CAfS has been awarded a £7,300 grant from a partnership between Co-op’s charity, the Co-op Foundation, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

We’ll use the ‘Space to Connect’ funding to support Ambleside Action for a Future’s Incredible Edible Group to develop community conversations about how green spaces are used in their area. The grant will also help to develop the group’s skills and capacity to deliver sustainable use of green spaces in the future.

It is one of 57 organisations across England to receive a grant from the £1.6 million partnership, designed to help communities tackle loneliness by improving and protecting local spaces that bring people together.

Space to Connect follows commitments made in the Government’s Civil Society and Loneliness Strategies, published in 2018, to help create sustainable community hubs and spaces where they are most needed.

Funding also builds on the Co-op Foundation’s work to strengthen community spaces where people can connect and co-operate.

“We are delighted to receive this grant, which will really boost efforts to create shared spaces in the Ambleside area,” said Rhona Pringle from CAfS. “We’ll be able to run two ‘Community Conversations’ around how spaces in Ambleside could be used in a way that better meets local needs and priorities, and we’ll explore people’s connection with food and growing as part of this.”

Following on from these sessions, there will be three workshops to bring the community together, on themes such as Incredible Edible activities, Fare Share meals, health and wellbeing.

“Thanks to this funding, and support from South Lakeland District Council, we’re also excited to be able to organise an evening with Pam Warhurst, one of the co-founders of the Incredible Edible movement,” Rhona added. “Pam’s talk will hopefully inspire individuals and organisations to engage in conversations about use of shared space and how they could get involved in practical activities.”

The event will be open to other communities across South Lakeland, encouraging groups to network together and share information, and to build a wider community of interest to support each other in the future.

“Training for Ambleside Action for a Future volunteers is an important part of the grant, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to sustain the organisation and activities in the future – from first aid to working with volunteers and vulnerable adults,” Rhona said.

“The funding will support Ambleside Action for a Future to establish an organisation to take their shared spaces work forward. Through their Incredible Edible Group, they’ll work with local community organisations, such as the school, to deliver this exciting programme for the benefit of their community.”

Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran, said:

“Strong communities play a crucial role in tackling loneliness and social isolation. This £1.6 million worth of funding will create and enhance local spaces that bring people together, encouraging them to make new and lasting friendships.

“It is part of our ongoing commitment to work hand in hand with local communities to build a shared, integrated and socially responsible society.”

Jim Cooke, Head of the Co-op Foundation, said:

“Our Space to Connect partnership with Government builds on our commitment to strengthen communities and tackle loneliness through co-operation.

“Grants awarded today will empower people to work together to make better use of spaces to address local challenges, improving the well-being and skills of their whole community.”

Space to Connect was launched in June 2019, at the same time as Co-op’s Endangered Spaces campaign to protect, support and improve 2,000 community spaces by 2022.