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My journey from younger neighbour… to Social Clubs Programme Coordinator at Manchester Cares!

Please note: this post is 21 months old and The Cares Family is no longer operational. This post is shared for information only

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This October marks seven years since I first made the move to Manchester for university. I can’t believe where that time has gone!

As the month brings an influx of students from far and wide, I can feel the excitement and buzz of new beginnings throughout the city. For me currently, I’m reflecting on my journey, as I’ve started my new role as a Social Clubs Programme Coordinator here at Manchester Cares. I feel I’ve learnt and developed a lot as a person since I moved to the city; Manchester is now most definitely my home, but only in the past year have I started to feel truly rooted within my community.

Studying in Manchester was exciting, but it was easy to live a relatively insular life. A regular routine would be to wake up late from a heavy night at a student bar, then head to my studio at the School of Art to paint late into the evening. Then repeat. An existence fuelled by co-op oven pizzas and cheap lager. I probably didn’t experience a wide enough variety of the people and places Manchester has to offer during this period. A few years later, I had graduated, and was out into the ‘real world’ for the first time; finally with a little bit more money to experience the city. Then of course, the pandemic happened and shut everything down…

 I feel extremely lucky to have lived with my two best friends over the lockdown, but I was still far away from any of my family and there were times where I felt very lonely. A positive I did find throughout this period was the sense of community between the people in my local area that I hadn’t properly experienced before in Manchester. There was a newfound sense of togetherness; for the first time I was exchanging more than a simple hello with my next-door neighbours, and we were all letting each other know that we were there for each other if needed.  As the worst of the pandemic was over and restrictions started to ease, it became possible to go out and see friends further afield. What stayed with me though is how much more connected I had felt by getting to know the different people in my immediacy. Through talking and getting to know the people I shared the neighbourhood with, I felt safer and more secure; more connected and an active part of something that we all had a responsibility to maintain and improve.

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My art practice changed too during this time. A symptom of the forced solitary period during the pandemic. Once it became possible, I really wanted to make art that was more accessible, collaborative and could engage many different people. I got involved with facilitating creative workshops, and some community art projects such as working on the Manchester Day Parade. I really loved being able to meet new people through this, and just have a go at making something new.  

This was when I first became aware of Manchester Cares. I was doing an application for some arts funding, which asked me to consider the impact that the project would have on young people. I’ve found through applying for arts funding this is consistently a focus, which is great, but often older people are overlooked. I did a bit of research and it led me to Manchester Cares. I loved the idea of being able to meet new people through shared activity and loved the message of tackling loneliness and isolation across the city by bringing younger and older people together. Post pandemic this seemed particularly important!

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In May this year I signed up for my induction and for my first social club: the Urban Gardening project at Plant NOMA. I was a bit nervous at first, but everyone was super welcoming. I met some lovely people and as someone who’d lived a few minutes from that area before, I loved that we were able to do something fun that also would improve the area for others. I also learnt a lot of interesting things about it from people that have been there a lot longer than me.

Fast forward to August this year, when the job came up as a Social Clubs Programme Coordinator I had to apply. I feel incredibly lucky to have been offered the role and to join the Manchester Cares team. In my first two months I’ve met even more amazing people and we’ve done some fun things together, from pub quizzes, to Bowls, and even the theatre. Urban Gardening remains a favourite!

 If you’ve already come to our social clubs, you will know the amazing things that we do and the friendships that are made along the way, and if you are thinking about getting involved, I implore you to come along! I look forward to meeting even more of you over the coming months and planning activities to do together, in this amazing city we call home.

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