The Friends of Weston Shore were pleased to be invited to the newly reformed Friends’ Forum, a collection of the Friends groups in Southampton. Friends groups are members of the community who work together to look after particular areas or achieve certain goals. The Friends’ Forum was arranged by Chris Smith of Groundwork South who has been very helpful to us for a long time with the work that we do.
There was a wide range of groups present including representatives of the Friends of Town Quay Park, the Friends of Westwood, Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery and the newly formed Friends of Southampton Sports Centre.
The Southampton Commons and Parks Protection Society were also in attendance. This is an “umbrella” organisation that looks at issues facing Southampton’s many beautiful parks and open spaces.
As an initial meeting, we explored what a Friends’ Forum might achieve and how it can help local groups. In particular, there was interest in training and the exchange of information with the aim of increasing local groups’ skills and competences. This included training in areas such as health and safety (particularly risk assessments) and fund raising. The issues of fund raising and increasing the number of volunteers were raised a number of times during the meeting.
One specific point that was looked at was the need for insurance and how this was obtained and funded. Chris was also keen to remind everyone that volunteering should also be a fun and enjoyable activity as well as providing a satisfying sense of achievement. We also considered the possibility of groups pooling their resources by lending each other equipment and whether the Friends’ Forum needed to be a constituted group especially so it could carry out its own fund raising.
Nick Yeats from Southampton City Council gave a presentation about the work they are involved with and thoughts on the future. He is looking forward to the release of the Green Space Respected Places for Southampton and was keen for us as volunteers to promote the role of parks and open spaces in the life of the city.
It had been a useful session and hope that there will be further meetings of the Friends’ Forum.