Willenhall residents take the lead to power up community park campaign

People living in Willenhall are working alongside Grapevine community organisers to build their collective power as they campaign for improved park and play facilities in their Coventry neighbourhood.

Through a series of community focus groups at the tail end of 2023, the ‘Willenhall Coalition’ was able to identify which community priority it needed to tackle first.

A young white girl wears a white top and pink wellies with her blonde hair as she sits on a swing in a park.

Members decided that by focusing on a community park or play area they could help people improve their physical and mental health, create a space for social interaction, build a greater sense of community and support local children and their families.

Thereby addressing some of the contributing factors to Willenhall’s historical population health inequalities and moving the community a step closer to becoming healthier, happier and more connected.

The Coalition team – people living in and caring for the neighbourhood’s wellbeing – have so far been:

  • Researching other Coventry parks
  • Creating a list of “most wanted” play equipment
  • Speaking to around 200 residents through organised door knocking
  • Collecting almost 70 completed local surveys
  • Initiating exploratory meetings with council services
  • Setting up a constituted group able to apply for and receive funding to make their park vision a reality.
A green flyer with images of Willenhall play park as it currently is and a title that says Friends of Brookstray Park.
A flyer asking local people to get involved with the Friends of Brookstray Park campaign.

Community organiser Edwin Lukong said: “Behind each door lies a wealth of wisdom and local insight.

“We gained a deeper understanding of the experience of living in Willenhall by listening to residents’ views and finding out the changes they want in their area.”

One-to-one conversations with people interested in making change then helps draw out passions, strengths and motivation for collective action.

Following this is individual coaching, regular ‘house meetings’ that bring people together, community initiated projects such as Waka Waka Fitness, a vegetable garden, Talk Freely language project (for people whose first language isn’t English) and the formation of the Willenhall Coalition.

What’s next for the community park campaign?

The newly constituted group ‘Friends of Brookstray Park’ has identified its first goal of improving the existing play area to appeal more widely to children of all ages.

To this end, the team has applied for their first batch of funding for new play equipment and a new member has created a dedicated website to share their vision with the wider community.

Some developing future proposals include better pre-school provision, an outdoor gym for older children and adults, a multipurpose court and an athletics track.

A stock photo shows three black adult hands each holding a red and white megaphone in the air against a blue sky.
Our community organisers are working with Willenhall residents under the Healthy Communities Together programme.

Getting involved

Willenhall Coalition meets fortnightly for a couple of hours on a Tuesday evening at Willenhall Education, Employment and Training Centre (WEET Centre).

There is already lots of support among residents for improved play facilities. Now the Coalition is asking for commitments, however small, from them to help achieve the change they want.

Even if park improvements are not top of their list, helping neighbours to win this campaign makes future projects tackling other issues possible.

Contact us, come to a meeting or complete / share the local survey here.

Speak to Grapevine community organiser Edwin on 07745 030184 to find out more.

Look out for more news about Healthy Communities Together in Willenhall soon.

About Healthy Communities Together

Grapevine is working in Willenhall alongside local people, the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and Coventry City Council to improve local health and wellbeing.

Healthy Communities Together is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, with learning partner The King’s Fund.

Watch this short video about the HCT programme.