From litter picking to delivering learning and creating a library of things, Michael Tumilty is spearheading a social movement in Walton, and he wants you to get involved.
The Elmbridge Community Eco Hub is a truly exciting prospect, and there’s very good reason to be hopeful about its future, Founder and Director Michael Tumilty shares. The vision for a physical space where people can meet, learn, and support one another could be realised in Walton within a matter of months, and Michael says that he’s equal parts delighted and terrified at the prospect.
I suspect however, that he’s mainly excited about the wonderful concept coming to reality. It’s a community led hub that would offer multiple activities and support strands, including a repair cafe, baby clothing bank and a shared fridge, where people can take what they need and also contribute to if their veg patches have been too successful for their own consumption.
The idea for the Community Eco Hub began around three years ago, when Michael started the Walton Litter Pickers Group. “I just got cheesed off with the amount of litter I was noticing when I was walking my kids to school,” he says honestly. “So I set up the group and seeing that there was a real passion for improving and working together in our community I set up a neighbourhood watch group and a Whats App group on the street that I live on.”
As he began to see the fruits of bringing people together in his local community, more ideas for collective collaboration came about. Watching Countryfile one Sunday, Michael saw a feature on Share Frome and began to think about how their activities and community mindedness could be replicated in Walton.
“They had a ‘library of things’,” Michael explains enthusiastically. “Where everyday items and tools are loaned out. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Why keep buying when you can share? For example, the average drill is only used for 3 hours in its lifespan but most households have one! Why not just have one and share it between lots of people?”
Michael told friends about the library of things, and they shared other ideas with him in return, like the community fridge and repair cafe, and so the concept of a community resource and share centre grew.
Now The Elmbridge Community Eco Hub has around twelve different strands within its plan. “At the moment, it’s all virtual because we haven’t got a venue as yet, but that’s the dream.” Michael shares. An application to take over a public building, he continues, is now in process. Fingers are firmly crossed.
‘Litter picking together reduces social isolation. People are getting out and taking exercise and getting fresh air which they otherwise wouldn’t have done and friendships have been made and forged.’
Although community has always been important to him, Michael notes that the catalyst for his local work over the past three years, was an enforced change in the pace of his life. After he was knocked off his bike commuting to work in Tooting, he had to take time out to recover from serious injuries. It was during this period that he started to focus more on the immediate world around him and he became much more aware of his surroundings.
This is when the litter picking group began, but as Michael acknowledges, the benefits were so much more profound than the clearing up of streets. “Some people think you’re just picking up other’s rubbish, but you’re not. Litter picking together reduces social isolation. People are getting out and taking exercise and getting fresh air which they otherwise wouldn’t have done and friendships have been made and forged.”
It was seeing the social impact of these initiatives that really put a fire in his belly again, Michael shares. He’s now an ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy, regularly gives talks to school groups and is a compassionate communities ambassador for Princess Alice Hospice.
“Just being around people is great,” he says smiling. “Part of my own recovery process from my bike accident was deciding that I didn’t want to go back and travel into London everyday, so I wanted to create a job for myself. If I couldn’t find what I wanted to do, I’d create it, even in a voluntary capacity.”
Michael knows first hand the importance of having a passion and a purpose after a huge change in life circumstances, and he reveals that the Community Eco Hub will also offer practical training courses to meet this ever-growing need for others.
“The pandemic has just been devastating. People have lost loved ones, their jobs and incomes, confidence and self esteem.
So what we’re aspiring to do is to engender that again, by providing a wealth of opportunities,” he explains. “We have a sort of slogan; you can give, take, make, share, grow – you can do all of these things within the Community Eco Hub.”
The Elmbridge Community Eco Hub sounds wonderful, I share. What do Michael and the team need from others to make it happen? “Engage with us!” he says simply. “We’re also looking for Corporate Partners to help us, whether that’s with resource, time or money. Any help from businesses to get us off to an amazing start would be wonderful.”
To find out more visit elmbridgeecohub.wordpress.com
Follow @elmbridge_eco_hub on Instagram
@ElmbridgeCommunityEcoHub on Facebook
@LitterWalton on Twitter