LAB Wellbeing

A flyer about a new LAB course lands in my in-box and this statement catches my attention: “…aimed at adults who can self-identify with mild to moderate mental health and wellbeing problems.”

The course is a pilot at the Simpson Memorial Hall and is being run by Chris Higham and Sarah Jones from the Proper Job Theatre Company.I’ve been on a LAB course before. They grab you because they combine being inventive, interesting and challenging with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

I arrange to go along and find out a bit more.

“We help build emotional resilience” Chris explains. “Look at how you view yourself and introduce the idea that you can better yourself if you want to.”“Sounds great, but how?” I ask.

“At the start, everyone sets themselves a task or challenge. It might be something they want to do more of or less of, something new or something they want to change. It can be anything really but it has to be something they can complete by Friday.

If your dream is to get fit and run a marathon you might want to set your challenge to a jog around the block as a first step. It has to be something you can do within the week. Everyone’s target is different but usually it’s physical or mental health that people on the course want to improve.”

“Well, I want to lose a stone!” I butt in.

“Ok, but bring it right down, make it sizeable, so rather than have a massive goal that you fail, it becomes something you can achieve instead.”

He’s got me thinking. I decide to join up and meet the rest of the group. Like everyone else I feel a bit awkward at first, we exchange the usual polite niceties but then it’s straight in.By mid-week we’re chatting away like old friends. Our efforts are displayed around the room; sheets showing SMART objectives, a problem solving cycle, Challenge by Choice diagram, a working agreement and lots of collages.

Chris and Sarah are both brilliant at what they do and capture everyone’s interest effortlessly.

Sessions begin with a physical activity, nothing onerous but enough to wake your body and brain up. These are followed by a series of either team tasks where you work together, individual creative activities or mental problems and quizzes to resolve.They’re not all easy, some really stretch you, some are just a good laugh. Discussions are held throughout when the group reflects on what they might have done differently etc., and each day ends with a brief time to relax.The week closes with a chance to share the challenge we’d each set ourselves. All of them were achieved. Not big strides maybe but steps in the right direction.

A dollop of self belief and I left feeling good.

For more details about LAB Wellbeing and the LAB Project, including future course dates and who to contact, please visit the Proper Job Theatre Company website.

Elsewhere on Another Music there are lots of activities and links to local groups that you might find useful or interesting. The local library, the council, the noticeboard at the supermarket all have information about what’s going on nearby and how you can join in.

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Cameras, caterpillars and cake

We met up at the Little Lavender Community Hub and kicked off the event with a brew and a slice of cake. I went for the vegetarian option. It was the best carrot cake I’d EVER tasted.

The ‘we’ is a small group of people on a Nature Photography Walk with photographer Rich Bunce. No-one’s met before but we have two things in common, we like walking and we like taking photos.Our route starts at Wrigley Head Bridge, takes us along the Rochdale canal near Failsworth, under the Metrolink bridge, over the lock and down on to Moston Brook. Then we pick up the path through the undergrowth and follow it along the edge of the brook until we’re back at Wrigley Head.

“Just before you take a shot, pause a moment and think. Would it be better from a different angle or is this the best? Does that make sense?” We nod at Rich and each other.

“Do you just delete photos that haven’t worked out as well as you’d thought? Instead take a moment to work out why and next time they might be better.” We nod at Rich and each other.

“Ever taken what you thought was the perfect scene but didn’t notice the plastic bag flapping in the tree in the background?” I nearly shouted “I know what they are. They’re witches knickers!” but nodded instead.Our cameras range from a top of the range digital SLR, to handy compacts to mobile phones. You don’t need anything fancy; it’s what you do with it that matters.

As we stroll along Rich stops now and then to explain something and the group gathers round to peer at laminated examples from his rucksack. He talks about making the most of nature’s shapes, lighting, reflections, backgrounds, colour and the impact of simplistic views. We hang on his every word. He sets us challenges along the way.

It all makes perfect sense and we get busy, clicking our cameras at everything, literally everything we see, trees, plants, spiders webs, paths, bridges, caterpillars and each other.Now and then other walkers go by in groups, nodding and exchanging a smile as they pass. I wondered who they were and wondered if they wondered what we were doing. I found out they were Co-op employees on a charity walk (the Hope Challenge). They were cheerful and made a good day even better.

Back at the Little Lavender Community Hub Cafe Rich got a well-deserved round of applause and we had a quick chat before he had to leave. I’d assumed he was one of a team.

