Highbridge Podcast Ep3 - Our Highbridge

In this edition, we find out about the community project called 'Our Highbridge'. When I spoke with Ruth and Nadja who are two of its members

Intro  0:10  
You're listening to the Highbridge podcast celebrating the people, places and history of the Highbridge area in such small

Mell  0:27  
This season is funded by Seed which is a consortium of community organizations in Sedgemoor comprising of Bridgewater senior citizens forum Bridgewater Town Council, Community Council for Somerset homes in central Somerset film, and young Somerset, which is funded and supported by Arts Council England, creative people in places lottery funding, and the Arts Council, this edition, I spoke to the people that are behind 'Our Highbridge'. And I had the opportunity to chat with Nadja and Ruth and I started by asking Ruth, how did the project get started?

Ruth  1:01  
I think I've always seen in Highbridge, lots of things go on. But not necessarily everyone knows about it. Also Highbridge suffers from social deprivation, one of the most deprived places in Somerset, and it just needs more love and care. So a year and a half ago, I message, Jackie and Kyla, the other two members of Our Highybridge and said, that's how we can talk about what we could do, cuz I know they're interested in that kind of thing as well. And we just chatted, and thought, you know, we could do some stuff, we could get some stuff going. And Nadjas my mom. So I know she's interested in that kind of stuff. And I've spoken to her quite enthusiastically about all my ideas and stuff. Last summer, we sort of went, Yeah, let's do it. Because now's the time, it's obviously it was over COVID It was really hard. But now's the time to do it. And we basically want to make Highbridge better. We don't have focus on one particular thing. We're particularly focused on everything about Hioghbridge, we want to make Highbridge a better place to live to make Highbridge a better place to work, and make it look like as loved that people care. And people feel good in Highbridge. We'd like the town to have more of a vibe about it. And just yeah, just feel good in Highbridge and everyone should feel good in the Highbridge.

Mell  2:31  
So Nadya have you always lived in Highbridge or did you move into the area.

Nadja  2:37  
I moved into the area originally into Bridgewater a very long time ago in 1976. And we as a family moved over to Highbridge in 1987. So I have been here quite a long time. I feel like a natural part of it. Now I know it takes a while for everyone to accept you. But I think I'm probably a person that lives in Highbridge and belongs to Highbridge now, so I was really enthusiastic about what we were saying.

Mell  3:01  
So where were you before? 

Nadja  3:02  
Oh, I was in Kent

Mell  3:03  
Okay, so coming into Highbridge. What was it like? What did you like what, what stood out for you in Highbridge?

Nadja  3:10  
Well, I came from Bridgewater to Highbridge and Bridgwater is obviously a bigger town, more things going on. Highbridge was quite quiet. In actual fact, I quite like that about Highbridge. So we thought it was a small town. Little bit overshadowed by Burnham or that's a perception that we tend to have here, I think. So why not? Big it's up a bit. Why not kind of make people notice Highbridge and try to make it into a place where people would want to come to me, for me, I'm involved with Seed Sedgemoor because Seed has concentrated their energy. Bringing together lots of creatives to do things in Highbridge over this last year, it has also drawn my attention to the fact that you know someone needs to kind of bring it together a little bit. You know, there's a lovely community hub over that way over Morlands. There's a community all over this way in Southwell Gardens there is the church. So we've got already got all different sort of points of the compass if you like, and we just thought well, why couldn't it just keep on going on.

