The Beginning, 2002
The Friends of Victoria Park, Stretford [FOVPs] was formed and formally constituted in March 2002. Norman Law was the Chairman with Ian Trickett as the Trafford Council Parks Development Officer. 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. We held our meetings in the Veterans building, but were in negotiations with the Council from fairly early on to get access to our own building within the park. There were two main buildings – 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, and with the backing of the local Councillors and the parks department, we proposed 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.
The Community Building Opens, 2008
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.
For the next year, as the Council worked out a formal agreement with the FOVP group, we only used the building for our meetings and our Christmas event. But 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.
Parks Development Officers
Ian Trickett was replaced as our Parks Development Officer with Sasha Essuah-Mensah, 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, and we now work with Dave Sykes.
Chair of FOVPS
Shelly Quinton-Hulme 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.
There is now a bench opposite the Sundial Garden in memory of Norman who sadly died in 2018. A fantastic place to sit and take in the view and contemplate life.
Green Flag Awards
A Green Flag award was something we wanted as soon as we heard about it, and so we entered in our second year and were successful! 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.
The New Community Building
Having survived longer than anyone had dared to hope, the old Community Building finally became unsafe and was demolished in 2019. A crowdfunder was set up to fund the rebuild of bigger and better premises. The response from the community, park users past and present, and the newly elected Labour controlled Trafford Council was immense, and along with grant funding sourced by the Trustees, the new building has been funded, and works began in October 2020. The building was completed and opened in April 2021, despite delays due to Covid restrictions.
Getting back to normal
During Spring and Summer 2021, we able to restart many of our outdoor groups, and set up popular new exercise classes. The Tea Room moved into their kitchen in April and have been steadily increasing their output and hours, quickly establishing themselves as a popular destination. the Community Room hosts indoor groups and is available for hire.
As you can see, we have have gone from strength to strength through the years – each year building upon the good work of the last. 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 – 2010. Updated September 2021