“No it’s just me” he said. “I get about though. Do various photography sessions, walks and workshops in Yorkshire, Manchester, Leeds and even London. I held one once while I was on a family holiday. Once was enough!”

When I asked him what his biggest challenge was his answer surprised me. “Marketing” he said. “It’s so important but takes up a lot of time.” I’ve seen his website and I reckon he’s spent that time pretty well.As for time, we’d had a brilliant one, loved every minute and learnt loads. The weather was kind, we’d taken hundreds of photos…and not one with ‘witches knickers’ in the background.

A big thank you to the Moston Brook Project for organising the event and the Manchester Festival of Ageing for the grant to make it possible.

To find out about other events around Moston Brook check out their Facebook page.

Details of other activities and photo walks with Rich Bunce can be found on his website.

Who put the ‘New’ in New Moston?

In two words: Elijah Dixon.

The Manchester Bridgewater Freehold Land Society was formed in 1850 by Elijah and his colleagues, with the aim of allowing ordinary workers a chance to acquire land, for housing or allotments, away from the smoke and pollution of overcrowded industrial Manchester.

Despite the parliamentary Reform Act of 1832, most ordinary workers (and all women) were denied the vote unless they owned land, so having your name on one of the society’s plots also gave you this right.

In March 1851, six holdings covering 57 acres at the “top end of Moston”, farmed by tenants of the Hilton family, of the medieval Great Nuthurst Hall, were purchased for £2,900 by the society, the aim being to divide the land into 230 plots. A plot could be bought through a loan, paid off by a subscription of a few pence or shillings a week. Land schemes such as this were early versions of what became building societies.The top end of Moston in 1848, showing the original area purchased by the Society shaded pink. Moston Brook is highlighted in green.

A further £5,000 was invested by the society in laying out new streets to serve the plots. An access road was formed from Hale Lane in Failsworth to replace a footpath, known as Morris Lane, across the Moston Brook, which formed the boundary (and still does). Morris Lane ran into Moston Lane (now ‘East’). The new road, connecting with Oldham Road, gave an easier route to Manchester, Oldham or beyond.

The brook was culverted and the hollow filled in to permit a road wide, level and firm enough to take carts and carriages into the estate at ‘New Moston’. The name chosen reflected Robert Owen’s model housing schemes such as New Lanark and New Harmony.

The access road was opened in 1853 and was soon followed by the laying-out of five streets: Dixon, Ricketts, Potts, Jones and Frost Streets. These were later renamed Belgrave, Parkfield, Northfield, Eastwood and – combined with the existing Scholes Lane, past Pitt’s Farm – Hawthorn Roads respectively.

By 1854, houses had begun to be built, some of the earliest surviving ones being Rose and Moss Cottages, Ivy Cottage and by 1863, a pair of cottages on Dixon Street, one of which was used as a beerhouse. By 1871 this was already named the New Moston Inn; in the twentieth century the two cottages were rebuilt and merged together as one.The New Moston Inn, originally two cottages dating from 1863 or earlier, seen here in 1905.

Around 1870, Elijah Dixon himself moved to a house on Ricketts St (Vine House) from Newton Heath, where he had lived for many years, next to his match works and timber yard. He died at Vine House in 1876, but his daughter and grand-daughter continued the line right up to 1940.

There was little change after Elijah’s death, until Moston and New Moston became part of Manchester in 1890. Many little-used plots began to be sold to developers, and the next twenty years or so saw a massive expansion of housing, both within the original area, with the addition of side-streets and avenues, and beyond, as neighbouring farms were gradually sold off.

Schools were built on what had been Brown’s Farm, Slater Fold Farm gave way to Nuthurst Road, the park and the avenues around Hazeldene Road, and Crimbles Farm, the last to go, enabled further expansion along Moston Lane, extending right up to the Chadderton boundary.

From the 1920s onwards, the building of Broadway spurred further expansion, such as the estates around West Avenue and Chatwood Road: New Moston is now much bigger than the original “top end of Moston”.

Elijah Dixon’s story, of lifelong social justice campaigning and his parallel industrial success, has just been published by Pen and Sword Books of Barnsley (details on the link below):-

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Beyond-Peterloo-Paperback/p/15101

The authors will be giving a talk to the Newton Heath History Society on Tuesday, 24 July 2018 at 1:30pm, at the Heathfield Resource Centre, off Mitchell St, Newton Heath.