Please describe your community project
"Regenerating unused urban spaces for community use"

We started off about a year or so developing the space in Ardwick. We felt very energised during the Community Leaders programme to do community engagement and work with the council and hit a block due to political reasons.

But on reflection that’s allowed us to put energy into other projects in our local community in Moss Side - so it’s been a good thing. The project is closer to home, smaller. We’ve been able to start from the beginning applying the skills from the Community Leaders programme - to listen, take time, reflect and engage people in a respectful way.

Having started a new project we’ve been able to start it with quite a different approach and so far I feel like it’s allowed us to make what seems like slower progress but maybe a more lasting impact.

Who have you been collaborating with?
Moss Side Councillors, Fallowfield Councillors, Ardwick Councillors, Sow the City, Lancashire Wildlife Trust,

Bernard (fellow community leader 2018) is part of our Core Team - amazing to have his wisdom. Throughout our journey other characters like Bernard have appeared and we’ve joined forces. These people are popping out of nowhere and joining forces! One thing I appreciate about Bernard is he’s good at making sure we slow down on decisions and think about the way we do things - it’s his experience of community work. As a young person I jump into things - it’s good to have that nudge to slow down.

We’ve connected with Mo and Sandra - for movement workshops with older women in Ardwick and with Juliet - with the environmental and climate justice world that we are circling around.

It’s also about getting people out of their houses. When we’ve been out of the house you see people and get to know your neighbours and connect with people. I’m realising that although people don’t have time there’s not one person who’s trying to stop you and get in your way, It’s a matter of working out when people can do those little actions feeding into the bigger picture of bringing people together.

I feel like there’s lots of little ways in which the Community Leaders Programme has enhanced our relationship with neighbours and the neighbourhood. Cristian has planted Veg in Alleyways, cleared alleyways and put up fences and gates. That work makes a difference - in terms of changing the culture, getting more people interested in growing. You feel a lot more responsible to do things. I feel like because we’ve had some training in how to engage respectfully with the community we have the privilege of having that knowledge and makes us responsible to act on those issues if we have the time and energy. Without making it sounds like a chore or duty, it’s actually hugely rewarding to do those small actions.

Why does this matter to you and your community/neighbours?

To create peaceful and natural retreats in the urban environment. To promote and encourage wellbeing, personal development and belonging in open space. To connect people with nature and each other through outdoor activities.

People are reaching out to help you - recognising that the people in the Council have a lot of power and it makes you realise how important our votes are in local elections. I never really put 1 and 1 together before. It’s motivated me to speak to people a bit more about finding out who is on your ballot - I underestimated that before.

What would you like your project to achieve?
To create new community spaces where people can come together, to take part in physical activities, skills training and engage in local and personal heritage.

Anything else to add?

Thanking Amity for inspiring us to do more for our community. I feel like the Community Leaders course has given me a lot more confidence to develop projects and take them forward, we’ve been able to make new connections. I can see people who would make great Community Leaders and don’t know how to do it - they need these skills and it can change the world. Everyone in Manchester should do it!