Ruth  4:14  
So perhaps our Highbridge can be part of the interconnectedness of branches that reached out and bring everyone together, you know, so that we can all work together and all promote each other and just live happily ever after the project

Mell  4:27  
The project of Our Highbridge was that was a conscious decision that it's a Facebook group

Ruth  4:34  
Currently we only have the Facebook page, but we're building a website as well, which we hope to sort of promote business community groups, not be a Burnham on Sea.com But have that kind of keeping people updated on what's going on not necessarily news but with what's going on around the town. showcase some of people and places and just Just a little area on the web that you can drop into. Obviously, people don't go online. So we're conscious of that. And we want to develop ways of getting messages out that aren't necessarily online. So maybe more noticeboards, leaflet drops, that kind of thing so that people know what's going on and people can get involved in. Highbridge I think there are groups of people that don't get involved perhaps because they don't know what's going on all they feel like they're not the kind of person that gets involved and we want to make everything inclusive. And

Mell  5:36  
So do you find that people interact with the website? Do you think you're more than just publicise other people?

Ruth  5:43  
Ours is more more of a  LIKE the page and then see what we post we share? I can't remember what we've shared recently, something to do with new drama boxes.

Nadja  5:53  
That's right. Yeah.

Ruth  5:55  
We shared that and a few people perhaps tagged their friends in it, say, Oh, look at this, you get that kind of thing. So at the moment, that's what that is. But that's not just what we do. That's a way of promoting our Highbridge and everything else that's going on. Because we do stuff that we want to do it's so broad you need a place to sort of start and spread out

Mell  6:22  
What I always find interesting is Burnham on Sea and the Highbridge is also where one begins and one ends so there's this vaguaness they are all one but they have different names but it's all in one area. Is this a Highbridge event is this a Burnham on sea event?

Nadja  6:41  
Absolutely. it would be lovely really if events belonged to both places Exactly. Why yes. But in another way, Highbridge needs its own identity because Burnham does have an identity. As Ruth said, at the very beginning, Burnham has a beach, you know, holidaymakers go there, what just what happened to Highbridge is still a town in its own right. And it was once upon a time when I talked to my friends who lived here all their lives. You know, they say it was actually the most thriving part. Burnham was just a little town where people went to the seaside, whereas Highbridge had the railway and the industry and things going on. Cinema, you know, these sorts of things. Yeah, we want to start projects, which build it back up again, into a place people want to come to, as I said earlier,

Mell  7:24  
it's also interesting that you mentioned as well, like, you know, people passing through, and it's the fact, as you say, they only pass through because they think they're on the way somewhere else. And they don't realize there's actually something here and exactly, you could stop here instead. Or as well as

Ruth  7:39  
Well. Yeah, yeah. Because Highbridge, like Highbridge, had, obviously originally a strong identity a lot of the houses were built for railway workers and industry. And then we had the cattle market, the Highbridge Sunday market. And they just sort of dissipated when even one of the platforms even went at the railway station originally, there's houses built now but there used to be another platform there. Slowly all those things have gone and Highbridge never developed an identity based on what it became. And it became more of a secondary town to Burnham because we have a joint town Council. A lot of people feel like they're left out, Highbridge whether that's true or not is a different matter. But there's a feeling in Highbridge that Burnham gets the money. Because it's a seaside town, it obviously brings draws in the tourists and visitors was and has perhaps more shops and all that kind of thing. Whereas Highbridge gets a little bit left and gets a little bit tatty and maybe gets dumped on occasionally. And that's a feeling that people have and another reason why 'Our Highbridge' it needs to advocate for the residents as well. So the people that feel that way, then start to feel like there's people on their side, there are people that want to do things for them that want to get them involved and not take over. They want to join, bring them bring everyone in together and

Nadja  9:13  
you want a conversation with the community. You don't want to tell people what to do or what they want. You want to actually have a conversation and our first project which was a Halloween extravaganza. So we thought well, where are we going to start? Okay, Halloween was coming into a Halloween extravaganza. And we had a raffle. We had pumpkin carving competition. We had lots of craft stores and it was really wonderful. It we went off with a bang. We had children doing Trick or Treating. We asked the businesses if they wanted to have sweets and they did and the children went and visited so parents and children visited all the businesses in Highbridge they all felt like they had a really good day. It really made everybody feel good because everyone was sort of involved everyone down Market Street you know was sort of involved. So that's really where I suppose the centre of Highbridge is if it has a centre at all that is, you know where it could be Yes. And where it is really, but it just hasn't been really focused to get things moving.

