My Councillor year WRAPPED: 2022

I love Spotify Wrapped (Here’s mine from this year FYI OFC Yungblud is #1, cuz DONX REPRESENT!), so I always try and do it for my year as an elected councillor.

I’ve been trying to reflect as I go along, being a councillor, so I can keep critically reflecting on my actions/systems/processes/what i’ll do better/different next time etc – but there’s more learning to be done in both the short and long view.

One of my goals for me being in this role is to both ask: what is the role of a local councillor in 2022/3? (Arguably a bit different from even just 2 decades ago as things get more complex & multiple orgs/partners deliver and collaborate for council-like services) and also how can I be as transparent as possible on what it’s like to be a councillor?

This is hoping that showing the nitty-gritty, the fun stuff, the not-so-fun stuff – that it will inspire other people to want to become a councillor. That being an elected official is more than complaints about bins (tho surprisingly get a lot of that), and endless standing order papers and meetings. That we have the freedom to use a lot of different methods to explore how/why/when/where/who of people/place/communities/planet’s needs.

How it uses and builds so many skills and training for the person who is a councillor. And that anyone can be it: Young, old, a carer, a professional, self employed, an artist, a healthcare professional, a stay at home person, a retail worker, whatever! This is for everyone, and all kinds of people in local government that reflects the population that they are serving. A mixed bag of everything adds great perspectives, experiences, and ideas and opportunities.

And ofc, I hope this shows the work and time that this role takes.

Whilst somewhat arbitrary, the end of the calendar year does present us all with a valuable opportunity to reflect on the year that was: The long view. And plan for the year that will be. As someone who has to deal a lot with chronic pain, esp over this last 2 months, I think we often learn to tolerate the sometimes-painful present by living in the future. It’s easy to glaze over the past/present and focus on the future, but failure to reflect will eventually manifest as a failure to grow and repeat the same issues.

So, with that in mind – what has my past year looked like!?!

I went to a lot of meetings. It works out as nearly 1 every other day. That actually feels a lot now, ha!

A lot of these were about proactive or complex things. Such as getting the Welfare Miners Hall on the Levelling Up Fund, or in response to big community info events, such as the planning issues for New Family Homes (children homes… I’m rebranding them as New Fam Homes now, as that’s what they are and takes off the stigma and clinical-ness of ‘children’s home’) to our 2 hour training on different things like Cost of Living Crisis etc. And don’t forget that I am also chair of Health & Adult Social Care Scrutiny, so I have more meetings because of this role.

What I notice now is that residents prefer to get in touch with you through everything BUT email – even though I really do try to tell them to email me instead, if they do it through social media etc. The fact that a huge chunk of my casework came from being somewhere / in person – often older folks – makes me feel like the councillor role is still accessed predominately in its traditional form. Even though I think the surgery model needs to be updated into how people actually live their lives to make it more accessible for familes and younger working people. Some really interesting design questions on how to enhance accessibility and participation in local democratic services here.


This year wasn’t as clear-cut as last year (no pun intended). Last year was environment casework HEAVY. But this year, a lot of those issues we had weren’t repeated. Which is fantastic, it means we were listened to and practice was changed. But green space is our biggest asset here in my ward, and people are passionate about wanting better things and activities for young people. So whilst some things were resolved, when combined with ASB – environment still got top billing as the overall theme of casework. Between wildfires, and children wanting to do more litter picking events and more tree planting, tree dramas of all sorts, planning community garden designs, and most of all: not being able to enjoy green spaces due to flying tipping, crazy ASB of quad bikes and car chases made this number one.

It’s also worth noting that Environment tends to have a seasonal vibe to it. So whilst it gets #1 spot – HUGE chunks of that comes from early spring, all summer and to late fall.

Also in this area is the need for play park upgrades. I get emails and messages about this almost every week. More info later on in this post.

Housing has been a HUGE one this year. Of all sorts. It is often, like environment, multifaceted with multi-partner/areas of issues. I’ve had a lot of complex issues with peoples wellbeing in housing situations this year. Some of those have been incredibly hard, and it’s often really hard to know what to do next after you’ve done everything you can.

