Local Residents 2019-2020

As a Museum in the heart of Colindale we are a unique space that opens its doors to local residents old and new. There is a huge redevelopment of the local area currently taking place, bringing thousands of new people onto our doorstep and we’re committed to making sure that the Museum is a safe, relevant and of course fun place for all local people. This blog will explore some of our recent projects involving our local community.

The Museum’s ESOL Conversation Café continues to go from strength to strength, welcoming new learners and new volunteers who are dedicated to supporting our participants during sessions. Our Conversation Café has been running for a couple of years and is a partnership between the Museum and Barnet and Southgate College to encourage and support local people to practice their English speaking and listening skills in an informal and fun environment. We are constantly learning and tweaking our sessions to ensure that our group get the most from their time with us; this includes inventive ways of evaluating sessions to check we are covering the right topics, have the right volunteer to learner ratio and that our learners are not only improving their language skills but their confidence is growing along with their vocabulary. We’re proud that our learners come from all over the world, from Iran to Brazil to Italy; wherever the individual members of the group come from we are all united in learning, becoming friends and supporting one another.

ESOL Conversation Cafe Group

Conversation Café learners report a greater sense of wellbeing from coming along to sessions and supporting and improving wellbeing is something that the Museum is committed to when planning our programming. One of the most ambitious engagement projects we’ve undertaken concerning wellbeing of local people is the Arts and Culture Scheme which began in 2019. This project was a partnership with the Colindale Communities Trust, Notting Hill Genesis and Barnet and Southgate College to improve the Arts and Culture offer within Barnet. Between the four organisations we ran pottery classes and art for wellbeing courses, a new choir was launched and hand sewing was taught. A film club ran at the Museum for children over the summer and groups on guided local history walks became a common site on the Grahame Park Estate. The work of this scheme continues with many of the courses and sessions being repeated so even more people can benefit from a high quality, free local arts offer.

As well as making the most of our amazing spaces by running courses and sessions on site, a key part of working with our local residents is getting out and about around the local area. Due to Covid-19 we’ve not been able to attend the fun local events that are usually a staple of our summer calendar but we have the memories of all these events from 2019 and are looking forward to getting back to them in 2021. The Grahame Park Festival is one of the highlights of the year for community outreach; it’s a fantastic afternoon in the heart of the Grahame Park Estate where last year we made over 200 badges with local children (and a few adults) as well as sharing our items from our uniform handling collection. Alongside the Young Barnet Foundation we also had a joint stand at the East Barnet Festival. This was a great opportunity to meet Barnet residents as well as other organisations doing amazing work within the local area who we can support or partner with in the future.

Grahame Park Festival

We also ran our own summer spectacular, the Hendon Pageant, which showcased the amazing local aviation history of Colindale and Hendon and last year, for the first time, included community stands where local organisations could talk to visitors about the brilliant work they are doing. FUSE Youth Club, Colindale Communities Trust and Advocacy in Barnet all has stalls promoting the meaningful grassroots work they are leading locally. It was also wonderful to have one of the teachers from the Arts and Culture sewing course displaying her amazing sewing skills.

FUSE Youth Club at Hendon Pageant

We may be missing a summer of amazing events and projects but we’re still trying our hardest to share the RAF story with local residents virtually. Check out our new Explore Colindale resource designed to highlight sites of aviation history close to the Museum’s London site for residents to use during their daily exercise. We can’t wait to get back to our local community soon when the Museum reopens its doors and we’re able to be together again.

About the Author

Rhiannon Watkinson: Community Engagement Manager

As Community Engagement Manager I have the amazing job of sharing the RAF Museum’s collection with our local community. I love using everything the Museum has to offer in new and innovative ways in order to engage new audiences and ensure that everyone can have a connection to the RAF Museum.