The Friends of Victoria Park, Stretford [FOVPs] was formed and formally constituted in March 2002. The group had Norman Law as the Chairman and Ian Trickett was the Trafford Council Parks Development Officer and we had bags of enthusiasm – we were going to transform the park and it would probably take us about one year, Ha ha ha – what did we know!!
It soon became apparent that things move very, very slowly within the Council and that there was very little, if any, money available to carry out improvements. Public meetings were “whinge fests” where everyone came to moan about how bad the park was, but did not want to seem to help us change things or have any good ideas as to how it could be improved. We held our meetings in the Veterans building, which was not ideal, as we did not always feel welcome and it never felt like we were appreciated by the Council or the veterans/bowling fraternity, and we were reliant upon their goodwill to open up the building for us. We were in negotiations with the Council from fairly early on to get access to our own building within the park. There are two main buildings within the park – what was the ladies bowling hut and the men’s/veteran and bowling hut. Both buildings were incredibly under utilized. The ladies hut was only used for a couple of afternoons per week during spring/summer and the men’s/veterans building was again only used during afternoons – but most days.
The Council paid all the bills for these buildings. We as a group felt it was unfair that the whole community were paying for these resources for such a small section of the community to use exclusively. We had the backing of the local Councillors and the parks department. What we proposed was that the men and women joined forces and shared the largest of the buildings and that the ladies hut which was much smaller and less glamorous was made into a community building with a permanent base for the FOVPs and open access to other groups.
Again, we had no idea how long this would take to come to fruition – 6 years later – the ladies moved out of their building and into a custom made separated building within the larger veterans building – with all new facilities paid for by S.106 monies. Yes, even in 2008 men and women bowlers did not want to share a building!
The ladies bowling hut then spent a year lying empty for the most part as the Council were unable to sort out a formal agreement with the FOVPs group. During this time we only used the building for our meetings and our Christmas event – but our plans for the building continued to grow – and the roof continued to disintegrate! The ceiling finally gave way in January 2009 and was replaced in December 2009 in time for our Christmas event. Storage of our equipment was also a sticking point with the bowlers – especially as the years went by and our “stuff” grew.
We currently use the “lock up” which is the old bowling green shelter. We have approximately a third of the building and have never used more or less of it as we have improved our storage arrangements over the years by supplying and fitting industrial shelving to accommodate our equipment. The bowlers feel that this is their area and would love it if we went away and took our “stuff” with us! This will not happen – our “stuff” has all been bought by donations or fund raising and ensures that we can hold our fun event programme and each year these events get bigger and better and we are very proud of them.
Ian Trickett was replaced as our Parks Development Officer Sasha Essuah-Mensah after approximately one year, and he was with us until the end of 2008 [when he moved to Preston]. Sasha was an incredibly good PDO with boundless enthusiasm and tireless patience. He was a steadying influence through some of our wilder ideas and he gave the group food for thought and advice on many occasions – never failing to take or return a call or shirk responsibility.
Bob Walton took over as PDO after Sash left and he seems to be helpful and responds well to my nagging!!
I took over as Chairperson of the Group when Norman Law retired. Norman led the Group for the first two years and established it as a fine bunch of like-minded people. He set the ground rules and took a lot of criticism from the general public about the park at the beginning – but by the end of his “reign” people were seeing the fruits of our labours and began the praise, and started to believe in us.
A Green Flag award [more info about this in links] was something we wanted as soon as we heard about it, and so we entered in our second year and we got it. The judges recognised the improvements we were making and the enthusiasm of the Group for the tasks ahead. We were all proud. We have kept this Green Flag year on year as we have been able to show improvements and progress each year and long term commitment to the park. Trafford Council may be moving away from this national award standard by implementing its own “Star Award” scheme – but we as a Group feel the Green Flag is a more robust and less biased award and as such we want it to continue as the benchmark for how good our park is.
To see what we have achieved throughout our lifetime please look at the achievements pages.
To see how our events have grown over the years have a look at our events history pages.
As you can see from our website we have gone from strength to strength through the years – each year building upon the good work done the previous year. This journey continues to be incredibly frustrating and rewarding in almost equal measures, but we will all stick at it as we want this park to flourish.
Shelly Quinton-Hulme – 10 January 2010