How do communities face the decline in an industry that has formed their way of life for longer than they can remember? How do they find positive new narratives for the future? How can children see their place as somewhere to find a successful future rather than a place to leave? What are the new threads that will knit the community together?
Communities in the china clay mining areas in mid Cornwall face these critical questions about future employment and community life when the mining finishes.
Which way for the Clay? was a series of creative community consultation events that gave local people the chance to have a say in the future of their community. The work was commissioned by Cornwall Council with funding from CLG. The results are informing the early stages of a new Ecotown, local parish plans and broader regeneration across mid-Cornwall.
Sensory Trust was a project partner, working closely with Eden Project. We were involved in all aspects including making the events inclusive so that groups who are often left off the radar, such as older people, the young and disabled people, had the opportunity to participate.
Avoiding conventional consultation techniques was crucial. Many people are daunted by surveys and questionnaires, unimpressed by commenting on masterplans where most decisions have already been made, excluded because venues and techniques are inaccessible or unconvinced that their input make any difference.
We put our energy into making events meaningful, inclusive and fun. Choosing questions that resonate with people's lives, avoiding the idea that answers have already been determined, and that still give useful data. About 1,000 people attended, from 3 to 98 and with a good number of 15–24-year-olds, often seen as the hardest to engage. Coffee, cake and decorations were centre stage. The overall feel was local fete, not local elections. It proved popular and effective.