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How did Whitley Bay Big Local come about?

In 2012 Whitley Bay was selected as one of 150 areas to receive an endowment of £1 million of lottery money. The money was to be invested over ten years in response to the priorities of local people. Whitley Bay became part of the Big Local programme, run by Local Trust and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Up until the early 2010s, Whitley Bay had a reputation as a party town, with a popular bar/nightclub industry attracting people from all around the country at weekends and bank holidays. By the early 2010s, this declined severely and high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour replaced the party-goers. Bars started closing and the hotels started to fall into disrepair and eventually become boarded up. Guest houses pivoted away from tourism to offer accommodation to prison leavers and vulnerable people. The Big Local programme came about at exactly the right time. It was created as a way to support areas that struggled to attract grant funding, but where local residents were ready to work together to make a difference. Our area in the town centre was chosen because it was a ‘pocket’ of disadvantage in a relatively affluent area. Residents take the lead At the start of our Big Local journey, a residents panel was set up. The panel started consulting with local people to work out what their priorities were. Many hundreds of ideas were put forward, and the ‘partnership board’, a committee of local residents, selected the most realistic and impactful suggestions. Two major initiatives emerged, the re-establishment of the Whitley Bay Carnival and developing a community hub for Whitley Bay. Two specific themes were also identified - improving the local environment and supporting the health and wellbeing of local people. Over the next 10 years, the Whitley Bay Big Local Partnership Board set about trying to make a reality of the ideas put forward by local people. Whitley Bay Carnival In 2014, the Whitley Bay Carnival was reinstated for the first time in several decades. The aim was to build people’s pride in the town and to create opportunities for local people to come together and take part. In the first year, several hundred school children, community groups and artists were involved and thousands came out to watch. By 2023, the carnival is in its tenth consecutive year, with hundreds of participants and over 10,000 people coming to watch the spectacle. Now managed by an independent charity, Salto Arts, we are confident that the Carnival will continue to thrive for many years to come. Whitley Bay Hub - a building for community In 2015 Whitley Bay Big Local took on the first of three premises as a base for our community activities. After a short stay in the first shop, we moved on to a larger building in the centre of Whitley Bay, before eventually leasing and then purchasing the former Job Centre building, now known as Whitley Bay Hub. Our ambition is to create a ‘community eco-hub’. We are retro-fitting the building to reduce its impact on the world around us and offering activities to support the health and wellbeing of local people. In 2021 we purchased the building and in 2023 we relaunched as Whitley Bay Hub following a £250,000 refurbishment of the ground floor spaces. We set up as an independent charity in 2017 (Whitley Bay Big Local CIO) so that we could take on a lease, buy the building, and then secure the grants we needed to refurbish it. Whilst we continue to focus on the most disadvantaged people and areas in Whitley Bay, our remit has expanded to support the needs of everyone in Whitley Bay and the surrounding areas. As the money from the Big Local programme comes to an end, are taking forward the work of the charity to meet our vision of making Whitley Bay an even better place to live. Our approach will be to make income from room hire and cafe sales, and continue to seek grants to give Whitley Bay Big Local the best opportunity to be sustainable for many years to come.

Whitley Bay Big Local’s focus is on key 'themes':

Environment - At our AGM in November 2021, we shared our aspiration that our community building will become greener, more sustainable and an even better place for our community, our planet and help to improve how Whitley Bay looks for residents and visitors.

 

Health and Wellbeing - supporting members of our community that need it and improving people's day-to-day lives

 

Premises and Engagement – reaching out to all parts of our community and managing activities in our community building at 158 Whitley Road in Whitley Bay, which we bought in November 2021. We are planning the refurbishment of the building

Creativity – supporting and delivering a carnival, workshops and activities to engage local people in creative activities

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Whitley Bay Big Local continues to engage with community members and partners to enable people to work together to unlock resources and strengthen our collective belief and pride in Whitley Bay.

Our community building at 158 Whitley Road in Whitley Bay is becoming an established venue for informal and more structured uses with a diverse programme of  activities.

WBBL will continue to engage with a wide range of community members and partners to enable people to work together to unlock resources and strengthen our collective belief and pride in Whitley Bay. We will work to change the way we do things so that we can become an even more positive, inclusive, supportive, creative, vibrant, beautiful, fun and happy community.

For a flavour of some of the activities WBBL has been involved in to date please visit the

Our Bigger Story web page which highlights some aspects of our work.

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