Between 12 -13 November 2019, over 500 delegates from local community organisations across the country congregated in Leeds for Locality Convention ’19.
Locality Convention ’19 gave us real hope: a space for community organisations to collaborate; actionable ideas for empowering vulnerable people; and numerous real-life examples of how we can work together to heal society’s ruptures.

Our Convention is the biggest community sector event of the year, bringing together founders, funders, councillors, community partners and many more people who believe in the power of community to create a fairer society.

With Locality Convention ’19 taking place during a deeply divisive General Election season, one of the key themes that emerged was the vital role that community organisations can (and do) play in fostering community cohesion and togetherness.

Locality Convention ’19 gave us real hope amid this divisiveness: a space for community organisations to collaborate; actionable ideas for empowering vulnerable people in our communities; and numerous real-life examples of how we can work together to heal society’s ruptures.

Providing a poignant focal point for this was Kim Leadbeater, sister to Jo Cox and Ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation. Kim’s moving speech reminded us that the best way to remember Jo and build upon her legacy is to stand up for the values she fought for.

A huge thanks to all Locality members, partners, speakers and friends for joining us in Leeds’ beautiful art-deco Queens Hotel, and making Locality Convention ’19 such an inspiring, hopeful and memorable event.

In this blog we outline our key messages and take-homes from this year’s Convention. However, we know that so much more happened under our radar.

Please share your Convention ’19 highlights with us and the world using the hashtag #Locality19.

Plenaries

Unlocking the Power of Community

Locality Convention ’19 kicked off bright and early on a chilly Tuesday morning, with a session aimed at exploring the meaning of ‘The power of community’.

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Locality, and Mark Law, Chair of Locality, launched the event with a warm welcome. Tony followed this up by dancing a  jazz-hands jig (encouraging us all to make friends and mingle) and asking everyone in the room to work with their neighbour to identify their ‘Big Idea to unlock the power of community’ and share it with the wider world via a #Locality19 selfie!

Councillor Debra Coupar, Deputy Leader of Leeds Council, then set the scene for the convention perfectly with a nod to some of the incredible, innovative work taking place within walking distance of the Convention.

Debra was then joined on stage by Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, and Julia Preston, CEO of GIPSIL Ltd, each of whom gave real-life examples of how community organisations have transformed the lives of local people in their area.

Building Power Partnerships

Chaired by Tony Armstrong and Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change, our Tuesday afternoon plenary focussed on the benefits and challenges of relationship building.

The session started with Tony and Vidhya discussing the evolution of Locality’s relationships with Power to Change. In this funny but candid exchange, Tony and Vidhya highlighted both the hurdles they had faced and the actions they had taken to jump them; Together building a robust relationship that works in the benefit of members and the local community sector as a whole.

We were then treated to four fascinating case studies where councils and funders have worked in partnership with community organisations to provide solutions to local issues and make tangible social change.

Alison McKenzie-Folan, Chief Executive of Wigan Council, and David Baxter, Chief Executive of Abram Ward Community Cooperative, discussed the Wigan deal.

Kersten England, CEO of Bradford Council and Tony Dylak, Chief Executive of Royds Community Association, talked about their strategic partnership in Bradford.

Dawn Austwick,Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, and Kimberly Frangos, Trustee of New Wortley Community Association, told us about their work in Leeds.

Protest Songs not protest chants

On Wednesday morning we were all shaken awake by the powerful voices of the Commoners Choir. While the Commoners Choir sing about issues of inequality and injustice, they always do so with a sense of solidarity and hope. This session gave us an opportunity to lift our voices in (harmonic) rage and gave us a lesson in the power and potential of creative activism.

For the rest of the day, we could hear their warm, welcoming words: “…and you’re more than welcome here, ‘cause we’re citizens of the world” echoing down the corridors.

The curtain was brought down on Locality Convention ’19 by five truly inspiring, at times even spine-tingling “TED-style” talks.

Kim Leadbeater, sister to Jo Cox and Ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation begun the session with a speech, at once moving and uplifting, that looked at how her own work (and our work as a network) can help to keep Jo Cox’s memory alive through bringing communities together and bridging divides.

Kim remained on stage to introduce four more incredible speakers: Anji Barker of Newbigin Community Trust, Scott Richards of Project 6, Paul Butler of The Selby Trust and Brian Dawe of Safe Regeneration Limited.

Each talk had its own ‘wow’ moment.

Anji Barker told a heart-warming, belly–laugh inducing story of how marching alpacas around the streets of Winson Green helped revive community spirit in their (unjustly) maligned Birmingham neighbourhood.

Scott Richards gave a hugely affecting account of how he overcame addiction and personal tragedy to inspire positive change in others.

Paul Butler discussed the creative methods he has used (including becoming an ‘undercover’ beneficiary) to gain an understanding of the work of the Selby Trust and build real connections with his colleagues and clients.