Ruth  10:14  
Yeah, we looked at all sorts of projects go in. And obviously, we want to work with the people who live in Highbridge, work in Highbridge, find out what they want. And we want to also work with the relevant authorities to try and instigate some of the bigger things that need doing some of the love and care can go back into the way Highbridge looks the way Highbridge feels and, and creating the place and the buzz around the town.

Mell  10:44  
It's interesting, you talked about like regarding project because because of things like COVID, it's highlighted, sort of just general mental wellbeing. Absolutely. And everybody has now started to realise gardening is a great way to socialise, exchange ideas and just feel healthy. Just being outdoors

Nadja  11:04  
Health and well-being is a big thing. So is loneliness, and things where you can actually go to a communal place and do a bit of gardening, you might live in a flat say, Morland estate and not have a garden of your own or be able to garden, you might not be able to garden without a bit of help from somebody else. So that is a really important part of the community garden idea. And there are many of those being set up at this very moment in lots of other places. So it's not an impossible thing to do. There's the will for it. It came up in some of the Seed conversations we had as well.

Ruth  11:37  
It's come up in lots of conversations across the town, in different groups of stuff. The Baptist church.

Nadja  11:43  
The Hopee Baptist Church already have dug up part of their garden to provide food for people at their at the food bank, which is amazing. And that's those are the people that I'm sort of liaising with now to see to find the people that can take it forward. Obviously, we can instigate we can think about funding, we can do those kinds of things, and maybe get Seed involved and get other people involved in the housing associations, obviously land is available that belongs to Homes in Sedgemoor housing say for instance, so those things are, you know, important that we make those conversations, but then we want people in the community to be part of that. And then to take it on further so we're like a guiding Spark almost instigating a catalyst.

Ruth  12:31  
Yeah, we'll be, you know, hopefully, our position is that we would be able to apply for funding that can set things up and move forward in the community. And obviously, you want to make sure that's what the community wants. Yeah, absolutely. And that you're you're then advocating for everybody's needs, aren't you then?

Mell  12:51  
So Ruth were you born and bred here

Ruth  12:53  
I was born in Bridgwater. Okay. And so I've been there since I was 10.

Okay, so as a 10-year-old what, what can you remember anything that stuck out when you first moved into Highbridge from Bridgewater

We were all amazed by Norman's I dont know if you remember Normans it was a Supermarket across the road, when we first went in there we couldn't find the end of it.

It stopped but it actually went around the corner. And yeah, and Apex. I think we will I remember walking to Burnham and obviously being invited to sea for us living in Bridgewater, you obviously had to drive but we just said and walk to the sea. But also growing up. There wasn't very much to do in Highbridge. And that would have been nice when I was young as well, that there was just something going on.

Mell  13:46  
Again, that's where the website comes in. Yes.

Ruth  13:49  
You could start stage messages on as well. Yeah. But it'd be just equally as nice to step out your door go think or go for a wander down into town central wherever and, and there is some music going on. We have had this things and we do have you know, Seed did their Gig in the Garden event and in then the Cooper's or outside of the Cooper's things going on. That was really very nice, didn't necessarily walk around anyone but I could hear them as I was doing things. And we've had a few things like a concert over the Rec and stuff like that, that go on. But it'd be nice if things were happening just regularly or you know, a bit more of that kind of thing where people feel like they can step out and things are happening because Highbridge is stuck it doesn't have like I said it doesn't seem to have its identity anymore. Some of this stuff around is traditional. And then you've got some newer flats and stuff like that and it does seem to lack color. Perhaps in the film called ............ my brains gone now.

