THE truth is that communities do grow, especially when it comes to the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership allotments. On Monday evening myself and my good friend Sean Carlin attended a meeting which was hosted by the community driving force Annie Armstrong, a legend in her own right.
What I love about the allotment community is how it grows – and most of all how it’s growing. An idea was suggested by Annie about the use of a piece of land for us, the allotment holders, to volunteer there to grow fresh fruit and veg for those less fortunate and who may presently be relying on foodbanks. A show of hands In support of this agreed that those in favour would contribute their time and effort to see this come to fruition.
After the meeting Sean and myself toured the allotment and spoke with other old timers who know their onions. These guys would bend over backwards to help you and are available for advice on what to grow and when and how to grow it, what tools to use and not use. But most important was the welcome into their fraternity.
The allotment site has its own meeting shed where the holders can meet over a cuppa and Annie and her partnership set up regular workshops on a variety of health and wellbeing matters, from using a defibrillator to the basics of maintaining an allotment. I can honestly put my hand on heart and give Annie and her board a big thumbs-up for how the Colin neighbourhood has grown from back in the days of the Twinbrook Tenants' and Community Association, when we had to beg, borrow and steal to support those who deserved more.
The growth that I see with my own eyes as I look around Twinbrook is astounding; how marvellous it is to see how a fragmented community like Twinbrook, born out of the pogroms of the past, become a settled community with its own identity, not forgetting at that time Bobby Sands MP RIP.
I visited another visionary this week when I called to the home of my buddy, kindred spirit Damien Gibney, a man who along with others saw the potential of growth for Twinbrook and we must remember he was our first Sinn Féin Councillor in Lisburn.
There's many a tale to tell about those early days, when politics were community politics – in my eyes the politics of possibility. Again, this would have not been achieved without that magic word: community. Those were the days of baby steps leading to the later leaps and bounds.
This was also witnessed in City Hall when our Lord Mayor Tina Black held a dinner in honour of another growing community, An Droichead, who are celebrating 30 years. What an honour it was for me to be seated alongside the founders of that community and also with the likes of pharmacist Paul Cooper, another community hero.
Our First Minister Michelle O'Neill spoke of the determination of An Droichead and took us on the journey through the history of An Droichead – an unfinished journey and one that is open to all to join.