Encouraging and empowering local people

I can’t believe how much is going on at Manchester Communication Academy.

This afternoon I’m chatting with Jane Ellis who has been with the school’s community department for the last four years.

“I’d worked as a dental nurse for 20 years and was looking for a career change when I applied to work at the school when it first opened in 2010. Back then there were just three staff working on the community programme.”

Now Jane is one of a team of 11 whose job it is to support and outreach in to the school’s wider community.

They hire the school’s facilities to local sports and community groups, including a visually-impaired football team and the local scout group. They put on Adult Education courses where English and maths are in high demand.

There’s a ‘Once Upon A Time’ project for older people where you can drop in for a chat and a look back at local history. Jane’s team even includes a resident archaeologist.

“Why does a school like yours get so involved with its community?” I ask.

“As you know, this area is near the top of all the deprivation statistics,” says Jane. “And there are few other resources in this area.”

“It’s as if you’re a community centre within a school,” I suggest.

“We see our job as removing the barriers that people might have to make changes in their lifestyle,” she says. “That way we can help to improve those statistics.”

“It must be very different from being a dental nurse?” I suggest.

“It’s very rewarding. When you see someone come to, say, one of the classes for the first time, they might be quiet and nervous and think they’re not capable. But then you witness a real change.

“One lady, I remember, said the hardest thing was coming though the doors – it can be daunting for some people to just walk in to the building – but now she volunteers for us and has even got back into employment.”

Jane is currently setting up a ‘time bank’ for the area where local people can share their skills, offering to do small jobs for others.

“It could be doing some shopping for an older person,” she says, “or just sitting, having a conversation. There are a million opportunities.”

I ask why people might want to get involved. “Time banking can be a great stepping stone,” Jane explains. “Some people will do it to get volunteering experience, it will give them the edge when applying for jobs. For others it’ll be a chance to build their confidence.

“And anyone will be able to join without having to give back,” she explains, “no one will be in ‘time debt’.”

Jane is one of the newest members of Forever Manchester’s Local Reference Group, overseeing the allocation of funding from the Fourteen programme. “I got to know the Forever Manchester team when I applied for funding for the Frank Cohen alcohol support centre,” she says.

“What Forever Manchester is doing is amazing. They’re bringing people together, like we’re trying to do, and making people aware of what help and support is out there.”

By spending just a short time with Jane I can tell she is a real ‘people person’. She loves to be able to help and outside of her busy job with the Academy she still finds time to support her local food bank.

To get involved with Jane’s time bank, or any of the other activities on offer, give her a call on 0161 202 0161

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 www.nmaods.com

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“It sounds like something from the Wild West.”

Barbara from Creative Community recounts a typical Wednesday arts and crafts session at The Miners.

It’s Wednesday morning and the group are getting ready to start. We are down on numbers today, there is a nasty bug going round which has hit a few of us pretty hard.

Some of the group are already knitting, the rest look at today’s project: a card of flowers that will be suitable for Mother’s Day, a birthday, or a get well soon card.

Some of us talk about Event City and how disappointed we were with the Hobby Crafts show last week. Despite this we came away with bargains and will probably go to the next one.

Ill health becomes the topic of conversation and one of the members says that she swears by ‘Pulmo Baileys’. There’s a stunned silence because no one else has heard of it.

We’re all intrigued by this weird-sounding medicine. “It sounds like something from the Wild West,” someone says. Wonder if anyone will be brave enough to go and buy some!

The nice thing about our group is the variety of conversations. No one knows where we’re going with our chatter but it certainly is diverse and invariably we will learn something new.

By now lunch is being served. We don’t go down to the cafe, our food is brought to us by our resident chef Matthew. Today’s hot pot looks particularly good, as does the meat pie and chips and the all day breakfast.

With food in front of us the conversation turns to school dinners and what our mums gave us as kids: mashed eggs with soldiers, bananas on toast or with custard.

Someone fondly remembers the weekly spoon of cod liver oil, and whilst half the group lick their lips at the memory, the rest of us grimace. That’s obviously one you either love or hate.

“Do you remember eating coal when you were pregnant?” someone asks.

“What does it taste like?”

“COAL!” shouts someone else from across the table, which makes us laugh.

The cards are nearly finished now, it’s always amazing how different each one looks and everyone is pleased with their end result. It’s nice to have time for yourself with good friends.

Creative Community was formed for local people wishing to take part and learn new skills in creative activities such as card-making, knitting, etc.

The group is open to all and also has a very good understanding of mental health issues.

Not everyone who attends takes part in an activity, some just come for a cup of tea and a chat.

Our group is friendly and welcoming and meets at The Miners Community Arts and Music Centre, Moston every Wednesday from 11am till 3pm and the cost for this session is £2.

Here’s our Facebook page.

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