Jim Parker: Making Melville Marvellous - and shaking off a reputation these lovely people don't deserve

Torbay Weekly

Some places can never shake off bad reputations which give no credit to the majority of community-spirited residents who actually live there.

Take for instance Hele Village, the place where I was proud to grow up, proud to have a council-estate upbringing then and most definitely still very proud to this day. Yet mention Hele to some people and they immediately think the worst. Mention the old Royal Standard pub and knees tremble

Look, yes Hele does have its issues, more than some areas, but that doesn't mean it has totally lost its spirit, its community ethos.

The same applies to a certain corner of the town centre in Torquay and the mere mention of its name will conjure up pictures of drugs busts and slum bedsits. But not if the people of Melville have their way. They want to show that Melville is Marvellous.

They have been battling a bad reputation for years.  With some bad housing, slum landlords and notorious drug dealing, they have had an uphill battle on their hands.

But the local residents groups have been able to make steady progress over the years with the introduction of CCTV and by lobbying the council for landlords to be held accountable.

With many families and hard working people living in the proximity, locals want to show its not all bad.

Last weekend saw the launch of a new initiative by the residents - The Melville Hill Events Committee, whose mandate is to hold regular events for the community.  Started by Jess Roseworth Gane and backed by the new community builder Ceri Silk, the events team threw a Christmas party.

The party was held at the Torbay Community Development Trust in Temperence Street and included a festive buffet, Christmas crafts for the kids, Santa's Grotto and of course mulled wine and homemade mince pies.

Jess said: "'We've had a great turn out. We wanted to do something to encourage a community spirit in the neighbourhood and what better time to start than with a Christmas party.

"People from the local area came and help us set up, Santa kindly volunteered his time and residents actually took the time to come down and join in.

"This shows me that there are many people out there who really do care about where they live and want to support the initiative."

She issued special thanks to her committee (Mandy and Harriet) and to the TCDT for providing the venue as well as community leader Ceri who 'really believes in what we are trying to achieve'.

The event was a funded from a Making Melville Marvelous pot that has been allocated funds for this specific part of town and was attended by several of the ward councillors including leader Steve Darling.

Jess said: "'The Christmas party is just the beginning. The events committee is going to plan and hold events throughout the year, hoping to promote a sense of unity.  The more we can be seen to be doing something positive, rather than just talking about doing something, the more people will engage with what we are doing."

She added: "We are geographically situated in a fantastic location, moments from the town centre and walking distance to the harbour and beach.  We are so lucky.  Now we need to turn the reputation around and help those struggling to engage to feel like they belong and are valued members of the community.  Everyone who lives or works in the area is welcome to join the events and we would love them to feel included, respected and part of the spirit we are trying to generate."

Future events are hoped to be held during the warmer months. "We were inspired by a community day that the TCDT staged earlier this year, which provided a great insight as to what people really wanted to see happen in the area, "said Jess. Next up is the Melville Hill Great Easter Egg Hunt.

The Melville Hill Events Committee covers Melville Street, Coburg Place, Rock Road, Warren Hill and Warren Road and welcomes the residents and business owners of Abbey Road.  Everyone in these streets are personally invited to the events. Contact organiser Jess Roseworth Gane at thebluehousetq@yahoo.com.

Fantastic! You have my best wishes for the marvellous work you are doing. Makin Melville Marvellous