Community Hero: Conisbrough Forward director explains what inspires her work

From l tor:- Christine Spence, director, councillor Sean Gibbons and Penny Lloyd-Rees.
From l tor:- Christine Spence, director, councillor Sean Gibbons and Penny Lloyd-Rees.

Without people like Penny Lloyd-Rees our communities would be much duller places.

The grandmother-of-two works tirelessly to help make her hometown of Conisbrough a great place to live, work and socialise.

Penny Lloyd-Rees, of Conisbrough Forward.

Penny Lloyd-Rees, of Conisbrough Forward.

The 55-year-old stepped in to help the Conisbrough Forward community group when it was facing an uphill struggle to keep going in 2013. In her role as director she has helped to transform the fortunes of the group. She took time out of her busy schedule to give an insight into her work.

What inspired you to get involved in Community work?

I went to a meeting when Conisbrough Forward was in danger of winding down, as all of the directors at the time were ready to retire and there was no-one to take their place. They were well known for staging the Christmas market and I felt quite strongly that the event shouldn’t stop as it created such a great spirit of community. Little did I know that I would end up organising it when I went to that meeting. I muddled through that first market with plenty of help from the previous organiser, but since then I have taken over the running of the Conisbrough Summer Gala which the council used to run and, in partnership with the Conisbrough Music Fest team, I help organise the music fest as well as smaller activities like letter picks and walks.

Last year Conisbrough Forward got involved with the Crags area and we are working with community groups and authorities to tidy up the area and try to make it the country park that it deserves to be. I am also embarking on organising some short walks in the area to encourage people to take full advantage of the beautiful countryside we have and to be aware of the fantastic heritage we have on our doorsteps.

Describe a typical day in the role?

There is no typical day, which is the beauty of the job. I always check my emails at the beginning of the day, and sometimes they shape what I do for the rest of the day, depending on whether I am preparing for an event or major project; I may do some research online, visit groups to keep abreast of the work they are doing and letting them know what we are involved with, attend meetings, write reports, event applications and risk assessments and funding bids - anything that needs doing really.

What have been your highlights over the years and what have you found most rewarding?

Being part of Conisbrough’s first Music Fest has to be the highlight so far - seeing so many people gathered together and enjoying a real community event with fantastic local bands, great weather and a real family atmosphere was so good for the soul!

I think another highlight will be the Tour de Yorkshire event this year when we have a brilliant opportunity to showcase Conisbrough to the world as a fantastic destination with the whole of the community getting involved in some way to make it a day to remember.

What keeps you going during a hard week?

My busiest weeks are usually just before an event when everything seems to go wrong at the last minute and need sorting out, but the rewards are great when I see everything resolved and the community coming together to enjoy themselves. Everything gets put into perspective when I write up the event for the local press and all the hard work is justified.

What else do you hope to achieve as part of the role?

I am committed to getting Conisbrough on the tourist map. For too long people have come to visit the castle and left without walking the short distance to the centre of the village to appreciate buildings- such as the oldest church in South Yorkshire and the 17th century old hall - or visit the Heritage Centre based in the community library which displays many old photos and artefacts of Conisbrough. The shops in the village need visitors to keep them going so we just need to get people to appreciate what we have got and the rest will come.

What would you say to somebody considering community work - why is it worth doing?

Meeting so many great people who care for the community as much as I do and seeing people working together to make it a better place is so rewarding. Feeling part of the whole ‘life’ of the area and taking pride in small achievements is good for everyone. Next time you see a poster for a litter pick or an article asking for people to join in an event just try it and see if you agree.