We’re delighted to have been shortlisted in two categories in the Community Rail Awards 2022: we’ve made the finals for Most Enhanced Railway Spaces, and for Best Community Engagement Project.
The Community Rail Awards, now in their 18th year, really mean a lot to us because they recognise the important work carried out by an army of people, often volunteers, who work across Britain’s rail network to make stations welcoming spaces for passengers and visitors alike.
Alongside this, many carry out vital community engagement work with schools, colleges, and other local groups to help educate and secure passengers of the future, which is critical to ensuring our railways are an inclusive, sustainable, healthy way to travel.
The winners will be announced at a high-profile awards ceremony in Manchester on Wednesday October 5, 2022.
We’ve been shortlisted for the Most Enhanced Railway Spaces award for our station planters project, which saw local artist Owen Griffiths transforming the approach to Swansea station. Working with volunteers, fellow artists, and horticulturists, he devised a set of colourful planters and beautiful wooden benches for the station forecourt.
These can be easily re-arranged into different configurations, and they’ve been planted in the most sustainable way possible, using reclaimed and recycled substrates instead of topsoil, and populating the planters with local plants that support insect and bug life.
We’ve had excellent feedback from people who use the station and it’s lovely to see people sitting on the benches, enjoying the new surroundings.
We’ve been shortlisted for Best Community Engagement Project on the strength of two pieces of work: our Shared Vision Meetings and our Community Changemakers project.
Our Shared Vision meetings are a way to bring together the people who live or work near our network’s train stations, to co-create a shared vision and set of priorities for improving their communities.
The meetings are based on the principle of Asset Based Community Development. It’s an approach that asks, “what’s strong, not what’s wrong,” within communities, and seeks to enable local people to make change happen for themselves on the things they care about.
Discussions at our Shared Vision meetings centre around four questions: what gives you a great sense of purpose and meaning around this topic? What do you love about this place? If you had a magic wand and you could change things, what would you love to see? And what can we do collectively to create change?
This turns on its head the idea that there are certain powerful people making decisions behind closed doors. It says we all have something to contribute, especially in the places where we live or the places where we work.
We have found that local people really appreciate the opportunity to talk to each other about what they want to see happen in their local areas, and that many community members have ideas and projects that they would like to work on.
From each meeting, we emerge with a list of potential project ideas and an enthusiastic group of local people keen to take them forward. We then work to support the community to turn these ideas into workable initiatives led by local people.
That’s where our Community Changemakers project comes in. Community Changemakers is a fund that supports people and groups who want to create positive change in the communities surrounding our network’s railway stations. This year, we awarded at total of £15,004.23, which was shared between 20 organisations, all of which have exciting visions for improving their local communities.
Examples ranged from Carmarthenshire Wellbeing Project, which was awarded £970 to continue development with its allotment project, through to Volcano Theatre Company, who were awarded £962.30 to purchase art supplies and refreshments so that its men’s group can meet weekly at Volcano.
Our Community Changemakers fund is important because it helps make the ideas generated in our Shared Vision meetings a reality – and it’s so exciting to see plans come to fruition. The vision for an improved approach to Swansea Railway Station also came from a Shared Vision meeting – and just look at the results!
Local people know what’s great about where they live and they know how to make things even better, and we’re proud to be helping them to achieve that. We hope we get a win on October 5, but just getting to the finals is fantastic.