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BESS Service Manager Linzi Cason talk about digital inclusion, fishing and the Claremont Library Digital Project. 

Its been a fun few months working on the Claremont Digital Library Project, not just because of the very nature of the work (helping digitally excluded men participate in online activities) but the journey the people themselves have taken in such a short time has been fascinating.

The project came to Empowerment in November 2021 from Claremont Park Community Centre which is currently undergoing community consultation and development. With such a short time frame of three months to get the funded project off the ground it was a task I didn’t take lightly. There were existing participants to engage, new devices to give out and activate, promotion of the social meetings online and hours of troubleshooting to work through – all with three weeks to Christmas!

The new year saw us meeting online every two weeks to talk about what we had been up to, what we wanted to do and when was lockdown ending? We had fantastic support from the Claremont Park Community Centre Committee who directed us to various other initiatives in the area such as the Barclays’s Digital Eagle project, Blackpool Council’s Library service and Greater Places the housing group also offering wellbeing workshops.

One of our social group meeting online

What I found after a few weeks, was that the group just enjoyed being together and using the tablet for different practical things and discussing obstacles in current DIY projects. With at least two ex-engineers amongst the group it soon became easy to take turns in helping each other and even I learnt how to change a plug thanks to one participant who came to the group (online may I add) well equipped with tools I have never seen before – a laser measuring tape (yes that does exist!)

I grew very fond of the group speaking each week to those who didn’t attend the online meeting and getting to know what they wanted out of the group. It became very obvious that getting back into the community to meet new people face to face was at the top of the list and with that a plan started to form about a BBQ.

With a new Polytunnel at the Claremont Park Community Centre and David (an active member of our group) regularly fishing off the sea wall, it seemed we had the recipe for more than a BBQ, we had the start of our friendship group to make a real and meaningful connection with each other and the place they live.

David (CDL Participant)

‘I thought you wouldn’t come’ was the first thing David said to me as I rounded the corner backpack/camera/waterproofs at the ready, although we didn’t need that for the glorious sunny day. Those words really striking me and not uncommon when working out and about in the community. Trust plays a massive part of the relationship when working one to one and this showing that although video calls have bridged the gap for social groups – nothing will ever take the place of face to face.

David is an active member of the Claremont Digital Library. He uses the tablet device to check tide times, play scrabble against others as well as video chat with our social group. He invited me to join him fishing one day so I excitedly took up his offer and I am so glad that I did. This being the first face to face engagement of the project, I was very happy to participate and get my hands dirty and when we weren’t jumping up to see if we had a bite I listened to his stories.

Now we have the roadmap out of lockdown in full swing the group really wanted to get involved and so we met and it was a lovely day. May afterwards suggesting more activities and what they hope and wish for the coming weeks.

These small steps to re-intergrate back into social activities give us some focus and an activity to enjoy with the goal to cook our fish at the BBQ at Claremont Park Community Centre potentially with fish we have caught.

If you, or someone you know, would like to get involved please email here

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