News and updates from our programmes and services


​A note from our CEO Lynn Gibson

Welcome to our latest e-news bulletin.

I hope you enjoy all the stories and updates about how everyone has come together to adapt and deal with the Covid-19 situation. As a charity we have adapted our own support and I thank our staff team for adapting to the changes so well.

Please do take the time to read about what is happening across the county and the work we do and if you are not yet a member please do join us.

Details can be found at: Community First Membership


Volunteers Week 2020

It’s VolunteersWeek and we’d like to say a very big THANK YOU to all of the amazing volunteers across the county who have gone above and beyond to support the community response to COVID-19 in Wiltshire and Swindon. You are all heroes!

During Volunteers Week BBCWiltshire will be interviewing local volunteers every day at 11.30! If you missed a show or you want to catch-up, please download the BBC Sounds app or visit: BBC Sounds



headlines barne barton image june 20

STAR Community Organisers Barne Barton

Residents from the Barne Barton estate in Plymouth have been forging new relationships and transforming their community as part of a project funded by Sanctuary Housing.

Sanctuary has provided support for Community First to reach out to residents on the estate, connect them and set up a group of community organisers who can work together to shape the future of Barne Barton.

After initially connecting residents through a range of activities, the Sanctuary Tenants and Residents (STAR) Community Organisers Barne Barton set-up a Facebook page where they could connect the community and share news from Sanctuary through one simple social media channel. Such has been the success of the group it has more than 100 members.

A consultation by Sanctuary around the regeneration of Barne Barton held in early February, allowed the group the opportunity to share the page and speak to Sanctuary about their vision for Barne Barton. Feedback has been well received and is helping to shape future plans for the estate.

As well as bringing residents together and providing a platform for the sharing of regeneration updates, the community organisers have used the group to signpost residents to local groups such as foodbanks, mental health and financial support, which has been particularly important during Covid-19. The group also reached out to those who were self-isolating and between residents ensured essential food and goods were delivered to those unable to leave their homes.

After being forced into lockdown with the rest of the country, planned Easter events had to be cancelled but STAR Community Organisers remained committed to supporting residents in the community and bringing cheer to their doors. Easter eggs were bought and delivered for every household on the estate, with more donated to the local food bank in Barne Barton, reaching even more families and homes.

The activity helped connect the community even more and residents who were struggling during the Covid-19 crisis became empowered to speak out and receive support from the community organisers, including one resident who received a welcome donation from the food bank.

Such is the enthusiasm and success of the group, other activities and donations are being arranged including a drawing competition on the Facebook page for children, and chalk assault trial course.

The work of the STAR Community Organisers demonstrates how residents play such a vital role in empowering communities and bringing people together.

headlines barne barton image june 20

£5million Get Out Get Active (GOGA) programme launches phase 2 across Wiltshire

Following three years in delivery, Get Out Get Active (GOGA) is celebrating the programme’s impact so far as it moves into the second phase of the programme. By 2023 over 40,000 participants will benefit from the latest £5million GOGA

programme supported by founding funder Spirit of 2012 and additional investment from Sport England and the London Marathon Charitable Trust

What is Get Out Get Active?

GOGA is an exciting programme that supports disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together Get Out Get active (GOGA) began in 2016 and was a programme created to bring disabled and non-disabled people together to be active. It looked to engage the least active communities in fun, inclusive ways. Lead partner Activity Alliance teamed up with an extensive range of partners to help GOGA reach more people through in depth local knowledge and national expertise.

GOGA is about much more than being active. It strengthens community spirit, increases confidence and improves mental health. It increases the demand for, and the accessibility, of activities.

We are pleased to announce that GOGA sessions will be delivered in the following locations across Wiltshire:

  • Codford
  • Dinton
  • Broad Chalke
  • Tidworth
  • Durrington
  • Amesbury
  • Redlynch
  • Monkton Deverill
  • Chilmark

We would love to hear from you if you would be interested in taking part and to help us shape the programme – what activities would you like to see offered? This could be anything from indoor bowls/boccia/seated sports/netball/tennis/walking sports and so on.

Get involved! For more information contact Helen Akiyama: hakiyama@communityfirst.org.uk

Learn more about Get Out Get Active 

headlines barne barton image june 20

Macmillan Cancer Connections: Support through Covid

With so many aspects of our lives having to be adjusted over the past 10 weeks it has not been surprising to see new ways of working emerging from the many volunteers and groups that are supporting those effected by cancer in our communities across Wiltshire.

