David Graham, Chair of the Lyvennet Community Trust and Lyvennet Community Pub from Crosby Ravensworth has just returned from the U.S National CLT Network’s Conference in Burlington, Vermont. Community Land Trusts (CLT’s) are basically communities, volunteer groups, who have taken on the role of managing land or property in trust for their communities. In Crosby Ravensworth the housing and pub are two examples of CLT’s in action. David is also Chair of the National CLT Network.
David had a hard time picking out one of the best quotes from his visit to see CLT’s in the States. He said “our American colleagues don’t find it hard to come up with inspiring sound bites or to rally crowds into action. “Inch by inch is a cinch. Yard by yard is hard.” was a definite favourite. You can’t help but come back from the States with a renewed energy and vigour. The ‘we can do it’ attitude is infectious”.
This year the conference, with over 300 delegates from around the world, focused on ‘Transforming Communities through Innovation and Collaboration’. ‘Partnership’ was the hot word of the event and for this, the Network’s conference returned home to Burlington, the hot bed of CLTs in the U.S and the home of Champlain Housing Trust, the largest CLT in the States with over 2000 homes and the proud winner of the 2008 UN World Habitat Award.
The four-day conference included an International track, with David and a colleague presenting on CLT’s in England with slides covering, apart from the rest of the UK, the community housing and Butchers Arms pub in Crosby Ravensworth. Fellow presenters had come from Honduras, Puerto Rico, Australia and Belgium.
David discovered that the Butchers Arms in Crosby Ravensworth is really well known in CLT circles in America with delegates from Dakota, California, Florida to New York all wanting to know more about the pub and how they could own part of it. David added “On arrival in Burlington I was invited to join a few UK colleagues for a drink, little did I know that the location was one of our Butchers Arms shareholder’s homes. I was given a fantastic welcome by John Davis who quickly disappeared into his sitting room only to reappear with his framed share certificate taken from its prominent place on his sideboard. I had met John in London at a conference 2 years earlier, and boy, has he been sharing his interest in the Butchers Arms”.
David added about the conference “I came away feeling part of something big, something that captures the imagination and energises people all across the world. Roll on the 2014 conference which will be held in Cleveland!”
The city of Burlington is definitely special and unlike the rest of America. That’s true – the former Mayor of Burlington, Bernie Sanders, was the first US Senator to identify as a Socialist in the last 60 years. And it was certainly striking how many organisations in the town start with the word ‘community’ – there’s a Community Boathouse, Community Sailing Centre, Community health centres along with community farms and food cooperatives a plenty.
But inspiring community-action isn’t just confined to the idyllic lakeside town of Burlington. It was certainly also alive and very well in Boston, where David headed to next, this time for a ‘mini’ conference hosted by Dudley Street Neighbourhood Initiative (DSNI) on ‘Development without displacement’. The community in the last 18 years have delivered over 400 high quality affordable homes, community centres, new schools, Dudley Town Common, a Community Greenhouse, parks, playgrounds, gardens, an orchard and other public spaces. All are owned and managed by the community.
David commented “DSNI is a leading organisation in resident-led community development and one of the most inspiring organisations I’ve ever come across. DSNI has turned around the neighbourhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester, two of the poorest areas of Boston that were blighted by years of arson, neglect and disinvestment, into a vibrant and exciting place of opportunity. And they’ve done this by empowering the local people, including young people, developing the homes and holding the land in community ownership through a CLT. It was truly inspirational and quite humbling visit.”