Content can be downloaded for non-commercial purposes, such as for personal use or in educational resources.
For commercial purposes please contact the copyright holder directly.
Read more about the The Creative Archive Licence.


Interview with Sue Bidmead, who was employed as a Community Development worker based at Community House in the 1990s.
Interviewed by Marion Webber on 1st September 2017.

Sue graduated in Environmental studies, (early 1990s) which seemed unconnected to community development, but she wanted ‘to change hearts and minds’.

Working with people seemed the obvious way to make positive changes to the environment.

0-1 min: Sue-worked for a Local Authority and groundwork trust doing environmental education projects which involved working with people in the valleys at Blackwood.
Sue moved to a similar role in Newport, part of a team of 8 working in disadvantaged areas like Duffryn and Alway. They operated in pairs.

“So, it started off, I was sent out to Maindee to work and I was working with a guy called Monis (Mouflahi) who was great. We had a really good working relationship because he knew the community really well. We had to look for a place to be based in. There were a few options and I started off somewhere else. I can’t remember where it was, but I realised I could work from Community House,”

2-4 mins: Community House was the obvious place to be as it had a history of community development work.

What were your first thoughts of Maindee when you started?

Sue said that although she had worked in Newport, she wasn’t that familiar with the area and she was “quite anxious how she would relate to the community because there was such a high ethnic population and I did wonder if I could relate to that community- so it helped that I was working with Monis.”

It was quite exciting because it so different working with such a different community. I hadn’t worked with an ethnic community before. I had no exposure to a different community in Newport.

MW: Were you able to shape your role as a community development officer?

4 – 6 mins: Sue explained there were strict parameters to the role. There wasn’t a fund or pocket of money that they could just dip into. They had to uncover not just financial, but ‘people’ resources.

It was restrained by the politics with some councillors being unsupportive and not wanting change. They put barriers up and Sues’ job was to break down those barriers. She was supported by a fantastic manager.

When asked about how she recruited resources she replied,” there were already networks there, Community House was a valuable resource”

6-8 mins: Sue explained one of her main priorities was to “work with women in the locality, from all backgrounds, but particularly trying to reach young Asian women,which led into older Asian women and the Asian community generally”.

The established contacts through Community House were very helpful. She worked there for about 5 years.

Did you achieve everything that you wanted to during that time?

Sue explained that “community development for her meant trying to make herself redundant as you are trying to build up the capacity for the community to function on its own without any community development officer”

She explained that that was the aim, but inevitably it doesn’t happen. It needed the input of someone like her being paid or having the time or freedom to make things happen.

9 - 12 mins: Spoke about something she thought were real achievements and left a lasting legacy like the Festival. Legacies such as:

Young Citizens

“one of the things that I was really proud of was Young Citizens”

She explained that she first worked on this project in Aberdare working as a community development officer with the Emergency services, especially the Fire Service who had funded it. The project was aimed at tackling fire starting at a problem estate in Aberdare and involved working with young people using all sorts of diversionary activities.

She borrowed this successful model and applied it to Maindee, again working with the emergency services, education and anyone who would offer time to come and talk to or do things with. They invited Maindee Primary school to take part and once a week.
Different organisations would come into Community House and engage with the children.

“The spin off from that was a sort of intergenerational project where we involved Young Citizens, Maindee Young Citizens with older people in the community. For instance they would come over and do things like the museum where they would bring in old artefacts, so the young people would see things like gas masks from the war and old people could reminisce". Sue said it was great to see.

12mins – 15 mins: MW: “Community House’ ethos is building a caring community. What role has Community House played in community development?”

Sue explained historically it was already doing that, it had the connections, but she also had to be aware that it could be slightly restrictive and maybe that was just one view. She explained that this was a realisation- there were other people out there that they hadn’t reached or been involved in Community House. Sue said she had to do her own outreach work in the community and not just use Community Houses resources.

Maindee Festival
MW: Can you tell me about Maindee Festival. How did that come about?

“…hopefully it was a grassroots element and hear what people wanted and take that back to those people who could make it happen”, but she explained that sometimes you had to give communities a choice or menu especially if they didn’t have an idea of them in the first place. She knew how important the arts were, having used them on projects in the valleys. Music was especially good at bringing communities together. The idea of a festival was ‘floated’ and people responded well She had the resources there like Andy O’Rourke and Sally. She used a monthly community meeting, the Maindee Forum, to promote the Festival. This all started in about 1996, at a time when she had started a community newsletter to let people know what was going on in the community.
The first Festival was in 1997.

17 – 20 mins: MW: That must have been quite a daunting prospect, organising your first Festival. Had you ever had any experience of organising something like that before?

Sue explained that limited previous experience organising parades in estates but stressed it wasn’t all down to her but others volunteering to do it, and this is what happened in Maindee Festival and continues to do so.

Sue said about the Festival “people have gone on to create their own careers from it, it’s been brilliant. The first Festival included a fashion show with girls modelling clothes donated by local Asian stores and boys trying to peep in to watch it. The festival included share evenings where people brought in different food from different countries (which still happens)
Sue explained that she was now working as a counsellor with children and young people. She is also working with a parenting programme in Newport.

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to leave a comment