Homelessness and accessible housing needs continue to grow and is a lot of my emails. People just want good, affordable (accessible) housing that is stable and secure. That isn’t as easy to get as it once was. A report in from the ONS this week shows that in Yorkshire, the rent on the median home is unaffordable for households on the median income. This means that more people are turning to council housing because it’s affordable & reliable. Unfortunately, we need the gov to invest in building more social housing for LAs! With our growing aging and poorly population, our (UK) housing stock does not come close the needs our future population will need. And its massive shortsightedness, from the UK Gov, not to encourage better housing quality standards and true accessible housing design. And your local authority are left to pick up the pieces.

I’ve used last years image because it’s exactly the same! But with an added extra of crazy increase of robberies and some truly gnarly weapon use and attacks, including shootings. I project for this to get worse, as the cost of living crisis puts added stress and strain onto people and pushes into desperation.

I had our youth councillors for the area tell me that their 2nd priority is that they don’t feel safe. That shook me to the core.

At our Community Engagement Meetings for the North (CEM), even though it’s all the partners across the council and police, 98% of what arises is about crime & ASB. I could write a whole separate post on this, alas for now – what we have to look forward to is we will FINALLY get our own North Doncaster policing team on 9th Jan (my bday!). (which we haven’t had… for a decade? or more?). And arguably is probs one of the main reasons this area statistically and feels like it’s been getting worse. So here’s to next years beginning to turn it around!

Other big themes

Included lots of road stuff. Including very very poor signage and diversion planning. Lots of stuff about cycle paths, and traffic lights, and pot holes and air pollution and more. What I mostly take from this is: cars are the bane of our lives but we are so car-centric that we can not see for the life of us that most of the things we’re complaining about would be eased by walking, cycling, investing in and taking public transport more. Alas… until the latter happens (unlikely soon under this national gov) we are stuck with air pollution, and bad driving.

Some individual cases I spent a lot of time on

+ Listening to residents and trying to share knowledge on New Family Homes and kids in care. (June-Aug)

+ Cycle path development (All year)

+ Highfields barriers and fences to stop illegal cars and fires and more (all year)

+ Highfields country park enhancing meetings/Future Parks (including ASB and issues with bin emptying) (All year)

+ Adwick Park Pavillion development (All year, every couple of months)

Some of the big Proactive things I’ve done this year:

Planet Power with kids !

We got loads of kids out to plant trees in March. They LOVED IT. Unfortunately, the all burned down in the 40+C heat wildfires in the summer. But the kids demanded action, and so we did lots of litter picking and discussion of future stuff.

Building up Youth Provision/connections!

We started Camp Get Together! To make sure young people had access to pure fun activities over the summer- that wasn’t obsessed with just physical activity – but play, making, friendship and leadership – with adventure in their own area. This experience was AMAZING. So rewarding but it was also HARD. And gosh, this summer was HOT. I learned loads about managing 30+ random kids of all ages in outdoor settings and making and team leadership. It felt really successful, despite some of the challenges, because we had kids with all kinds of learning needs, and physical disabilities, and autism and lots of local kids who wouldn’t have had access to this kind of fun or making if it never happened. We even got thank you cards and gifts at the end of the project! I still have them on my desk 😀

Now we’re constituted, it’s put us in good sted to develop more projects, programs and investments.

Building a Community Play Manifesto!

I applied for us to get some arts council money for the Jubilee in June, where we did ARTY PARTY IN THE PARK. The funding allowed us to get artists & designers to lead art workshops, bring art objects and play objects to help people think what is play, how play makes you feel, how we can use all diff senses through play, etc. This was the start of finding out what play means to my community, how we can make play for every one! Not just kids, and not just play equipment. You can find out the findings for the communities vision of play equipment here, which i am hoping will properly begin in 2023, as we just secured extra funding!

See the communities call for more play and youth investment in the video below!

