by Isobel Gostling
Steve Wilcock talks about Trawden's journey from peril to prosperity
After being presented the British Empire Medal on the 20th of October by the Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire in a majestic hall of Lancaster Castle, Steve Wilcock recollects the last ten years of progress in Trawden that earned him and revived his beloved community.
In September 2014, residents of Trawden heard of their community centre’s planned closure. The village met Pendle Council’s announcement with sadness and sparked a community effort that continues to this day, headed by local man Steve Wilcock.
Steve recalls the determination to save the community centre: “We called a public meeting on fairly short notice. A hundred people turned up!” The overwhelming enthusiasm for the project convinced the council to hand over ownership, but the road ahead wasn’t easy. Trawden’s Community Centre was in desperate need of some TLC. A new roof was the primary concern, alongside the need for rewiring and new heating, among other things. “When we accepted the keys, we took a deep breath and thought: what on earth have we done!”
The task was daunting, but after fundraisers, creating a charitable fund and grants from various organisations, Steve says, “we went from strength to strength.”
Around two years later, the opposite library faced a similar threat of closure, and Steve and his team of dedicated Trawden residents scooped up the building. “Coincidentally, a few months before this, the last shop in the village had closed. We had this idea – can we open a shop ourselves?”
One woman moved her family to Trawden from Somerset after hearing about the community work there!
In the face of numerous closures, Trawden fought for itself and proposed a business plan to Lancashire County Council, who let the residents take on the building just as they had the community centre.
But just like the community centre, it was a challenging undertaking. The building was in even worse disrepair, but eventually, it became the home of Trawden’s library and the shop to replace what the town lacked. “We opened Trawden Forest Community Centre and Shop and the library 80 days after we had received the keys from the county council,” Steve says proudly. “A load of volunteers came forward and worked in teams.”
This outstanding achievement led to an infectious community spirit spread far and wide, garnering press interest and public admiration. One woman moved her family to Trawden from Somerset after hearing about the community work there! “That lady’s now one of our volunteers,” Steve confirms.
Every voice is valued, too, with Steve’s motto: “If someone has an idea – let’s try it!”
However, the work in Trawden wasn’t done, as in 2021, the Trawden Arms pub went up for sale. Hospitality had taken a hit during the pandemic, but Steve knew the pub was essential to the village. “It would have been the second pub to close because about eight years earlier, The Sun Inn had closed, which had been a focal point of the village from a social point of view.” Desperate to preserve the hub of the village, Trawden registered the pub as an asset of community value through the Parish council and eventually bought it as a community venture. At that point, Trawden became the only village in the UK to have its community centre, shop, library, and pub in community ownership.
After all this success, it is no surprise that Steve was awarded a British Empire Medal for Services to the Community.
Steve tells me how necessary these facilities are for the social lives of the village residents: “With more and more places closing down, the less we see people.” With that in mind, he and his wife Jane launched a fortnightly Friendship Group to build bridges and strengthen community connections between people in Trawden, supporting those feeling isolated. “So many people have made new friends. That’s one of the best things we’ve done in the village.” The group includes food and drink and is consistently enlivened by some form of entertainment or a speaker. A book club has also recently been formed, and various other activities occur throughout the week. Every voice is valued, too, with Steve’s motto: “If someone has an idea – let’s try it!”
After all this success, it is no surprise that Steve was awarded a British Empire Medal for Services to the Community. “We were on holiday,” Steve says, telling me the call was completely unexpected. “My phone rang – a mobile number I didn’t recognise, and I nearly didn’t answer it!” Both Steve and his wife were naturally shocked and emotional at the news. “To this day, I don’t know how it’s come about – I think a few people got together and put a nomination in. Trawden’s always had a positive community spirit. I’ve just been dumbfounded by how far it’s gone.”
The shop, for example, is entirely run by volunteers. Because of Trawden’s love for its community, they’ve made the impossible happen – a complete revival of the services that had previously been in danger of forever shutting their doors have been flung wide open once again, and Steve’s got a shiny medal to prove it!
ColneLife Winter 23