Awards with a difference at Forever Manchester

Community Builder Graeme Urlwin tells why Forever Manchester’s approach is different.

Before I came to Forever Manchester I was at the other end of the funding process.  I was the  person writing the bids.

If successful, the money would soon be spent and it was time to start making new bids to continue the new activity the original bid had funded.

It’s an eternal treadmill and many funding-dependent organisations have folded over the last few years as funding sources have dried up.

At Forever Manchester there is a focus upon assets and how the pooling of skills and resources can lessen the need for funding.

When I came to Forever Manchester and was introduced to Cash 4 Graft – awards of £250 for grass roots start-up activity – I was sceptical. ‘What can £250 do?’

Over the last 18 months I’ve learnt that £250 can do a lot and that interesting things happen without a great big fat grant behind them.

Cash 4 Graft is designed to support local people to get an activity off the ground in their locality. They don’t have to be a formal group, have a constitution or even a bank account, just four people behind a good idea.

There’s a simple application form and, when successful, you’re given a credit card with £250 already on it, so there’s no worry about overspending. The whole process can be turned around in just over a week.

Since I’ve been working in Harpurhey and Moston Cash 4 Graft has helped set up a diabetes support group; take 45 kids to the local panto; support the development of a new foodbank; bring a disparate community together on a housing estate; help a dementia group buy some resources; funded craft sessions with older people. The list goes on.

But for me it’s not necessarily about the activity that is supported, it’s more about the process of applying for a Cash 4 Graft, and what that achieves for the people involved.

When local people discover that there’s a bit of money available, and it’s exclusive to them, it gets them thinking about what they could do. That leads to new ideas and enthusiasm and the money becomes irrelevant.

With the pooling of resources and skills, and a bit of begging and borrowing, their idea can happen without the need for funding.

The process has shown them that ‘we can’t afford to do it’ is no longer a valid reason for not doing something. The process itself gives groups and individuals confidence.

Local people coming to us for an application form are usually completely new to anything like that. Just the thought of sitting down to write a funding application can be daunting. But having done it, and been awarded the money, gives people confidence and self-belief which carries them forward.

To make a Cash 4 Graft application from Forever Manchester click here

More from Graeme next week as he tells how local people have benefited from Cash 4 Graft awards.

Photo by Anthony Bradley.

Being part of an active and friendly group

LRG member and owner of Chandlers Hairdressing, Stephen Chandler tells of his passion for the stage.

For the past five years I’ve been an active member of the North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (NMAODS).

We’ve just finished out latest production, The Vicar of Dibley, Love and Marriage, which ran for four nights (and one matinee) to coincide with this year’s Comic Relief.

For this show I was part of the backroom crew but I’ve also had acting parts in our versions of Faulty Towers and ’Allo, ’Allo.

It’s not the first time we’ve followed the adventures of vicar Geraldine and Alice the verger. We first covered the sitcom in 2014.

The original, starring Dawn French and Emma Chambers, was first shown on the BBC in November 1994 and ran for over three years, with a number of ‘specials’ after that. It was written by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. Curtis is well known for comedy films, Love Actually, Bridget Jones and Notting Hill. His TV hits include Mr Bean and Blackadder.

I’m really enjoying being part of such an active society and friendly group and must thank our director Vanessa Randall and chairman David Gordon for that.

In 2019 the North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society will be 100 years old. We were created from the merger of the Harpurhey Dramatic Society and the Simpson Memorial Tennis Club.

Our home, since 1919, has been the Simpson Memorial Hall on Moston Lane which was originally built from money from the estate of William Simpson, a wealthy local silk manufacturer.

Its original objective was to ‘promote the benefit of the inhabitants of Moston and neighbouring districts by associating with the local authorities, voluntary organisations and inhabitants to advance education and to provide facilities for recreation and with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants.’

And with NMAODS we’re continuing to do just that.

If you’d like to join us, or get information on our forthcoming productions, visit

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Our caring aims are all very much the same

Barbara from Creative Community reports from the second Big Meet on Monday, 10th April.

After last month’s success at the Factory Youth Zone local community groups have again been invited for a get-to-know-you session. It’s Big Meet 2 and tonight we’re at The Miners Community Arts and Music Centre in Moston.

We’re hoping this early evening session will attract people who can’t make a daytime event.

Members of the LRG (Local Reference Group) are here to meet and greet. Anthony from Everyday People, Stephen from Moston Lane Traders, Pamela from the Factory Youth Zone, Jane from Manchester Communication Academy, Lou from The Miners and Kath and I from Creative Community. Graeme and Helen from Forever Manchester are here too.

First through the doors are ladies representing Sidney Jones Court, a local sheltered housing scheme. “We call ourselves The Inbetweeners,” Sandy explains, “because we do a bit of everything!”

Refreshments are offered as more people arrive. “I’m off cake for Lent” says Bernie. “Nothing for me ’til the weekend.” The rest of us look on sympathetically as we tuck into our chocolate Swiss roll.

The evening starts with a warm welcome from Anthony (from Everyday People) and we’re put into three groups for a warm-up quiz. On the screen we see a picture of a male singer from the 50’s, we just have to write down who it is.

“Is that a man?” someone shouts as another picture comes up. There’s lots of laughter from those of  us who know it’s a photo of a young Elvis.

At the end of the quiz – and after helpful clues from Anthony – each team has 18 points and we go to a tie break. Gary from the Frank Cohen Drop-in Centre comes up with the winning answer. The prize is a gallon of tea!!!!

Next is an introduction from Helen and Graeme. As with the last ‘meet’, Graeme has put down a map of the area in masking tape. He says it’s an improvement on the last one. With a little prompting we all stand on the map where our groups meet.

As it turns out, it’s very nearly a circle so we grab a chair and begin to introduce ourselves.

The groups are diverse, we have a lot on offer in Moston and Harpurhey. There’s a radio station, a diabetes support group, a community food bank, craft groups, a drop-in for recovering alcoholics and drug users, and music and arts.

We’re invited to link up with a group we know little about to find out more. This turns out to be very positive and good links are forged and invitations made.

Helen discusses training and we all have a think about what support our particular group needs.

Everyone is then invited to take part in ‘Heads, Hearts and Hands’. Around the room are three big sheets of paper and we write down what our groups know about, what we are good at and what we feel passionate about.

When we’re all done it’s interesting to see that – despite our diversity – our caring aims for our community are very much the same.

We end up with an informal chat, new friendships and links are made and we look forward to the next Big Meet.

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