“We’ll have a barrel of fun!”

Anthony and I arrive in the wet car park together. “Have you got a spare hand?” he asks, grappling with his audio equipment.

For the next hour and a half Anthony Bradley from Everyday People (read Anthony’s own story here) is booked to deliver another reminiscence session with the older residents of Lightbowne Hall in Moston.

“We run these sessions in sheltered schemes as well as residential homes like Lightbowne,” he explains as we wait for the lift in the smart reception area. “It’s all about connection and compassion, and having a good time. I don’t mind playing the fool for a while if it gets results.”

A couple of staff greet us as we arrive in the upstairs community lounge where Anthony says hello to the eight or nine residents, some watching a game show on TV.

“I’ve come to play a bit of music,” says Anthony cheerfully, “and today I’ve brought a friend along. This is Len.”

“Hello. I’m here to photograph Anthony do the good things that he does,” I say, vaguely.

After diplomatically asking that the TV be switched off Anthony works the room, greeting everyone individually and passing out laminated black and white photographs.

“Hello chuck,” he says to one older lady watching the rain outside. “I got some old photographs of Belle Vue here. Do you remember going on the Bobs at Belle Vue?”

“The Bobs?” she asks, staring hard at the picture. “Is it still going?”

“No, no. They’ve knocked it all down. They’ve got the dogs and the speedway now. What else have we got here?” There’s a photograph of excited children riding on the back of an elephant. “Do you remember the zoo?”

He moves on. “How y’doing, pal? Do you remember Blackpool? With your trousers rolled up?”

Within minutes all the residents and staff are smiling at photographs of schoolchildren with bottles of milk; of ‘Dig for Victory’ war posters; of homemade go-carts; and of kids playing marbles and conkers.

“We used to play hopscotch,” Elsie is telling one of the care assistants.

“So did we,” says the lady next to her. “And kick-can. Do you remember kick-can?”

“Happy days,” says John to no one in particular as he methodically examines picture after picture.

“I’m going to get this show on the road,” Anthony says as he taps on his laptop. “Let’s have some music.

“We’ve all got songs from different periods of our lives that instantly help us tap into certain emotions,” he says to me as familiar music fills the room.

… Pack up your troubles in your ol’ kit bag…

“… and smile, smile, smile,” sings Elsie.

Another care assistant bounces into the room. “Roll out the barrel! Let me hear you all,” sings Sharon, “We’ll have a barrel of fun!”

It seems Anthony’s work is infectious and he’s happy to pass on his techniques to those who spend more time with the residents. “I’ve worked in care for years,” Sharon tells me between songs, “and I love it. Being able to put a smile on people’s faces, that’s a great feeling.”

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“The best feeling ever.”

“Left hand…right hand,” encourages Ellie. “Now shadow box… switch… and stretch.”

While the 15-year-old is warming up the youngsters, Tommy Mcdonagh shows me a photo on the boxing gym wall. “This was taken five years ago when we took over. That’s Lyndon Arthur, he’s professional now, unbeaten in four fights. That’s Zelfa Barrett, unbeaten in 15.”

He shouts across the training room: “Everyone get some gloves on!”

And then, to me: “We try and get them as young as possible and bring them on.

“I joined this club when I was just eight, like a lot of these,” he says. “I had my first fight at 11. I boxed for England as a schoolboy, and then as a youth and was National Champion two or three times, 66 amateur fights altogether.

“I turned pro at 18 and had 40 professional fights. I was WBU Champion, and competed for English, Commonwealth and World titles.”

“All from this club?” I ask, looking round.

Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club ABC is 100 years old this year. For much of its fascinating history it was run by Brian Hughes MBE – the ‘Godfather of Manchester Boxing’ – who was coach and mentor to dozens of local young boxers including Tommy and his partner, Pat Barrett.

Tommy ties the laces on one of the lad’s gloves. “In 2010, when I was retiring from boxing, Brian handed the club over to Pat and me and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

He’s back with the youngsters now, “Four punches: one… two… three.. four. And back”.  I borrow Ellie for a little interview.

