“Remind me what this Fourteen programme is all about,” I ask once we’re all settled in the Forever Manchester meeting room with our brews.
For the last three years Forever Manchester has worked with local people to give out £200,000 of lottery money in the Harpurhey and Moston areas of north Manchester.
This blog – Another Music – has been part of that programme and, now the money is spent, it seems a good time for a review. From the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
“It goes back to the 2012 Olympics,” explains Rachel Hirst, Head of Communities, “when a vast number of people came together to volunteer in sport and the arts. A lottery fund was set up called Spirit of 2012 that was inspired by all that positivity.”
“And Fourteen is a Spirit of 2012 programme, isn’t it? But why did you decide on Harpurhey and Moston?”
Helen Capiter, Community Building Co-ordinator, chips in. “Geographically it was the right size but we were aware that north Manchester hadn’t had the same sort of investment that others parts of the city had seen. And there was lots of opportunity to connect groups together.”
As well as giving out grants to community groups in Greater Manchester, Forever Manchester works towards making local communities more resilient, more able to cope.
Over the last few years they’ve adopted a fresh approach which involves connecting people together and building on local strengths.
Graeme Urlwin has been the community builder for the programme: “My first impression? Probably like everyone else’s who has never been there. I thought it would be dreadful. But that’s down to the negative news headlines and the awful TV programmes that local people have had to suffer.
“Once I’d got to know the place, I realised it wasn’t like that at all. There are loads of positives too.”
Graeme tells us he’s been looking through the archives of the local paper. “There were about 130 stories about Harpurhey and Moston last year,” he tells us, “and only four were positive.”
“You feel demoralised if you’re always being told your area is rubbish the whole time,” says Helen. “That’s why this blog is so important, it’s getting the positive stories out there.”
The Fourteen programme requires local people to be involved in the grant-making process. Working with grass roots organisations is right up Forever Manchester’s street. They set up a ‘local reference group’ – see this link – but didn’t foresee just how successful that group would be.
“We needed the group to help us administer the funds but we had no idea how many positive connections and collaborations would spin off from that,” says Helen.
“Yes, I wrote about some of that,” I recall, “the theatre group working with the boxing club, for instance, and with the football club and then all three working together. And lots more…”
“That’s part of the legacy that I’m most proud of, definitely,” says Helen. “All of that has come from the passion that group has for the area.”
“And, to give credit to Helen and Graeme,” says Rachel, “the way that small group has been encouraged and supported has been so important. The Local Reference Group has helped us find all the assets of the community and connect them together.”
Continued in “Tell me some of the highlights.”