Three alleyways in Oldham have been transformed by their communities from unusable areas prone to fly-tipping into safe green spaces where people can meet and play. The change was thanks to the efforts of a small group of energetic residents supported by the council and a grass-roots social enterprise called IFOldham. The question Hubbub wanted to answer was: how could we use this as a catalyst for change across the whole of Oldham? We decided to create an ‘inspiration alley’ near the town centre showcasing what has been achieved in the two alleys and describing how the change happened.

Working with IFOldham a central pedestrianised street has been transformed over a period of weeks with hanging baskets and plant beds, which were filled with tomatoes, courgettes and herbs. Where possible recycled materials were used to promote the sustainability message and how-to workshops were put on for residents and groups, bringing to life the inspiration guide. To reinforce the ideas illustrated in the alleyway stories of the three successful communities were showcased in a gallery in the ‘inspiration street’ and a range of social media including video.

The opportunity of inspiration alley continues to grow, IFOldham has now put in a share-shed, bug boxes and being located next to the volunteering centre and foodbank has meant individuals from all walks of life meet as equals in a growing and sharing space. Everyone has something to learn, gain and give there.

To support the installation a competition was launched for local residents inviting them to ‘win the alleyway’ enabling them to transform their immediate area. The council also promised to provide support to people who submitted an entry for the competition but one of the real positives has been the conversations inspiration alley has inspired. The results have surpassed what we anticipated and there have been some unexpected additional benefits.

In total 55 residents requested details on how to apply for the competition clearly demonstrating significant local concern about fly-tipping. Of those 50 residents, 15 took the time to complete a full application form. This response level was unexpectedly high as many were completed by people who were not part of a formalised group but who wanted to do something positive locally. The results of the competition will now be judged and conversations will take place with all entrants to see what help can be provided to allow them to turn their aspirations into reality.

The unexpected benefit of the inspiration alley is that it has significantly increased footfall in the area and the council has received enquiries for the vacant commercial spaces within the street that have proved difficult to let. This has prompted the council to think about how they can maintain the new sense of interest that the installation has created.

The next phase of the campaign will be to see how successful we can be in supporting the new residents who have put their names forward to transform their local area and whether it is possible to start to build a momentum of people willing to share ideas, knowledge and resources right across Oldham.

Hubbub has been sufficiently encouraged by the results that we will be looking to work in some other areas to test the validity of the model we have created. If you are interested in being involved please do get in touch.