“My little brother started coming down,” she points out one of the junior boxers, “so I’d come and use the gym to get fit. When I saw him training I thought I’d give it a go.”

“It looks like you’re the only girl here. How do you feel about that?” I ask.

“It doesn’t bother me. I get on with all the lads. It’s like we’re a big family.”

“What was it like getting in the ring for the first time?”

“I was nervous, but once I was in there doing it, I enjoyed it. I had a good feeling about myself.”

I know nothing about boxing and admit it to Ellie. “But is it equal, when you are sparring with the boys?”

“We’re both the same. We don’t go out to hurt each other.”

Ellie tells me she has now had five ‘skills’ – a non-competitive exhibition of what she can do – and one proper fight at Ashton Masonic Hall.

“Did you win?” I ask. Ellie smiles modestly. “Congratulations.”

“I did what I had to do and all the training paid off. When they announce your name as the winner, it’s the best feeling ever.”

Continued in “We’re teaching these kids a way of life.”

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Moston Lane: a community asset

I’m a little early and Stephen is finishing off a customer’s hair when I arrive. “You’re not going to get it much lighter with bleach,” he says, “you might as well leave it like that.”

Hairdresser Stephen Chandler is secretary of Moston Lane Traders Association and I’ve asked him to take me on a tour of the high street. Before we go, and while I’m finishing off my tea, I ask him to start at the beginning.

“You were born in Moston?”

“Well, Blackley really,” he says, “now they’ve changed the boundaries.”

Stephen is the oldest of three brothers and went to Lilly Lane Primary School. “Which is only just over there,” he says, arm outstretched. “And then Moston Brook where Central Park and the Police Headquarters are now.”

Back then Stephen blagged his way onto a YOP scheme (Youth Opportunities Programme) making out he’d always wanted to be a hairdresser. He ended up sweeping hair off a salon floor on Deansgate in town.

“I didn’t care because I used to make about £15 a week in tips on top of my wages,” he said. “I never looked back. I loved it.”

After learning the trade in Manchester’s Lewis’s store Stephen’s first salon was in Bredbury before setting up Chandlers Hairdressing on Moston Lane.

“The lane was absolutely buzzing then,” he recalls. “It’s still busy now, but not as busy, because we’ve lost houses and had the recession.

“I know people moan about Moston having changed but I don’t see that as a bad thing. I’m reluctant to say it’s racist because I don’t think people round here are bigoted at all – there’s always the odd one wherever you go – but generally the community are warm and accepting. I know that because I’m gay and I’ve never had a problem.”

“Tell me about your involvement with the LRG (Local Reference Group) for Forever Manchester. I guess you were approached because of your work with the local traders.”

“And, I suppose, because I’m Moston born and bred.”

“What do you make of it?”

“I enjoy it,” he says. “I enjoy being involved in making grants to local groups. Some ask for small amounts of money that you know will make a big difference – spades for a gardening project, for instance – and I just like to be able to say yes.”

“That must feel good, knowing that the money often helps the most vulnerable.”

“It does. It really does. If it improves the area, or the lives of local people, then I’m quite happy.”

Tea finished, we set off down the high street as Stephen tells me why the Traders Association was set up two years ago.

“We represent about 140 businesses – this is Dave’s print shop, he’s our chairman – and our aim is to improve Moston Lane for the traders. If anyone has a problem we will take it to, say, the Council on their behalf.”

There are tailors and nurseries, barbers and mini-markets, takeaways and beauty shops. “Look at this,” declares Stephen proudly, “what high street nowadays has two banks!”

We wander past the impressive Simpson Memorial Hall where Stephen mucks in with the NMAODs, The North Manchester Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.

“Moston Lane is an asset to Moston just as much as the local schools, Boggart Hole Clough or Central Park,” he says.

“So you feel positive for the future of this place?” I ask.

“I’ve always been positive. This lane will always be here. It was here when I was a kid and it will be here when I’m gone. The shops will just be different.”