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Positive Carrickfergus is a social movement that began on Facebook and has started to move into the real world. Positive Carrickfergus aims to create a more connected Carrickfergus, to build community and a sense of place.
Started by Lee Robb in October 2017 in response to yet another negative Facebook thread about how hopeless Carrick is, the closed Facebook group now has over 2,000 members and continues to grow. Lee, like so many people who live in Carrickfergus, avoided getting involved in the life of the town for many years. However, after developing an interest in systems change and place based approaches to change, Lee recognised that she was part of the problem and decided to use her knowledge, skills and experience to step up and help to shape a more Positive Carrickfergus.
Using an asset based community development approach, Positive Carrickfergus promotes the good things that are already happening in Carrick to challenge the dominant negative narrative that stops people from telling good stories about the town and participating in civic and community life. By deliberately thinking about Carrick as a whole, rather than ‘areas of need’ or specific communities in need and working to break down boundaries between, for example, local businesses, community groups and the council, Positive Carrickfergus raises the visibility of people who are beavering away making Carrick a better place and highlights that there is so much more going on than most people thought - a common refrain from Positive Carrickfergus members.
In June this year, Positive Carrickfergus held its first Big Lunch in the Town Hall, a chronically underused community asset in the centre of the town. In a place that has been identified as having ‘low social capital’, that event attracted around 110 people who all brought food to share and crowdfunded almost £100 more than was needed to put on the event. They are planning to hold another Big Lunch in the autumn and a leftovers Big Lunch between Christmas and New Year. In addition, by sharing the Creative Shops project run by Big Telly, MEA council picked up the idea and a Creative Shop opened for 8 weeks in Carrick on 20 August. Meet Up Mondays, another project shared on the Facebook page as a suggestion for Carrick, is currently being planned by Lee in collaboration with 2 local churches, Good Morning Carrickfergus, Seeds Carrickfergus and Ownies Pub and Bistro to bring together people who are feeling disconnected and isolated.
Lee has big plans for Positive Carrickfergus and Carrickfergus in general and is buoyed up by people telling her that Positive Carrickfergus is the ‘most exciting thing to happen in Carrick for a long time’. She has worked hard to build her own connections in the town and outside it but she could do with some help. People in Carrick have talked for a long time about tourists or the council as the potential saviours of the town. One day she’d like to tell the story of a town that came together to save itself.