Park Life: Friends of Kelly Park Avenue
When you think of park names, they often consist of one or two words, Burgess Park, Peckham Rye Park (& Common), Dulwich Park, Southwark Park (etc.). So, when I learned about a park in the local area with a name that could constitute a sentence; I was keen to find out what was behind its name.
BEHIND FRIENDS OF KELLY AVENUE PARK
I recently met up with two members of the team that are apart of Friends of Kelly Avenue Park in Peckham (FOKAP):
Tracey Brook; a retired teacher, previously holding the role as a special needs coordinator and safeguarding officer at Oliver Goldsmith primary school up until July 2016. Tracey currently holds the position of Chair for FOKAP since its inception in 2016.
Rev. Sandra Schloss; is the Vicar at the local church at St Luke’s on Chandler Way. She holds a membership for FOKAP since coming on board in 2017.
FROM THE BEGINNING
It started through a campaign at Peckham citizens, which is a local branch of South London citizens. This in turn is a branch of Citizens UK; a lobbying organisation that encourages other organisations to bring about positive change in local communities.
Peckham Citizens ran a listening campaign, talking to a thousand people in Peckham about what they liked and what changes they would like to see happen. The campaign was taken to schools, Churches, Colleges, Mosques, different community organisations, as well as presented to Oliver Goldsmith primary school and St James the Great Catholic primary school, both of which are equidistant from the park. The schools and school councils canvassed the parent and children of both schools, as well as passers-by; asking them where they preferred to spend their time? The parents and children repeatedly mentioned the park as a place that they loved, but were too scared to visit because either they heard that there was gang activity, bikes getting stolen, kids getting beaten up, or drugs being used. The children were either scared themselves or their parents wouldn’t allow them to go.
Tracey Brooke was very motivated by these comments because, as their Safeguarding Officer(SGO), things needed to be changed drastically.
“We have had a lot of issues with kids going off and getting themselves into trouble in the park and having nasty things happen to them.” Often kids go missing for a short period of time. “We would have parents coming and saying that they’ve come to collect so..and so from extra maths. Extra maths? No, we would not lay on after school classes without first gaining consent from the parents or caregivers''.
What would then have to happen was Tracey contacting the ‘Play Leaders’ to ask for the child that was at Central Venture Playground, as it was originally known then, to see whether there were any Oliver Goldsmith children there, and if so, to hang on to them until their parents could come and collect them. I guess it’s fair to say that this wasn’t the way to proceed to gain the right attention from supporters of the park.
“The park had become a bit of a nuisance.”
To their surprise the biggest support came independently from the children, who without any previous influence, expressed passionately that it was this park that they wanted to spend their time in. And as a result, Peckham Citizens organised a commissioning assembly after the listening campaign at Rye Lane Chapel.
In front of around four hundred people, the children from both schools spoke movingly about the park. They shared their ideas of how they saw their park changing, which sparked one hundred and fifty adults to sign up and adopt Friends of Kelly Avenue Park as one of their 4 campaigns including; jobs, housing and debt. That was seen as a very proud moment for all involved.
CLEANER, GREENER, SAFER
Back in 2015 members of FOKAP organised a massive clean-up of the park as much rubbish had built up in the space over time. On the day of the clean-up, the organisers managed to get just over one hundred and twenty people down to partake in the massive clean-up. That included the local radio, local councillors, as well as staff, parents and children of both schools. Tracey recalls “everyone was kind of blown away by the turnout.” The day before all of that happened though, Southwark council changed the cleaning company they used to previously clean the park…
As mentioned the community project was part of Peckham Citizens. Their campaign now is to formally get the council to acknowledge and recognise the organisation as Friends of Kelly Avenue Park. They aim to change the name because currently if you go on to the Southwark website for a list of parks, FOKAP is not listed at all.
Having the Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Barrie Hargrove as a staunch supporter of Friends of Kelly Avenue Park must have its benefits though, surely?
According to Tracey, Cllr Hargrove has been a huge supporter of FOKAP right from the beginning. He was one of the many apart of the impressive turnout of people that helped with the clean up. The council has no problem in principle recognising the park, but where politics is involved, is rarely simple or straight forward.
