Over the past few weeks Kirsty and I have spent our Saturdays on the high street of West Norwood visiting businesses (gems) of the community. Our aim was to tell them about the West Norwood Feast, explain how they could be involved and then inspire them to get involved – first stop was giving us their profile info for this very website.
Not an easy task, for there seems to be a history of ‘community projects’ that have not quite succeeded in getting off the ground. However, that didn’t stop us and it has actually turned out to be a wonderfully rewarding and inspiring experience for us. West Norwood has a wealth of stories pretty much waiting for us to uncover and the more we worked it the more we realised that this platform aka West Norwood Feast is the ideal opportunity for harnessesing and celebrating this vibrant community.
I also realised that although I am a local, I rarely get to interact with the community the way I during this time. Collecting this information became an opportunity to chat, share stories and indulge in memories, and gossip. I got to learn who used to live here and what they did, who lives in the here now and who knows them, who knows someone who knows someone who might want be involved…
Who knew that Sally in the Florists has been working in West Norwood for over 30 years? And Caroline, who owns the hair and beauty business Salon 234, has been here for 17 years and works over the road from her mum – who runs the fruit and veg stall and has also been here as long as Sally!
What became apparent to me very quickly as I ‘did’ the paperwork was the devotion to West Norwood and the love of their community, and the desire to bring back the high street to its original glory and potential. The council seem to be unpopular with the shop keepers (that’s a nice way of putting it) but in spite of this they (and indeed me) enjoy being part of the community and love the daily pleasures local interaction can bring.
This kind of interaction amongst the community is something I have always craved – and knowing what West Norwood Feast is aiming to achieve, and what I experienced on Saturday, this interaction is the future.