An Interview with Flo’s – The Place in the Park

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

On the blog today, Natasha Molloy interviews Rosie Robertson, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Flo’s – The Place in the Park, to find about more about what it means to be community-owned, and to learn more about Flo’s commitment to sustainability. >>

Let’s start with understanding what it means to be community-owned?

Flo’s was set up to be a community hub, owned and cared for by the local community. Staff, managers, trustees, volunteers, members, consultants, tenants, and the community all contribute and shape what we do at Flo’s, how we do it and where we go next.

When people join Flo’s as a member, they have a say in how Flo’s operates day-to-day and how it develops in the future. Members are invited to attend Flo’s Annual General Meeting and can vote on the decisions discussed there. We will also hold regular Membership Forums which will be a space for members to hear how the project is going and share ideas.

This community-ownership helps Flo’s adapt to the community’s needs and desires—both for the present and future.

What is it about Flo’s that makes it such a favoured spot in East Oxford?

Flo’s is situated in the gorgeous Florence Park, this makes it a relaxing, and nature-centred place to meet up with friends and family, attend events such as our First Fridays, have work meetings, eat delicious meals and enjoy the sunshine.

Connecting people with nature is incredibly important to us, as it has proven health benefits, and doing it in a communal manner maximises them.

As an organisation, what are you most proud of from 2021/2022?

We are most proud of how we as an organisation have grown over the last twelve months, and how much hard work our team and community have put in to really make a difference in our local OX4 community.

This has allowed us to step up our community and social enterprise partnerships. We have also started fundraising for solar panels which would allow us to save a significant amount of money on energy bills. Our community events and outreach have increased and on 1 August, we are launching our Rainbow Families Drop In for LGBTIQ+ families. We have worked hard on our social media and website presence, so that people are able to share in the day-to-day joy of what we are doing here at Flo’s.

How did the OX4 Free Food Crew come about and what was your involvement?

We are founding members of the OX4 Food Crew partnership which is on a mission to ensure that everyone in OX4 has enough food, is well nourished and can thrive.

This partnership of 9 grassroots organisations delivered 35,000 emergency meal parcels, over 17,000 hot cooked meals, cooking courses, and community meals in OX4. Working in partnership is hugely important for all the organisations—together we are better resourced, and can share knowledge and information about needs in the community.

You can also self-refer to receive meals, and you can volunteer too!

We saw in your impact report that you are committed to becoming a more sustainable organisation and awareness and action on the climate emergency runs through everything you do, can you tell us more about this?

Bringing awareness to climate change and enabling action starts with providing opportunities to experience nature, freely and openly, by yourself and with others.

Flo’s The Place in the Park, Oxford Garden Partners and The Oxford City Council Parks Department have partnered up to bring new life to a corner of the park. We have transformed the dilapidated mini gold area into the beautiful Naturescape project. This is a new outdoor space for wildlife, play and the whole community. This a space to encourage wildlife and more diverse native ecologies. It is a space for the community to use for outdoor learning and play! The space has 4 areas: fire, air, earth and water. It is home to many native species, a sensory park and spaces to explore and learn from nature.

Through the Refill Shop we enable local people to reduce plastic waste by buying unpackaged items and support the local economy. The money raised through Flo’s Refill Shop will go towards supporting our community projects. This allows people to make a small change in their shopping habits, has an impact on how much plastic ends up in landfill, and raises awareness about how much plastic is wasted.

Our cafe and nursery are 100% vegetarian (with one meat dish on weekends only) and we are currently working on installing solar panels as a more renewable source of energy.

These actions are small in the face of the scale of the climate crisis and we know we need to keep changing and adapting at a rapid pace like all organisations need to be. Our board has two trustees who lead on environmental sustainability and help keep us to account.

What are some of the social enterprises that you’re involved with at the moment?

We are currently working with OCA Kitchen, which is an endeavour from Oxford Community Action, and are providing them with support in running their weekly evening community meals here at Flo’s — The Place in the Park, on Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30pm to 8pm.

Oxford Community Action is a multi ethnic community group working in OX4 running children and youth activities, providing 320 families a week with emergency food parcels and leading on community research. Their community work is open to everyone, but in particular their aim is to  support  Black and minoritized people to tackle and overcome barriers created by structural inequalities. You can read more about their work here.

OCA are looking for new ways to sustain and support their community. As such they are launching the OCA Kitchen—a new social enterprise serving food from a different nation every week- all cooked by local chefs. We look forward to tasting delicious dishes from Nigeria, Jamaica, Iraq, Malaysia, Tanzania, Pakistan, Somalia and Morocco. 100% of profits got to the community work they do.

We also continue to partner with and support No Vice Ice (who make 100% locally grown fruit ice lollies and support people with invisible health conditions) and Damascus Rose Kitchen (who provide employment opportunities for Arabic speaking refugee women). You can find out more about these 2 brilliant social enterprises here;

Damascus Rose Kitchen

No Vice Ice

We saw your nursery had a great write up from Ofsted. What are your hopes for the nursery?

Flo’s nature nursery is a thriving small nursery with space for up to 24 children/session aged 2-4 years old.

This year we have been using the park with the children, running our outdoor forest school sessions at the newly developed NaturEscape for the older children five days a week during the summer. We raised frogs, butterflies, ladybirds, and ducklings in our nursery this year, learning about life cycles while cultivating a love of nature. The children have built shelters, learnt about Nature, cooked over the fire and generally embraced this exciting outdoor environment. We hope to keep running our outdoors sessions over the coming years!

Our nursery is a diverse place accessible to many families—this year we’ve had  40 children who have English as an additional language, 14 children who have additional needs, 13 children in receipt of government funding for Two Year Olds and 15 children in receipt of Pupil Premium.

What’s something not many people know about Flo’s?

Many people might not know that we host the Isis community midwives team who are part of the NHS here at Flo’s. We also run lots of activities for families at Flo’s.

Any favourite Oxford indies or any that you’re interested in?

Waste2Taste based at the Ark T Centre who are also continuing to provide meals as part of the OX4 Food Crew and create amazing meals out of surplus fruit and veg.

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