🎶What a Week🎶

Well…. what a week!

It kind of feels like it may take until the end of February before our feet touch the floor and we begin to feel grounded in the new place, CommUnity Corner.

This time last week we were getting ready for the first of the three open house sessions we hosted over the weekend. We had no idea who might walk through the door. There was a sense of ‘all will be well’ though, after the way people had just offered their time, skills and resources to get the place ready. Heart warming stuff and testament to the on the ground work since March 2020. Cultivating a connected community takes time. 

Build it and they will come they say. And they came. Each day we opened the door, people came through it and the place was filled with a warm buzz. 

We had people gathering to talk about growing, selling, drinking tea, offering art, repairing, looking out for each other, tool hire and all kinds of great stuff. It’s not often that you can open a building and say come in and dream. What might you like to offer from here? Thanks to Lankelly Chase investment we’ve been able to do that. Grow the business plan as we grow. Take our time. See what emerges. It creates the space for all kinds of offers – can I host an art group here?; I’m new to the area and I’d like to create a group for other people who are new to the area; I’ve no recourse to public funds, I can’t work, and, I have all these skills. How can I make best use of them here? It’s amazing what an open door, no agenda and a kettle can enable and catalyse. We had so many offers too from organisations and services. It floored us really how much people want to help us grow. Rebuild with Hope and soft furnishings, Epic Hope and a Harbour, ReMade and paint, time and a huge bag of tea bags- a fantastic housewarming gift. So many Council teams – Adult Social Care, Family Hubs, Tenant Voice and Engagement, Holiday Activity Fund and some local providers, Deal for Communities Team – all offering support and expertise. And Care Coordinators too from health. It feels special. Like we are cracking that nut of community and associational life at the centre with good help on tap. 

It’s amazing how people have already begun to open up and share stories of tough times, in solidarity with others. As if they were waiting for a door to open. People who may be seeking to stay away from former habits that harm. All over a brew. We’ve so much physical work still to do which in itself seems to have opened the door for more offers of help. As deliveries arrive every day we hear, ‘I’ll help carry the tables in, put them up too. I’m handy, I can help with shelves.’ We’ve been scratching our heads for a while, wondering how to get more men involved, and it seems like one answer might be, open an unfinished building. Give people the opportunity to help you. It feels like the Camerado movement knew what they were talking about when they came up with those principles! ‘If someone is struggling, ask them to help you.’ 

So every day there’s been some joy. Walking alongside a new CiC – The Happy Place as they set themselves up as a new entity. We’ve been able to spread some of the Lankelly resource to enable them to offer Calligraphy on a Monday evening. Seeing the new group of women from different backgrounds laughing together at the class. Getting a feeling in your tummy that something special is growing. Seeing people try out a low cost sound bath with Jo of Peace Lily Holistics and hearing what they have to say afterwards. Seeing groups of men sit and have a brew together, learning about each others cultures, influences and experiences and then working together to put up a shelf or create a chalkboard. 

And we aren’t putting all our eggs in one building. It was lovely too, to respond to a community members invitation to star gaze in the community garden on Wednesday evening. It’s the first time I’ve seen Mercury up close and the moon in all its splendour. Ben shared his swanky telescope with the community, his 40th birthday present. And despite not being able to my feel fingers after the snow and freeze, it was lovely to see kids who love space talking all about the craters on the moon.  It’s these moments of connection and joy that really feed my soul and I’m sure they send some vibrations out into the local atmosphere. 

Amidst all this joyful energy we’ve been trying to make brews whilst having a new kitchen fitted and navigate the problems that any building that hasn’t been used for a while brings to your attention, usually just at the point when you could do with the time for something else.

The building is in a great location. On a busy corner with great big windows. The kind of place where you could easily sit all day and watch the world go by. Windows so big too that people can’t help looking in and becoming curious. It feels like it’s going to work here. There’s a bloke that I met when at the pop up public living room that Maff Potts brought to Wigan. For some crazy reason we sat in the rain all day and a couple of people sat with us for most of the day too. It turned out that one of them lived in the local neighbourhood. He spends most of his days walking around the town centre. I said to him, keep your eye out for us opening. When the shutters go up, we’re open. He was there on day one, and he’s called in most days since. He sits, we he have a brew, look at the Grade 11 listed pub that’s being mothballed across the road and dream. He says to me, ‘I think this place is going to work.’ ‘So do I,’ I reply. ‘I’m glad I met you’, he says. ‘Same here,’ I say. ‘This bit you’re using to have a brew in though, it needs to be bigger. You can’t swing a cat in it,’ he says. ‘I know, but it will have to do for now. Until we get that pub.’ And we laugh. Someone who rarely feels like he belongs anywhere has found a place where he can rest, feel safe and contribute. Friends and purpose eh?

Imagine if we had one on every corner? 


Community Builder