Covid secure space allows expansion of East Durham community support

Jul 24, 2021 | Leisure & Lifestyle

Vital community support programmes, halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, can now return safely thanks to funding from a local housing association.

Residents in east Durham, with a particular focus on Blackhall Rocks, Deneside in Seaham, Shotton Colliery, Wheatley Hill and Wingate are set to benefit from East Durham Trust’s new Citizen Story Space, thanks to funding from believe housing.

Located at the trust’s Peterlee headquarters, the Citizen Story Space aims to help people who’ve suffered with isolation reconnect and re-engage with wider society and the trust’s services.

The open area space, which will be created in partnership with local community interest company, Woodcraft for Landscapes, will allow East Durham Trust to expand their vital community support programmes in a COVID secure manner. Adding to the recently built Arts Café space, the Citizen Story Space will transform the outdoor areas into multi-functional spaces. The charity hopes to use the space to deliver a range of activities including family support sessions, men’s wellbeing activities, arts and crafts workshops and theatre performances.

As part of transformation, local arts company ‘The Barn at Easington’ will be working with specialist outdoor arts provider ‘Under The Sun’ and well known North East based chainsaw artists Ste Iredale to create new art works to be permanently exhibited in the garden. These will include ceramic tiles made by the communities of Blackhall, Seaham, Shotton, Wheatley Hill and Wingate plus a sculptural ‘Story Chair’ that will act as a focal point for story space.  It will also provide volunteer opportunities for members of the local community to develop new skills.

The creation of the Citizen Story Space will be made possible through the work of East Durham Trust supported by believe housing’s community funding programme. The County Durham based Housing Association provided £17,965 towards the garden space.

Director of Neighbourhoods and Customer Experience at believe housing, Ian Porter, said: “We know that our local community groups deliver fantastic services which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and they have found it very challenging to provide the important support to residents in their communities.

“It was great to provide this funding for East Durham Trust through our community funding programme, to ensure that they can continue to support our local communities and provide support for those who’ve felt isolated during the pandemic.”

Graham Easterlow, CEO of East Durham Trust said: “As we continue to support our communities through the Covid pandemic having accessible and safe outdoor spaces are vital. We are really excited to be creating a special place that people of all ages can access and enjoy for many years to come”

The Citizen Story Space is set to be launched as part of a four-day arts festival staged at East Durham Trust’s Arts Café over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It is the latest in a series of community led projects to receive funding from believe housing. The organisation’s community funding programme has created a social impact valued at more than £2m across County Durham.