AN AMBITIOUS project is underway to create a new heart for Hillfields.
The Hillfields Family & Community Trust is working to build new homes for social rent and to modernise the Hillfields Community Hub, off Thicket Avenue.
Formerly known as Hillfields Youth Centre, the Hub already provides a venue for youth services, music, sporting activities, community groups, health and therapeutic work, and is available for private hire by residents for social events.
But the trust has found a way to provide much-needed new housing for the area and create a long-term source of funding for its community activities, by building 10 new homes at the site.
It is also planning to revamp the Hub, modernising its facilities and making it a more attractive place for residents to use.
Driving the changes forward are the trust’s co-managers Jan Ross and George Campbell-Touray, above.
Friends since the age of 11, Jan worked as a nurse and George as a social worker before they founded the Hillfields Young Mothers Group at the centre in 2003.
Originally a group of six young mums, they took on more responsibilities at the centre, until last year they were offered long-term control of the council-owned building under the community asset transfer scheme. The group merged with the Hillfields Community Trust to become HF&CT, taking the building over on a 30-year lease.
The trust is working with Bristol and Bath Regional Capital, an investment body which works to finance local development projects, to build the homes on land next to the Hub. Most of it is currently waste ground but it also includes a building currently occupied by Hillfields FC. The football club is set to move into new changing rooms and facilities in the Hub before its old building is demolished.
Jan and George run the trust with the help of volunteers and their job-share post is funded by Bristol charity the Quartet Community Foundation. Having lived and worked in the area for so long and raised their own families there, they want to pay something back by creating lasting change for Hillfields.
Jan said: “There was no heart to this community – there’s no pub, no community centre – and no history of regeneration. We have had no money invested in this area for a long time. This is really exciting, to do something like this in my own area where I brought up my own children. It will absolutely be a community asset, something for the community to make it its own. The rental will go into a fund which will be used for the community. It will mean we are self-sustaining and not reliant on grants for funding, and the community can make decisions about how that money will be used.”
George said: “There are stigmas attached to young mothers, people who say ‘all they want is a home’. But why wouldn’t you want to provide a home in an area where people feel safe? At the end of the day, this is about creating a community.”
For more details about the trust and its work visit its site, www.hillfields.community.