Cancer Support Salisbury have continued to show commitment offering emotional and practical support to anyone affected by cancer throughout the COVID pandemic by holding online meet ups and telephone befriending. They have been making bunting ready to raise money for the group and continue to offer a smile to those that need it. 6 volunteers have put themselves forward through lockdown; they are continuing to train their befrienders online.

The group launched an online drop in on Wednesday 6th May via a zoom session; Alex Neale Macmillan Cancer Connection’s Senior Community Development Co-ordinator dropped into the first two sessions. She said “it was great to connect with a few of the people from the drop in and hear the stories of how things are for them in their situations. This group of volunteers and community members spring into action and take the actions needed to address what is needed. When we look at community organising it has a focus around the power to make change for yourself; to impact on the wider community and this is certainly happening with Cancer Support Salisbury and many other groups that I have met through this project”

Online drop in sessions are every Wednesday 11 – 12.30. Interested? Please email info@cancersupportsalisbury.com or if you would like to chat, ring the mobile number 07926 841698.

Over the coming weeks Alex will be looking to gather the information and feedback that has been observed by the Cancer Connection Volunteers over the past year or so. This will be used as a report to feedback to Macmillan and Community First and a way of highlighting things that may need changing, or singing the praises of the great things going on rurally in Wiltshire around cancer.

Calne Pocket Park in Bloom

Calne Pocket Park & Community Garden blooms

Calne Pocket Park LogoIn 2019 a committee of voluntary organisers received council and government funding to set up a park and garden in Calne town centre. Wiltshire Council provided a three-year licence for the use of the site as a park and community garden from March 2019 to March 2020.

It was intended that the Pocket Park on the Riverside site of the Old Market next to Sainsbury’s lower car park would improve the town centre environment; combat loneliness, isolation and mental ill health; improve cohesion by creating a sense of community and pride of place. It would also make the shopping area more attractive to tourists. Before the transformation Old Market was a little used bollard block paved area owned by Wiltshire Council and empty for most of the year. It had huge potential to increase access to green space, make the retail area more attractive to shoppers, near to shops and cafes, opposite a bus stop, on a sunny, riverside site, bounded by trees and with access by pedestrian bridge to the town’s ‘heritage quarter’.

This exciting new community space opened in July 2019 and is managed completely by volunteers.

A survey of park users had been planned for March 2020, but unfortunately the Covid-19 crisis has intervened so committee members, Community First’s community organisers Katrina and Clara were tasked with finding out what the residents of Calne thought of the pocket park, what they loved about the park, what they used it for and what changes they would like to see for its future.

Responses to the question of what people used the park for were as follows:

“It provides a usable and enjoyable space and shows that people do care about our local environment.”

“Just to walk through and enjoy the flowers and trees that have been planted”

“It makes me smile!”

Responses to the question of whether the park encourages Calne residents to mix with different groups were as follows:

“The park encourages us to communicate with others.”

“I think it is very uplifting, it shows community spirit and pride in our public spaces from residents from all walks of life.”

“I have often had good conversations with people in passing who I have never met, it is a great community space.”

“I now mix with all age ranges and I do hope this continues.”

Residents were then asked how they would you like to see the park change and evolve in the future?

“I think it will change organically – it is a space for learning, socialising, and mindfulness – now there is a thought – yoga? I think it is a great area to inform the public of issues like the environment, but I would not like to see it used as a political platform.”

“My understanding is that this project is temporary so I would like to see it be made more permanent. It is a real asset to the town.”

Calne Pocket Park has not let the lockdown stop it from helping its community. It has become a real community resource. It was looking fantastic when all the tulips were out in early May and now all the planters are filled with purple alliums. Volunteers marked out some shapes (triangles and squares) on the ground conforming to the social distancing guidelines, so that Calne residents could get out and have a chat when the restrictions were lifted.  They also started a book swap which has proved very popular, especially with the children.  Books are left out on tables that conform to social distancing, along with some wipes and hand sanitiser. People can take books home, bring them back or donate their own. They have also organised similar swaps with seeds and plants which has proved so popular that the organisers ran out and had to put out another call for more!  Volunteers have planted up some veg and herbs and people are free to help themselves as and when the plants are ready. It seems that Calne residents just like the feeling of being in touch with other people, even if at a distance, through their books and plants. And of course, with the libraries and bookshops being closed and people having more time to read, and until recently the garden centres having been shut this has proved a really popular resource for the people of Calne. Wildlife beds have been planted with wild-flowers and bee posts for solitary bees – which are now inhabited by Calne bees!

