My name is Claire Bent. I’m the Community Engagement Manager for the University of Birmingham, and have lived in Birmingham for just over a year, since taking up this post. I have spent all of my working life involved in Community Development/Engagement, Peace and Reconciliation work, and so love this role. I am a fan of tea, Persian food, being barefoot, travelling – especially to out-of-the-way places, and the feeling of being wrapped up warm on a freezing day.
What is your favourite thing about Selly Oak?
I love the people. It’s a magical mysterious mix of local residents, students, business owners, academics. That makes it a challenging dynamic to work within, but makes for a really interesting community!
What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you or you’ve seen happen in Selly Oak?
Hmm. I’ve not had too many ‘weird’ Selly experiences, which is a little odd as I normally attract weirdness like a moth to a flame. I have never quite before had the experience of feeling as though I could potentially, if I’m not careful, be playing human ten pin bowling by simply driving my car down the high street and round to the back of Uni. Seriously, people, look where you’re going! Ha!
What does ‘community’ mean to you?
Ah, it means everything. Seriously. It means home and welbeing and someone to bring you soup if you’re sick. It means belonging – not just in a practical sense, but in an existential way, in that there are people who are sharing your journey. It means a place for people to grow and develop and learn from one another about both practical life stuff, but also about what it means to be human. It means having a place to fail and succeed within, a rallying troupe of people who are there no matter what. It means being able to knock on a neighbour’s door, remembering birthdays, inviting people who you know will be alone over for a coffee or Christmas Dinner. It means sharing the brilliant things in celebration, and the hard things in collective grief. It’s a thread that holds everything together. Still glad that you asked that?!