“You can’t put a value on this group.”

It’s Wednesday morning which means it’s time for the weekly get-together hosted by the residents of Sydney Jones Court in Moston, right next door to FC United.

These sheltered scheme residents are an active bunch. They’ve formed themselves into a little group called the In-Betweeners.

“Where does the name come from?” I ask Sandy who’s one of the organisers.

“Because all our members are between 50 and whatever age. So it’s between the ages, that’s all. To tell you the truth, we couldn’t think of anything else,” she laughs.

The group was set up when a new court manager arrived. I’m told that Festus Igbinehi was determined that, although the residents in his care were older, it didn’t mean they weren’t able to get out and about and have some fun.

As a constituted group the In-Betweeners can apply for funding and have been supported by the Fourteen programme, amongst others. The residents have organised trips to the theatre and to dances; and, closer to home, they’ve enjoyed craft sessions and visits to the community cinema at The Miners across the road.

“How important is a group like this to the residents?” I ask after I’ve been introduced to Festus.

“You can’t put a value on it,” he says. “If they didn’t come here they wouldn’t see anyone from one day to the next. So it’s a good way of getting out and about.

“We go to the Home theatre in town every few weeks,” he says, “and we’ve seen some wonderful shows. There are some in our group who’d never been to the theatre before. Next month we’re off to see Uncle Vanya.”

I introduce myself to some of the group. There’s Tony organising the football fundraising card, supping from a huge mug of tea. “Kieran,” he shouts across the room, “I’ve put your name on it.”

And then there’s Megan and 90-year-old Ada sitting together on one of the settees. “It gets you out of the flat,” says Ada when I ask her what she likes about the group, “and it’s always friendly. But I haven’t been to any of the theatre trips. I can’t get about like I used to.”

“I’ve always liked the theatre,” says Megan. “We went to see a wonderful play about a woman telling her story of living through the Holocaust.”

“Do you do acting?” Ada asks me. “I trying to work out whether you should play the murderer or the lover.”

“He could play both I think,” says Megan.

“I think I’d rather play the lover,” I say, keeping up with the banter. “I couldn’t play the murderer, I haven’t got a mean streak in me.

“How many do you get on a Wednesday morning?” I ask, trying to get my interview back on track.

“Normally more than this,” says Ada. “They must of heard you were coming with your camera!”

“I want to know about the coach trips,” I say, as Mary joins us. “Is it all raucous singing on the back seat?”

“Is it ‘eck,” she says. “I normally sit near the front. Sometimes I have to guide the driver through town because,” she starts to laugh, “I’ve got all my faculties you know!”

The weekly coffee mornings are open to all and this morning Forever Manchester’s community builder for the Fourteen programme is here too and Graeme has brought along Christine and Geraldine from the long-established Creative Co-op craft group.

“Chris has been before here to run some sessions,” explains Graeme, “and we’re looking at more ways to bring the groups together. It’s about joining things up and not having to re-invent the wheel each time”

“Which is what Forever Manchester does so well,” I say. “Are you staying for the armchair aerobics?”

All ashore who’s going ashore

Last month the North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (NMAODs) presented Death on the Queen Mary – written and directed by Vanessa Randall – and here Society member Stephen Chandler gives an account of the action.

By 7.15 we have a full house which makes this one of the most, if not the most, successful murder mystery that we’ve put on.

As the captain’s voice (David Swift) booms out to begin the play the audience goes quiet and we set sail upon our adventure. The cast are all awaiting their turn to enter and as they do the laughter rings out.

The play is about five murders on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary, a 1936 luxury liner, full to bursting with the rich and famous and some not so wealthy or famous; in fact a few with criminal intent. The first act closes and there’s a pause while everybody enjoys dinner. As the audience are also passengers they get to dine on the Queen Mary too and get chance to quiz the cast for clues on who the murderer might be.

Act Two and the mystery deepens. Who’s the murderer? Who’s the thief? And what little fiddles are the crew up to? Act Three and the revelations come thick and fast as Miss Jane Marple (Stella O’Reilly) does her sleuthing, and eventually the murderer and thieves are unmasked.

After the applause and great show of appreciation from the audience they then get the chance to see if they were correct in their ideas on the culprits. The winners are announced and prizes issued.

Interested in getting involved? Auditions are coming up for Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Check out the NMAODs Facebook page for all the latest.

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