Westbourne Academy Students Having A ‘Constructive’ Time

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We visited ERT just before Autumn half term with school representatives to see how the students were doing and below is a report from that visit:

Throughout this academic year a group of 10 Westbourne students are attending Eastern Region Training (Baylham) one day a week to study a BTEC L2 course in Construction and the Built Environment.

This opportunity has been provided through to a collaborative project between The North West Ipswich Big Local Trust, Westbourne Academy and Eastern Region Training.

So far the students have built their own frames, installed flooring, fixed stud walls in place and put on the first coat of paint.

Included in each session are theory lessons based on each aspect of construction which will eventually form part of their final grade. The other aspect considers the quality and finish of their final built project.


A proposal for Vocational Training for local high school students who live in the BLT ‘Pink Area’ was approved by the Partnership for inclusion in our new BIG LOCAL PLAN.

In September 2021 we commissioned Eastern Regional Training (ERT) to provide this training for 10 students at Westbourne Academy

Our interest in pursuing this form of training, which is not a part of the general school curriculum, comes from the view many of us have that post COVID 19 many people will struggle to find gainful employment without vocational skills some of which are currently in high demand, especially in the building industry. The Government have many training courses for adults but this occupational training will give some of our local high school young people a head start in the jobs market having been trained to BTEC level whilst still at school in the highly sought after skills of bricklaying, plastering, plumbing, roofing etc,

A recent press report from the building federation commented that many thousand extra building workers will be needed in the East of England to satisfy demand.

That’s The Way To Do It

North West Big Local Trust knows that lack of funds will often be a barrier to someone from fulfilling their potential.  Part of what we do at Big Local is about recognising the talent and initiative of people in our area where sometimes a bit of funding can make all the difference.

As part of our Inspiration Awards, which are available to any resident of the area who meets certain criteria agreed by resident members, we funded a young person to help achieve their dream of becoming a children’s entertainer.  

Some years ago, 11 year old Tommy Bradshaw, a pupil at one of our local High Schools was identified as someone who fitted the bill.  At the time his mum said “We couldn’t afford to get him a new booth to use for his Punch and Judy performances as it wouldn’t be fair on the other children.  He was making do with a homemade stand constructed by his dad.  But this is what he loves to do and having heard of the Inspiration Award we found a way to support him.  People love his shows, it’s a unique talent and they are always surprised when a little boy appears at the end.” 

Five years on we recently caught up with Tommy, and this is what he says about his Big Local Inspiration Award:

The Big Local Trust were very generous to me for supplying my Punch and Judy theatre. I started Punch and Judy at the age of 5 when a lady based in Claydon came to do a show for my family’s Halloween party, ever since then I’ve always pursued to be a children’s entertainer.

It came to a few years ago when I was in need of a professional Punch and Judy booth to perform. Luckily I managed to get in contact with the North West Ipswich Big Local Trust and I’m so glad the Trust decided to help me out. A few years has now passed by, I am now sixteen years of age and whilst I am studying at college, I am still performing Punch and Judy in the very same booth, as well as other things I do such as children’s discos, children’s magic shows, mascot costumes and more. 

The Big Local Trust has helped me so much for doing this as the booth I got with the grant can fold up nice and small so I am able to travel with ease. Me and my Punch and Judy show have travelled all around Suffolk and beyond. Every May in Covent Garden in London there is a Punch and Judy festival and thanks to the folding booth, I am able to take part in this using public transport.  As soon as I leave education I intend to make this my fulltime job.

Tommy Bradshaw, NW Ipswich BLT Inspiration Awardee

We are all so proud of you Tommy and delighted to have supported you on your way to a successful future.  You have helped us tick 3 of our boxes:  supporting young people, recognising talent and initiative, and enterprise – well done!

Ipswich Without People – View from my window

We are excited to announce the winners of the photographic competition.

The aim of the competition was to encourage children and young people aged from pre-school up to 18 to reconnect with the great outdoors during the Covid-19 lockdown, focusing on what they could see from their window.

There were 4 categories and each winner was rewarded with a £20 Amazon voucher. Special thanks to our Judge, Andy Greenacre – a Suffolk based photographer and artist

Overall winner was Skyla!

The judges particularly loved the mix of man made and nature, also the rainbow image was great.

Skyla wins a voucher and a brand new Sony cyber shot camera!

Thanks also to local resident Rachel Zagni for approaching us with the idea and for all your support to make it a great success!

New Food Bank in NW Ipswich

We are thrilled to be working in partnership with Castle Hill Community Centre Trust to create a new Food Bank to support the community. Based at Castle Hill Community Centre, Highfield Road, to help families in need during this National Emergency. 

We are called the Community Pantry

Volunteers ready to welcome the first customers to the Pantry

The idea behind our Fresh Food Friday project was provide fresh fruit and veg to complement the ambient goods local food banks provided.

Before this crisis period of Covid-19 forced them into isolation, many of our local churches ran food banks and lunch clubs and the idea was to support them but sadly they had to close due to the majority of their volunteers being forced into isolation.Obviously the need was still there, and as the weeks passed it was evident that that need was growing rapidly.

