TELFORD LIFE: How a town is using digital to connect

3167600838_f8fb3ed239_bThis is more of a post about a town being digitally connected rather than about digital communications.

But it’s the landscape of change that all comms people need to understand.

There are some wonderful things happening in some unexpected places in Britain. In towns and villages people are using the internet to connect and build things. I’ve long thought that the best grassroots innovation is happening outside of London. That can be a remote Scottish library using Twitter brilliantly, a Welsh town converting folk knowledge to Wikipedia or local government countryside ranger building an online community. All these things play a part in their communities.

What also strikes me is that scratching the surface of a community and you’ll find the web used in imaganitive ways.

Take the borough of Telford & Wrekin, for example. It has 170,000 people and a surprisingly high number of roundabouts. It has a small town distrust of its neighbours but a pride in the communities that make up the place.

Just recently there was a brewcamp staged there. This was an informal meet-up at a café that has been staged elsewhere in the wider West Midlands. Around 20 people came. The debate was good but the ideas that emerged were as arrestingly good as the cake.

A connected town

1. Letting a blogger live stream a council meeting and use a bingo card to liven it up

A resident from the Lightmoor Life blog used an iPhone to stream a council meeting to show democracy in action. They made a note of when the items were so people could go back and see the items for themselves. You can see that here.

Marvellously, there was a bingo card where viewers were encouraged to take a drink when key politicians mentioned idiosyncratic phrases. That’s lovely.


2. Using football as a way to talk about dementia.

Telford United as a community-run club have good links with its fans. Pete Jackson and others used the idea of football to encourage people to learn more about that issue.

For the most part a football fan’s recollections are not of the goals but of the crowd, the terraces, who you went with or the long drive home from that away game.

You can see a YouTube clip that tells more about the project here.

3. Connecting people through civic pride

Telford has large parts of it built as new town built in the Sixties and Seventies.

It doesn’t always have the heritage or roots of other places but there is a pride and nostalgia for that early vision of how Telford was going to be.

Telford Live posted scanned pictures from a scrapbook that recorded those early visions.

4. A museum that tweets

Coalbrookdale is a world heritage site and deservedly so. It’s where the industrial revolution truly started. They have a Twitter stream that’s engaging and informative.

5. A campaign to save a cinema using the web

Bright residents have a vision to return the Clifton cinema in Wellington back to use as just that. A cinema. They are organising in real life but have a web resource to tell people what is happening. 

6. Wellington soup

The brilliant Wellington soup website aims to celebrate the good things and stir up some extra ones. It’s a central place where people can organise, seek help and bounce ideas. It’s brilliant and it’s here.  

As the site says:

What are the ingredients that make a town interesting; that make it bubble with activity? And whose job is it to find those ingredients and throw them into the pot? Councils and governments spend millions trying to make places work, economically, socially and culturally, and rightly so. But they can’t do it all. The small local projects that bring neighbours together; the little shops that brighten up a street; the fetes and festivals, markets and fairs, plays and concerts – most of them start a long way from council offices.

7. If you are born in Lightmoor you get a tree planted in an orchard.

Which is such a cracking idea.

That’s Telford and that’s all a bit great. If that’s happening that’s off the beaten track just imagine what’s happening elsewhere.

I’m sure that the communities of Telford and Wrekin have pockets of connectivity and areas that just aren’t on line. But they’re making broad brushes on a canvas that are connecting and informing.

As a comms person that’s a fascinating landscape.

Creative commons credit 


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  1. Great blog, Dan. So proud of the people in my home town. “Encouraging hyperlocal activism would make a good topic/workshop for a future Brewcamp” He mused..rubs chin and strokes cat.

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