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.

Something’s going on in Failsworth

I’d hoped my local Tesco would be quiet on Saturday but the car park was rammed – how dare all these people shop when I want to!

There were droves of them – as in families with children. Children! Outside on a sunny Saturday! Milling about in all directions and curiously jolly, carrying bright balloons, multi coloured ice-creams and bags of stuff. And there was music in the distance.

“Something going on” I thought “and I’m missing it.”

Shopping plans on hold, I followed my nose around the corner to Lord Lane Playing Fields. Banners announced the event as ‘Failsworth Carnival’. It was only a quid to get in, so in I went. Can’t resist an ice-cream you see.

The ‘fields’ are quite big. There was a fun fair at the far end, an open space in the centre and scattered about were a mishmash of stalls, fast food vans, bouncy castles, a large stage and areas marked out with ticker tape.I wandered about amongst the crowd for a while. Felt like a wally on my own but once I had a ’99’ with strawberry goo in my hand I didn’t care.

There were singers and musicians on the stage, dancers rehearsing for a dance competition, keep fit ladies keeping fit, karate kids doing, wait for it, karate and not just one but several Carnival Queens. Carnival Queens aren’t something you see every day and they were just delightful.When I left about an hour later the lady at the gate said “Did you enjoy the parade?”

“Nope. Missed it.” She looked disappointed and I felt bad, like I’d let her down. “Come back again tomorrow.” She suggested. “There’s lots more going on.” So I did and there was.

Another ’99’ in hand and I settled myself by the stage on the grass. There was a Zumba display and routines by Diva Dance. Then  a group of youngsters performed Ed Sheeran tracks and hits from The Greatest Showman and Annie. The soloists were fabulous and one even sang her own composition. Such talent! Called Footlights if you want to find out more.  It was an absolute joy and all for the grand entrance fee of £1!Before I left I took another walk around the field and checked out displays by New Moston Scouts, Fostering Solutions, Love Food Hate Waste,  Failsworth Community Choir, Army Recruitment and Girlguiding (who are after volunteers), Blood Bikes and more.The start of the Bouncing Baby Competition was announced when I got to the gate but Tesco beckoned and I’d have ended up with no Sunday lunch. I’ll come back next year.