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Near Neighbours

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 Welcome to Near Neighbours

Ros Henwood, East Midlands Near Neighbours Project Support Officer tells of her experience working with Near Neighbours for the past 7 months.

I knew about Near Neighbours before I started working here because I was part of setting up Hope café in our local school – a meeting place for women from differentfaiths and backgrounds over coffee and cake. Near Neighbours encouraged us early on with a small grant towards table cloths, publicity, toys for the kids, and refreshments.

I saw the advert for the job of Projects Support Officer for Near Neighbours East Midlands, to cover John McCallum’s sick leave, about 5 days before the deadline for applications. So I didn’t have much time to think about it, but posted my form in one Friday in January regardless. I attended an interview the following Monday, and found myself on a train to London for a Near Neighbours Partners’ Day the next morning. Though I couldn’t follow much of what was going on in the meeting, everyone was warm and welcoming, and we had an amazing curry lunch together.

After an induction day with Liz and Ali, I started to understand a bit more what the job was about. It’s an amazing job – with so much variety. I’ve organised several big events, with lots of support from a great team at St Philip’s Centre and Near Neighbours, learned how to address a Lord Mayor, discovered excellent local caterers, and how to make a bouquet of balloons. Other coordinators have helped me with keeping track of project applications, encouraged my attempts at facebook, and generously shared their wisdom and experience. I’m thankful that John was well enough to introduce me to some great people and projects in Nottingham, and to the New Arts Exchange café in Hyson Green which has been an easy place for meeting people. I’ve learned such a lot of practical wisdom from his long experience.

Certainly the highlight for me has been visiting Near Neighbours projects in Leicester and Nottingham. The first project that Near Neighbours funded in Leicester in 2017 was the Onslow Park mural project. I met Penny at the park in May, and saw a long blank wall that was crying out to be made into a mural. The Near Neighbours small grant helped towards paint and brushes, community artists to oversee the project, and of course, refreshments for the painting days and final celebration.  Roma, Somali, and Asian children were among those involved in design and painting. The mural is a colourful landscape of animals and bird, trees and flowers. One lad told me the bird he was colouring blue was a chicken (it turned out to be a peacock!) My favourite animal is the very stripy tiger with lots of teeth.  The mural once complete, and covered in anti-graffiti protection, has inspired further community activities. A local poet made up a story about the creatures on the mural, and the children ran to point to each animal as it was mentioned. Children wrote stories about the animals in a workshop together. The mural is drawing the community around this little park together in such a creative way. It has been satisfying for me to see this one local project through from inception to celebration.

It’s been exciting working with groups just at the start of formalising their activities both to include more people, and to make them more sustainable. Seeing   the difference a breakfast club makes to asylum seekers, singing along with older folk in Asian languages which make their faces light up, and hearing how football is diverting young lads’ energy away from less sociable activities is so inspiring. And then encouraging new applications from groups – and waiting with anticipation to see how, say, a roller-skating or a cycling project will unfold.

One of the highlights this year has been the Great Get Together in memory of Jo Cox MP in June. Near Neighbours gave some small grants towards events organised by Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups in Leicester to show that  “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us,” Jo Cox.

I’m pleased to say that John McCallum is now back at work…so I am handing back over to him this week, to carry on the exciting work. It’s been a great 7 months for me, and I hope to continue my connection with Near Neighbours and St Philip’s Centre though exactly how is as yet unknown. Thanks to all who have made my Near Neighbours experience so rich.

Ros Henwood, September 2017


John McCallum, Development Manager for Near Neighbours in Leicester

John McCallum, Co-ordinator for Near Neighbours in Leicester & Nottingham

My name is John McCallum.   I’m the Near Neighbours Co-ordinator for the East Midlands programme of activity covering Leicester and Nottingham. Based in St Philip’s Centre, my role is to help individuals and their neighbourhood communities make the best use of the opportunities Near Neighbours offers.On these pages you will be able to explore the exciting developments that Near Neighbours has brought about in the first 5 years of the programme and find out how to get involved yourself. In Leicester 101 projects have received a share of £264,671 and in Nottingham 40 projects have received £141,946. As a result many thousands of people of diverse belief and ethnicity have made a big impact on the well-being of neighbourhood communities.

The Near Neighbours programme is open to anyone living and working in the City of Leicester and the City of Nottingham who is willing to engage at the local level with their Neighbours from the many and diverse faith and non-faith traditions that make up the rich and vibrant tapestry of our cities. View the case study on this site to see some of the vital projects our communities are getting involved in.

Because of the great success of Near Neighbours the Government’s Department of Communities and Local Government has awarded a further round of funding in 2016 for small grants available to diverse local communities to develop relationships and transform neighbourhoods for good.

Grants of between £250 and £5,000 are available, providing seed capital for local groups and organisations who are working to bring together neighbours, to develop relationships across diverse faiths and ethnicities in order to improve their communities.

The grants work alongside the wider work of the programme. The programme works to bring people together who are near neighbours in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know each other better, build relationships of trust and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.

This is a rolling programme with no deadlines but our second phase is due to run from the end of May 2016 and we expect the grants programme to close by January 2017. We will invest in a broad range of work including environmental, social, cultural, artistic and sporting ideas but they need to fulfil our criteria which include:

1) Creating Association.
2) Local and Sustainable.
3) Transformative.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, or the wider work of the programme, please speak to your local co-ordinator, John McCallum or telephone Office 0116 273 8813 or Mobile 07557 669577

Download the latest Near Neighbours (Leicester) newsletter here
Download the latest Near Neighbours (Southwell & Nottingham) newsletter here


 Near Neighbours in a nutshell

The idea is to bring people together who are near neighbours in communities that are diverse, so they can get to know each other better and build relationships as people collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.

Near Neighbours has two key objectives:

  • Social interaction – to develop positive relationships in multi-faith areas i.e. to help people from different faiths get to know and understand each other better.
  • Social action – to encourage people of different faiths, or no faith, to come together for initiatives that improve their local neighbourhood.

Why is Near Neighbours needed?

Some places in England such as Leicester, Nottingham, Bradford, Dewsbury, Leeds, parts of Birmingham including the Black Country and all but south London have a number of different faith communities living close to each other.

These are often areas of deprivation and the people living there share common concerns – they want a better local community, but they don’t come together to talk or act on this as much as they could.

Yet, local people in local communities are the ones who are ideally placed to identify and develop solutions that can improve their own neighbourhood.

Separation can lead to misunderstanding and a lack of trust or respect for each other, which is not healthy for a local community.

Case Studies to view:-

    League of Heroes



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