Knit and Natter

What a super name. People smile as I walk in and make a space at a large table as if they’ve known me for years. Over the next hour or so, more arrive and are treated to the same welcoming response. It’s Tuesday and the group gathers every week at the Wellbeing Centre on Church Lane Harpurhey.

Everyone settles down, the hum of chatter gets louder against the sound of clicking needles and it makes me smile. It’s oddly relaxing.

Quietly, I admit I can’t knit.

“Don’t be put off. Christine couldn’t so we showed her and she’s brilliant. Hazel’s made her own blanket. You should see it. It’s fabulous.” I notice that not everyone is knitting anyway, so I don’t feel like the odd one out.

“Where do you get all the wool from? It’s expensive isn’t it?”

“Local people or friends and family donate it so there’s plenty to go at” explains Brenda who’s stepped in to run the group today. “The centre makes use of anything it can. As well as ‘Knit and Natter’ there are several craft groups during the week who can turn quite ordinary things into something really special.”

Around us there’s a constant buzz and lots of conversations going on all at the same time.

You can join in any discussion if you have the urge or just sit and listen.

Last weekend’s craft fayre is a hot topic today. It was an opportunity for the various groups to showcase their efforts to the public and offer them for sale. The tombola stall made the most money and they discuss how to advertise it better next time. The lady next to me, Hazel, had taken photos of the day and scrolls through pictures on her iPad of knitted clothes, home-made cards, candle holders, painted bottles, all sorts. They are proud of their work and rightly so.

“I’m a digital champion when I’m not here” Hazel says. “I show people in the community, the older generation in particular, how to use technology, such as iPads and laptops. Basics, like how to use search engines, buy things online, listen to music, download books, that sort of thing.” My jaw drops a little. I’d no idea what a ‘digital champion’ was but how brilliant.

“Why did you join the group?” I ask Rachel who’s sitting further along.

“This is what I call ‘me time’. It’s for no-one else just me. I’m a carer for two family members and also work in the evenings.” she explains. “I just love the place and everyone treats you as if you’ve been coming for years. I’ve knitted all sorts too. I’m not used to socialising and was nervous at first so my niece, Sarah, came with me.”

Sarah’s a busy mum. “Bringing my aunt here has made me realise that I wasn’t taking time out for myself either. It’s important, otherwise you just eat, sleep and repeat. I like it here so much I’ve decided to start a cookery class. I used to run a cafe and cooking’s my thing. Can’t wait to get going”.

They both manage to carry on knitting without looking and smile throughout.

What an excellent couple of hours. I learnt something new. Didn’t knit a stitch. No-one was bothered. It was a chance to relax, have a natter and put the daily routine to one side for a while.


More than just football

“I enjoy it,” says Reece. “It keeps me fit, gets me out of the house and I like meeting up with the others twice a week.”

“What position do you play?” I ask.


“So you feed the strikers?” I ask, pretending I know what I’m talking about.

“You’ve got a good engine on you, haven’t you?” says North Manchester Athletics FC coach, Jordan Ryan. “He goes from box to box.”

“And what would you be doing on a Tuesday night if you weren’t football training?” I ask the 23-year-old.

“I’d just be sat at home watching telly, I suppose.”

Most people wouldn’t give this group of lads running around plastic cones on a training pitch behind Manchester Communications Academy a second glance, but tonight I’m finding out there’s much more to it.

In his day job Jordan works for Street League, an organisation that uses sport to re-connect with young people who don’t have a clear employment or education direction.

“We took this group of lads to play in the Manchester International Football Academy,” he says. “It was the first time they’d played as a team and we got beat 8-1. But they wanted to stay together and mithered me to set them up as a regular team.”

That was 18 months ago and at first Jordan wasn’t keen to give up his free time to become their volunteer coach but could see the benefits it brought to these teenagers and young men.

“I ran a similar project in Salford some years ago and that was massively successful at reducing crime rates,” he says. “I’m not saying all these lads would be causing trouble if they weren’t here but it gives them the opportunity to do something different, be part of a team, and a reason to get up on a weekend.”

North Manchester Athletics FC now has a squad of over 25 players aged from 18-23 and has competed in the Manchester Saturday Morning Football League since September.

“How are you getting on?”

“We got beat 8-0 in our first game and 7-0 in our second. We beat Partington 5-2 in our third game but it hasn’t been going so well since then.”

