11 December 2019 | North West England
Thriving community hub that reaches out to all
If there was ever an example of what a community can do when they come together to help each other, then The Miners Community Arts and Music Centre - known locally as ‘The Miners’ - must qualify.
It is hard to imagine but this brilliant and inclusive community hub was once a derelict former working men’s club in Moston, Manchester. It took the hard graft of Louise Beckett and his partner Paula Helsby - as well as friends and local residents to transform it into the thriving centre that it is today nine years after they took it on.
The Miners entertains, educates and helps hundreds of local people of all ages. Inside, there is a café, a function room with a stage, bars, art exhibition space, and band rehearsal rooms. And they have just opened a small charity shop after being swamped with donations. Eight volunteers work alongside Louis and Paula, both 52, to keep it all running.
The centre is also used by a number of local community groups. There’s an inclusive craft class for people facing social isolation and mental health issues, a meal and film club for a local disability group and even a fully kitted-out 70-seat cinema where kids can watch films at no cost. Barbara Shaw, 66, runs a craft class at the centre. She says: “We set up initially for those with mental health issues. Today, it’s for anyone who feels like coming along and everyone is very supportive of each other. If someone is feeling down, we will reach out and help.
“We have a lady in her seventies who lost her husband and was feeling socially isolated. Now she comes twice a week and has made lots of new friends. We also have a young lady who first came and was really anxious and suffering from mental health problems. After a couple years her confidence has grown so much that she can actually help lead classes.”
The centre also opened a new internet radio station and space where local bands can practise and perform. Louis’ next project is to build a recording studio so youngsters can enjoy music workshops and learn about sound production and interviewing skills.
Louis says: “The building started life as a miner’s wash house before developing into a working men’s club. When the club closed, the building was neglected and fell into disrepair for years. “When I took the building over, it was a total eyesore and inside was just a shell. There was no water and no electricity. It took seven skips just to get rid of the mess. It was a massive project. I called in all my mates who were builders, electricians and plumbers and we have slowly done it up. Local residents then got involved, and volunteered their time steam cleaning, painting the building and clearing the jungle-like garden.”
Louis added: “The centre brings everyone together. It keeps kids off the streets, it gives those who are isolated a place to meet and make friends.”