'Exciting and adventurous' - How aboutDereham works for our community

District cllr Paul Claussen, district cllr Alison Webb and Mike Webb, chair of aboutDereham Partners

Mike Webb (right) pictured with Breckland councillors Paul Claussen and Alison Webb - Credit: Archant

In our latest Dereham column, MIKE WEBB, chair of the aboutDereham partnership, tells of how the group came together, and the work it is doing to improve the town. 

Let me start by saying that, yes, aboutDereham is spelt with a little ‘a’, a capital ‘D’, and it is all one word. And we called ourselves aboutDereham because that’s what we are!

We set up aboutDereham three years ago because a number of us felt that the many community and voluntary organisations in and around Dereham should come together. People are often heard to say that there is nothing going on in the town and that nobody cares. This is simply not true. There always have been lots of organisations, some small, some large, which have done, and continue to do, a great deal of good for the town.

Three years ago, the most prominent organisations were, perhaps, Dereham Carnival, the Mid-Norfolk Railway, the Friends of Dereham Memorial Hall, the Blues Festival, and Love Dereham. Often hidden from public view are smaller, quieter, specialist organisations such as Meeting Point, Dereham Cancer Care, Dereham Oddfellows, and many others, often involving only a small number of people, but which do important work in the community. The last year of the pandemic has wreaked a certain amount of havoc and a number of organisations have folded or gone into hibernation, while Dereham Cares popped up to fill a gap and the Mid Norfolk Foodbank has seen greatly increased use.

Mike Webb

Mike Webb, chairman of aboutDereham - Credit: Submitted

We originally imagined that aboutDereham would be mostly about voluntary and community organisations working together, advertising our organisations, helping with funding applications, jointly promoting events, and so on.

Certainly, one of the first projects our members wanted was a website on which they could say something about their organisations and link to their own websites.

The aboutDereham.org website was created and has since been developed to include an events listing, links to Facebook and Twitter, and to fill the gap that existed previously, by providing a single source of information and events for the whole town and surrounding villages. Have a look!

It was clear that our member organisations have strong views about the town and what needs to change. We started publicising some of our ideas and talking to local politicians and councils.

Most Read

A couple of members were uncomfortable with what they saw as ‘political’ activities and resigned.

However, those that remained agree that we should campaign for what we believe will be good for the town.

Of necessity, this involves talking to the town, district and county councils and other relevant bodies because they have the power, and (sometimes!) money to spend on things that we want. We do not think this is ‘political’; it’s being pragmatic.

Chair of aboutDereham Mike Webb, inspecting the proofs of the wayfinding signs

Chair of aboutDereham Mike Webb, inspecting the proofs of the wayfinding signs - Credit: Carolyn Coleman

Our most significant achievements include the aboutDereham website, the new, colourful town guide, the ‘wayfinding’ project that will result in new pedestrian direction signs and some amazing information panels installed at major landmarks in the town.

Finally, our work with Breckland Council will soon result in a new community area ‘The Ellenor Fenn Garden’ beside Wrights Walk in the Dencora development, where the shabby blue hoardings are currently.

Ellenor Fenn Garden design

A vision for how the Ellenor Fenn Garden may be laid out. - Credit: aboutDereham

At present, we are spending a lot of time and energy contributing to the Town Plan project being run by Breckland Council.

This gives us, and others, the opportunity to make the case for the things that need doing in the town and that have been left undone for many years.

Watch this space for a refurbished Market Place, more pedestrian-only areas, less traffic in the town centre and efforts to make the town cleaner and more attractive.

I have been involved in many community organisations over the years, but can confidently say that aboutDereham is the most exciting, adventurous and successful and also that my colleagues on the aboutDereham Management Team are the best ever!

You can now join aboutDereham as an organisation or as an individual. Businesses can use the aboutDereham website to promote their businesses and link to their own websites. See aboutdereham.org/join-us/