The community organisation receives funding through a number of grants. Each year, they would receive funding from the ‘Neighbourhood’ fund. The park received a generous amount of money from ‘Cleaner, Greener, Safer’ fund to get the park extended. As one of the major issues was there weren’t enough entrances, so kids would get trapped behind the one entrance that was often locked. Having additional entrances increased footfall to the park. It was also beneficial for people pushing buggies and for wheelchair users, they all welcomed the extension with the new access. Other sources of funding, included funds for a local artist, who created the entrance sail to the park as well as the mural on the wall. The park also received funding from the National Lottery ‘Celebrate 25’. This pot of money was used to run more workshops, for gardening equipment, art supplies, chairs and general things to made the park more viable. Activities such as organising a logo competition with prizes that children of both schools can get involved with. Which would concretize FOKAP identity and its value for the community.
C FOR COMMUNITY
In July 2016 Friends of Kelly Avenue Park held their very first community ‘Fun Day’, which they called the Big Lunch. The name of the park came off the back of the event since the park is located on Kelly Avenue.
What makes this community organisation unique and perhaps stand out from other community organisations is that it is run by locals, who essentially decide what happens with the park. St Mark’s church is affiliated with the park; they help to promote it through the church’s community. FOKAP’s Treasurer, Segal, is from one of the local schools; she brings with her the Muslim community. So, there is a real inclusivity with people from all walks of life involved with Community Organisation. Not negating the fact that the organisation is largely child led to start with, and keeping the children at the heart of the movement is paramount to the Community Organisation.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR THE PARK
As life resumes to normality and schools are fully open again, it is important for the team from Friends of Kelly Avenue Park to continue their activity and to create new relationships with schools in the local area. The Head teacher at Harris Academy on Peckham Road has been down to meet the team to forge a synergy between them. They’re exploring the idea of having the students from the Academy partake in a programme. The plan is that for four consecutive Saturdays they gain volunteering experience within a community organisation. Once completed the organisation will issue certificates that could eventually serve as references for the kids to go on to do other things.
There are even talks of the organisation becoming a Duke of Edinburgh provider.
The organisation provides a genuine platform for children to have a voice and be involved in the decisions that essentially will benefit them. This is a chance for the children to come together and influence the outcome of these spaces, enabling them to become potential future leaders.
I can’t help thinking that the children’s involvement underpins the ethos of the community organisation and the Chair welcomes the idea of a big increase. “We want to see more and more young people getting involved and taking on roles of responsibility”
Building a wider membership is important to the community organisation. Not only local residents can be a part of the team, they also welcome anyone from other parts of London that may be interested in getting involved; no one is excluded geographically. Of course it’s important for the local residents to be aware of the park and also benefit from all that it offers.
A cosmetic overhaul is planned for the park, using up any existing and future funding pots to keep it as safe, clean and green as possible. One of which is a recent generous donation of £1500 from the construction company undergoing the development directly opposite the park. To say it was out of the blue for them to receive such an amount is an understatement.
Maintaining this park is not only essential for the kids; yes of course that is a big part of it. But, there is also the fact that gardening is important for wellbeing. I myself can testify to that as I took up gardening during the first Lockdown. Buying plants and pottering around in the garden became a regular occurrence of mine, it has been so beneficial to my mental health.
You can’t help feeling that there is a real sense of community spirit in the atmosphere
Rose Moses, one of the original founders, and an assistant head at Oliver Goldsmith, is originally from Kenya. She is very passionate about teaching children in Peckham who are used to having things done to them, learn to take control. “This way, they can do for themselves” says Tracey. “Peckham Citizens has always been about teaching the young people to lead the project”. Youth safety is a key area of concern too, that’s why the organisation has started working closely with the Safer Neighbourhood Team of the Police.
This community organisation has brought families together that wouldn’t normally cross paths with each other. The common ground being having a safe place for their kids to play with no danger of anything happening to them.
The park serves the community by teaching kids how to grow their own vegetables. This is further supported with a kind donation of soil from Morrison’s supermarket in Peckham.
Want to get involved? Follow this link.
Written by Koko Oloko, illustrated by Daisy Rowe