Plans in the future now lockdown is easing and residents can enjoy the park will include projects to engage young people from 11-19 in creative activities, a competition to design and make the winning sculpture for the Park out of recycled materials, working with a professional sculptor in a series of workshops, and a series of performance skills workshops (drawing on the facilities of the adjacent new indoor youth and community centre and culminating in performances in the Pocket Park) designed to appeal to more active members of this age group who might otherwise be drawn into minor offences. Grants have been applied for and obtained for these projects.

Community First’s Community Organisers Clara and Katrina are looking forward to meeting up in the Autumn to work with the committee to help them increase their reach to younger residents of Calne.

If you would like to get involved in future developments, fundraising or volunteering please get in touch

Fiona Campbell: Fionafcampbell@btinternet.com (Chair of Calne Pocket Park Committee)

Mala Tu: malajtu@gmail.com Secretary of Calne Pocket Park Committee and volunteer organiser

Follow Calne Pocket Park on Facebook


homes of our own website launch

Homes of Our Own launches new website

homes of our own logoHomes of Our Own is a Community Led Housing Hub for Wiltshire and Swindon. The hub offer specialist advice and support to engage communities in providing housing for the future. It is run by a Steering Group comprising Community First, Wiltshire Community Land Trust (WCLT), Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council, with project managers based in Trowbridge and Devizes.

In 2020, the Homes of Our Own team commissioned Community First’s creative design and marketing service Bold to design, develop and launch a website for the service. Bold also designed the logo and identity for the housing hub in late 2019, along with branded templates and resources to support the team with marketing and promotion. The new Homes of Our Own website is a vibrant, modern design which showcases the services offered through the hub in an easy to read way. There are also a variety of useful factsheets and resources with practical advice and guidance for people who are interested in finding out more about Community-Led Housing in Wiltshire and Swindon.

For more information about Homes of Our Own, download the brochure or email: homesofourown@communityfirst.org.uk

Find out more and visit the Homes of Our Own website.

For the latest updates from Homes of Our Own, you can also subscribe to receive the Homes of Our Own newsletter

Seend Villagers Submit Park Farm Planning Application

Seend Community Land and Asset Trust is pleased to announce that it has submitted its Park Farm planning application for a development of one four-bed self-build house and 10 affordable houses.  The trust is working in partnership with White Horse Housing and Homes of Our Own to enable affordable housing for the long-term benefit of the community.

The development has been designed to achieve the Passivhaus standard, which strives to significantly improve a building’s energy performance and far exceeds current building regulation requirements.

White Horse Housing specialises in building and managing homes in villages throughout Wiltshire, Swindon and surrounding areas.  Belinda Eastland, from White Horse Housing, said:

“We are proud to be the development partner to Seend Community Land and Asset Trust. We have a strong track record of working closely with village communities throughout Wiltshire not only to give local people in housing need access to a quality home they can afford but also to help sustain the wider community in which they are located. You can read more about our work here.”

Homes of Our Own is the Community Led Housing Hub for Wiltshire and Swindon. It supports communities to establish a group, plan community housing projects, source funding and support grant applications.  Lynn Gibson, CEO of Community First, a key partner for the hub, said:

“New housing developments planned by and built for the community are really a fantastic way to proceed. Seend really are a trailblazer for the county and have done a fantastic job. We are so pleased they have now got to this stage in the process and are an exemplary example for other schemes in the future. See our newly launched website  about types of Community Housing and the services we offer.”

George Clarke from Seend Community Land and Asset Trust said:

“We’ve worked really hard with the community to take account of the positive feedback we have had and after more than two years of work are excited to have reached this stage. In the difficult months that lie ahead for the economy the availability of good quality affordable homes in our Parish is likely to prove a life-changing opportunity for somebody or indeed several people here.”

All three partners, together with the scheme architects, PKA Architects Ltd, have attended the four public consultation meetings for the scheme, prior to its submission.  The trust is delighted to share this exciting news about the planning application and look forward to the next stage.


