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Julie - Crafting Connections in Arkwright Town and Chesterfield
Julie and her creations image.jpg

"The Arkwright Craft Group and the Wetherspoons Crochet Group are both small enough for everyone to speak to everyone and really get to know each other.  It’s lovely to see that happening, for me and for them—it makes it worthwhile to carry on. That’s what it was all about in the beginning—bringing people together."

Julie, a retiree from a 25-year office job in Kent, found herself in a new chapter of life in Arkwright Town, Derbyshire. Seeking a sense of purpose and belonging, Julie embarked on a journey that not only transformed her life but also knit together the community around her.

Retirement often marks the beginning of a new chapter, and for Julie, this transition went along with relocating from Kent to Derbyshire. Settling in the ex-mining village of Arkwright Town on the outskirts of Chesterfield, Julie quickly realised the importance of forging connections in her new community. In her quest for friendship and a sense of purpose, Julie stepped out of her comfort zone and embarked on a journey that has not only enriched her own life but others too.

 

Julie recounts her initial experiences, emphasising the significance of inclusion and acceptance in a new place. In her pursuit of connection and community, Julie found solace in simple yet profound activities.

 

"I was out and about walking my dog but didn’t feel like I knew anyone, my neighbours. I thought, unless you go out with a dog you don’t really see anyone." This realisation sparked a desire to build a sense of community and belonging, whilst challenging the attitude that newcomers can’t be accepted until they have lived somewhere for years. "I wanted to change that,"

 

"Now I spend my time teaching people, sharing my skills and interests and being with people for a chat and a cup of tea. A few hours together whether crafting or talking—it's just nice to spend time with other people."

 

Crafting Connections - The Birth of Arkwright Town's Craft Group

 

Julie's journey into volunteering as a community organiser began with her involvement in The Morrisons Craft and Chat group, held at the Chatsworth Road Morrisons store in Chesterfield. A simple advertisement seeking people to crochet items for the British Legion caught her attention, despite her being a complete novice to crocheting!

 

“Back then I wasn’t so skilled but I got on YouTube and did it! I then decided to go to a meeting at Morrison’s to find out more."

 

This decision marked the beginning of Julie's involvement in crafting various creations, raising funds for charities and becoming an essential part of a community that values both creativity and compassion.

 

After staff changes left the group without a leader, Julie stepped up to keep the group going, and, with the support of the Feeling Connected project, Julie secured funding for essential wool and craft supplies.

 

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway:

 

Julie's inspiration to create two more community groups in Arkwright Town was drawn from her time spent at The Hub @ Low Pavement in Chesterfield. Witnessing the positive impact that Coordinator Helen was making, she thought,

 

"Maybe I could do that as well—it would be something I could do for the residents locally in my new home."

 

Starting with a Coffee Morning, Julie successfully applied for a micro grant from the Feeling Connected Project.  They also helped to design a leaflet, which Julie hand-delivered across Arkwright Town, inviting residents to join in. Julie was delighted with the response.  20 locals attended the first meet-up, expressing their enjoyment and how it gave them something locally to get together.

 

“I was nervous to approach my neighbours, worried that no one would turn up or be interested.  The Feeling Connected team really helped me to just do it,  they helped not only with the poster but my confidence too”

 

Simultaneously, Julie initiated The Arkwright Craft Group, applying for funding to provide craft supplies.  Julie scheduled more dates for both groups at The Arkwright Centre, and the Craft group, in particular, has become an important local hub for socialising, learning, and community building. Julie said, “Some people bake at home and then bring cakes to share.  One lady regularly comes in and likes to teach so she will bring her (craft) project in to share and others can learn”. 

Ongoing support from Feeling Connected:

 

Julie acknowledges the challenges of community involvement, saying, "It can be difficult to encourage people to come out of their homes and join in community events or activities."

 

Recognising that this can be disheartening, especially when a community group is in its early stages, the Feeling Connected Team provides one-to-one mentoring with individually tailored advice along with other avenues of support including group workshops.  This all helps to boost volunteer organiser confidence and commitment as well as increasing community participation.

 

Reflecting on her experience, Julie expresses gratitude for the ongoing support from the Feeling Connected Project, emphasising the importance of the supportive network.

 

"Being part of the Feeling Connected Family gives me a sense of being part of something bigger and a sense of belonging, which is incredibly important to me."

 

"It’s been nice to connect at the Feeling Connected workshops with other people doing similar things to what I’m doing. Just being able to bounce ideas off people has given me reassurance."

 

"It’s fantastic! If you have an idea and want to start something, it will be fully supported, and it’s nice to have that backing, especially just starting."

 

 

The transformative power of connection and purpose:

 

Julie's journey, from a newcomer to the area to an active part of her community,  is a testament to the transformative power of connection and purpose. Through her voluntary efforts, she has created not just crafting groups but nurturing spaces where individuals can forge friendships, share skills, and contribute to charitable causes and their own wellbeing.

 

Julie's story is an inspiring one filled with resilience, compassion, and community building. Her commitment to fostering a sense of belonging in her new home has not only enriched her life but has become a beacon for others seeking connection and purpose in their own chapters of life. As Julie aptly puts it,

 

"I have the best job in the world. I get to do a craft I love, crochet lovely things, meet friends at the groups, and stay at home when I want to and be with my dog”.

 

"Both craft groups are small enough for everyone to speak to everyone and really get to know each other.  It’s lovely to see that happening, for me and for them—it makes it worthwhile to carry on. That’s what it was all about in the beginning—bringing people together."

 

To find out more about all the free support available to community-based volunteer organisers click here>

 

 

Note – The Morrisons Craft and Chat group has now relocated to The Portland Hotel in the centre of Chesterfield and is now called The Wetherspoons Crotchet Group

The Arkwright Craft Group is now held in the Arkwright Community Building

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Crafters in action
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