Deirdre Hounsom Director of Creative Retreats Blog 8th March 2019
I’m writing this blog post on International Women’s Day in celebration of the day and to all women who continue to inspire, struggle and survive in this world today and to announce the fact that I am standing as a political candidate in the May local Council Elections!
Re-locating from Maidenhead in the Thames Valley to the beautiful Sid Valley in East Devon twelve years ago, I have become very involved with the local East Devon community, For the last three years as Chair of the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan, then as a trustee for Sid Valley HELP, a local charity which signposts people to the help they need when they need it.
To satisfy my creativity I am the Outreach Coordinator for the local branch of the Arts Society. This entails working with both young people in our schools as well as with the Retirement Community in their residential homes.
So what prompted my decision to stand for Sidmouth Town Council? I would like to put all the knowledge I have gained over the past three years of working on the neighbourhood plan to good use, I have a lot of energy and an innate desire to help people, whether it’s through coaching, voluntary work or organising people.
What as a local councillor can I can offer local residents? I want to see the Town Council take a more dynamic role, with a focus on regenerating our high street to reduce the number of empty shops.
I understand that this is a national problem but since Sidmouth derives most of its income from tourism, this does not encourage visitors to come back and stay in our lovely valley. One of the policy areas in or Neighbourhood Plan is Economic Resilience and this will only be brought about by a willingness of the community to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions, sharing space, both office and retail and in encouraging young people to stay and work in the town rather than seeking jobs in the bigger towns and cities. To this end, I will ensure that Sidmouth receives its fair share of available and national funds by being pro-active in seeking grants and even lottery bids. I plan to champion Health and Wellbeing services and am keen to develop youth programmes to inspire this next generation.
There is no denying that the Sid Valley is a favoured retirement area with a very high percentage of residents being over 80 , this weighting towards the very elderly will only increase as medical research continues to advance and people live far longer than they did even thirty years ago.
What can we in Sidmouth do to address this in-balance? We must aim to integrate the different sectors of the community more. The arts and the creative industries offer many opportunities to do this. In the Netherlands younger university students needing accommodation have been invited to take up the spare capacity in residential homes and this has proved to a be a Win/Win solution for both generations. As Outreach Coordinator for the Sidmouth branch of the Arts Society I have helped to a fund a new Potter’s Wheel for Sidmouth College and we hope that some of our older residents will visit the college to use the wheel along with the Sixth Form students. We are planning an exhibition of art works from both the schools and the retirement homes in the summer which helps to create a a strong link and understanding between the generations.
I believe that if we talk to individuals of all ages across the community and find out what makes a person’s life richer we can help to create a healthy, happy and integrated community. A pipe- dream? Utopia? Well verging on that but what is the alternative? To do nothing and watch our beautiful town, coast and valley slide into stagnation as the young people leave because they feel that they have no future here? This will leave the older generation with no-one to care for them as the younger people starting off on careers or returning from university cannot afford to buy property in a town dominated by wealthy older incomers? We need to be creative in our thinking for our society to thrive in the challenging climate of today. It needs women more than ever to continue to be the great movers and shakers that we know we are!
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s 1874 poem ‘Ode’,
Happy International Women’s Day!
Deirdre 8th March 2019