Lakeside Community at the Café, Boggart Hole Clough

Here we are in January. It’s been a very trying year; many have faced huge difficulties and have struggled as we all faced an uncertain situation together.

One year ago, as the newly formed Lakeside Community Interest Group, we were devastated when our plans for a gardening club, reading circle, Easter egg hunt, lakeside lap challenge and a super VE Day party had to be put on hold for the foreseeable.So, we gave our heads a wobble, looked at what we could do and here’s what we managed to achieve:

We received funding from WeLoveMcr to tackle period poverty within the M9 area, dropping bags at doorsteps, care homes, schools, doctor’s surgeries and nursing homes. We also gave out hand cream, lip balms and hand sanitiser.We were given 100 Easter Eggs from Mantra Learning and Sheridan Lifts, which we distributed to households in M9. Plus arts and craft packs to keep the children occupied during the long months while the schools were shut. As well as bird boxes, bug jars, fairy doors and nature hunt sheets.

When the national lockdown ended we received funding from the Eric Hobin Fund, Northwards Housing. We used this to fund binoculars and bird books to encourage people to come out of the house and admire the natural beauty we have on our doorstep.

White Moss Youth Club gave us over 100 pedometers that we have been giving to people so they can monitor their steps while keeping active.

Working with MCC Parks Team we got involved with the Big Boggart Clean Up. Over 50 people joined in on the litter pick, making the park even more beautiful. We followed it with a cake sale for Macmillan raising £436.

As the weather got colder we created winter packs to give out from Lakeside Café; many of the items were given to us by @HealthyMcr.Over 20 shoeboxes were dropped off in Sharston for the Manchester Shoebox Appeal in November. A box was taken to the Lalley Centre for their reverse advent calendar campaign.

Winning Hearts and Minds have gave us 20 Christmas gift bags to distribute which accompanied the 100 boxes of mince pies supplied by Iceland. White Moss Youth Club enjoyed some at their luncheon club.

Partnering with Manchester Libraries we passed on 20 Winter Library Activity Packs, crammed with essential info and activities.In December we ran an amazing Christmas Raffle. The brilliant prizes included hampers from North Manchester Fitness, Winning Hearts and Minds and a fishing membership from King William IV Anglers.

None of this would have been possible without the support, help and generosity of the local community. We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive feedback and beautiful compliments received this year.

In no particular order our huge thanks go to: North Manchester Fitness, White Moss Youth Club, Walk2Run, MCC Parks Team, We Love Mcr Charity, Eric Hobin Fund, Northwards Housing, MCC Neighbourhood Investment Fund, HealthyMcr, Winning Hearts and Minds, King William IV Angling Society, Sheridan Lifts, Mantra Learning, Iceland, Manchester Libraries. Thank you all so much from the Team at Lakeside Café. We raise you a glass to say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a fabulous 2021.

Keep up-to-date with opening times and events at the Lakeside Café on their Facebook page, just click here. And for Lakeside CIC click here.

Boggart Hole Clough is a large park with gardens, lakes and woodland walks situated on Charlestown Road, Blackley, Manchester. There’s a visitor carpark to the right of the main entrance.

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North West Theatre Arts Company – Live, love, dream, believe

It seems an age ago but, on Thursday 12th March this year, I went to see Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at NWTAC’s theatre on Lightbowne Road. Not for the first time, they took me by surprise.

I was late, distracted by news of the spreading virus, so I grabbed a drink at the bar and went to find my seat; through the doors and stopped – the entire auditorium was completely different.

Gone were the tiered rows of seats. The ‘stage’ was positioned in the centre rather than at the far end of the building. Seating was arranged around the edges, creating a true ‘theatre-in-the-round’.

The usher led me to a ring-side spot that put me inches from the performers, who were taking their positions. When the lights went down I could pick out the faces of my fellow audience and catch their expressions.

From start to finish there were clever connections to Manchester. Reflecting on the similarity between our own Piccadilly Gardens and the court of Athens, where Shakespeare opens his play. Queen Titania’s ‘cohort of fairies’ were portrayed as our famous worker bees.

They buzzed through their performance and I was mesmerised.

As ever, the acting was superb. The young performers slipped into character with ease and professionalism; engaging the audience, drawing them in. And, as the play unfolded, the stage was transformed into flower-covered woodland in front of our eyes as if by magic.

Two hours flew by. Before we knew it, we were leaving the theatre into the chilly night air. We left the dreamy world created by Prab Singh’s team behind us. Lockdown began just days later and, against all expectation, dragged on for months.

NWTAC has 10 years’ experience of adapting to change. It’s made them resilient. Their doors were closed but not all the ‘lights’ went out. Almost straight away they launched a series of on-line activities; fitness sessions with choreographer Katie Gough called ‘Dance Along with NWTAC’. Musical Director, Beth Singh, began ‘Story Time with Beth’ reading out Roald Dahl books. And on Friday evenings she ‘wowed’ us with her ‘Lockdown Live’ concerts.Rehearsals continued remotely for the theatre’s students using the on-line meeting platform, Zoom. The empty theatre was re-painted and steam cleaned in readiness.