We decided we needed to learn quickly how food banks worked! Luckily we were welcomed into the Food Bank world by organisations like FareShare, Asda, The Bus Shelter, Morrisons & Nansen Road Baptist Church and we will always be grateful for their support. 

We linked with Suffolk County and Ipswich Borough Council’s as well as numerous other local organisations to reach people in need.

Whilst the Community Centre remained closed to the public under government rules, they have permitted food bank teams to work and we are happy to report we have managed to meet all the referrals made to us thanks to the generosity of donations, including private ones.

If you need urgent support with food please contact Home but not Alone, this is supporting vulnerable people in Suffolk on 0800 876 6926

If you wish to donate any items we will be able to accept these on Mondays starting 18th May between 09:30 and 11:00 at Castle Hill Community Centre.

Please leave any donations in the main entrance porch just inside the red doors so we are observing social distancing. We would welcome any in-date, ambient goods but unfortunately we are not able to store fresh goods or items that need to be refrigerated or frozen.


Fresh Food Friday

When the coronavirus hit we knew there would be many families in our community in need of support, now more than ever, from help getting groceries and prescriptions through to dog walking and all sorts in-between.

We are hearing lots of, sometimes quite harrowing, stories of people who are in real need of help. Many of which were in employment before the crisis but now find themselves without sufficient funds to feed themselves or have no one to shop for them. Some are recovering from major surgery or living with a life limiting condition and others simply struggle every day to make ends meet.

We learnt that some of our local food banks had to close temporarily because the very volunteers that used to run them are themselves now in isolation but we have linked up with others across Ipswich that are still operating and doing an amazing job. However, most of the supplies tend to be dry goods so we thought it would be a good idea to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to those in need so that people can have a more balanced and healthier diet. Fresh Food Friday does just that.

We identify those in most need by a referral process through charitable organisations, Ipswich Borough Council and schools, confirm they live in our area of Whitton Whitehouse and Castle Hill and meet our other criteria and then place an order with local greengrocers such as Kays in Meredith Road who have been incredibly patient and kind, going the extra mile to help the community at a time when they are already dealing with an unprecedentedly high volume of customers.

We include information about the NW Ipswich Big Local Trust Community Garden in the food boxes too so that when this situation is past and we can move around again, people know where to go to learn about growing their own food.

There’s also a wildlife garden with bug piles and bird feeders, craft activities and BBQ’s, there’s a cottage garden, pond and so much more. We share the crops and it’s all free!

Dealing with isolation during Covid-19 and beyond

Sadly, we are seeing an increase in people struggling to cope with isolation  and many of us, at one time or another are going through or know of someone who is going through a tough time. So we’ve put together a list of useful resources for you:

StayAlive App- free app

Advice and tools to help you stay safe

Find help now- get help from emergency or support services

Worried about someone- Identify the signs of suicide and how to help

Myths about suicide- common misunderstandings about suicide

The COVID-19 Emotional Wellbeing information Hub offers resources, guidance, tips and support www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/covidhub


St Elizabeth Hospice- Emotional wellbeing and bereavement services. Their emotional wellbeing enquiry line is available for anyone who is impacted by the current crisis or grief, regardless of whether they have accessed the hospice before or not. The support line provides access to a member of the team who can help find an appropriate service to meet the needs of the individual, from 9am–4pm, 7 days a week. The team are able to provide 1:1 counselling, family support and group support. They specialise in working with clients that are impacted by a life limiting illness and those affected by a bereavement 


Suffolk Family Carers- At My Bedside. If you are a family member, carer or other close support for someone in hospital at the moment, and you need some help to connect with them or support in your own right, please contact Suffolk Family Carers. They, and their partner volunteers, can discuss with you issues such as welfare, companionship, technology requirements, practical and emotional support and access to further resources.

hello@suffolkfamilycarers.org or by tel. 01473 835477.

 Wellbeing Suffolk, are hosting a number of the webinars. No need to register with Wellbeing Suffolk to access this service https://www.wellbeingnands.co.uk/suffolk/ 

The Social Team are also hosting online socials to try to help with isolation

Radio Suffolk – The Friendly Bench

Lyndsey Young of The Friendly Bench CIC speaks to Radio Suffolk’s Lesley Dolphin

When we were told the amazing news that our application for a Friendly Bench had been successful we were thrilled. We know from extensive research, and by chatting to local people, that a lot of us experience feelings of isolation or loneliness in our day.

Add to that traumas such as bereavement, divorce, drug related issues, mental and physical health problems, being new to the community etc, life can be incredibly hard.

If we don’t have someone that we can share our inner most thoughts and feelings with it can sometimes seem impossible to cope.

The idea behind The Friendly Bench CIC was the brainchild of Lyndsey Young, a working mum from Leicestershire who experienced first hand feeling lonely and recognised that there would be others in her community feeling a similar way and she decided she could do something about it.

The Friendly Bench is an integrated seating and planted area that is just beautiful. It is fully accessible and a place that anyone can visit and enjoy, perhaps see another friendly face, someone to chat with, even if it’s just to remark on the weather to begin with. Just that physical act of being outside and speaking to another human being can make all the difference to someones day.

