Len Grant reports back from the ‘Gorton People Stronger Together’ consultation day last weekend.
I feel I’m witnessing the beginning of something special. Today Gorton people are coming together to celebrate the start of a motivational programme for young people and their families. I arrive at the indoor market in time to see dozens of young people being issued with clipboards and I LOVE GORTON T-shirts before being briefed
by Ruth Ibegbuna from Urbis, the programme co-ordinator for the ‘Gorton People Stronger Together’ programme. “Tell people about the money,” she says to volunteers, “and ask them what they’d like us to spend it on. Then invite them along to the Monastery for an afternoon of fun and entertainment.” (Not to mention the free food supplied by the Gorton Market traders).
The volunteers are split into teams, each given an area to canvas in the next couple of hours. “I’ll do the estate,” says one teenager who might expect to be still under the covers at this time on a Saturday morning. “I know it well, so I’ll get some good responses.”
I follow the four-strong team heading for Hyde Road and Tesco and overhear enthusiasm (and occasional apathy) from their respondents towards the news that Gorton has won £450,000 from the central government’s Inspiring Communities programme.
Today is billed as ‘Gorton’s biggest ever community consultation’ and, as the completed questionnaires come rolling back to base at the market, it seems that plenty of people have a view on how the ‘win’ should be spent.
But this project is not starting from scratch. Already the Urbis team have run hugely-successful ‘Reclaim’ mentoring schemes for young people in Moss Side, east Bolton and north Manchester. (See http://www.reclaimproject.org.uk). The ‘Stronger Together’ programme will build on and extend the theme taking a wider approach by supporting young people as well as their families.
Plans already include Saturday classes for 11–14 year-olds (more early mornings!); a project to renovate unsafe open spaces, adding lighting, greenery and public art; and a Reclaim mentoring project for Gorton girls (the last one was just for young men).
Down at Gorton Monastery preparations are well in hand for the afternoon event. As the Bloco Nova samba band and dancers arrive, I set up a small studio near the café where I am to photograph local people soon to appear on posters and banners promoting ‘Gorton People Stronger Together’. Local MP, Gerald Kaufman is one of the first to arrive and, although he’s unlikely to appear on a banner, he is more than happy to pose in his Gorton T-shirt with some of his younger constituents.
The afternoon flies by. The word has got out that the photography sessions are informal and fun and soon there is a queue out the door. Young and old are captured and I even persuade the camera-shy to take a turn. Some of the pictures appear here but more will adorn Gorton in the coming months.
Before I know it, and with nearly 1000 images on my memory card, the event is over and I hear later about Gorton Visual Arts and their print-making workshop; the manifesto-writing and the young people getting up there on the ‘Gorton Plinth’ telling everyone about their achievements and aspirations. I don’t need to be told about the samba band because I heard their mesmeric beat down the corridor!
To get involved in Gorton’s exciting new project email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 605 8218.