Dr Mark Spencer | Fleetwood | England
"Stories & Conversations are the souls and sparks of life, they have important roles to play in the future of community"
That was what I said to the Healthier Fleetwood Team. Soon after, I find myself listening to many Fleetwood residents stories about the newfound hopes and opportunities that they had with Dr Mark Spencer and his team. I visited what I feel, so far anyway, to be a genuine community development project known as ‘Healthier Fleetwood'. It seems to be more than a single project, being more accurately, a genuine attempt to create a movement on a town-wide scale.
At the helm of the Healthier Fleetwood movement is Dr Mark Spencer. Now, I am often dubious when high ranking professionals “have an idea” about “fixing” communities. This is not to disrespect them or their skills. The point is this if you don't live alongside or inside of something how can you possibly know what it is really like? How could you really know what is needed to create sustainable meaningful change?
This is often the problem with top to ground level and outside ideas about community change. All good intentions inevitably fail in part because the “ideas people” are not part of, or immersed at an everyday ground level of the community they are trying to fix. Change comes from the inside no matter how much theory, ideas, time, resources or money is thrown at a person or community from the outside.
However, in this instance, things are a little different from most community change projects I have witnessed. Dr Mark Spencer is in touch with the everyday life his patients in Fleetwood experience, their feelings, loneliness, sadness, depression, poverty and lack of prospects and hopes. He lives, works, eats, socialises, in essence, he is part of the Fleetwood Community and just so happens to be well connected, influential and a stack of education and professionalism behind him.
Now in both my own recent research and others, most people complain (rightly so )that their GP’s do not have the time or sometimes the inclination to listen to them. Dr Spencer would also agree. In some respects it was this experience of people with bordering mental health issues, loneliness, depression, poor health and a lack of hope for change compounded with his own overstretched practice and lack of time to give them what they wanted time to tell and time to rewrite their stories that frustrated him into taking action for change.
After sharing stories with residents it is clear that they not only respect Dr, Spencer and his team but also feel truly part of the design process of rebuilding what was for several generations a failing forgotten town. I have a lot of positive feelings of hope around this growing movement that is being built “together” from the grassroots up, rather than the glass ceiling down. This is a community, a town that I believe will thrive.