Friday 15 May 2009

Off to Jericho

Great to get an email from a member, Roma Hooper of Make Justice Work and the pioneer of Prison Radio, about the success of Brixton Prison Radio in the Sony Awards. In fact I had heard this on The Today programme, standing in my kitchen looking out on said Prison. Yet again, a demonstration of the inventiveness and determination of our third sector.

Now I'm on my way to Jericho! It's an old community in Oxford clustered around the magnificent Romanesque Church of St Barnabas. The church has a great history. Established by the Oxford movement in the early 19th century to bring the glories of the catholic tradition of the Anglican church to the largely working class community of Jericho. The first Priest there actually went to jail for wearing a Chasuble - then outlawed under canon law and a repressive evangelical hierarchy.

This area has a working boatyard and canal, and there is a community of canal boat dwellers; but it is under threat. The whole area was bought by a rapacious developer who aims to shut the boatyard and evict the canal boats. Absurdly the Council did stop this but God intervened, in the shape of the recession, and the wicked developer went bust.

So there is now a great community campaign to buy up the site and develop it for community use.

I am going to see the organisers to see what help I can give. I have already put them in touch with the Adventure Capital Fund to see if they can assist with a loan, and Steve Wyler, of the Development Trusts Association, is offering support and advice.

This is exactly the type of project we need more of. And the recession is a great time to buy up land for community use. It is one reason we want a Community Reinvestment Act. And a strong justification for a Social Investment Bank. We have an extraordinary amount of talent, innovation and motivation in our many local communities. What they lack is the capacity and ability to borrow to fund their visions. But if we can bring that capacity to marry up with the genius and motivation of local communities we can achieve great things.

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