My goal? To make adwick & carcroft the most playful, creative, resilient and collective imaginative community/ward 😉


This was a tricky one. When I was elected 17+ months ago, I had no idea how we could make the library be open for the whole community again. And for it to be this space of belonging and activity. As a team of councillors, alongside the libraries team – Bill Mchugh and Cllr Nidge Ball – we somehow ended up getting the space back. A year ago today, it didn’t look like this was possible. 2 months on from the re-launch party (which had over 250++ folks attend), groups are joining left right and centre, we have some very happy and committed new and old volunteers (who basically make ALL of this possible), we have the triage team (Doncaster Your Place) who are pivotal in making it a space for everyone and links to all kinds of support. This past Saturday we had our 1st xmas markets, which went down well (150+ peeps attended) and in the new year we have author talks, art exhibitions and youth programs planned. What a difference a year makes? What a difference that the team works in making the dream work?

Community Crime Stoppers! (Design sessions)

As stated above, at our CEM meetings – the communities across the North locality are crying out for more preventative/proactive/resourced/empathetic policing when it comes to the increasing rates of ASB & crime of all sorts. We also have a reporting problem, in that crime & ASB have become so part of the natural landscape that we see daily, that it becomes apathetic (Plus SY police online crime reporting site sucks balls – it is in desperate need of user friendly re-design & de-bugging & get rid of loads of unnecessary data collection that would make a reporter feel like they can’t trust this site).

I’ll be honest with y’all. It felt powerless in these CEM meetings. For various complex reasons. So I thought, let’s do what I do for my day job with the community? Do a 3 hour design session, thinking through ideas and choosing one & designing how it would work – in responce to a theme (the themes were: prevention, reporting, community safety). I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how engaged folks would be, if 3 hours was too long? Well… it went on for nearly 4 hours & we got kicked out of the building we were in because it was too late. The people came up with AMAZING ideas. 4 incredible ones that i’m taking forward to the police in Mid Jan to see how we can make them work.

PIZZAAAAA PARTTTTYYY! (Welfare Hall Consultation/engagement event)

Let’s reinvision what a community centre can be. Let’s dream big! Make it run on green energy. Have a social enterprize community health run programs in it. Exhibitions, stand up comedy shows for SY! A local cafe training local people and employing residents nearby. What can our heritage inspire and push forward our challenges for collective making and imagining today?

This was an amazing event. 100’s of pizza slices. And blessed with the nicest, hottest day in March ever. Over 400 folks came, gave us 100’s and 100’s of ideas. Energy. Community. Everything – and that space/history/what it stands for – helped it come together. We have the amazing architects come and help use this to help us create the plan – which went towards us being able to put forward this plan: BUILT WITH AND BY THE COMMUNITY – for the 2nd round of the governments Levelling Up Funding. It’s been delayed a bazillion times, including again to 23rd Jan 2023. But we really need it to come through. There are backup plans (cuz I think it might be political), but I am just eager to take the momentum we have, and get rolling!

We won the SHU Levelling Up Challenge Fund!

Working with my colleagues from SHU (where I’m a lecturer). We applied for SHU’s levelling up challenge call out over the summer. Working with amazing academics/researchers from architecture, to psychology, urban planning, creative health, art & design & more – our idea is about using creative methods & bouncing off my area’s heritage of Woodlands Conservation Area (Model Village) – Garden Cities of the future. Ebenezer Howard’s book, originally published in London in 1898 as To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform and then in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow, proposed a peaceful but inherently radical experiment in city, town, and regional planning aimed at creating more healthy, self-sufficient, and just places to live and work that balanced the open space of the countryside with the cultural vibrancy of the city. Woodlands ‘model village’ is based on this – is one of the most accurate renditions of his design ideas in the country. And yet, so many people don’t know this history.

We’re going to use this, to help my community begin to dream and write/make/sing/photograph/design/draw/think/etc their own regenerative neighbourhood collective plan/manifesto – instill their own vision and power into place. Which will be visual and an exhibition – and then hope we can get funding for the ideas from there. But the workshops and ideas will dictate the rest, and maybe even the outcome idea of right now. We start doing from Jan 2023! My hope is that using a bit of donut economics, mixed with some Daniel Christian Wahl designing regenerative cultures, mixed with the super zany creative methods of art practice, and social justice – we will be 1 step closer to maintaining the energy that keeps coming up for the events we put on.

And there’s more!

