Calderdale’s community spirit has been praised as inspirational during a visit by the Green Party.
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, and Magid Magid, a Green Party European Elections candidate, visited Todmorden College, the Incredible Edible project, Pennine Community Power’s wind turbine in Blackshaw Head, the PV solar panels at Colden J&I School and Blackshaw Environmental Action Team’s community orchard during a whistle-stop tour.
They then went to St Augustine’s Centre on Hanson Lane, the primary support service for asylum seekers and refugees in Calderdale.
“That community base was so inspiring,” said Ms Womack of her impressions of Todmorden. “You can work very real issues into something that becomes a public good.
“It’s been inspiring the way they’ve put that in place, the passion they have for the community, and going to visit the college, the idea we can have different models of ownership that are based around people and where you live, rather than about big business is really important as well.”
Mr Magid is a former Sheffield Lord Mayor who hit the headlines a number of times while in the role due to wearing baseball caps and biker jackets with his ceremonial mayoral chains, as well as banning US President Donald Trump from visiting Sheffield.
He said: “It’s the first time I’ve ever been there, and Todmorden was the warmest reception I’ve ever had.
“It’s amazing to see a real community spirit, they genuinely live by that.
“They’ve created plant pots where members of the community can take out herbs, or fruit that is communal for everyone.
“The college is an asset of community value - they literally live and breathe community.
“People seem to be really happy there.”
Mr Magid believes a lot of other communities could learn from Todmorden.
“It’s a hidden treasure. If there was that sense of community of Todmorden everywhere else, we’d live in a better country.”
Ms Womack added: “They’ve got such a unique fingerprint as to who they are and their identity, I think it would be really hard to copy and paste it elsewhere.
“But it’s inspiring when you galvanize people together what they can achieve.
“It felt powerful being there, the power of community and the power of how I think the community want to be doing something different that’s about them and what they want to be achieving.”
During his visit to St Augustine’s, Mr Magid, who himself moved to the UK from war-torn Somalia as a child refugee in 1994, said: “I think one thing that shines through is the people that work here, and the people that come here.
“They really want to give back and make some sort of difference. And the fact that it’s volunteer-led really says something.
“There’s a real sense of positive energy more than anything.
“I’ve been speaking to asylum seekers, some of who are genuinely struggling. “One person said to me that, at times, he feels suicidal because he feels he’s unworthy because he can’t work.
“He wants to contribute because he’s got lots of skills, but he can’t.
“I met some of the workers and saw the amount of work they put in. It’s very much needed.
“It’s not just a place to come and get information, it’s a real community, it’s a place where you can make new friends and learn new skills.
“For a lot of people it’s a real safe-haven. It’s amazing to have this facility here.”
Ms Womack said of St Augustone’s: “It’s just such an inspiring place, ensuring that people do have opportunities to be supported in the community.”