Brierley Hill in Bloom: why we need to believe

High Street looking south


The glorious 12th…12th of June that is. The day that the Brierley Hill in Bloom flowers were planted in their containers on the High Street. The sun shone, people smiled, traders took photos, students prided in their work- quite right too.

As one admirer said:

“…it looks like someone cares…”

Yet… yet…other comments made me think…we are also a town which needs to believe in itself, as individuals and as a community.

The planting

First the good stuff.

What a gorgeous day. Foundation students at Birmingham Metroplitan College had been growing and caring for the plants for months. What a fantastic job they’ve done. How patient they’ve been, waiting for the transport to be available to bring the flowers across to Brierley Hill. How enthusiastic and positive they were whilst planting out. A big thank you for all of your work. You’ve done something special and you should be righlty proud of yourselves.

Here’s a picture of some of the students bringing the plants across:

BMet students


The support from partners has been staggering.

English Heritage started the ball rolling with the Brierleyhillness project. Suzanne Carter followed up with a feasibility report. Brierley Hill Traders Association, chaired by Shane Birch-Bastock of Pentax Developments offered to match funding from Community First Brierley Hill.

Stourbridge College (now part of Birmingham Metropolitan College offered their support and brought Lynn Glazzard head of foundation studies and her brilliant students on board. Brierley Hill Civic Society offered its support.

Jennings, Homer, Lynch, managers of Brierley Hill Market gave their support, with Julie Stepney organising sponsorship.

As I tweeted (@brierley_hill) about the project there were words of encouragement from fellow tweeters – really motivating (thank you!).

Dudley Council gave advice and helped in fixing the planters to the railings . In particular their help in carrying the risk of the project is invaluable.

Secret Coffee Club gave us a free meeting venue.

Then there were all of the sponsors who agreed to back the project – I’ll do an separate post on all of those soon.

In fact, there’s a good chance I’ve missed someone – please don’t be annoyed, all of you support is really appreciated.

That’s one of the reasons I love living and working in Brierley Hill. The strength of networks and partnership working is extraordinary. It is something we need to truly value.

Here’s Shane – who has forked out to pay for a water container to aid the watering of the plants and is having a tap fitted outside his premises for their use.

Shane Birch-Bastock

Public Reaction

Overwhelmingly the reaction from the public and traders was positive and enthusiast. They loved the flowers. The view was that the scheme is positive for the town. Some market traders even came out with their phones to photograph the planters outside their premises.

In Polly’s Tea Rooms, Mill Street, the staff were talking about how they were going to water ‘their’ planter, and made really good suggestions on how to increase involvement in the future.

What a pleasure it was to see one resident seating peacefully on the benches at the Moor Centre enjoying the sight.

Admiring the view

But there was also a negative response:

“They won’t last the weekend”

…“People coming back from the pub will wreck them”

were the type of comments we heard repeatedly. All spoken with a touch of sadness.

And here’s the point:

We need to believe

Right from the beginning of the Brierley Hill in Bloom people have highlighted the risks of vandalism and questioned the wisdom of the project.

Just like the feasibility of the 2010 Pony Trail was questioned – and that went on to be a massive success by any measure.

You know what? If the plants get vandalised we’ll deal with it. It’s one of those things that happens when a tiny minority do something stupid.

But if we allowed ourselves to be dictated to by the actions of that tiny majority we wouldn’t do anything. What a sad place Brierley Hill would be then.

We need to believe in ourselves and in each other. Look at the work our young students did to grow the plants. Look at the partnership which has come together – informally – to deliver the project.

Let’s recognise Brierley Hill as what it is.

A great place to live. A place with wonderful people who are willing to work together for the common good. A place of huge potential – in individuals, in organisations in communities.

Let’s work with that. Let’s believe in ourselves. Let’s do something postive.

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