Successful grant applications awarded to Wiltshire’s Village Halls & Community Buildings

WVHA Logo IconGrant awards to eligible Village Halls and Community Buildings across Wiltshire and Swindon have been confirmed this month. Applications were made to Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council through the Covid 19 grant scheme, Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG). Applications for cash grants of up to £25,000 have been successful. Easterton, Langley Burrell, Dilton Marsh, Potterne, Shrewton, Wanborough, Ellendune, Whiteparish, Urchfont and Ashton Keynes Village Hall, Radnor Hall and Cricklade Town Hall were awarded between £10,000 (premises with a rateable value up to £15,000) and £25,000 (premises with a rateable value over £15,000 and less than £51,000)

What is the deadline for making a claim for a grant?

The government has not yet set a closing date for the schemes. Claims will be accepted on an ongoing basis. We will update Community First’s website with detail of the closing date once the government has announced it: Apply online

Village Halls and Community Buildings across the county have stood united throughout these challenging times hosting voluntary or public services, such as Post Office, food banks, essential grocery and food shopping, prescription/medication pick up, information, advice, homeless services and food delivery. It’s great to report that business support and critical financial help has been approved for these charitable community facilities across the county.


clap for young carers banner
  • Hidden Heroes Fundraising Target: 83% 83%

A Thank You From Wiltshire’s Hidden Heroes – Wiltshire’s Young Carers

On Thursday 30th April, we launched our Hidden Heroes campaign, asking local people to recognise our local Hidden Heroes, by sharing their weekly Thursday clap for the NHS with the young carers supported by Youth Action Wiltshire.

We would like to thank you all, for sharing your weekly clap for the NHS with our 876 registered Wiltshire young carers, our local Hidden Heroes. These amazing young people aged from 5 years old, care for parents, brothers, sisters or grandparents due to disability, illness or mental health. Young carer’s essential roles in their families mean they are tasked with cooking, cleaning, shopping, as well as providing personal care & medication along with emotional support. Your weekly claps and cheers have shown they are not forgotten within the community.

We would also like to thank every single one of you, who has supported our Hidden Heroes fundraising campaign, which has to date raised over £20,000 towards our £25,000 target. All monies raised will help us to provide individual mentoring and coaching, advocacy and a wide-ranging programme of exciting respite activities & breaks for Wiltshire Young Carers.

If you haven’t yet done so and would like to donate to this crucial work, please visit our Just Giving Page

An Insight Into Life As A Young Carer

Name: Molly

Age: 12

Who do you care for? My sister Poppy.

What are the challenges of being a Young Carer? Waking up every day, knowing that every day is going be different and a constant worry that things will happen to my sister.

How has Youth Action Wiltshire helped you? I can have time away from my sister, which I really appreciate, make new friends and meet young people that are going through the same challenges as me.

Why should people support Youth Action Wiltshire’s Hidden Heroes campaign? People should support young carers, because we go through a lot and do not always get the recognition we should. It’s really important that money is going to a good cause, where other young carers like me have the opportunity to have time away from the family and have someone to talk to.

clap for young carers banner


The Building Bridges programme has continued to work successfully, managing the transition to supporting our participants remotely during the lockdown across Swindon & Wiltshire.

Whilst it is still not possible to meet individuals in person or for group activities yet, sometimes simply being a friendly person to talk with and help with mental wellbeing during these unsettling times is a huge part of what our Key Support Workers offer as part of their services.

Programme Achievements (End of Q1 March 2020)

  • Over half (54.5%) of our participants have achieved a positive outcome with the programme.
  • We have supported 1221 eligible participants to date
  • We are actively supporting 363 people at the moment.
  • 24.0% have moved into employment
  • 26.04% have moved into education (including those who were NEET or At Risk on joining)
  • 4.5% were economically inactive and have moved into job search.

We continue to monitor our participant demographics to ensure that we are supporting the hardest to reach

There are four key participant groups where we would like to highlight the positive work we have achieved:

  • 80.8% of our participants are classed as being disadvantaged and 41.6% of these have achieved positive outcomes
  • 52.2% have disabilities or long-term health issues and 35.5% of these have achieved positive outcomes
  • 10.2% are ex-offenders and 43.2% of these have achieved positive outcomes
  • 4.9% were homeless on joining and 36.7% of these have achieved positive outcomes

As a result of this continued strong progress, the partnership has continued to receive feedback from our key stakeholders that the programme is seen as being very successful in supporting our participants and in helping them to achieve outcomes where other approaches have been less successful.

Did you know?

