My name is Claire Bent. I’m the Community Engagement Manager for the University of Birmingham, and have lived in Birmingham for just over a year, since taking up this post. I have spent all of my working life involved in Community Development/Engagement, Peace and Reconciliation work, and so love this role. I am a fan of tea, Persian food, being barefoot, travelling – especially to out-of-the-way places, and the feeling of being wrapped up warm on a freezing day.
What is your favourite thing about Selly Oak?
I love the people. It’s a magical mysterious mix of local
residents, students, business owners, academics. That makes it a challenging
dynamic to work within, but makes for a really interesting community!
What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you or you’ve seen happen in Selly Oak?
Hmm. I’ve not had too many ‘weird’ Selly experiences, which
is a little odd as I normally attract weirdness like a moth to a flame. I have
never quite before had the experience of feeling as though I could potentially,
if I’m not careful, be playing human ten pin bowling by simply driving my car
down the high street and round to the back of Uni. Seriously, people, look
where you’re going! Ha!
What does ‘community’ mean to you?
Ah, it means everything. Seriously. It means home and welbeing and someone to bring you soup if you’re sick. It means belonging – not just in a practical sense, but in an existential way, in that there are people who are sharing your journey. It means a place for people to grow and develop and learn from one another about both practical life stuff, but also about what it means to be human. It means having a place to fail and succeed within, a rallying troupe of people who are there no matter what. It means being able to knock on a neighbour’s door, remembering birthdays, inviting people who you know will be alone over for a coffee or Christmas Dinner. It means sharing the brilliant things in celebration, and the hard things in collective grief. It’s a thread that holds everything together. Still glad that you asked that?!
We are super excited to be writing our first blog post – creating content for communityliving.org.uk is something we’ve wanted to do since the Community Living hub launched in April 2018 – so quite a long time! It’s taken us some time to find our feet but we’re better than ever and looking forward to what the future holds.
Before we look to the future, it’s probably a good idea to look at the past and the present. If you haven’t heard of Community Living before, allow us to introduce ourselves!
We are committed to making Selly Oak a better place to live and work. It’s no small task but we’re committed and determined to serve the residents of this area. Community cohesion is our passion – helping students and local residents alike be happy in their neighbourhood is what gets us up in the morning. Not only are we helping to support local business and residents who have lived in Selly Oak all their lives, but we are also here to support students in their new homes (many of whom are renting for the first time).
Community Living is working closely with the Guild of Students to organise year-round events and campaigns to prepare University of Birmingham students for renting in their second, third, and fourth years. We host networking and mingling events for local business owners. We are holding creative meet-ups across Selly Oak for students and local residents alike to unwind. We hold drop ins Monday to Friday at our Community Living hub for free contract reviewing and community advice, and we’ll always make time to help with any housing or community issue, big or small. And if we can’t directly help, we have a wide network across the University and the city so can put you in touch with someone who can.
We want Community Living to be at the heart of the local community for all residents of Selly Oak. We’re excited to have this wonderful space, and we’re looking forward to joining with the local community in serving the area, figuring out how we can live, work and thrive together.
Claire Bent, Community Engagement Manager, Accommodation Services
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Claire!
If you want to find out more about Community Living and how we might be able to help each other, please get in touch – we would love to hear from you!