So it’s happy seventh birthday to the Inspire Centre today. How time flies? Little did we think, as Sir Richard Leese cut the red ribbon, that our sparkling new building would become such a vibrant community hub bringing together local residents from such different backgrounds in a range of activities so wide that it would take the rest of this blog just to list them. Little did I think our original two workers would become a team of wonderful staff, apprentices and volunteers – nearly all local residents – who work so hard to keep the place spick and span and welcome all-comers and their activities and ideas.
Over the past year there are a couple of initiatives that deserve special mention. Even before the Manchester bomb, divisions in the community were plain for all who cared to look. There is so much to celebrate in Levenshulme – our market, our local traders, our community association, Arcadia and more – but many people feel these opportunities are out of reach. Attitudes to Brexit and immigration vary greatly. And in recent weeks we have heard from local Muslim women who are being routinely targeted for racist and religious abuse.
So much of what Inspire is about brings people together from different backgrounds and our cafe is a place where we encourage interaction over a brew and cake but this year we’ve gone a few steps further. The day after the bomb we held a special vigil to remember the victims and stand in solidarity with everyone affected. We’ve supported a new Levenshulme Women’s Group which brings together women from overseas who are new to Levenshulme and can offer one another mutual support. Most recently these women – fed up of being blamed for local littering – organised a day of action on local litter which involved going out with council staff to give people information about waste collection, litter-picking and a waste-free picnic.
We’ve also been involved with Greater Manchester Citizens and we are now championing their Hate Crime campaign with an initiative to get local businesses and organisations to make a pledge to build community togetherness.
We’re also seeing a growing number of families who are struggling to make ends meet. We’ve resisted running a food bank though as we’re concerned they can be stigmatising and let the government off the hook for its unfair policies. Instead though we’ve started up the Bread and Butter Thing where any local resident, however rich or poor, can get a big bag of ‘recycled food’ for just £6. Once again, being open to everyone, this is bringing people together to chat about what to cook, where else they can get support and how they can help one another. We’re now hoping to develop a scheme to tackle local energy costs.
There so much else on the horizon too. Our new cafe manager, Kris, has all kinds of ideas for pop-up dining, external catering and more. Our new Taskforce Organiser, Lou, is planning campaigns for better seating and more friendly taxi services for our older people. And we want to make our new website a virtual hub for community news and activities.
Finally, it’s actually a double-birthday as today also marks the 500th anniversary of the ‘reformation’ of the church. Five hundred years ago today, a German monk called Martin Luther, launched a protest to challenge the church of his day to stop pontificating and get real with the struggles of community life. Seven years ago today, Levenshulme United Reformed Church, in a similar spirit, threw its church doors open wide and seven years on we’ve never looked back. From Luther to Levenshulme, there’s so much to celebrate and to inspire us from one year to the next. Thank-you all for being part of it.
Chair of the Inspire Board
If you’d like to make a ‘birthday gift’ to the Inspire Centre then please click on our donate page here.