We’re up to stop 25 of the B4RN Awards Tour and this time it’s Over Kellet!

The trophies – won last year – are being taken round the communities and volunteers who’ve got the job done of installing B4RN’s gigabit full fibre broadband network.

This occasion coincided with the Over Kellet volunteer group’s AGM, with seventeen volunteers present (pictured).

Six of them – Lesley Gee, Malcolm Cobb, Tony Knowles, Martin Lord, Martin May and Tony Winfield stopped afterwards to look back on their project…

Malcolm Cobb – “We heard about it. We didn’t know what it involved or how long it would go on. From the word go, and especially when we got the scent of bacon butties, we started to actually enjoy the digs.”

Lesley Gee – “It took us a while to get momentum going. But once we made the decision to clear here [the Village Hall] and start digging, everybody came on board.”

Martin Lord – “There were a few people early on who were really quite keen. Quite keen that B4RN have a presence in the village. I’d heard about it, I knew what it was going to be. I was keen from the off… but we didn’t really know what was involved. I think we went in with our eyes shut to start with and we realised just how much muck and graft there was going to be. Once we started, I think we realised the benefit of getting together as a social, outdoor, physical activity.”

LG – “There was a core group of people that were really enthusiastic that worked so well together and didn’t mind going up to their elbow under a wall. Definitely for the bacon sandwiches and cakes!”

Tony Winfield – “I think we caught that from B4RN. Because if you go to B4RN, with cake, they will pay you a lot of attention.”

What was the need for better broadband locally?

TW – “B4RN was an absolute godsend for me.”

LG – “It’s been a turning point for us. By the time it got to us you had less than 1Mbps. You couldn’t run what you wanted to, no way we could have a smart television.”

ML – “On our copper it was crackly. A lot of interference. You just knew you’d never get a clean data feed.”

Volunteers Assemble! (2020)

Any particular memories?

Martin May – “I remember off-reeling somewhere, we had loads of reels and somebody feeding it out. I just turned around and there was someone in this giant knot! They’d let it slip off and didn’t want to say anything!”

ML – “Outside of the dig days, spending several evenings with the breaker. Breaking into bedrock, quarrying into solid limestone.”

MC – “One of the curious things is the reference points you have walking the streets or meeting people in their houses. They go completely overboard, you find yourself at bottom of a garden wondering, where am I?!”

LG – “I think we were very lucky as well to be invited into other people’s gardens that were pristine and beautiful, that we’d never, ever have seen otherwise.”

ML – “We had one which was a bowling green lawn, you just knew it had to go back down as a bowling green!”

Tony Knowles – “Some of the gardens that we did go into they were better when we came out! We were quite good at paving at one stage.”

ML – “We had some really quite ambitious routes around the village. Sometimes we would get together in advance of dig days and get two/three gardens ready at a time. Then finally we’d have the “stitch it all together day”… something like 24 9mm ducts to pull through over about a hundred metres. That was a real community effort.”

LG – “We were one of the more urban builds, with houses back-to back.”

What about the social side of B4RN?

LG– “I’ve lived in the village 36 years and I didn’t know some people who lived in the village as long as I had. Friendships that have been made have continued.”

ML – “That respect and trust and community building is as important as the broadband to be honest. It’s a really good model for how to bring a village together, working like that.”

MM – “There was an old gentleman, Ken Holland, who used to come down and lean on his walking stick and just hold one of the lines. He didn’t feel he wasn’t doing as much as anyone else, he could just come and be there.”

ML – “We just all classed him as a supervisor!”

Laying out ducting, 2019

And why do/did you volunteer?

ML – “Cake and bacon!”

MM – “Bacon and cake!”

MC – “Fed up with BT!”

TW – “It was nice to do something with the community, we were relatively new. Nice to meet people and feel part of the community.”

ML – “A nice thing is if you’re going on a stroll round the village you’ll bump into so many familiar faces.”

TK – “I know I would never have met the number of people I have because of B4RN just by living here. Only with a project like this do you meet so many people.”

The group wished to give honourable mentions to: John & Sue Askew; Paul Gee; David Cornell and David Halstead.