Hope for Queens Way with new centre

IT was time to make a difference. And when a group of women made their minds up, they got stuck in to bring about those changes that would make a difference to what has become a blighted area of Ipswich.

IT was time to make a difference. And when a group of women made their minds up, they got stuck in to bring about those changes that would make a difference to what has become a blighted area of Ipswich.

VICTORIA KNOWLES went to meet some of the women behind the Queens Way Community Action Group.

AFFECTIONATELY it is still called The Shop and it is slap bang in the middle of Queen's Way.

Caught in the moment before ideas become a glorious reality The Shop stands waiting to take on its new role. It is the focus of a community's hopes and dreams.

It is hoped this shop will offer some of the services the community desperately need from counselling to a meeting place and cyber café.

"In the beginning it was a great struggle to get things going and to get people involved," said Elke Alderson, one of the driving forces behind The Shop.

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Her decision to get involved in the community was simple.

"I have a handicapped son and when he used to walk down the road he was frightened of some of the youths in the area. I thought if the children knew him they would not do this and they would understand him. This is where the idea came from. No one talked to each other here, they closed their doors and that was it. I wanted to start something which would get people talking. Too many people close their doors at night but that is changing now.

"We want to see the whole community involved. People need to be given a chance to make a new start," she added.

Elke set up the committee, which also has a youth council, in an attempt to bring the community together and to in some way make a difference to an area suffering dreadfully under the weight of a bad name.

"I never except it when people say `no' to me," she laughed. Elke came over from Germany is the late 60s. She is the product of a time when change was in abundance and ordinary people had the power to change things and this is evident in her unwillingness to give up.

"To begin with we had no funding and hardly anyone interested but we got there in the end because we knew it was a great idea.

Bryony Rudkin is the county councillor for Priory Heath and is helping the group get the shop set-up.

She said: "There are great plans for the shop with Connexions donating nearly £4,000 to the project. It is great that something is happening this side in Priory Heath. There is a lot of potential here and it would be great to deliver the help where it is really needed. While there is lots going on in South East Ipswich it will be nice for Priory Heath to have something of their own.

It is important to have a high profile nearer to people in Priory Heath.

"I have been talking to council officers about co-ordinating this with some of the other agencies which would like to get involved. I know Connexions are very interested and so is the youth offending team. So hopefully we will be able to get something sorted out," she said.

Gerry Bathe from Connexions said: " Connexions Suffolk is keen to help organisations like this to develop services for young people – including giving them support, advice and guidance on issues which affect their lives. So we were pleased to be able to give the group a small grant of £3,900 to help make sure that local young people are fully involved in developing the shop and services.

"This way we can be sure the services are what local people want and need to support young people in the area. But of course the group also needs to know that the funding won't dry up after a year. Connexions is part of the South East Ipswich Partnership Group and we are working with partner organisations such as Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, the police and health services to ensure that this group can plan ahead to help young people in future."

"I could not do it without the help of the people in this community. People like Trina Crowley who has been involved from the beginning. For her there is never a meeting too many and she was involved right from the start. It is people like Trina who make it worth while.

Mrs Crowley is a mother of five and she is all too aware of the problems the area has faced and she said: "This project is so important for me and the people around me. It's a chance for the kids to get involved and make something of the area. I, and a lot of other people, are prepared to do what it takes to get it up and running.

"We have had a bad reputation around here for too long but I think when this gets up and running the kids will respect it. It is something we have all worked on as a community."

These women are used to fighting to get their voices heard. For too long they have been lost under the weight of a reputation but now finally someone has taken notice and something is being created.

The Shop does not just mean a place to hang out but also a focus and a reason for

"Before we started to do things I would just vegetate at home but now I have a reason to get up in the morning.