In August, term-time resumed in line with government guidelines and a month later NWTAC re-opened its doors to the public to perform Factory Fest, a show originally scheduled for May…and I had a ticket!

Once more I arrived to find a transformed auditorium, only this time to make it Covid secure. Socially distanced tables had replaced the tiered seating, with waiter service only taking orders from the bar. Temperatures were checked prior to entry and all the doors were open so you could go straight to your allotted table without touching a thing. Masks were mandatory. Even the performers kept within their peer groups to avoid mixing.

Factory Fest was a full on indoor festival concert, a dizzying compilation of hits and routines, all brilliantly performed. Harmonies, choreography, variety, comedy. New students performed for the first time alongside the more experienced and together they knocked our socks off. Lockdown and six grim months had gone by but it was worth the wait; for the second time this year all thoughts of Coronavirus were left behind.

So many industries have been hit hard in recent months, performing arts is just one of them. We need it though, now more than ever and it needs us.NWTAC are continuing to work on projects including ‘The Sound and Soul of Hitsville Mowtown’ to be staged in November and the pantomime ‘Puss in Boots’ throughout December. This weekend, for two nights only on 16th and 17th October, Beth Singh will perform live at the theatre.

Keep an eye on social media for updates and, if you missed them first time around, you can still access Dance Along, Story Time and Lockdown live through NTWAC’s Facebook page.

Tickets for this weekend and future shows can be booked by calling the box office on 0161 207 1617.

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Zooming in on North Manchester Fitness

Back in March, when lockdown began how long did you think it would last? I thought 6 weeks, honestly.

I got off to a reasonable start; a good walk each day, a few exercises, that sort of thing. But, as the weeks became months, I flagged.

North Manchester Fitness, on the other hand didn’t. With regular classes on hold they’ve kept in touch with their members through two WhatsApp groups.

Normally, Lorraine Platt leads weekly walking sessions and heads up most of the Pilates classes. They’re not exclusively for the over 50’s but it’s fair to say that many of those attending are in that age-group, so lockdown has been especially restrictive for them.

From the early days, Lorraine routinely shared, on WhatsApp and email, exercises that members were familiar with and could safely do in their own homes.Towards the end of May, she began holding small classes on the meeting platform ‘Zoom’. It was challenging to get everyone tuned in but, two months on, it’s in full swing and so successful that it may continue well into the future.

Lorraine’s one amazing lady. I first met her in 2017 and produced a write-up for Another Music about one of her groups. I suffered a broken ankle the following year. Then, at a chance meeting, she encouraged me to take up Pilates believing it would help with my recovery. She was right.

Pilates concentrates on three main physical aspects – ‘balance’ ‘core’ and ‘flexibility’. The overall health benefits are wide-ranging. Here are just some of them….

  • increased muscle strength and tone, particularly of your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the ‘core muscles’ of your body)
  • balanced muscular strength on both sides of your body
  • improved stabilisation of your spine
  • improved posture
  • rehabilitation or prevention of injuries related to muscle imbalances
  • improved physical coordination and balance
  • safe rehabilitation of joint and spinal injuries
  • increased lung capacity and circulation through deep breathing
  • improved concentration
  • increased body awareness
  • stress management and relaxation

NMF’s achievement in continuing to connect with their members goes way beyond maintaining good physical fitness though.

“There is a social element to the group too,” says Lorraine. “So many new friendships have been made through NMF.  It is lovely to see, especially in this time of isolation.

I am so pleased to see how the Zoom sessions have taken off.  Zoom was a word we had hardly heard of 3 months ago.  Now we’re all becoming experts.”

Sharing experiences, photographs, jokes and ideas, the members have helped each other stay positive. They’ve dropped off food supplies, swapped books, CD’s, DVD’s, even spare wool, sent good wishes and flowers to anyone with anything to celebrate and offered support to those suffering illness, bereavement or just the blues. It doesn’t stop there. They’ve knitted blankets, hats and bootees for newborns, ordered, paid for and delivered luxury hand creams to NHS hospital staff, rallied support and sponsored a local charity in desperate need… the list goes on.

Behind the scenes, the North Manchester Fitness team have been working on the best, safest way to restart the rest of their activities. Walking in Boggart Hole Clough is a likely candidate. Some of the regulars on a winter’s day, pre-lockdown

In the meantime, Pilates by Zoom suits me…and, no excuses, Lorraine can see if I’m flagging!

Information about North Manchester Fitness activities including Hiitstep, marathon training, sprints, and more can be found on their website, just click here. Or follow them on Facebook.

Ready for the off!

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