Neil’s Blog: Pride in Ockendon: A Facebook favourite

ONE week ago, my Facebook feed was awash, literally, with videos of people throwing buckets of water over their heads. Everyone and their kids became swept up in the charity craze of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. While this was all very worthwhile, I had tired of the endless stream of footage way before I was handed my own nomination for a soaking. I wondered if I would ever see a return to the good old days of Facebook when people could think of nothing better to use it for than to take pictures of their lunch or post results from pointless quizzes on Buzzfeed. Somehow, I missed finding out which US State I was or what my brother-in-law had eaten for breakfast.

Fast forward 7 days, however, and Facebook has seen the birth of something a little bit special – something of a local phenomenon. We have seen the arrival of a group which has the sole purpose of bringing people together to share memories, stories and pictures. Welcome then, to South Ockendon and Belhus Memories Facebook Group! Â Â

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will be very aware that I often write about my hometown. I have written about the history, as well as my thoughts and hopes for its future. South Ockendon, as maligned as it often is, has been a wonderful place to grow up in and remains a good place to live. At times, I have wondered if I have been alone in these thoughts, but the group has proved that a vast number of residents of the town, both past and present, are more than happy to celebrate their thoughts and memories.

The result has has been spectacular.Â

In a torrent of activity, old friends have been reunited. Long lost buildings have been resurrected and celebrated and noted public servants, from park keepers, road sweepers, shop keepers and teachers have been remembered. For someone who spends most of his time wishing he was back in the past, this has been a rare treat.Â

During these hard economic times, South Ockendon, like many of its neighbours, have found the going tough. However, with so many people sharing their memories and stories it is clear that, while life in the town may never have been sugar coated, it has produced a population who, when given the chance, bristle with pride.Â

It has been valuable to note among the many thousands of posts and stories that the town has been home to many famous people and that it was once a centre of motoring excellence. The group cover photo is that of a couple of pristine Ford Escort Mexico’s, which were high class, high performance cars of their day. The picture serves as a poignant reminder of the town’s place in Britain’s motoring heritage – just weeks after the Ford’s plant at Aveley was destroyed to make way for housing. Such was the quality of the car; even legendary F1 Champion Graham Hill arrived to roll one off of the Aveley production line in 1970.Â

Visiting the group, which can be accessed by request or invitation, offers a glimpse not only into the history of the town but also of the bonds between the people. Common experiences and shared events are bringing a town together, albeit virtually, but together none the less.Â

Whether the group lasts for a week, a month or much longer, it has achieved something special. It has prompted people to celebrate the good in a town fighting against the hardship of recession. If the feel good factor is just a spark, it is a spark which has shone bright.Â

Keep it up Ockendon!

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