What can happen when a community gets organised?

From RSLM to PMQs…

In May 2015, a local Glastonbury resident told me of his concerns about the amount of traffic on the town’s High Street, and his thoughts on the pedestrianisation of the town centre – shortly after, he felt motivated to set up a Facebook group focused on the potential of pedestrianising Glastonbury High Street.

The Facebook group generated a lively debate involving the Mayor, Councillors, over 300 members, and some very strong feelings being posted for and against; it was clear that the subject of pedestrianisation was as contentious in 2015 as it had been 20 years before – when the issue prompted Glastonbury’s first town poll “in living memory”…

Motivated to search for a more positive approach to the wider issues highlighted in the pedestrianisation group posts, a new Facebook group ‘Revitalise Glastonbury!!!’ was set up. In addition, Town Councillors Emma George and Gabriel Avalon volunteered to listen to local businesses on the High Street; using a set of questions that I developed with them based on the RSLM method used by Community Organisers.

Emma and Gabriel listened to the businesses, shops, and traders to find out what was important to them; their concerns and their thoughts about the future of the town.  A network of people came together out of this process and formed the basis of a ‘Future of the Town Centre Working Group’; meeting regularly, and contributing to the Town Council’s Promoting Glastonbury forum.

Pedestrianisation of High Street 18th June 2015
The Future of the High Street Working Group, the Central Somerset Gazette, 18th June 2015.

In the autumn of 2015, it was announced that two of Glastonbury’s four High Street banks would be closing their branches and leaving the town before Christmas, and that the other two would also be closing in the spring of 2016; leaving the town stranded without a bank!  This prompted members of the Town Centre Working Group to action, and a petition to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Rt. Hon Sajid Javid MP – the “Last Bank Standing. Don’t let communities lose their only Bank” – was devised by Paul Manning, working with Gabriel Avalon and Kevin Redpath.

Residents and traders join forces in battle over banks CSG 24th December 2015
A review of the Last Bank Standing Public Meeting [16th December] from the Central Somerset Gazette, 24th December 2015.
A public meeting was arranged on 16th December 2015; it was extremely well attended, chaired by the Mayor of Glastonbury with both the current and ex-MP taking part.  Helping to facilitate this meeting, I took the minutes and, at the end, compiled a list of people who volunteered to form a steering group for the further development of the Last Bank Standing campaign.  One of the ideas that came out of this was to hold a Flash Mob protest and attract as much attention as possible.

Plot to get you to bank in libraries and post offices Daily Mail 23rd December 2015
The Daily Mail mentions Glastonbury’s situation in ‘Money Mail’, 23rd December 2015.

On Saturday, 9th January 2016 – at midday – the Flash Mob was held in the centre of Glastonbury, with over 500 people gathering to sing a specially rewritten version of ‘Jerusalem’!  Conducted by Charles Hazlewood, the crowd was joined by Glastonbury Festival’s Michael Eavis, James Heappey MP, and host of journalists including a film crew from the BBC.

The event was filmed for the campaign by Kevin Redpath and a local camera crew, all providing their services free of charge – the result posted on YouTube:

The protest generated a great deal of publicity – leading the BBC’s local evening news, and making local and national papers.

On 20th January 2016, the Glastonbury bank closures were mentioned during Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, when David Cameron said he “would make sure Glastonbury MP James Heappey met Treasury ministers to discuss how his constituency could save three banks faced with the chop in the near future.”

The Last Bank Standing group is currently exploring the possibility of nominating the four closing banks’ buildings on the Assets of Community Value register as part of the Community Rights.

The campaign continues…

Protesters step up campaign to save town's last remaining banks CSG 7th January 2016
Central Somerset Gazette, 7th January 2016

DAILY MAIL:  Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis joins demonstration over bank closures [11th January 2016]

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Campaigners in show of strength CSG 14th January 2016
Central Somerset Gazette, 14th January 2016

BBC The crowd sung the hymn Jerusalem

Banks Letters CSG 21st January 2016
Last Bank Standing ‘letters to the editor’, Central Somerset Gazette, 21st January 2016
PM urged to act as bank insists it is leaving town CSG 28th January 2016
Glastonbury’s banks raised at Prime Minister’s Questions from the Central Somerset Gazette, 28th January 2016

 

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