Improving The Community – Together
Lytham St Annes Civic Society has a new chair, Ansdell-based architect Joel Firth. Joel has big plans to bring community groups and businesses together with one shared goal – to support the places they love
For the last 20 years, Joel Firth of Firth Associates, has made Lytham his home. Growing up in Cleveleys, he was keen to live by the sea again and give his family a similar experience of the joys of living on the coast.
Setting up his practice in a former bank in Ansdell, Joel has become used to seeing the many volunteers around the nearby train station, ensuring the area is neat and maintained. Joel said: “Over the last ten years especially I’ve been involved with most local community groups in the area that could benefit from architectural input and I’m constantly uplifted by how many dedicated volunteers there are supporting their local area. I’ve recently taken on the role of chair for the Lytham St Annes Civic Society and this will enable me to support these community groups more going forward.”
Founded in 1960, the Civic Society has the connotations of just being about old buildings – but it is so much more. The group is dedicated to the improvement of Lytham and St Annes as a place to live, work and relax. They believe in the conservation of the best of our buildings and townscapes, and in a high standard of design for new buildings. They aim to protect the built and historic environment of the towns, not forgetting its open spaces and coastline.
Joel is aiming to make the Civic Society a catalyst for bringing together the many local charity groups throughout Lytham and St Annes so they can get acquainted and spot any opportunities for mutual benefits to support both towns. For example, the Society owns Lytham’s Witch Wood which requires regular maintenance. With a strong network of community groups, new and existing volunteers can be sought to help with the tasks here, creating more beautiful space for people to enjoy, together.
“By joining up existing volunteer groups, we can also help and support our local businesses and encourage the whole area to thrive and evoke a sense of civic pride. We would also love local business to get involved and sponsor some of our projects so it really does become a community effort,” Joel added.
And there are also many exciting plans afoot for the Society’s future. Joel continued: “We are exploring the idea of fully inclusive heritage trails encompassing St Annes, Fairhaven, Ansdell and Lytham, possibly using QR codes along the routes for further information on areas of interest. I would also like to introduce a Civic Awards dinner where local projects can be recognised for their efforts. This can also raise funds which can then, in turn, support other local projects.”
The Society is also encouraging younger people to become members. Being proud of where you live involves everyone residing in the area and there are a number of community projects to get involved with – there is no age limit. Many companies now offer charity days to employees and local projects could be the perfect choice.
Completely independent and apolitical, the Society works closely with external agencies including Fylde Borough Council’s planning department. Although the Society has no authority to rule on many matters, it can certainly signpost residents to the appropriate departments for help.
Some of the Society’s recent projects include funding the production of a ‘Local List’ of heritage assets, saving the Mussel Tank on Lytham Green from commercial development, commissioned more Blue Plaques and arranges talks, walks and trips to places of interest. Becoming a member provides residents with a voice about their area and the opportunity to meet new people with a common interest.
Joel concluded: “I now dedicate Fridays to community work and I am starting to have mid monthly Thursday night meetings at my studio in Ansdell, starting on 16th November. It’s more like a supper club than a formal meeting. I really want local people who love their town to help reimagine what the Civic Society can do, to be a positive influence and to bring all the other local community groups together on coordinated projects. I need experts in advertising, marketing, sales and events right through to project managers and local building contractors. We are so lucky to already have an existing active army of volunteers doing some fantastic work. With more members, the possibilities are endless. If you want to help, you would be made very welcome at the next meeting so you can learn more about the Society’s work and plans. With more like- minded people, so much can be achieved.”
To keep up to date with events and upcoming meetings, please visit: linktr.ee/lsacivicsociety