A few weeks ago this noticeboard caught my eye at the Wellbeing Centre on Church Lane, Moston…
She waves to me from the cafe, a phone in one hand, trying to eat her lunch with the other. It’s clear that running the Wellbeing Centre keeps her busy.
“Oh I don’t run it.” she says. “The community run it. They value it so much. I just support them. I’m here if they need me but I’ve been here since the beginning.”
“So how did it all start?” I ask.
“The national health campaigns of the late 90’s weren’t really effective at a local level so we held open meetings and invited local people to tell us their concerns about their health. We then tried to find practical solutions to those concerns.
The first big issue to come up was just having a safe place to walk. They put the word out and started Strollers in Boggart Hole Clough. At the first one I got chatting with the lady beside me. It was the first time she’d ventured out of the house in 8 years. It really lifted her spirits and I could see the benefits went beyond just a bit of physical exercise. The walks continue today led now by the park wardens.”
Joan explains that after the success of Strollers the next burning issue was about people coming out of hospital after a heart attack. They’d been told to exercise more.
“It’s not so easy on your own at home. You need other people to motivate you and somewhere to do the exercises. That’s where this place came in. It was called the Day Centre then. They had a small gym so we asked if they would let us use it. The sessions were called Heartbeat.”
Gradually, more rooms became available as the previous occupants moved out. The group moved on to tackle stress and depression. They put on other sessions, brought people together to have a chat and try their hand a range of crafts. They even created their own sign in mosaic and adopted the name North Manchester Wellbeing Centre.“We found that bringing people together to do activities really benefits them. They learn new skills, make new friends, share stories, advise and help each other. It can even reduce dependence on medication. It’s a miracle and we facilitate it happening.”
We go on a quick tour of the building. Through the craft room, where the Knit and Natter and craft sessions are held, into the gym area with its exercise equipment, then back along the corridor overlooking a courtyard.
I comment on how much natural light there is and how, with a bit of work, the courtyard would be a great outdoor area in the summer. She has a better idea…
“…a conservatory would be nice, and then we could use it all year round. The gardens outside would be another project.” She adds.
We finish the tour in the cafe. There’s a pool game going on at the far end, they organise regular tournaments.
The players give Joan a friendly wave and, as I take my leave and thank Joan for her time, a lady comes across to show off a cake she’s just made at a ‘cook and taste’ session. What a wonderful place this is.