Mell  14:53  
Are you thinking of the Wizard of Oz

Ruth  15:00  
It's like a lifting-up effect, isn't it? So you start off there just black and white. And it feels all awww like that, well, we walk down Market Street, or even down Church Street. And some of it looks loved some looks unloved. And perhaps injecting a bit more art and creativity into some of the homes or something even in Highbridge as a, you know, a way to make people feel like they're in a place that's cared for and loved,

Mell  15:28  
From your perceptions. And from the work, you've done so far. Is it a broad mix of ages that are quite sort of proactive in wanting to try things,

Ruth  15:38  
We sent out a survey on our Facebook page, and the main people who have interacted with that was people over the age of 30, I think there were there were some younger people. But then on the set in the same instance, you've got a lot of children have joined Highbridge youth and arts theater. But yeah, a lot of children, obviously, join those kinds of things. The Halloween event we had was a lot of families. But at the same time, there were some just couples that came in the dark, to our little trail, little treasure, Hunt trail, and stuff like that. So we expected it to be a lot of families. But then there were people I know people from Burnham that came as well. So we want to appeal to everyone, we don't, you don't want to leave anyone feeling like they're not a part of the town.

Nadja  16:30  
Its also really good for different generations to mix. I mean, you know, there's no reason why older people and younger people shouldn't be interested in the same kinds of thing. It's not just for one set of people it is for everyone in the community. And obviously, we need to listen to the community, too, in order to find out what it is they want. And I think younger people, generally the sort of 15 to 20, fives are the hardest ones to kind of really connect with. Yeah. But hopefully, we're going to be able to do that, we're going to have to think about how we're going to do that maybe through the school as well, and get them involved.

Ruth  17:05  
Really, it's their future. I mean, some of them might move move away, but some of them might stay here and it their town in the future. So we don't want to be instigated how that feels. to younger people, like it's got nothing for them. So you want you want everyone to feel like I said, We want everyone to feel like it's got something for them. And especially younger people, because they are the ones that may stay here for be here for a longer time, if they don't move away like I didn't, I stayed. And it didn't feel like it had what I wanted from it in, you know, as I was growing up.

Nadja  17:40  
I mean, also, we're well aware that you know that there is a climate emergency on so we're aware that those kinds of issues are very important to all of us, obviously, but young people are very much the people that are going to take this, you know, take on the baton, about these sorts of things. So we would like it and Highbridge could be a real example of how you can begin to get more sustainable and more green, you know, there are lots of little ways you can do that. You could have a repair, reuse cafe or something like that, you know, get people involved in that sort of thing. get young people involved in what happens to the rubbish and you know, making art out of it. Maybe there's lots of different ideas that we have had and talked about and thought about that could that we would really like to get young people engaged in doing something in the community, the things that they want to do not you know, that we're talking with them, not telling them to do this, do that. But we're going north, what would you mind? Would you like to paint a beam? Would you like to be you know, whatever it is to give them maybe a few ideas? And then they go, Oh, what about this? What about that?

Mell  18:48  
You just got to find the right group of people to actually go, actually we'd like to do and to set them up. So I can go ahead and do

Nadja  18:56  
Exactly. So in a way we're taking up kind of Seeds idea that you know, you start seeding in a community and then the community starts to take over. So things like what you're doing here is directly from that. So it is inspired to a certain extent by those by that kind of thing. The fact that funding has come into this area.

Ruth  19:15  
And what you're saying about the climate emergency sort of because Highbridge is a place already in need of regeneration, we could we've got an opportunity to put that money. What us personally but whoever's putting money in the council, yeah, the councils and whoever funding groups and stuff, you've got the opportunity to put that money into something that is more sustainable, rather than replacing all the old bits and pieces, bring in some, you know, something new, and something that will last for the centuries or decades or whatever but but also be sustainable from an environmental point of view. So it's not affecting the planet too much that it is bringing all that new technology in and Yeah, maybe if you're gonna start regenerating, then you need to think about those things.

