Failsworth community making connections

On 26th September Failsworth Town Hall hosted a new event ‘Community Connection Forum’. Bit of mouthful, so what was it all about, who was there and why?

The flyer summed it up as ‘giving residents the opportunity to explore the wonderful community groups we have in Failsworth’. The emphasis was on health, wellbeing and volunteering. A good cross-section groups and organisations were represented, loaded with information on who they were and what they were about.

I like the town hall. It has a feel good factor. Built in 1880 it currently homes the local library and the fabulous Wholesome Cafe. It occupies an enviable spot alongside the Rochdale Canal but I’ve never ventured upstairs to the main function room before.There’s an air of awkwardness while people work out what the order of play is. I was late, announced my arrival by spilling water across the floor, so thank god Failsworth Community Choir hadn’t quite started. I like a choir, that feel good factor again. They kicked things off with songs like ‘Lean on Me’, ‘One Day Like This’ and successfully broke the ice.There were free cakes and biscuits as well as hot drinks on tap. I filled my boots, it’d be rude not to. Most of the stands had freebies on offer. Lucky I’d brought a carrier bag.

Wouldn’t say there was a big rush to start with but as the evening unfolded there was a definite ‘buzz’.

I looked about the room and started with the ‘Virgin Liaison’ reps. They impressed me. I’m not usually all that impressed when the pavement gets dug up. But they got across their pride in the company and a genuine keenness to connect with the public and resolve issues.

The Failsworth Growing Hub display caught my eye. It included some truly awesome photos taken by one of their members. Oh and they offered me a free selection of their produce. Straight in the bag! They meet on Thursdays at this great spot alongside the canal next to the Wholesome café…Action Together, Age UK and ROAR (Rochdale and Oldham Active Recovery) were also full of enthusiasm. I picked up a brilliant booklet listing all the activities for the over 50’s in Failsworth. Well worth a look and I reckon you can pick up a copy at the library or click here for the link.

Moston Brook Friends Group’s stand was the place to go if you like the outdoors. Lots to do, regular woodland walks and nature events a plenty.

If you’re energetic, or more to the point if you’re not, Making the First Move had some clever ideas to help you exercise more, sleep well and feel better – without spending loads of cash.There were groups offering support for people struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression, amazing to talk to and all local. The organisers are getting ready for next year’s Failsworth Carnival and have set the date, 16th and 17th May. The Girl Guides were inviting new members/volunteers and, back where we started, Failsworth Community Choir want your voice.

It was an excellent event and hopefully there will be more. If you get chance, go along and see for yourself what’s going on.  Fill your boots… oh, and take a carrier bag.

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Taking nothing for granted

I rarely read newspapers or watch news programmes. Truth is I avoid them. Now and then, though, something catches my attention, like the fires raging out of control in the Amazon.Far away on the other side of the world the Amazon rain forest was a place I read about at school or saw on TV documentaries. A permanent fixture so ancient and vast, it would always be there and always flourish. Then, there’s the oceans, all that plastic rubbish… and dying fish.

I took these places for granted.

I’m very lucky. I live a short tram ride from an amazing city and am free to enjoy all it has to offer from theatre, music, shopping, cafes and bars. The nearest airport is half an hours drive. Most of the best known supermarkets are within easy walking distance… and I take all that for granted too.But it doesn’t end there. Moston and the neighbouring areas have art, music, dance, theatre, a radio station, football stadium, fishing, cycling and running. With a range of social clubs to entertain and activities to engage all ages, whether you’re a cub scout, on a diet, a boxer, gardener, a champion bowler, love photography or a gripping game of chess, there’s something for everyone.Not to forget the parks, several large open green spaces, the Rochdale Canal, Moston Brook. Even a nature reserve; our very own piece of countryside.

How lucky are we? This weekend alone there’s been:

A Nature Day event next to the Lower Memorial Park.

FC United drew against Atherton Collieries in an FA Cup match.

Wayne Jacobs broadcast live reggae from the Miners Club Radio.

North West Theatre Arts Company performed at Openshaw’s Festival

At Boggart Hole Clough Simply Cycling were out in force. As were North Manchester Fitness walking group (one of their members was elsewehere at the Great North Run) and King William IV Angling Society Juniors were, oh yes, angling. The cafe was busy as ever.As for me, I nipped across the fields to the Nature Day. The carrot cake on the cake stall was to die for. A young lady, who I thought was there to help serve them up, delivered a pitch that would have had Alan Sugar ditching his diet.

Birds from Vale Royal Falconry put on a fabulous display, you could cast a fishing line, try your hand at wood carving, weaving, all sorts.Back across the fields again and through the park. The sun was out and it looked glorious.

I don’t take it for granted.