Following the launch of The Building Bridges Programme in July 2016 on average the team’s positive work has got a participant into a work or education outcome every two days.

Helping individuals to recognise and understand what we each can and can’t control in our daily lives as well as helping them to start and maintain a good routine all contributes towards each person’s self-awareness and keeping motivation going to achieve both short and longer term goals.

It’s always lovely for the team to receive feedback from the Building Bridges participants and their activities, we wanted to share two case studies this month, both of which show positive impact and our commitment to support participants engaged in the programme

Participant Case Studies


Lucky birds to enjoy Bird Box

With just a little help Jade, one of the Building Bridges participants has made a Bird Box at home. It has been fixed outside for lucky birds to enjoy. We particularly love the perch made from a small piece of tree branch.

This is just one of the suggested activities the team sent to keep individuals busy, learning new skills, making progress and building self-esteem whilst we can’t do group activities during lockdown.

The activity dimensions and instructions were kindly shared by one of our partners at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust – many thanks.

clap for young carers banner

Creating a mindful space to enjoy

Rachel, one of the Building Bridges participants that the team has been supporting has been looking after both her and her young son’s wellbeing (as well as their local environment) and making the most of their time staying safe at home during lockdown, by working hard on a small plot of ground near her apartment. It’s not finished yet…but it’s already transformed from a weedy overgrown area to a tidy, useful and mindful place to be.

Lots of learning about plants and insects and getting hands dirty in the outdoors.

We can’t wait to see it when it’s finished and Gayle Harper, the participant’s Support Worker is so proud of all Rachel has achieved


Bradenstoke Solar Park Covid-19 Community Relief Fund

A number of the Community Spaces (Village/Church Halls) in the funding area of the BSPCBF are now closed due to the COVID-19 and as a result of this will be losing much needed revenue income. At the same time, the bills keep coming in, thus making the financial position for some of these premises quite precarious.

At the end of April, it was decided to write to the committee members of the fund to ask if they would consider a one-off “hardship” fund to support those community spaces within the qualifying parishes with money from the fund.  This was received very well and so started the work to put the project in to practice!

A simple application form, based on the previous years’ accounts and their utility and insurance outgoings, was prepared and sent out to all eligible groups in the funding area offering this one-off grant amount of £1,500 to help them through the crisis.

12 groups so far have taken advantage of the fund, and it is anticipated that a further 3 will take up the offer. We have received some great feedback from successful grant applicants

Goatacre Cricket Club said “Thank you very much, this is really kind of the BSPCBF and helps at a really difficult time.”

Bremhill Village Hall said “Thank you very much. This will really help the hall finances this year.”

Lyneham Village Hall said “Many thanks for the very kind monetary help you have given our Village Hall.  This amount is received with grateful thanks from all of the committee”

It was fantastic for Community First to be a part of this one-off relief fund!

Leader Programme Finishes on a High

In December, this year the European LEADER funding programme with Plain Action and Vale Action will come to an end. Community First as been associated with the funding since 2002 and has seen three tranches of funding across Salisbury Plain and in the last tranche (2014 – 2020) also along the A350 corridor from Trowbridge to Malmesbury.

This last programme has seen £2.3m awarded to 59 projects which includes R&D into solid bicycle tyres, a 500 tonne press for rubber moulding, a rape seed oil press, a meadery, organic ice cream production plant, a cycling/walking hostel with eleven bedrooms, a dog food production plant, a livery stables, accessible footpaths around a country park, and works to attract tourists to the area.

In the recent Evaluation of the programme applicants made the following comments: “Thank you for helping me set up my business”, “Please keep doing the excellent work you are doing right now”, “Without the excellent objective and professional assistance from Community First, I would never have successfully completed the LEADER Grant process”, “Thank you for giving us the grant, we would not be here without it!”, and “Our thanks to Alan Truscott and Lesley Thomas at Community First for all their support… and patience!”

But this would not have been possible without the Plain Action and Vale Action Board members who as volunteers have freely given their time, in fact over 20,000 hours in the last six years.

Can we save you money on your village hall or local council insurance?

Find out more about our low cost policies designed to address the complexities faced by village halls, community buildings and local councils. For more information please contact jemery@communityfirst.org.uk

Stay up to date

Stay up to date

I'd like to stay up to date with all of the latest news from Community First including fundraising activities, fundraising events and updates from across the whole organisation.

You have Successfully Subscribed!