For communities to be built, there has to be something in which those living there can be engaged and interested in. It can often be regarded as an arduous task interacting with others in your local area, yet through local initiatives, groups and clubs, promoting a more social environment becomes easier and strong communities can be created.

We’ve looked at how local initiatives can help build communities, and what the key drivers are for people turning to independent groups.

The community initiative knows no limits

For some, the idea of a community group or initiative conjures up visions of people sat around in the local scout hut or church hall putting the world to rights in a boring and uninspired manner. Yet these myths are ones that need to be debunked – local groups are on a resurgence, bringing exciting, intellectual and entertaining initiatives to our communities.

Community-run clubs work on the broadest of spectrums, covering topics, themes and interests to meet the needs of the most discerning among us. We’re now encouraged to interact with our neighbours on topics that interest both us and them.

Local groups have had a huge impact on the arts and culture scene within our communities – we’re getting access to and embracing it like never before. Drawing classes, crafts clubs and reading circles are cool again, groups for board and card games are getting stronger and visuals arts such as cinema is being brought into our community facilities. Performing arts are also thriving in the new era of local community initiatives and spaces.

How we exercise is benefiting from the rise of the community group too. Running and cycling clubs may live longer in the memory, but the rise in popularity of these has been staggering in recent times – you can read our thoughts on the cycling culture within the UK here.  Tranquillity bases have been created in our communities with walking clubs, yoga and Pilates.

Food also plays a huge role within local initiatives, with clubs, markets and events bringing us together through locally-sourced produce. Those who like to brunch and have a taste for craft ales can find something that suits their passion too in local cafés, bars and restaurants.

The horizons for local groups couldn’t be broader, encouraging greater interaction with those around us and building better communities.

A step away from the commercial mainstream

We’re currently in an era of commercialism. Brands are doing their upmost to enforce their message and products on you, whether it’s through social media or mass advertorial literature. Yet these mainstream companies who are trying to win our custom are potentially doing more to deter us.

As society shuns it back to the mainstream, the appeal of the local initiative becomes a more lucrative one. Without the mass ‘spamming’ of adverts, a smaller, independent outlet can build its own camaraderie with the community through giving a good quality service, a good time, and good offering – all at, more often than not, a better price.

A trip to the cinema may not be what it once was thanks to the popularisation of movie streaming services, but it still plays a huge part of the UK’s entertainment economy. In 2018, there were over 177 million cinema admissions in the UK alone, with people still wanting to take in the latest releases. However, the price associated with mainstream cinemas (such as Vue and Odeon) can often be a hinderance in getting viewers through the door.

Once you’ve bought your admission, a drink and some popcorn, you might be left with the feeling that you deserve a mention in the closing credits thanks your financial contribution. The likes of Everyman Cinema are offering visitors a different experience to the norm, with comfier seats and table service, but it comes at a premium.

As a result of these prices, the rise of local cinema has begun. These smaller, community-centric theatres aren’t about turning over millions of pounds a year – they’re about giving people who love filmography affordable, easy access to it. Across the UK, there are over 500 local cinema initiatives, ranging from pop-up screens in village halls, to outdoor showings or historic venues, such as Cottage Road Cinema and Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.

What is more appealing though – a corporate cinema that won’t truly appreciate your admission, or a locally-run cinema that’s passionate about film and wants everyone to enjoy the experience? It’s this anti-mainstream choice that plays into the hands of the local – it makes it stronger through a shared passion and builds communal hubs for everyone to enjoy.

Engaging with others, engaging with green spaces

This idea of creating a local bond doesn’t have to start and end in the darkness of the cinema. The theme of moving away from the mainstream can benefit all aspects of our lives, none more so than how we keep fit. Why be confined to the solitude of the nationally-known health club, when you could exercise in local groups in community spaces?

Look at parkrun – an initiative set up to get people exercising in their local community green space. This has gone stratospheric over the last few years, with recent figures showing that there are 609 individual parkrun events held across the UK, with over 26,884,753 runs completed since its origins. The question is did those taking part used to work out on their own, be it running the streets or in a gym? parkrun has created an event that builds communities – it’s run by local people, for local people, in the local green spaces, a fact backed up further by the 12,868 volunteers who don’t do the run, but act as stewards for the event to take place.

It’s aims to “have an event in every community that wants one” – it’s offering to build a community to get people together for a worthwhile cause, not a forced one.

Creating hubs for activity and initiatives

Local initiatives are the linchpin of thriving communities. But even with the best intentions, we need the right facilities and spaces for our clubs to prosper and promote the idea of engagement and interaction.

We need to think outside of the classic village hall. Yes, these can more than play a huge part of activating groups from which to build communities (for example, the cinema groups we’ve previously discussed) but the mindset needs to be expanded. Having local cafés, bars and restaurants within the community that can house these events and initiatives is just as important, as is the need for shared spaces within communal buildings.

Outdoor spaces too can become their own ‘clubhouses’ – green spaces can become an extension of our indoors, so the need for new communities to be built around open areas and woodlands is a key part to the success of local groups.

But for local initiatives to thrive, residential developments need to create facilities and amenities where the community can gather, and people can engage with one another. Using a different by design ideology, Kirkstall Forge has the needs of the community at its very heart. From immediate green space access, to market squares and shared communal amenities, this new development is aimed at promoting a new way of living and encourages interaction between those who will live there.

UnSUBURBIA says….

We’re firm believers in building communities and the need to have interaction and engagement with those we share interests. To champion the local groups that help build communities, we’re starting our very own series of discussions looking at why these initiatives are so important.

“UnSUBURBIA in conversation with…” will speak to groups and clubs of all genres to find out what it means to them to be playing a role in promoting community activity within the local area.