Bang in the middle of Openshaw, the New Roundhouse is hard to miss. Len Grant meets Maria Gardiner of Manchester Settlement to find out what goes on inside and asks why this very angular building is so-called.
Len: So, tell me about the name?
Maria: The Manchester Settlement is part of the national Settlement Movement which began in the late 1800s when university cities, like Manchester, sent out their professors to help in the poorer districts. It those days, before the NHS, it was a case of distributing medicines and helping the sick and infirm. IN those days Manchester Settlement was based on Every Street, Ancoats in a disused circular chapel, known as the Round House, so we’ve kept that connection with our past.
Len: And what happens now in the New Roundhouse?
Maria: We run education programmes for young people under 16 who, for any number of reasons, aren’t able to fulfil their full potential at mainstream secondary schools. They may be facing challenging circumstances at home or have other issues which mean that the local high school isn’t the best place for them to learn effectively. We have support workers who help our students with other aspects of their often chaotic lifestyles and keep them focused. Our education programmes are registered with OFSTED.
Len: But does it work?
Maria: One young man who had an attendance record of less than 25% at high school in September has now got an attendance record with us of over 95%. So, what we does, works. We’ve got dedicated staff who give our young people the chance to develop emotionally as well as academically.
Len: Who else is here in the Roundhouse?
Maria: The building is owned by the Manchester Settlement but Manchester College and Mosscare Housing are also here. As well as being tenants they’re also partners in a broader support framework. So in this one building our young people get educational support from us, housing support from Mosscare and training from The Manchester College.
Len: Tell me about some of the other opportunities here.
Maria: We’ve got a book club running now, and a chess club. There are adult literacy courses, playschemes and computer courses. We plan to turn the New Roundhouse into a learning hub for the whole community, adults as well as young people.
Len: What do you personally get out of your work?
Maria: I’ve a genuine desire to help young people. I was lucky, I had a happy childhood but it’s heart-breaking to see some children written-off at 13 or 14 for no fault of their own.
I’m a qualified accountant by trade. I have worked for a couple of charities and used to work in the motor industry before the Settlement. I joined at a very turbulent time for the organisation: the director at the time eventually left and it looked as if we would close. I was determined not to let a charity over 100 years old fold, so I started writing funding bids and won Lottery funding, money from Children in Need, corporate funds, and managed to keep going. Four years later here we are in this £2.2 million building.
But there’s still a connection with our past, with Manchester University. We’ve set up the East Manchester Legal Advice Clinic here where residents can get advice from solicitors and lawyers from the university. Law undergraduates and postgraduates sit in on the sessions as part of their training.
Manchester Settlement is on 0161 614 8448
firstname.lastname@example.org and www.manchestersettlement.org.uk
Archive image courtesy of Manchester Local Image Collection.