Tonight I have had the pleasure of meeting up with members of the Rochdale in Bloom teams from across the borough, volunteers from each of our townships, businesses, groups and council team members, all of whom have made this year an exceptional one for Rochdale in Bloom.
The greatest pleasure this evening however was the chance to meet up with some old friends, with whom I started out on the ‘In Bloom’ journey, almost decade ago.
Back in 2009 Valarie White from the Rochdale Townships office was given the task of putting together a community team to create an entry for the North West in Bloom competition. In these early days there was no great funding, sponsorship or publicity, just a handful of community volunteers who were keen to see if we could get an entry together. What we lacked in experience, we made up for with enthusiasm and in an unsuspecting meeting one dark evening the Rochdale Township in Bloom steering committee was born.
Founder members included Val White, and Tracy Kinght (Rochdale Township Officers), Tracy Hibbert (Environmental Management), myself and Billy Sheerin (long before we would both become Councillors), David Logan (Springfield Park), Neta Tony (Broadfield Park) and stallworts of the community; Kath Sharp, Jason Ady, and Nigel Morrell.
The task was simple, a tour of Rochdale Township to take in the best horticultural sights on offer. In 2010, despite our inexperience we made our first entry which was well received and a remarkable effort considering the lack of knowledge we had. With new found enthusiasm we worked through the seasons and following year, with one entry under our belts, the RHS judges returned to Roachdale and were amazed. I remember the lead judge saying “Last year you showed us nothering, this year you have showed us everything”. Our entry included schools, parks, allottments, stations, businesses, gardens and ginnels and uncovered some of the groups and projects that are still winning awards today.
In 2011 Rochdale Township brought home it’s first gold medal from the In Bloom awards and we have never looked back since. It has been my privilidge to work with so many brilliant people over the years and to have been part of that founding team that set the foundations for a movement which brings people and communities together all over Rochdale.