May Community Hero Winner

St Albans community centre activist wins May’s Maltings Community Awards

A St Albans activist who has worked tirelessly to bring a new community centre to Cottonmill and Sopwell has won the latest Maltings Community Awards 2019.

In January 2018, Michelle Mackenzie set up resident-led campaign group CASH (Cottonmill and Sopwell Hub) to lobby for a new community centre in that district of St Albans.

The area has no library, social club, or pub, and very few shops.

Rallying the troops, Michelle presented an 1,000 signature strong petition in support of the project to St Albans district council (SADC) last year.

CASH is now working with Verulam Cycling Club, Sopwell Community Trust, and SADC to make the vision a reality.

Michelle said: “It took a while to convince them [SADC] that basically we could make this work. They knew the need was there but it was whether we would all pull together.

“We don’t have a pub anymore, we lost our social club a long time ago, and we don’t have a library. We have a few shops and community halls but we have to rent them.

“There is nowhere for our elderly people to meet up with friends, there is nowhere for our teenagers to go and get a cup of coffee – except outside McDonald’s.”

Michelle is a mum of two who has lived in St Albans all her life. She works as a part-time gardener alongside her campaigning.

She said: “Like most people, I just do what I do because I want to make where I live a better place for everyone and I just do what needs to be done and you don’t expect or look for any recognition.”

As the May winner, Michelle receives £100 to spend in any of The Maltings shops and is entered into the Herts Advertiser Community Awards finals in September.

Maltings centre manager, Phil Corrigan, said Michelle deserves this recognition: “Michelle’s aim is to bring a community space back to the Cottonmill and Sopwell area; she has campaigned tirelessly, and after joining forces with others, formed CASH – Cottonmill and Sopwell Hub.

“As is the case with many of our winners, Michelle didn’t expect any recognition for all her hard work, she ‘just gets on with what needs to be done’! She is a very special lady with a vision to reinstate a social area in a part of St Albans where she has spent her whole life.”

CASH are also hosting a Larks in the Parks event in Sopwell on June 30 from 12pm to 5pm at the Marlborough Pavilion Open Space.