We were lucky enough to secure funding through the National Lottery Heritage Fund for Free Market Radicals. In particular the Emerging Futures Fund. We obviously think is a really interesting funding programme. Here’s a quote from the programme guidance — ‘We want to invest in the creativity of civil society and help amplify the voices of communities through stories, narratives and public imagination projects that can lead to new ideas, questions and visions of the future. We value the power of storytelling and we know that people and communities are able to use stories and narratives to talk about ideas for the future and how to get there, as well as practical ways that can help us move toward recovery and renewal.’
We are focusing our project on a number of market towns and villages across Essex including — Braintree, Witham, Halstead, Rochford, Rayleigh and Hockley (not strictly a ‘market town’). In keeping with the theme of the Emerging Futures Fund, we will be working with local groups to explore ‘new ideas, questions and visions of the future’. In particular we will be looking at town and villages centres and other important spaces, and how local people can play a leading role in ensuring they have a vibrant and creative future. We are particularly interested in the importance of heritage and culture. The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously created significant challenges for town centres, High Streets and local businesses, but things were already difficult before this. What we learn about these towns will help us to identify new opportunities for locally-driven projects and initiatives. We will also collect information, data and undertake research that will help local organisations and groups to take projects forward and, where necessary, secure funding. What we learn will also be relevant across the UK as well. Look out for more from us as we roll out the project over the next few months.