Fight Loneliness in the Community

We are thrilled to announce that our NW Ipswich community is to be awarded a Friendly Bench thanks to National Lottery funding.

Friendly Bench is registered as a Community Interest Company, a social enterprise which tackles loneliness and social isolation, offered  community groups and voluntary organisations across the country to apply for their own Friendly Bench after successfully securing £240K of National Lottery funding.

You may be surprised to learn that this is no ordinary bench, its an active social space with integral planting, where anyone can sit, relax and chat with others.

Each Friendly Bench will also hold a minimum of 12 events each year for the community to enjoy.

The Friendly Bench is specially designed and built following Disability Discrimination Act guidelines. It’s a safe, easily accessible mini community garden with integrated seating and organic, sensory planting.

The Friendly Benches are situated within communities for people to meet, chat, connect, build friendships and find a sense of belonging in a growing disconnected, lonely world. They’re active social hubs where free activities and events are regularly held to encourage everyone to participate, have fun, feel accepted and validated, and develop a support network.

Each The Friendly Bench is community-led, with volunteers running regular activities and events including intergenerational gardening projects such as; ‘Blokes, a brew and banter’ get togethers, afternoon teas and kerbside concerts and we can’t wait to hear ideas from local residents in NW Ipswich!

Launched in March 2018 by Lyndsey Young, The Friendly Bench CIC was created to tackle loneliness, social isolation and community disconnectedness, by using innovative social space, The Friendly Bench. According to the UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 1.2 million lonely older people in the UK, and 9 million lonely people in total – increasing the risk of mortality by 26%, with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

The Friendly Bench has the full backing of Sir Alan Duncan, Rachel Reeves MP, co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness also mentioned The Friendly Bench in her Westminster Hall debate on loneliness.

Lyndsey has also recently been awarded a Points of Light Award for The Friendly Bench from, then Prime Minister, Theresa May. The Friendly Bench won Best Social Enterprise Award at the Grantham Journal Business Awards, 2019, and the RCC Award for Sir Alan Duncan former MP for Rutland and Melton.

Other areas awarded a Friendly Bench are Bury, Chester, East Rugby, Sheffield and Halesowen, with further locations to follow within the next year.

Learning Support Partnership

NW Ipswich Big Local Trust is all about development and empowerment for our residents. It’s not always easy and things don’t change quickly, it takes commitment and determination and here is a great example of one residents dreams coming true.

Malakai Pearson came to us 4 years ago with an idea to offer learning support to children and young people in our community (outside of school) who need an extra helping hand due to dyslexia and other special educational needs.

This all came about from his own experience of not having someone skilled in dyslexia teaching to help with homework and his family struggling to find the right kind of support for their son.

Life wasn’t easy, and made that much harder because there was no one in the area that could really help.

As a young adult, Mal wanted to do something to help the next generation and when he heard about us he got in touch and told us about his experiences and how he wanted to provide a quality service that offers educational support and social activities in a safe place, with a qualified SEN teacher.

Finally, on Monday 16th Sept the Learning Support Partnership (LSP) launches with a taster session.

What is LSP? It’s is a special kind of after school club offering free specialist teaching and support for children aged 7 to 10, and their families. The club will run on a weekly basis on Mondays from 3.30 until 5pm.

There will be 45 minutes specialist teaching in groups of 6 with a qualified teacher plus 45 minutes of play and social time with targeted games and activities to support learning.

We are incredibly proud of you Mal

Fun Dog Show 2019

By popular request, North West Ipswich Big Local Trust held our second Fun Dog Show at Castle Hill Park on Sunday, 8 September.

Following on from last year’s success, the NWI BLT Events Team, ably assisted by a number of volunteers and Ipswich Borough Council Parks, decided to repeat the show with a slightly different slant.

As well as having a large number of entries into the usual dog show, it was decided to expand the offering and invite organisations who had a more specific use for our four legged friends, showing the great work they do and how specially trained dogs improve the lives of many people who suffer from a variety of needs and disabilities.

We were lucky enough to be joined by guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs as well as the RSPCA who re home dogs, matching them carefully to new owners.  It was fascinating to speak to the guide and hearing dogs owners and learn how their dogs had transformed their lives.

One was a young working family man who was profoundly deaf and had all the electronic gizmos going to improve his and his family’s quality of life.  But when he got his hearing dog his life changed for the better almost overnight.  He had so many wonderful stories about how his dog gave him and his family the independence he hadn’t experienced before.

All these organisations are charities and depend for their existence on donations.  We will divide all the money made at the event between the 3 organisations who took up the offer to attend.

We were lucky enough to have good weather and the judging in the dog show was great fun to watch with all ages showing off their dogs, much to the delight of the crowd.  The winners were presented with rosettes by the experienced judge and it was good to see many young people taking part.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed by way of their time and organisations who donated prizes for the draw etc.

Another very successful event for the team – so what next?  Would you like the Dog Show to become an annual event or if you have any ideas of what you would like to see happen in the NWI BLT area (Whitton, Whitehouse and Castle Hill) please let us know on facebook, twitter or using our contact form.