In October 2002, knowing that Stockton Borough Council were bidding for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to renovate Ropner Park, a group of local people formed a “Friends” group. It was felt that having such a group would assist SBC in their bid and would allow local people the chance to have some say in what was being done to their park.
It proved to be a great success. The Friends of Ropner Park were consulted at every stage of the renovations, in particular with the design of the magnificent children’s play area. FoRP had a young people’s section within the group. Their contribution was invaluable.
Once the renovation of the park was complete, FoRP’s main aim was to encourage more people into the park and to ensure that the high standards achieved were maintained.
They leased part of the pavilion building and ran a café, initially using volunteers. The cafe is now run by staff employed by FoRP. The Group became a Limited Company, limited by guarantee, and the café is run on a non-profit making basis.
Apart from the café empoyees, all members of the Group are volunteers. Their efforts raise finance which is used to enhance projects within the park. Recently, these include the provision of more park benches, the purchase of a public address system which is used on the bandstand, and the planting of 5,000 snowdrops.
With the help of funding from the Co-op, FoRP commissioned a local artist to create the “Stockton Owl”, the first in what we hope will be a series of sculptures forming a nature trail with a focus on storytelling.
Events and concerts
Four Family Fun Days are hosted by The Friends each year. Each has a theme and visitors are encouraged to dress up appropriately depending on the theme.
These events are very well supported and are looked forward to by both adults and children. They are costly to put on, the hire of gazebos alone cost almost £1,000 and expenses for the EID Fusion Festival are close to £20,000. We rely heavily on grants which can be difficult to obtain but we raise as much money as possible through our stalls. These events involve a great deal of hard work from the dedicated volunteers and any offers of help would be very much appreciated.
In 2012, “The Friends” organised a “Picnic in the Park” to celebrate the Queen`s jubilee. This was a great success and was repeated in in July 2013 as part of the Bandstand Marathon (now called “Our Big Gig”) which FoRP organised on behalf of Stockton Council.
FoRP was introduced to The Community Welfare Trust in 2014. Our summer event is now organised jointly by the two groups as the Eid Fusion Festival to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Concerts are booked for every Sunday afternoon during the summer months and a variety of music is offered from full size brass bands to string quartets. Families bring their friends and a picnic and enjoy a traditional park outing. The hire of these bands, particularly the big bands are costly but so far the Friends of Ropner Park have been able to sustain this expense.
Ropner Park Cafe
The Friends of Ropner Park run the cafe in Ropner Park on a non profit making basis.
We provide wholesome food, baked and cooked on the premises. Sorry no chips.
The cafe is open throughout the year except for a short break at Christmas and New Year. The cafe is in profit in the summer but descends into the red over the winter. Over the year the cafe accounts are neutral
The FoRP Volunteer Group
The FoRP volunteer group meets in the café every month. It was formed initially as a craft group but over the years it has taken over the roll of organising the events and fund raising activities.
Most of the money raised by the Friends of Ropner Park is used to provide music on the bandstand although when the occasion arises money is used to make improvements within the park.
Britain in Bloom
Ropner Park is now considered to be a real asset to the town. Every year since the renovations it has been awarded a Green Flag and the beauty and cleanliness of the park has helped gain Stockton it’s Gold Award in the Britain in Bloom national competition. The Friends of Ropner Park feel that they have helped with these achievements. Sadly funding cuts have brought an end to Stockton`s participation. However we are assured that standards in Ropner Park will be maintained. (See article in Spring Newsletter 2014)
2011 & 2013 Friends of Ropner Park have won “outstanding” awards from the R.H.S.for their work in the community.
2012 FoRP received a civic award from the mayor of Stockton in .
2012 Treasurer June Robertson-Whyte won the outstanding achievement award for committment to the community sector in .
2017 FoRP has won the Catalyst volunteer Group award.
2018 FoRP has won the Community Organisation Category for the Tees Valley BME Achievement Awards for the work to host the EID Fusion Festival.
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