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I live in a small village in South Wales. Well to tell the truth it is less of a village and more of a dormitory for Cardiff. I used to live in a village in Yorkshire and that was just so different. There we had a playing field where scouts could meet and a village football team play. Kids could kick a ball about or just sit on the swings. There was a village school - not big, just 2 classes - and a playgroup. people used the village Hall to do things they liked - aerobics, parties, nursery, pilates, etc. For the major holidays we had our own events. I remember organising a full blown jousting tournament one Easter and a Classic car show another.
Ofcourse we had to bring in experts for some things ( we had no resident jousters, so they had to come from Exeter !) but mostly it was village folk getting together and organising the things they wanted. The playgroup and the brownies/guides were organised by a local mother. The football team was put together in the village pub, which also brewed its own beer.I lived there 3 days before someone called round and asked me to join the plating fields committee. Aerobics was run by a local who later became a sports centre manager for the local council.
It just felt right. I believe that this is what is really meant by the Big Society.
At the centre of both places stood an old church. That much they had in common. This is the one here, but the one in my old village was very very similar.
The thing is that in Yorkshire the church was thriving. It ran the local primary school. It was involved in everything going on. People who attended church saw it as part of their community duty to get involved in all aspects of the village. they imposed nothing but listened to what was going on and supported the community.
Where I live now the congregation is tiny. They try to get involved in everything, but only because they try to organise everything. The tone of everything they put on is old school church. If you like barn dances and folk singing or a hog roast then you are well catered for ( along with the 6 members of the congregation ). Anything else forget it. Tell your parish counsellor ? They are both church members - husband and wife. Book the Village Hall yourself ? It is owned and run by the church and its tiny congregation. Want to get decent broadband ? Not the best way to communicate with God apparently he hasn't got a facebook account yet.
You get the picture !
And so the Big Society concept fails. It gets taken over by the Governments distorted view of it being a way to pay big charities to do things government used to, for much less money, if not free. In the meantime the concept of community withers on the vine as organisations ( THIRD SECTOR rules OK !) replace individual people.
Rant over. Nice church building though eh ?