By Coastal View and Moor News
Over the past 12 months FRED have run a competition in Redcar's primary schools to determine "Who is FRED?" in order to create a mascot for this growing and well respected community group. But over the months FRED have proven to be more than the beach litter pick group we all thought it was. Probing the question "What is FRED"?
We asked Carl Quartermain, FRED Chairman to explain.
"When I first thought about FRED with Natalie King in July 2013 there was a number of driving factors. Initially it kicked off because I personally wanted to call Balfour Beatty, the contractor of the sea defences, to task over the two unauthorised landfills they left on our beach. I was livid that this was how little they respected our residents. This anger developed into why Redcar fails as a seaside resort, why we lack overnight holiday visitors and why business in the town was disappearing long before Marks and Spencers called it a day.
"The idea to start up a media campaign grew also because of our concerns over the Redcar Regent Cinema, having not received any redevelopment while 30 million pounds was ploughed into the sea walls and infrastructure. It seemed at the time that it's neglect was part of a planned strategy for its imminent demise, particularly when there was the whisper of a multiplex development happening. We were both determined to ensure the safety of the building and to protect this part of Redcar's heritage before even more of it disappeared.
"We'd discussed how badly the retail sector in Redcar was doing and the reasons why, Kirkleatham stables and walled garden and then there was Locke Park also being so neglected, that the council had at that time requested volunteers to develop a 'friends' group. Once we understood our potential to be multifaceted we called a meeting in the RNLI Zetland lifeboat museum and Friends of Redcar was born.
"I must admit I had never before been involved with much community work, never had any dealings with gazebos and to my shame had never heard of the numerous community groups in Redcar or knew of the wonderful work being done by volunteers and not the council. So part of our early intention was to become a resource for other groups and being a digital marketer I was keen to offer online advertising and promotion to give these groups a louder voice.
"We had a rocky start. The ideas were good and well intended but far too ambitious, so our focus has to focus on the beach campaign and to clear the beach of rubble. If tourism was going to come to Redcar it would start there. Even our Treasurer kept calling us 'Friends of Redcar Beach' and there was a push within the committee to rename us as such - which I resisted."
Both Natalie and Carl received Coastal View Community Awards in 2014. Natalie had peeled away from Friends of Redcar and went on to create the "Save the Regent" campaign which saw the Regent receive funding and a much needed facelift along with a trust committee to look after the longer term view.
After ten months of campaigning and rubble collections, FRED managed to get acceptance from the Environment Agency and they, together with Balfour Beatty and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, brought teams of workers, JCBs and trucks to clear up the beach. FRED to date have cleared up over 100 tonnes of masonry from their sessions and the EA have promised to come back in February 2015.
So where did FRED come from and what have you been up to?
"FRED was an endearing acronym of Friends of Redcar, created during one of our group meetings by one of our regular volunteers, Jean Fines. She said it and it stuck immediately. She also came up with the name of our effort to hold a joint community group event and donkey derby in June. 'Friends Together' events will continue to be part of our intended direction.
"What many people don't realise about us is the amount of letter writing we do. Personally I get as much pleasure from resolving issues this way as I do from organising the litter picks. Behind the scenes we are involved on all six wards. We have successfully challenged many issues both structural and strategical. One of our most used document is the council's complaint form. I've even complained about the complaint form because you can't add pictures! (Which I'm assured is set to change - will have to chase it up!)
"We were the architects to getting the awful compound pulled down, that had stood for four years, at Wykeham Close just a week after we complained. We've had some success at the old cliffe garage site, which has been there for 8 years and became a tipping ground for mattresses and the like. We had overgrown neglected fields and derelict sites cut down. We had a children's play park made safe. And we even got the 'O' put back up at Tesco. On top of that we are working to standardise and promote council ward meetings so more residents are able to participate and we have inspired other groups to form such as Zetland Pride and Friends of Dormanstown. We also have involvement in the newly formed Friends of Kirkleatham grounds and Museum which is the jewel in Redcar's crown in my eyes."
"We also assisted stewarding with the British Landsailing event and hope to again in July 2015. But I'm mostly so proud of our litter picks. It really moves me that from a humble beginning we are now encouraging between 30 and 40 residents every time. And some have come from as far away as Sunderland. Others come along regularly every month. We've had mothers with babies, toddlers, businesses, families and pensioners all litter picking together and getting to know each other. It truly is fabulous. We have seen well beyond 200 volunteers on that beach.
So who is FRED and what is the future?
"FRED the mascot will be a seahorse. The winner from 200 entries was Aleesha Cox of Coatham
school and chosen by our 4000 strong social media following. The mascot will be designed and created for May 2015 when we're hosting our first major event on the seafront called FREDs 'Kick Off the Summer'. Wish us luck with that and we still hope to unveil a mural on the back of the cinema too. We have ideas and are working hard to deliver them.
"As I say we have the EA coming back in February and we'll continue to do monthly litter picks on the beach every first Sunday of each month at 10am alternatively from the Touchstone sculpture in Zetland and TunedIn in Coatham. We have ongoing complaints to pursue that include the Health and Safety Executive and Network Rail.
"FRED the committee are 15 activist, doers and thinkers. I've told them that it is no coincidence that they are together because they are some of the most active people in Redcar. It's a diverse bunch of experienced and positive people who are educators, planners, negotiators, diplomats, crusaders, conservationist, organisers, environmentalist, distributors, fund raisers and writers. I'm so proud of these guys and I think we're really going to come into our own in 2015.
"The biggest asset in Redcar, in the whole Tees Valley, is our 10 miles of coastline from the Gare to Saltburn so we need to clean it up and invite people in. We need to raise our standards in Redcar. There are areas that have been derelict or sealed off from public use for coming on to ten years. There is much that can be done with retailers communicating and our highways need unblocking, redirecting and redeveloping. When we do this our town will pick up trade, our events will be better supported and we will become a festival town creating jobs in areas such as the service and hospitality sector, retail and construction. FRED will be probing away positively but tenaciously behind the scenes and hopefully lifting this town to be vibrant, popular and just that, 'better' "
If you would like to be involved in FREDs litter picks contact firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow FRED on fb /friendsofredcar and /fredredcar
And on twitter @friendsofredcar
Visit their website at http://friendsofredcar.blogspot.co.uk/