Commons Touch - A Community Feel

There was a real buzz on the air at my Over 50s Fair last Friday. St Mary’s Church in Ashford Town Centre was packed with more than thirty stalls, and I am delighted that those who attended, from all ages over 50, said that they found it useful and enjoyable.

What I found particularly heartening was that many of the stallholders themselves found it interesting to meet each other, and learn the ways they all find new members, supporters or customers. Cross fertilisation of ideas was happening in a major way, and I suspect will lead to even greater things for these various groups in future.

The other visible piece of good news was just how many groups catering for older people there are in Ashford, and how varied are their offerings. It is of course invidious to pick our individual groups, but I can’t illustrate it any other way.

In only one section of the Church, on the raised stage, those signing up volunteers for the Library were next to stands encouraging older people to take regular exercise, and showing them where to go for classes, as well as the Kent Wildlife Trust and Barclays Bank. There really was something for everyone.

I also found it significant that St Mary’s itself is so well attuned to holding community events these days. I am very grateful to the Church authorities and staff for their help on the day. And I was struck as that we moved out with the last of our banners at lunchtime, the flowers were being cut and arranged, and the tables laid out for the next event in the evening. This is a Church acting as a meeting place for all in the community, which is a vital and positive role to supplement its religious services.

Of course we will learn lessons for future events. Advertising to a group as disparate as the over-50s is not easy, and I received some good advice on the day about how to use social media in a targeted way to achieve this. There is also a lively debate about whether it would be better to do this type of event on a Saturday, to make it easier for those who are working full time to come.

But in general I think everyone who came thought it was a worthwhile morning. So thanks to everyone who supported it.