History of ODEF
A brief history of ODEF by David Heathcote, Development Manager.
A public meeting held in 1993 on the day of the closure of Ollerton Colliery heralded the arrival of the Ollerton and District Economic Forum, known as ODEF. The strong community spirit of the local residents ensured that, despite the economic devastation that followed the shutting of the pit, the town would survive and recover from the blow of losing its lifeblood industry. Over 2,000 jobs were lost when the colliery and the two textile factories in the town were all closed in the mid-90’s and this had a severe impact on Ollerton and the surrounding villages.
The small group of local people who formed ODEF quickly recruited nearly one hundred members drawn from business, community organisations, local government and the general public. ODEF defined its charitable role in the community with the declaration of its mission to regenerate the town and help those local people suffering from the effects of economic and social decline. By 1998 ODEF was a registered charity with paid staff and a strong band of volunteer workers.
ODEF’s work was divided between local regeneration projects and the provision of public services. Supported by various grants from such bodies as the Lottery and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, ODEF was able to tackle important economic issues and social matters. One of the early tasks that had to be addressed was the development of the former pit site and one of the first volunteer projects to be undertaken was to establish the site as a place for future employment. The project evolved over the years and eventually became the Sherwood Energy Village. Other important volunteer projects included a recycling scheme, a tourism action team and the formation of a food co-operative. Members from ODEF established the Ollerton Youth Project in 2000 in order to address issues affecting the young people in the town.
ODEF was particularly effective in the establishment of a number of public services all linked to supporting local people who were seeking jobs and training. For many years ODEF has offered education and training courses in basic skills including ICT. Alongside this there has run an employment support service that was formed after the closure of Ollerton’s job centre office. ODEF deals with around a hundred jobseekers each year as well as over two hundred students. A business support service was also established in order to assist those wishing to become self-employed and this has helped to create dozens of small firms over the last 20 years.
The Community Breaks Project was an ODEF initiative funded by the Big Lottery that aimed to benefit local people through partnership working. A range of services were offered including employment support, skills training and a volunteer matching service. It also included access to personal development courses and community group activities.
The present day work of ODEF has changed very little in nature and there continues to be a need to address issues of poverty and deprivation in the community. There is still high unemployment in New Ollerton and the number of people dependant on social benefits is amongst the highest in the county. The poor public transport infrastructure in the town coupled with the low car ownership rate means accessibility to public services is still a serious problem. ODEF intends to continue its training service over the next few years as well as providing employment support and opportunities to get people off benefits and into work.
A vision for the future
In the future, the organisation will build on its proven record as a major partner in the local and wider regeneration programmes. ODEF will continue to be a focal point for volunteer and community-based involvement in regeneration schemes and maintain its status as an important service provider to local people, business and community groups in the Ollerton area.
ODEF will work toward the economic regeneration and diversification of the local community and thereby assist in the development of a viable and sustainable local community.