Trash to Treasure – making the most of shared space with community power

Trash to Treasure – making the most of shared space with community power

The Westborough Alleys Project is a brilliant example of what can be achieved when local residents come together to create change. Like a phoenix from the ashes of the difficult winter lockdown, the project has offered a space for Westborough locals to meet and make a positive difference to their community.

Initially a group of volunteers cleared 8 tons of rubbish from neglected and unloved alleyways which they have started to improve by painting fences, planting wildflowers and building a big hotel.

Tina Beanie who started the project says “the pandemic and general lack of care inspired me to make an effort with regular street cleaning…I want to re-establish community as this has sadly been lost”. Whilst out litter picking, Tina met others who wanted to improve their streets and they decided to tackle the alleys together. She likes to think that love and togetherness in the community has always been there but “people need reminding of what they can achieve and how amazing they really are.”

The alleys will eventually be handed back to the residents of the adjacent streets to nurture and develop, with leaflets being delivered to hopefully encourage others to get involved. Many volunteers work full time but have found during the pandemic they had a little more time to spare and a greater need to connect to their neighbours. Even one hour of volunteer time can make a huge impact. Or if time isn’t available, what about donating materials or plants? The Westborough Alleys project is always looking for exterior paint, plant knowledge and decorative items.

Karen, a resident of Hamlet Court Road, also wanted to improve the area she lived and create a chance to meet her neighbours who had kept themselves to themselves for the years she had lived on the street. The pandemic had meant people were even more isolated with the street being ever so quiet.

Karen started to clear and litter pick an area next to her house that was overgrown with weeds. Other residents soon started to appear with drinks and snacks, offering stories and local history. They had spotted an opportunity to connect with others, simply because Karen had made herself  approachable by being out on the street in a positive manner. Since that day, many residents have been adding to the new wildflower patch with plants and decorations, working together to look after it and keep it tidy.

When we are connected in this way to our neighbours we are more likely to be happier, and have healthier conversations with others. Community Connectors like Karen and Tina work on a grassroots level to bring people together and get to know their neighbours, which can potentially make a huge difference when dealing with a crisis such as the pandemic, ensuring nobody gets left behind.

Tina’s advice is “Think for a moment, what are you doing for the space around you? Make a small change”

How to improve your local area –

Start by identifying what you’d like to do – talk to your neighbours by knocking on their doors, posting notes to everyone and starting a whatsapp or facebook group

Don’t be disheartened if no one seems interested – Karen posted notes to near neighbours and had no response. It was only when they saw her out they decided to join in. Start litter picking and see who pops out to say hi!

Identify skills – maybe you have an artist on your street who would love to create a mural. Someone else can source paint donations, another can contact the land owner to seek permission, and another person can run a facebook group. Everyone has something to offer.

Start small – simply by having conversations and connecting with your neighbours you are improving your local area

Ask for support – there may be charities or companies who will offer volunteers or donations so there’s no harm in asking. The more connections made the more likely it is to find freebies and offers. A local graphic designer made leaflets and a logo for Tina’s group free of charge!

Join the Westborough Alleys Volunteer Group here –

Community Connectors is a project run by SAVS and SBC to encourage healthy conversations and keep residents safe during the pandemic. By hearing about these hyper-local initiatives, we can build a picture of Southend and help to shape the covid recovery by talking to well-connected residents.

Community Connectors receive a weekly newsletter from us, are invited to events, and share information with their neighbours to create kinder, safer communities.

You can sign up as a Community Connector here –

If you’re inspired to start your own street-level project visit the LiveWell site below for tips and guidance:

You can also upload existing initiatives to the Good Neighbours website:

Or contact Steph, our Community Connectors Officer at SAVS to chat about what’s going on in your neighbourhood, and to receive advice and support!

Jamie Langstone