Cotmanhay man talks to the ‘Tiser

John Allen from Ilkeston
John Allen from Ilkeston

Cotmanhay may not have always had the best of reputations, but one Ilkeston grandfather is determined to get people involved in making improvements to the area.

John Allen, 60, will be a familiar face to many town folk. He has been a plumber and gas engineer in the Ilkeston area since he was 16, and has been involved with the Action For Cotmanhay (AFC) group for five years.

He said: “The biggest thing I’m getting involved with at the moment is the Thriving Families project with Derbyshire County Council. We are trying to get people from Cotmanhay involved with projects such as keeping the former Bennerley School hall for a community hub and trying to get some of the local groups to use it, such as karate and gym clubs.

“There is also the sports field that was in use a few years ago,” he said. “We want to use that as a pitch for youngsters in the area.”

There are seven people on the board for Action for Cotmanhay, and the group currently has a number of other projects in the pipeline such as organising a football tournament.

“People can’t afford football training so we are trying to get something set up for the kids. I have a meeting this week about litter in the area and we are going to see if children from Cotmanhay Juniors can do posters.”

John has lived in Cotmanhay for 35 years, moving there from the Larklands estate.

As a youngster he went to Gladstone Infants School, Kensington Junior School and Kensington Senior School.

He is passionate about improving the area he knows and loves, but wants more people to get involved: “When we hold meetings, a lot of people have ideas for projects in the area, but you find that there are a lot of followers but no leaders. People don’t like responsibility so part of the new project is to get people involved more. It gives people more confidence to do things and there are lots of things that people can do.

“We did projects before with unemployed lads in the area. I’m a big believer in kids doing something rather than sitting at home.”

John, who is married with two children and five grandchildren, said he is keen to get a similar project up and running which gives the unemployed something to focus on, such as doing odd jobs like painting fences. In turn this would give local jobs to people in the area.

“There are some lads that would love a job. More respect for the area is needed, more positive attitudes than negative. At the end of the day people have got to take more responsibility.”

John and the other members of AFC are involved in a voluntary capacity. Funding has enabled them to be able to take struggling families to a pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, and last year 25 people made the trip to Wembley stadium.

He said: “There are still a lot of people who don’t know what we do. It would be good to get more people involved with the school hall project so hopefully it will be open for the community by December.

“People used to go to the Co-op in Ilkeston every morning even if it was just for a coffee. Those people now don’t have anywhere to go - one of the things we really need is a place for people to meet where they can have a chat.

“We did a war-themed project around two years ago which was quite successful, where young people integrated with the older generation. If we could do something like this again it could work quite well.”

More information on Action for Cotmanhay can be found at www.action4cotmanhay.org.

To find out how to get involved with the group and become involved with future community projects in Cotmanhay, call John on 07910 871183.