Images by Len Grant 2019.

MOSS BAY, CUMBRIA 

The area: The area is located in West Cumbria, near to Workington and covers the Moss Bay ward and Salterbeck. It is a coastal area quite isolated from the rest of Cumbria. Travel by public transport to neighbouring towns and cities is both difficult and expensive and car ownership is low. The local steel works closed many years ago causing widespread and long-term unemployment and residents have been hard hit by social and environmental decline ever since.

Who we are: We have called ourselves ‘Solway Views’ and we include local residents, representatives from Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council, Workington Academy, and third sector organisations. We are also collaborating with ‘West Cumbria Works’ which represents several major employers. St Mary’s Church Westfield is the local community organisation (CoReN) helping to recruit and support local residents to get involved. The Cumbria Health and Wellbeing Forum acts as the Local Oversight Group for the local work.

What we have done: Local community conversations led by residents identified a number of concerns including:

  • feeling lonely
  • worrying about the future for children
  • the closure or cutting back of local services
  • difficulty getting around on public transport
  • financial worries, like the constant struggle to make ends meet.

Residents are especially worried about the lack of employment opportunities for themselves, family members, friends and for Mossbay in general. Men and women of all ages feel they have little chance of getting a job, especially in the new industries that have opened locally because many of the jobs require skills and qualifications they do not have.

Resilience enhancing emerging actions

The Solway Views group is determined to enhance the economic resilience of the area. The group has worked with researchers, the council and an artist (Len Grant) to co-produce a local inquiry that uses personal stories to highlight practical hardships that local people face in seeking employment.

The Solway Views group has used an arts based approach to collect information from local people and produce their findings in an eyecatching booklet and poster exhibition called ‘Work’. The group is now using the artwork to give local policymakers and employers a unique and memorable insight into some of the real life problems local people face.

The group has also produced a short video in which they talk about their area and share some of their personal favourite moments in producing this work. The whole experience of conducting the inquiry and sharing it with policymakers and employers is contributing to the emergence of a new feeling of collective identity and a commitment to improve the area.

  • The Solway Views team includes people who are long term unemployed, local students, and people who are currently working but looking for another job.
  • The team now regularly present the exhibition to a wide range of audiences posing key questions that matter to local people.
  • The Solway Views group has started to talk to some of the big employers through the newly formed Allerdale Work and Skills Group and are seeking out other organisations who want to work with them to do something positive to support people looking for work or seeking a better job.

 

Neighbourhood academic lead Vivien Holt; Email: v.l.holt@lancaster.ac.uk