This week Inksplott speaks to Nat Kendrick-Doyle about Willows High School and how they are at the heart of the community and working hard to bring the bang back into bonfire night.
Inksplott: Hi Natalie, thank you for being interviewed for Inksplott. Can you tell us a little about yourself and the Willows Bonfire Extravaganza?
Nat: I’m the family and community engagement officer. It’s my job to set up all of the adult learning classes, community events, such as curry and bingo nights, and to encourage members of the community to come along and take part in activities going on at school. We really want to be a community school in the fullest form of the word. We want people to come and enjoy what we have going on, as much as we want to come out and join in other community events. We want to improve the name and reputation of willows and show local people how lovely we really are… and that’s my job…. and I love it! I defiantly have the best job I. The school serving the best community in Cardiff.
Willows High School is a key part of the Splott/Tremorfa community and we have, over the last year or so, opened our doors and put on lots of community activities for local people to come to get involved with. We would love for people to come into the school more often and see us as the hub of their community.
In years gone by there was always a community bonfire in Tremorfa Park run by local groups and volunteers. More recently this has had to be cancelled due to rising costs and funding constraints. This has been noted to be one of the biggest community losses in this area and is still often fondly spoken about by local people. We therefore want to be able to offer the chance for our community to get this event back up and running.
We will therefore be hosting the Bonfire Extravaganza on Friday 3rd November from 6.30pm-9pm. If will be a free event to attend, although we will be collecting donations to start next year’s kitty. The event is aimed at families and is open to the whole community to attend. We will be having a small fire which will be lit at 6.30pm, followed by the main event of a huge firework display at 7.30pm. There will be a small independent children’s funfair, face painting, bouncy castle, hot food, raffle, information stalls and much more. So something for everyone.
We are asking that people do not bring their own sparklers or fireworks so we can keep this event as safe as possible. It will also be an alcohol-free event, with soft and hot drinks available to buy. As this event will be so busy we are also asking for people to leave bikes and scooters at home and for parents to be fully responsible for their children throughout the evening. We are anticipating this will be a fantastic event and would like to thank everyone attending in advance for their support.
Inksplott: How did you get into this? Can you please tell us a little about the history of your group and event and how you became involved?
Nat: Since the Tremorfa bonfire has stopped, as a cluster many organisations have got together to put on a programme of events running over the Halloween/bonfire week to offer children, young people and families activities to attend. Over the last 4 years this has proven to be successful as figures show from the police that there were no firework/bonfire related antisocial behaviour whilst these activities were on.
Although this has been a success, people still talk fondly of the old Tremorfa event and say how much they would love to have that back. Here at Willows we saw this as an opportunity to give something back to the community. With agreement from the very outward looking Headteacher, Chris Norman, we got to work with the planning.
We started planning this event last November by introducing the idea to partner agencies within the cluster and invited them to attend a short meeting to get some ideas on paper. We decided we would work on the whole of Halloween/bonfire events as a coordinated cluster and everyone would support one and other events. This allowed for the annual activities to continue such as the Halloween party at Oasis and the open day at Roath police station, with Willows taking the lead on the bonfire extravaganza with the support of all of the other organisations.
Inksplott: What’s input has the community had in organising and promoting the event?
We have had incredible support from a number of organisations. Over the last year they have attended regular planning meeting, offering valuable input, ideas, staff time and community resources. Many of these organisations and their service users will be volunteering on the night and offering their time to steward to ensure the smooth running and safety of the community. Without this support we would not have been able to run this event.
We would like to thank-
STAR Communities First
Neighbourhood Partnership Team
Youth and Play Services
Wales and West Housing
The Eden Project
SWFR crimes and consequences team
Splott community volunteers
Keep Splott Tidy
We would also like to thank our very kind sponsors for their contributions to this event. When we started out with this idea a year ago we had a zero budget and knew we could only move forward with this if we were able secure funding. We were extremely lucky to have such generous partners and organisations locally, who saw the value in this community project and were more than happy to help out. We would like to say a massive thank you to-
Viridor Community Funding
Wales and West Housing
British Allied Ports
Inksplott: What’s your best story since setting up the group?
Nat: I think the best part of this is seeing and hearing the community excitement about the event. We have tried a few different activities over the last year or so, some have been successful, some not so, but this is exactly what this community wanted and to hear the buzz about it makes us a happy school to be able to give that back to our community. This is community spirit at its best!
Inksplott: Tell us a secret or something about Splott that we won’t know.
Nat: I’m sure there’s little that you don’t know about Splott and its wonderful community. One thing I would say that is unique though, and often goes unrecognised, is the unity of services across the cluster which you won’t find anywhere else. Although many activities have a lead organisation, as with Willows and this event, never is an event organised in this community without every delivery service being involved and offering support. This makes for great events, saves duplication and allows more to be offered. This would rarely be found in other areas and makes the STAR community events the best around!
Inksplott: Any other exciting plans or events on the horizon?
Nat: Always…we love a good event!! Our next event will be a hilariously funny comedy night with the incredible Mike Bubbins on Friday 8th December. Tickets are on sale from school £5pp which will include entry and food in the break. We will also be running a fully licenced bar, so ideal for a Christmas night out. It is an over 18’s event, but it is open to anyone over the age of 18yrs and we would love to see some new faces here.
Inksplott: How can people find out more? Do you have a website, Facebook, Twitter and the like?
Twitter- @willowshigh or learnloungewhs
Inksplott: That’s great – thank you so much for the interview!