Brian Dawe took us on a journey – explaining how SAFE Regeneration has grown from being an artist-led grassroots group to a multi-million pound organisation.

Visits

One of the real benefits of hosting our Convention in a different location each year, is the opportunity to highlight the amazing work being carried out by local community organisations.

Each year our delegates are given the chance to get first-hand experience of the work of pioneering community organisations and social enterprises that are making a big difference locally.

This year’s visits proved just what a vibrant and supportive place Leeds is for people passionate about driving forward positive change.

Our visits this year included: Headingley Development Trust, Canopy Housing, East Street Arts and Bramley Fun Bus.

Headingley Development Trust

Headingley Development Trust has blazed a trail as a member-led organisation; responding to local needs and concerns whilst generating its own income.

Canopy Housing

This visit gave an insight into the incredible work of Canopy Housing. Canopy work with homeless people and volunteers to renovate empty houses in Leeds. Once the houses are brought back to life, the homeless people working on the house are able to move in.

East Street Arts

Delegates visiting East Street Arts were given the chance to see how artists and art have helped to create real social change at the community level.

Bramley Fun Bus

Delegates who jumped on board the Bramley Fun Bus had the opportunity to find out about Barca Leeds, Bramley Elderly Action and the Edwardian Bramley Baths.

Holbeck Neighbourhood Plan

Guided by the Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum, delegates visited locations covered by Holbeck neighbourhood plan, as well as popping into The Holbeck, Britain’s oldest social club, now run by local arts group Slung Low.

Workshops

During the convention, delegates had the opportunity to choose between a wide range of workshops, designed to give them practical skills and knowledge relevant to their cause, to take home and action.

Workshops this year included tips on topics ranging from funding and financial resilience to storytelling, measuring impact to responding to the climate emergency.

Locality Awards Ceremony

Now in its second year, our Locality Awards ceremony provided Locality Convention ’19 with a real feel-good moment – giving everyone the chance to let their hair down while celebrating the achievements of some of the most inspiring people and organisations in the Locality network.

This year the awards were hosted by the effervescent Howard Bradley of LS14 who had us all in fits of laughter throughout with his power moves and punchlines. Howard was expertly assisted by two of the Locality membership team, Jo Williams (who elegantly zipped-lined into the room via the magic of video) and Kathryn Roper.

Congratulations to all our nominees and awards winners. Each and every one of you deserved a prize. As a result of your work, all of your communities are winning every day!

Huge thanks to the sponsor of this Locality Awards ’19, Wrigleys Solicitors.

This year’s winners were:

Power of Community Award – sponsored by Investors in Community: NEDCare CIC

Transforming Lives Award – sponsored by Unity Trust Bank: Family Gateway

Bringing Communities Together Award – sponsored by Endsleigh: Newbigin Community Trust

Partnership Award: Edberts House

Enterprising Organisation Award: Charles Burrell Centre

Save Our Spaces Award: Byrne Avenue Trust

Keep It Local Award – sponsored by Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales: South Gloucester Council

A huge thank you also goes to this year’s award sponsors – Wrigleys Solicitors, Investors In Community, Unity Trust Bank, Endsleigh and Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.

Locality Manifesto and the ‘Big ideas for uncertain times’ stand

Locality took the opportunity to launch its election manifesto during the Convention. Our manifesto outlines our main policy proposals for the next government – investment in and strengthening of the local community sector – with the aim of harnessing the power of community to create a fairer society.

Delegates were also given the chance to have their say on Locality’s future policy direction by joining us at the ‘Big Ideas Stand’ to discuss the main challenges they are facing, the lessons they have learned and their ideas about the future of the community sector.

Making connections and networking

This year networking at our Convention was made even easier with the introduction of our Locality Convention ’19 app, powered by Brella. This app gave our delegates the chance to match and arrange a meeting with delegates with similar experiences, needs and interests.

It was incredible to see so many people taking this opportunity to share their ideas and experiences. Over 60% of delegates used the app during convention and 190 meetings were arranged!

Locality Convention ’20

With the whirlwind of ideas and inspiration that was Locality Convention ’19 now over, this is where the action really starts! We are looking forward to seeing how some of the lessons you learned in Leeds, impact on your work over the coming year.

Of course, a special thank you must go to this year’s sponsors and supporters. None of this would have been possible without your incredible support.

You can relive your favourite moments of Locality Convention ’19 by taking a leaf through our facebook photo album.

Congratulations also go to Vicki Beere, our Locality Convention ’19 photo competition winner. Your wonderful shot of Kim and Scott really summed up the feeling of the two days. You have won a free ticket to Locality Convention ’20!

Talking of next year – we are delighted to announce that Locality Convention ’20 will be taking place in the Venice of the Midlands itself – Birmingham!

See you on 10 – 11 November 2020 for our next round of learning, laughter, creativity and comradery!

In the meantime, why not keep the positive feeling created at Locality Convention ’19 alive by booking on to one of our Power of Community 2020 meetings: Book Your Place Here.