This year I, and four of my Colwyn Bay colleagues, were invited to drink the nectar of community and be fortified by the food of greater consciousness at Locality ‘18.

It’s a tribe, see. Passionate and wholly committed to each other and mutually supportive in all that they do. How could one say no?

We found ourselves in the chosen gathering point at The Marriott Hotel in central Bristol on a cloudy Wednesday morning. There followed two days of consciousness-raising, two days of bonding, much inspirational conversation and quite a lot of good food and drink.

I’d rushed from the station to the venue and arrived scarcely in time to shed my bags, register and grab a coffee before the CEO gathered us for a collective “HELLO” and “let’s get this show on the road”.

Workshops and discussions

We got on with our practical agenda – big plenary, collective sessions of all five hundred plus of us as drivers to our activation. Plus, smaller information-packed workshops and visits to hone our tools of persuasion and resilience.

We’d preregistered for our “break-outs” and my first was on housing. Being ambitious I’d chosen “Can your organisation help deliver the affordable homes your community needs?” It’s a high personal priority for me, for the whole Glyn area in which I live, and for who I was representing at this gathering. It was important to many others, too, as the meeting room was packed to the gunnels with over fifty of us.

“Big fish, varied diet – does size still matter?” was a quizzically entitled expert-led-interactive-workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed. Well structured, well-paced and deftly chaired, the session talked through the benefits of having an accumulation of social and/or physical capital behind your social enterprise.

From Leeds came the disinvest in capital items – “Bid for contracts assuming low capital costs but high project management outlays”. The London project contrasted as one with an extensive – and expensive – capital asset which was integral to their present and future planning.

We then embarked on as good a group discussion as you can get – very informative and engaging. I participated quite a lot but, in truth, cannot recall what I – or anyone else – said. Does this matter? No, of course not, as all that’s good sticks and, as needed, will be recalled.

Networking’s easier with food

The food at Locality Convention was great. My gluten free request was catered for – and there were obviously several others with the same wish. But food and drinks were just the context for networking and we all did shedloads of that!

Stalls or exhibition stands carried experts behind each one, to quiz on topics as varied as community asset transfer, community-run health and social care, good finance (lots on loans!), the law, energy provision and even “Making sense of geological disposal” of nuclear waste.

But networking was primarily talking with other delegates. Then, whilst talking, a guy came up and said “You didn’t get an answer, did you? And it was a bloody good question, too!” Superb, I thought, and enthusiastically engaged in a twenty-minute conversation with a “Tree shepherd” from London. He doesn’t work with woodlands but uses the concept generated in the charming little book “The man who planted trees”, as one who has regenerated a desolate community.

A moving end to Locality Convention

In the final plenary session, there were a series of TED-style talks by inspiring people, talking of some exciting work or ideas they’d experienced.

To bring things to a close was a heartfelt story from Miriam Delogu, from The Circle in Bristol’s city centre, and her eight-year crusade to tame it, humanise it and render it safe for all-comers. Clearly often traumatic, with physical and mental personal attacks upon her, and sometimes seeming close to tears, this brave soul provided a noble role model for all of us in the room.

Chris Hemmings

Glyn Ward Invest Local