“It sounds like the only way is up,” I say. “Do the lads get demoralised?”

“No, not so much,” says Jason. “They’ve stayed together. They’re a tight bunch. We try to sort out our mistakes in these training sessions.”

On behalf of the team Jordan successfully applied for funding from Forever Manchester’s Fourteen programme which meets their expenses for half a season. “We pay for this pitch and our match day pitch,” he says, “which includes hot showers after the game. And we need a minibus for the away games. The Fourteen money has helped us massively.”

And, on top of the football and the benefits it brings, the players have other opportunities too. The team has partnered with North Manchester Sport and Activity Forum which helps with funding applications and, in return, the lads act as volunteers at their events. A win-win.

Jordan blows his whistle and brings everyone together. “In terms of Saturday’s game boys, we’re against Arlington at home. We’ve played them before and beaten them. We’re expecting a tough game but we now know their style.

“The plan tonight is to work on the shape of the midfield.”

“The station is about giving a voice to the people of North Manchester.”

Young leader at the Factory Youth Zone and pupil at Manchester Communication Academy, Jake Lindley investigates the radio station based at his school.

I spoke to David Kay, 106.6 FM’s Station Manager, and we spoke about the radio and how it involved the community and how the location helped with the community.

My first question was, “Why did you start 106.6 FM?”

David stated, “I didn’t actually start it, it was started back in 2009. The whole idea of community radio is getting involved in the local community and sharing information. Radio is a way of doing that. The station here is about giving a voice to the people of North Manchester.” He then continued to talk about how he volunteered at a radio station at ALL FM for 15 years and that is how he got into doing voluntary work on the radio.

I then continued to say, “So how do you involve the community?”

David said, “Pretty much all our shows will promote what’s going on in the local community. And hopefully, this will encourage people to get more involved in their local community.” He also said that all radio presenters are volunteers and do the work out of there own time.

“So is that the difference between 106.6 and, say, BBC Radio One?”

“Yes, we are all presenters are volunteers whereas on other station the presenters are professionals paid to do it as a job. Having said that I know there are people who been volunteers on community radio and ended up getting paid work as presenters on other stations.”

I then asked David, “On most of your shows, what do you like to talk about?”

“We’ve got lots of different shows. It runs from seven in the morning until nine at night. For instance, on Wednesday we have a volunteering show which is all about opportunities for volunteers in Manchester. We also have a health show where we have someone talking about health issues in North Manchester. And we have an older people’s show.”

David then continued to say that this week the presenters talked about veganism as it’s World Vegan Day and about credit unions and dementia cafes.

I then wanted to know more about why they put the radio in MCA (Manchester Communication Academy) so I asked and David said, “ I don’t know the answer to that. When I joined 18 months ago the station had just moved from the Manchester College at Central Park. And I guess the school, being a communication academy and being very active in the community, thought it would be a good fit to have the station here.”

I next spoke to Natalie Walsh, Community Radio Trainer and Volunteer Co-ordinator and we talked about the volunteering course that is running at 106.6FM and I asked her, “Why did she start the volunteering course?”

Then she state, “We were looking at ways where we could engage with the local people from Moston and Harpurhey.”

“So who can attend the volunteering course?”

“Over 18s and initially anyone who lives in Harpurhey and Moston but we’ve now stretched it out to the surrounding area too.

“The course has already started and will be every Tuesday morning for six weeks. Then on the 5th December, we’ll do a live outside broadcast. If anyone one is interested they can still join in, just get in touch with 106.6FM quickly!”

I then went on to ask, “Why did you start the course?”

Natalie answered, “Well, we need more volunteers and it’s about giving local people new skills and opportunities.”

Natalie then talked about the live show on 5th December between 10-12 at Harpurhey Market near Asda. It’s the first time it’s been done there. 106.6FM encourage people to come down on the day to be interviewed live.

I and Natalie then continued to talk about Forever Manchester and how important it is to 106.6FM. “Our course is funded by Forever Manchester and without them, we couldn’t run it. It’s key to our sustainability.”

If you would like to start on the volunteering course you still can! Just phone Natalie (0161 205 7600) or email

If you want to get in contact with the radio:

Phone: 0161 205 7600
Twitter: @normanfm1066
Facebook: NMFM 106.6fm

Photos by Jake Lindley and Len Grant