But this post is long enough already. I will write a separate post reflecting upon the greatest opportunity I had, to take Jenny Andersson’s Power of Place course, with about 50 other DonX Council folks (& SO many incredible & generous regenerative thinkers from around the country & world). The reading was immense, the learning and ideas deep and immersed. It was a real commitment amongst my 500 other things to do. But I am so grateful for that opportunity and the commitment. It properly challenged and changed the way I think, practice, reflect. The levelling up challenge fund we got, was I think – in HUGE part to me taking that course and really thinking about the role of place/earth & stories of separation & other models in my communities. But this is another post.


Everything mentioned above was only made possible by collectivism and collaboration and listening and understanding. With some/a lot of trust – that we could pull it all off – and so much not yet done. People’s generosity in time through work or volunteering or stories/experiences, through activism and resilience, through team work – my amazing 2 cllr collegues (Debbie & John Mo) who go along with my crazy ideas. My amazing cllr friends – like Leanne & Julie & Lani & Gemma – who listen to me bang on or ask inane questions. To the incredible officers and directors who offer their expertise & time to ensure we can get the best results – and do a lot of teaching on the way. And to our leadership – where it is – i believe, led by compassion and care for the people and place of Doncaster.

It has to be noted that people are in grief. A collective grief. and they don’t have time to deal/feel/acknowledge/be with it. We have all suffered & suffering through collective grief reeling on from covid-19 onwards (my community with austerity before that too). It feels like a mass harm to not build up and listen and acknowledge it. As such, every thing/event/case is laced with a trace of grief on/in it. I am still wondering what to do with this, as we move forward. And I hope some of these projects: whether it be play, or imagining, making, asset building, safe space belonging – will help us.

I am still, non-stop learning. What a gift! A JOY! An ultimate privilege. Just the other day I learned about 120 yr old Victorian bridge engineering and water-logging – what other job do you get to do that in? I’m still finding it hard not to always solve everything (that’s ok), balancing resident views with truth/ethics & benefit (who likes to say no? & it feels at odds of the role itself) – and the local authority timescales, tho often a gift in reality – still blag my head. It’s like it exists in another dimension where time exists in a different form ( although time is ofc a construct anyways, as is the calendar year).

I feel like everything we’ve done has endless stories and threads baked into it, which makes it even more special and memorable. the most memorable moments this year are the ones that we bestow our own magic upon. And Jenny’s/Damian’s teachings have taught me this year that rather than the story behind an object/thing/project, it’s a world within.

I think of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (one of my most fav books, I love travel (non) fiction). Invisible Cities is a work of fiction that imagines the explorer Marco Polo in conversation with the emperor Kublai Khan. In separate, chaptered accounts, Polo describes cities in Khan’s empire so fantastical as to be unbelievable. And yet, his reports of each place—from how they look, smell, and feel, to the people who inhabit them—are so finely wrought that you forget they’re impossible. You’re fully, immersively transported.

In homage to Invisible Cities – and Power of Place, I take the task of “mapping” (pattern noticing) and forget objects/policies/projects/places as it exists in our world and imagine them in an invisible city/place/community contained within. I always start slow and build on from there.

In many ways it is an act of play. By being immersed in play we can lose all sense of scale and reality. And that’s kind of what I want us to do – esp in the dark grim context we find ourselves in right now. To build our collective imagination. One detail can led to another until you stop describing and start imagining instead.

Being a councillor this year, with all this new knowledge, it feels like I am I writing/drawing my way into this city/community, this place with political and economic darkness and instead – with my residents – we are beginng to start to filter more light into it.

What does it look like, smell like, and feel like there? How has the environment shaped the citizens? What do they fear? What do they wish for? When you think you’ve gone deep, go deeper. Get lost.

To getting lost, imagining and listening to grow/repair/heal/see/ be new lights. That’s a wrap! Tho the job/role/work is never finished.


Published by smizz

Artist → Re-evaluating life→ Rad Oncology graduate + public health worker→ @lab4living PhD-er → Want 2 make a positive difference → Rule-Breaker → LIVE DRAWZ! → councillor! → Loves cities → rides fixie → adventures → wanna be ramen master → <3 Tokyo + NYC

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