Last weekend (Saturday 22.2) as we were returning from completing our door-to-door distribution of the Heckler, we walked back through Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope. This was where we used to volunteer as gardeners until our work patterns and hours changed and increased. Even on a blustery February day, people were out and about enjoying the facilities and activities on offer. Needless to say that thanks to the graft the volunteer gardeners have been putting in, even at the fag end of winter, the beds, raised beds and tubs were looking good.
As we’ve written before, the running of Hardie Park has been taken over by the local residents: Doing it for ourselves – saving our parks. The benefits are not just in the physical appearance of the park but the sense of community that has been generated by a cafe that acts as a hub for a fair number of local groups plus the camaraderie that has developed within the various volunteer groups who keep the park going.
Then there are the various groups around Thurrock who are stepping up to the plate by organising beach and neighbourhood clean ups: Grays Beachcombers appointments with litter. Having participated in a fair few activities like this, we would recommend getting stuck in on one – or even starting one yourself – because not only do you see a tangible result after a few hours graft, you’re working alongside other people who care about the neighbourhood they live in.
Then there’s the Billericay Community Garden who have transformed what six years ago was an overgrown, fly-tipped patch of land into a thriving project. As well as the physical difference they’ve made and the vegetables and fruit they’re now producing, the garden also acts as space where people can learn about growing their own food and socialise into the bargain.
These are just a few of the many grassroots projects operating across the region we cover. You can see more of them on the back page of the latest issue of Alternative Estuary. Each of these many and varied projects are making a difference where they operate. When you add them all together, taking into account what they’re doing, they’re making an impact, Imagine how much grimmer life would be if none of these projects existed.
We’ve written frequently on how, if you want to change the world, you need a base at the grassroots. Sometimes, we’ll have to go out and create parts of that base. However, the truth is that a lot of it is already there:
“The anarchist conclusion is that every kind of human activity should begin from what from what is local and immediate, should link in a network with no centre and no directing agency, hiving off new cells as the original grows.”
Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action
To conclude, engage with the local and immediate because that’s where the action is. However, please refrain from purity tests and slapping labels on people should they happen to meet the criteria of your purity test:) The important thing is the change that is and will be generated at the grassroots and what can flow from there if given the right support and encouragement.