Rainbow alliance hoping to bring sunshine to the Fens
- Credit: Cllr Condron
Artist, creative producer and campaigner is on the CV of Hilary Cox Condron to which can be added vice chair of the communities, social mobility and inclusion committee of the county council.
And it was the combination of all the above which led her – and committee chair Tom Sanderson – to Wisbech and the Fens.
They were on an early mission to explore those parts of Cambridgeshire where they feel their predecessors may have not have always reached.
Hilary is Labour, Tom an independent, and both are key players in the rainbow alliance that took control of the county council in May.
She’s proud, too, of once being described by the chair of Cambridge United as ‘community glue’.
She interpreted that as someone who can “bring people together, and support them to build relationships and bring about long term, positive change”.
And that’s part of the work she hopes to undertake in her role with the council and a reason for visiting Fenland.
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“I have had a long relationship with Wisbech and Fenland and have worked as an artist, and art facilitator on quite a few projects here,” she said.
“I have a big passion for the town.”
She loves the fact the town has been home to people such as Thomas Clarkson for his abolitionist work against slavery.
And the home of social reformer Octavia Hill “whose love of the arts and nature came from Wisbech”. Octavia also co-founded the National Trust.
Her first port of call was Wisbech Park, to see the work of artist Tim Mann at the vertical garden.
“I’d already seen some of his work before connecting with communities and finding creative ways to talk with people – it's what I have done as a community artist,” she says.
The council ‘delegation’ also went to the Spinney, to look at a holiday project for children, before dropping into the Oasis Centre.
Cllr Sanderson is confident that more can be done to support the Oasis.
He hopes that with the alliance now in control, more support can be leveraged to ensure the Oasis can plough on with its extension, resolving a land issue as soon as possible.
Both Cllr Sanderson and Cllr Condon went onto other places in town, including Wisbech Castle and to be given a background briefing by town council leader Sam Hoy.
“Initially what we are doing is going out, listening to people, to issue that are important as well as finding out how we connect within the county, district and other groups,” says Cllr Condon.
“We are looking at how we can really start to work holistically and looking for safe and inclusive spaces for people to come together for collaborative support”.
Her aim is for “constructive conversations, not political arguments” and she hopes the visit augurs well for the future.
And guiding her she says, are the words of Octavia Hill “We all want quiet. We all want beauty... We all need space.
“Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.”
Cllr Sanderson believes their visit went “really well and we enjoyed it”.
He says what most impressed him was the passion with which people spoke and pride in the community.
On their visit to March, he said a visit to the Baby Bank introduced him to people “passionate about helping new mothers” and both he and Cllr Condron had promised to consider ways in which this facility could be helped.
“It was heart wrenching in a way,” said Cllr Condron. “Twenty-two years ago, I was single and pregnant and I had a car load of baby clothes delivered to me from the local estate.
“It was a lifeline but such an incredible confidence building and I felt I was not on my own.”
It is that similar community spirit she believes can help turn around the fortunes of the Fens.