Mell  20:06  
When you're trying to connect with the community, you've got Facebook Page, you've talked about posters and everything. Is there any other way that you can reach these people that you'd like them to try and reach back to you?

Ruth  20:20  
Well, I mean, yeah. So coming up soon COVID, rules permitting, we are organizing a family quiz afternoon, thats the 29th of January, where we have families and or just groups will come and have a quiz. We'll have some coffees, chats going on and stuff like that. So we thought perhaps, we can chat to people there. And give them the opportunity to talk to us about what they like and ask you a few questions as well, whilst we're doing a fun, little fun quiz.

It's good to run an event and then use that as a vehicle, exactly. Because it takes the pressure off. Yeah, answer these questions. It's more of a chat,

You know, when we have the Halloween event, people would stop and talk to us. And you get a bit of feedback, even though that was very early on, you get a bit of feedback, obviously, like I said, we've sent out the surveys, which don't have a massive uptake, because you've got the right kind of person to sit around and do a survey. And we hope to develop other ways of connecting with people maybe talking with the schools. We had a couple of ideas about creative projects that we could involve some of the younger children and stuff like that designing thing for Highbridge.

Nadja  21:44  
Also, I think, and this is happening in other places in the UK, maybe it would be really good to have a kind of regular community sort of, I'm going to use the word forum, I don't really like that word very much. But a place where a community or people in the community can come and chat about the ideas that I've got. So we can be a sort of collecting agency as well, if you see what I mean, we can sort of go, let's do this, this this month, we're having a one of our community get-togethers, whatever we would call it, yeah, come along, or we can chat about what you like.

Ruth  22:19  
Because we are aware that the jubilees come into. And in previous years that people tried to do things, but there's no cohesion between all the groups. And so we thought perhaps we can invite groups alone, talk about what everyone's doing, try and get everyone to promote everyone else and try and have some kind of nice, cohesive, Jubilee weekend, where not everything's happening at this, because that'd be really annoying because we want everyone to go to everything. And then there might be perhaps a timetable where the people that are going to these things know what's going on. And we hope to do those kinds of things, perhaps for the Christmas lights, and all those kinds of things said, there's a nice big event going on where everyone's involved, that wants to be involved. And people can come and see a nice put well put together event going on three people

Mell  23:12  
to contact you, they can either do by email to ourhighbridge@gmail.com. And on Facebook, Facebook, if there's one thing I've gathered from this is there is no shortage of ideas from your team.

Nadja  23:27  
That's only the beginning there are lots more.

Mell  23:31  
So I wish you every success and I look forward to seeing what else develops from this project. As you heard, they were trying to get people together in and around Highbridge to discuss the Jubilee. Now I know that they had a Zoom meeting towards the end of last month. And then they had a physical meeting, which I snuck along to and is what you can hear in the background. Once again, loads of great ideas, lots of enthusiasm. I'm so looking forward to see what Highbridge actually does over the next 12 months, especially now that we have 'Our Higbhridge' trying to draw everyone together in a cohesive manner. And that just about concludes this edition. I would like to say a very big thank you to Ruth and Nadja for talking to us all about the Our Highbridge community project. But a special thank you to Luke knight who also featured edition two of the Highbridge podcast on his BBC Somerset show earlier in January, and also played sections of the podcast interviews with Corrine Curtis talking about the Nornen project and Scott O'Hara talking about Seed Sedgemoor. If you'd like to suggest someone that you think would be worth chatting to them, please email Highbridgepodcast@gmail.com With your suggestion until the next edition stay safe and look after yourself. The Highbridge podcast available on many popular podcast directories distributed The Highbridge podcast on Apple iTunes, Spotify, podcasts, Google, Amazon music and tune in.com. He can also be found at Sedgemoor media.com and he's hosted and found at Highbridge podcast.transistor.fm. Also available on your smart speakers, just say the weight words to the speaker and say clearly, play the Highbridge podcast


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