Lincolnshire is more than just Lincoln
Blog by Lorna Leach, Director of Transformation
The title of this blog is a reoccurring theme in the many conversations I’ve had with colleagues, stakeholders and residents since even before I started at Active Lincolnshire, and it's one of the reasons our annual stakeholder event, Moving Together: Levelling the Playing Field Across Lincolnshire on the 12th September is being held in Boston this year.
When I interviewed for the role of Director of Transformation I stated my intention to live on the coast. There was some concern and disbelief, did I know how far that was from the office (in Lincoln) and I said something like...
"How can I make decisions that are intended to positively impact the lives of the people who live in some of the most challenging places for leading an active life in Lincolnshire, if I don’t know what it is like to live there?"
I cannot physically live in every part of the county, (technically I don’t live there at all I live in NE Lincs) but I can live in similar conditions as many of the least active residents of Lincolnshire, experiencing the change in population between winter and summer, the completely different weather to inland (tankers using fog horns to identify themselves whilst Lincoln is bathed in sunshine) and the challenges of reliable public transport and lower abundance of core services.
Place matters. We feel an affiliation to where we live and work and how I frame those places will be different to how my neighbours and my colleagues define them.
Whilst I can’t live everywhere, I can go everywhere. Initially I asked local authority partners to host me for a day, show me their patch which several did, enthusiastically introducing me to local organisations, people from the community, taking me to see the villages and towns, introducing me to great cake, parks, and people. I asked for recommendations on where else to go and now I go to those towns and villages to work, giving me the chance to see and feel life flow around me, where where people go, what amenities are there, how hard is it to get to and from each place.
I go because when you're in a position of privilege it is hard to recognise and understand the reality of the inequalities others experience and I believe it is our duty to do what we can to identify the limit of our experiences, acknowledge our preconceptions and presumptions and challenge them for validity.
Data-sets get us so far in our decision making. It allows us to label an area for example ‘deprived’ but the people who live there will use other words. They’ll have places they love, hate, access, avoid, roads they cross and roads they don’t for so many reasons.
In the past few months several pieces of work that sit across the 6-strands of the Let’s Move Lincolnshire strategy have identified East Lindsey particularly Mablethorpe as a focus area. In some instances, it’s because there are services missing at a local level (2-hour bus to relevant health services), opportunities we assume exist but currently appear to be invisible, and in a more positive light there is investment coming to improve infrastructure, policy and service level institutions keen to improve and support local organisations with ideas who are seeking collaborators to find them.
What’s missing for me (and the team at Active Lincolnshire) is that real-life input into our knowledge. The person-centric, tell us as it is version that can only be gotten by going to a place, and applying an Asset-Based Community Development approach of asking questions and listening, lots and lots of listening. We’ll be guided by things like the nine catalyst questions shared by Cormac Russell of Nurture Development
Several members of the team and I will be in Mablethorpe in October, and I will continue to work far and wide across Lincolnshire. In fact, if you want to show me your place(s), talk about your plans, dreams and aspirations, and explore how physical activity can play its part in making things happen then please let me know. I’d love to meet you and see the place you live and/or work.
Get in touch by email: Lorna.Leach@activelincolnshire.com
Main image: Clockwise from Top Left: Holbeach Community Hub, Boston United FC, Boston Town Centre, Skegness Beach