If you’ve been busy, missed out and want to find out what’s going on, have a nosey at the noticeboards in the supermarket and library. Or search Facebook and check out some local groups. Here’s a few:

Moston Brook Friends Group,  Lakeside Cafe – Boggart Hole Clough,  Miners Community Arts,  Broadhurst Community Centre,  Harpurhey Neighbourhood Project – The Centre,  Simply Cycling,  North Manchester Fitness, King William IV Angling Society,  Forever Harpurhey and Moston,  NWTAC,  Vale Royal Falconry.

Photos: Vale Royal Falconry, Piccadilly Gardens Manchester, the guys from King William IV Angling Society, Lower Memorial Park Failsworth

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Street Life: Coming Out, Ready or Not

The built environment was a big factor in the games we played. For instance, ‘thunder and lightning’ or ‘knock and run’ was a torment particularly reserved for the residents of terraced houses – too much chance of getting spotted running away where there were gardens.

The terrace gable end was also a favoured spot to accommodate a couple of girls playing ‘two balls’ side by side. But the constant thump, thump of the balls was guaranteed to fetch out a large woman, typically wearing a wrap-around overall, who would bellow ‘go and play in your own street’.In the summer these same gable ends had cricket stumps chalked or painted on them. But when too many strikes from a ‘corkie’ thudded against the brickwork, the street cricketers received the same admonition from the flowery pinny brigade.

The council houses where I lived were built around two grassed areas we called ‘greens’. The road bisected them and on our side the green had a fine gravel path, ideal for bikes and scooters. The smooth surface around the other green was perfect for whip and top, and might account for why its popularity lasted so long with us.

Boys used ‘the greens’ for football and ‘split the kipper’, a game that was played with a penknife or other sharp blade.Flagged pavements were good for hopscotch and skipping where our preference was for a rope long enough to accommodate half a dozen girls.

Some of the rhymes we chanted were a little out dated but stayed popular because their actions called for timing and agility. One such was ‘I’m an ATS girl dressed in green’. As far as I know, The ATS wore khaki but it didn’t bother us when we were touching the ground, turning around and doing ‘the kicks and splits’ which the rhyme dictated. Other rhymes featured film stars such as Betty Grable and Charlie Chaplin who were old hat by the 1950s.Our junior schools were single sex, so I suppose that was the reason girls and boys rarely played together. Marbles, or ‘alleys’ as we knew them, was a ‘mixed’ game, and we sometimes joined forces for chasing games such as ralivo, kick can or hide and seek. Firmly defined boundary restrictions were imposed to make sure the games didn’t go on indefinitely.Readers of The Perishers cartoon strip might recognise another mostly male activity which involved a vehicle the Daily Mirror called a carte. Variously called soapboxes or trolleys, in Manchester the homemade contraptions were known as bogies or guiders. These gravity racers required a sturdy wooden soap or apple box, old pram wheels or sometimes roller skates. The frame had a rope fixed to the ends of a steerable bar at the front.

Our fairly quiet street sloped down towards Church Lane which was a main road. Consequently Honister Road was adopted as an ad hoc race track where the idea was to perform a sharp right turn at the bottom. But only the most sophisticated vehicles had a brake. So to prevent the basic model guider from shooting out into the main road, a driver had to rely on a boot sole scuffed along the pavement.I don’t recall any fatalities, but I expect some poor car drivers lost years off their lives when a guider, travelling at high speed, shot across their bows after failing to make the turn.

Boys and girls both created dens. Ours were for playing ‘house’ or ‘shop’ while the sole purpose of a boy’s den seemed to be a secluded place where they could build a fire.

‘Den’ was also the word for the base in a game of hide and seek or similar. We called out ‘bounce’ or ‘kickstone 1 2 3’, to signal getting back without capture. I can’t recall the Moston word chasers used when someone’s hiding place was spotted, but according to my mother it was ‘whip’ in Collyhurst. In a chasing game, a halt for a loose shoelace or ‘stitch’ was achieved with a cry of ‘ballies’ while holding up both thumbs.Playing shop

When we moved to New Moston, our playground was the middle of three interlinked ‘frying pan’ cul-de-sacs. The narrowness of the roads and the almost complete absence of traffic lent itself to ‘Grandmother’s footsteps’, ‘What time is it Mr. Wolf?’ and ‘Farmer, farmer may I cross your golden river?’ – games not usually played in Moston’s streets.

There were also seasonal factors to some of our games. Conkers or sticky bud (burdock) fights were autumnal, and snowballing and sliding obviously required a good freeze. On dark winter nights we raided the wood stocks other kids had assiduously ‘logged’ for their own bonfire. But natural seasons aside, how did we know when to make the change from skipping to hopscotch? If there was some mysterious formula, I was never in on the secret.

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