Maybe I’ll see you there soon!

Three new charities in Dudley borough

In the last few weeks, three of the brilliant groups I’ve been supporting have successfully become registered charities, hopefully unlocking further opportunities for each of them. This is great timing, as the inaugural Local Charities Day is coming up on 16 December!

The three charities do very different work, which goes to show the enormous variety of wonderful work that benefits people and communities.

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My first weeks at Dudley CVS

It’s been an action packed start!

I’ve hugely enjoyed my first few weeks as Communication Officer at Dudley CVS, there are so many exciting and innovative projects happening in the Dudley borough.

To introduce myself, my name is Helena and I thought with this first blog it might be interesting to pull out some particularly exciting moments from my first few weeks..

Connections

In my first week I was invited to ‘Mass Connect’ an event organised by Andy Mullaney, Dudley’s first Business Connector. The concept was created to encourage connections and collaboration between the Public, Private and Third sectors.

Andy used an effective method to connect people at the event by introducing each person with a short summary of their company, enterprise, charity or group, providing an opportunity for people to note down key connections for collaboration.

This was followed by a productive networking session, a great opportunity to mingle and find new people to connect with. The room was buzzing with exciting conversations.

The event really opened my eyes to the importance of partnerships and connections.

Volunteers

On my second week I visited Age UK Daybreak Centre where I met long serving volunteer Judy, and youngest, Bailey, a Doberman puppy, both nominated for a volunteer award.

It was great to meet someone who had devoted so many years to volunteer to help other people, and also, as a mad animal lover, it was very nice to meet Bailey.. who interestingly seemed to take a particular shine to me… until he smelt lunch.

Visiting the centre reminded me of the importance of volunteers and providing safe social spaces in order to tackle the health and wellbeing issues older people face. It was also interesting to learn more about the therapeutic influence of animals.

This led me on quite nicely to the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards, which was a very special evening.

Red carpet, gold statues, decorated tables… I thought I had accidentally walked into the Oscars! The effort that went in to the make the evening special was very evident.

There are some truly inspirational and generous people who devote their time to volunteer in the Dudley borough and I’m pleased that I started just in time to see them all collect their awards.

Communities

Another great brainstorming event I recently attended was the East Coseley Big Local Forum. The ideas were flowing and there was a real sense of community spirit and passion to make a positive difference to the Coseley area.

Inspirational special guests were invited to give talks about their current projects in the area identifying possible collaborations in the room. Similar to ‘Mass Connect’, the main message that seemed to crop up was the importance of working in partnership and that anything can happen if we all work together.

Innovation and communications

The most important thing that I have learnt over my first weeks at Dudley CVS is that if you have a good idea, a space and the right connections, anything is possible.

I’m looking forward to supporting these great ideas and stories in my communications role and working with colleagues to make the best use of design and technology.

And remember you can always contact me at comms@dudleycvs.org.uk

 

 

 

A snapshot of our work supporting people, communities and organisations over the last year

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I’m really pleased to share the work that my colleagues and I have been doing over the past year in a our most recent annual report. So new, it’s not yet hot off the press, the 2015-16 annual report is a snapshot of the work we’ve done between April 2015 and March 2016 to support individuals, communities and organisations across Dudley borough.

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Bayer Street Allotments flushed with success!

Bayer Street blog‘Flush and grow’ is a great title for a project. This is what Bayer Street Allotments Association have called their new project, which will help people in Coseley grow more green-fingered thanks to a grant of £10,000 from Awards for All. It’s been both fun and fascinating to support this group of volunteers who’ve given so much of their time to the community in recent months.

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Trade school – barter for knowledge

jam making 2Have you ever wanted the chance to try something new? Do you know someone that can shabby-chic, build or mend and do you think ‘Oh I wish they would show me how to do that!’? Do you know any amazing makers, bakers, growers, creators and think they are so awesome they should share their skills and knowledge to inspire others? Can you do something amazing and would love the opportunity to share how to do it with others? If so Trade School Dudley is just the thing for you!

Be a teacher, learner, co-founder or all three! Join me on Tuesday 7 June 10am-1pm at DY1 Stafford Street, Dudley to find out more!

Trade School is a non-traditional learning space that runs on barter where anyone can teach a class! People with a skill or talent that they can teach to others propose a class and ask for a small barter item from learners. For example, if you teach a class about making butter, you might ask students to bring cream, jars, bread, recipes, music tips, or help with something like finding a flat.

Learners sign up for classes by agreeing to bring a barter item for the teacher. Everyone has something to offer!

You could learn how to bake bread in exchange for potted herbs, teach basic bike maintenance in return for recipe suggestions or books, and learn how to use social media and the internet by bringing wool or materials. You can teach a class about anything you are passionate about –and say what you’d like to receive in exchange.

The Trade School network is made up of self-organized barter-for-knowledge schools across the world. It started in 2010 with a small group of friends in New York, but they now have Trade Schools in over 50 cities internationally. You can read more about trade school by visiting their website.

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Residents in Wrens Nest, Dudley have run a number of pop up trade schools and how to session over the last 3 years. This summer we are hoping you will help start Trade School Dudley and Trade School Coseley, because wow people can do incredible things and have the most amazing skills to share!

A magic moment for me is when Wrens Nest ran a trade school so people could learn how to make jam. I got chatting to Stuart, a local resident, about growing and he explained how his garden is overflowing with plums that he didn’t know what to do with. I told him about a baking project that a seven year old girl had started and said that I was sure we could make use of his surplus supplies!

The following week whilst the Seed and Feed growing gang were meeting, Stuart popped along with bags and bags of plums. One of the gardeners had harvested some beans from his garden and shared these with Stuart as thanks for the plums. We all sat staring at the ample pile stacked before us and thought ‘Right, what can we do… ‘ Steve, one of the gardeners, suggested that they would make great jam and it just so happened that he knew how to make it, which was a good job ’cause the rest of us didn’t have a clue! So Jam Trade School popped up.

Steve asked that learners brought barter items that included jars to put the jam into, anything that supported the gardening project, anything useful for baking or a surprise. People brought barter items including jars, tomato feed, pots, flour and one lady shared her grandmother’s recipes.

jamOur youngest learner was just five and our oldest was in their seventies but everyone came together to learn, have fun, share and take home some of the best jam ever tasted! There was even time to make upside down plum pudding! And Stuart who had donated the plums in the first place got a bowl of pudding, a jar of jam and some new friends in his community.

Other Wrens Nest Trade Schools have included gardening, crocheting, seed balls, how to make an insect home and relaxation techniques. There is something magical in seeing someone who has a skill like crocheting or jam making showing someone else how to start, the spark of passion being passed from one person to another, the patience and encouragement, the laughter and fun. It really is quite wonderful!

So come on, who’s up for bartering knowledge and getting Trade School Dudley on the go?!

Join me on Tuesday 7 June 10am-1pm at DY1 seed ballsStafford Street, Dudley. This session is for anyone interested in being part of starting, or teaching or learning at Trade School Dudley or anyone simply curious to know more. It will be a friendly, informal chance to find out about how Trade School started. Find out what types of activities you might do as part of a Trade School founding team or join a conversation about what the first season of classes could be.

Celebrating Small Charity Week in Dudley borough

SCW Loz Logo Date 2015

Small Charity Week (15th-20th June) celebrates and raises awareness of the essential work of small charities (defined as charities and CICs that have an annual turnover under £1.5million).

This year, we’re joining in with the celebrations and running special activities and workshops across the week including:

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