By Gareth Greenwood
It’s just a massive privilege to live in Belper – don’t you think? Yes sure there are prettier places, wealthier places, and maybe even more happening, cosmopolitan places. Yet for a small town which many will not have heard of outside of the county, it is a great place to live and breathe. In less than ten minutes from anywhere in town you can be stretching your legs in beautiful countryside. For those less mobile there are green spaces throughout this home of ours that are free to enjoy. Dozens of community groups thrive, from U3A to sports clubs, from Facebook groups to community choirs, from schools to church congregations and from arts festivals to bear festivals; so much of life and culture is joined and celebrated here. Hundreds of hours of voluntary work are contributed every week, much of it unseen but all of it valued and necessary to keep Belper thriving and vital. There is a strong sense of history, but also of forging a future, a sustainable future, that seeks to be neighbourly and egalitarian. The town is both a home and a destination, with possibly the liveliest and most eclectic cultural and commercial heart of any town in the borough if not the county. Change continues to leave its mark on the fabric of the town and also on its psyche – for good or ill, those who have made this place their home over many years will have lived through transition in many guises. There is a resilience and optimism which shines through in numerous ways – there is a commitment both to the health of the town’s now, and to its future where all can prosper. Anyone knows that many pieces have to fall in to place to sustain a community such as ours and, that in common with a jigsaw, if one or two pieces are lost then the whole thing is ruined or at least marred in a way that leaves a sense of incompleteness. So let us all continue to marshal our resources through 2014, seeking the common good and building a home with community at its heart and open to all.
Gareth Greenwood helps to run Belper’s food bank as part of his work for Hope for Belper - which also organises the town’s Street Angels project.