East Manchester’s Food and Drink Fringe Festival has now kicked off! There are 20 mouth-watering events this month across the area. Len Grant calls in at a community centre in Newton Heath to see one of the first.
Billy Jones, left, amongst the Over 50s Forum enjoying the Fringe workshop
I’d intended to drop in at The Stirling Centre in Newton Heath and take a few snaps of the very first event of the 2010 East Manchester Food and Drink Fringe Festival. Sure enough tables were being laid out for the Fringe’s ‘How Does Your Garden Grow’ workshop but there was already a flurry of activity across the hall as members from the Over 50s Forum were busy painting plant pots. I wasn’t expecting two events for the price of one!
Liz Lomas from the Forum explained: “Every year the city council’s Valuing Older People programme puts on a fortnightly Full of Life Festival to celebrate older people and encourage more participation in the community. One of the themes this year is ‘Grub and Gossip’ and that’s what going on here. We’ve got herbs and seedlings and packets of seeds which will go into the plant pots once they’re painted.
Esther Parnell: "The last time I painted was with the grandkids!"
There was plenty of gossip going on as the pots were decorated: “The last time I did anything like this it was colouring-in with the grandkids,” said Esther Parnell as she added another petal to the red rose she was painting on her ceramic pot. The grub came in the form of a splendid buffet provided by Liz’s colleague, Brenda Austen.
Once the pots were filled with compost and seedlings and the participants had had their fill of sandwiches and mini sausage rolls, it was time to turn to the Fringe Festival event staged by community artist, Michele Hawthorne.
“We were looking for something relatively easy and yet creative to make,” says Michele, opening bags of laurel, rhododendron, conifer and holly branches out onto the table. “We’ve got some plant pots with wooden stems already prepared and we’re encouraging people to use their imaginations and create a living decoration that should stay alive for several weeks.”
This group don’t need much encouragement and within minutes the table was full of green-fingered enthusiasts.
Community artist, Michele Hawthorne, gives some tips to Forum member Caroline Crerar
Caroline Coates, the Cultural Regeneration Officer from New East Manchester is here too. She’s responsible for putting many of the Fringe events together over here in east Manchester. I ask her what she’s looking forward to most in the weeks ahead. “There are 20 events during October and it’s hard to highlight just a couple but I think the cooking demonstration with locally grown food at Emerge’s Learning Garden (next to Smithfield Market) on the 9th will be fun. And then there’s the World Food Event staged by Adactus Housing on the 30th at Miles Platting Library. Here local residents will be cooking food form all over the world, so that should be amazing to watch… and amazing to taste!”
See the Food and Drink website: http://www.foodanddrinkfestival.com/events/east-manchester/
See east Manchester’s what’s on listings: http://www.east-manchester.com/whats-happening/index.htm
Last week East reported on the messy antics at the Wonderful World of Play at Clayton’s Sure Start Children’s Centre. This week the Over 50s Luncheon Club comes under the spotlight.
The Lunchoen Club: getting out for a hot meal, a game of bingo and a good chat
Over 50s at the Children’s Centre? Surely there’s been a mistake. Not so, explains the Head of Centre, Karen Camm. “Yes, we’re focussed on increasing children’s attainment and getting parents trained and back into work so we’re essentially a hub of services for children and families. And, as such, we’re an intergenerational resource: everyone uses the library, the café, it all mingles together.”
Karen sees the benefit of getting not just mums and tots, but the whole family using the centre. “It has a ripple effect,” she says, “grandparents coming for one event might pick up information about another and pass it on. The Luncheon Club is very much an add-on for our overall ‘think family’ strategy”.
Led by the voluntary group 4CT, the Tuesday Luncheon Club has been going for longer than any of its current members can remember. Clayton resident Sandra Webb has been a volunteer since 1994: “It used to be run by Clayton Community Association [a forerunner to 4CT],” she recalls, “who had their base in an old community centre in Clayton Park and before that in an old butchers shop on Ashton Old Road.”
Today the eight or so regular members are finishing off their steak pie dinner before having a few games of bingo with Sandra calling out the numbers. “Oh yes, they pay for their own dinner and make a small contribution towards the bingo prizes and any trips out we can afford,” she says.
When there’s enough in the ‘kitty’ the group will hire a ‘charabanc’ and enjoy a day trip to the coast. Last time it was a meal out at a Blackpool hotel followed by entertainment and no doubt a sing-along on the way home. “We just go out and have a good time, don’t we?” says Sandra to the bingo players.
A hot meal, a few games of bingo and a good chat. For many of the Luncheon Club this is a social lifeline. “If they didn’t come here,” says Sandra, “they wouldn’t go anywhere.”
The Luncheon Club meets on Tuesdays from 11-2.30. New members are always welcome. Drop in or call 219 6177 for more details.
Street signs, silhouettes of tower blocks, ornate church windows, paving stones, railings and even pub signs have all inspired a West Gorton art group to produce striking silk screen prints depicting their local area.
Field Worker Amanda Crummett, centre, with the Young at Heart Group and their art mentors
The Young at Heart Group – set up more than two years ago and ‘adopted’ by Keele University’s CALL-ME research programme – flung open the doors of their community rooms on Gortonvilla Walk this week to show off their creativity.
Matty Wade: "It's my design on the T-shirt!"
Each member displayed a finished print mounted and framed on the walls with other limited editions on sale to raise funds for future projects.
The silk screening techniques were taught by artist Ian McKay and his son Andrew as part of the M12-11 arts project, set up in 2005 of offer creative opportunities to east Manchester groups and residents.
“I’ve enjoyed every part of this project,” says Matty Wade, who accompanies his partially-sighted grandmother to the group and whose design features on the group’s T-shirts. “We all took a vote on which image should go on the shirts and the group chose mine. That made me very happy.”
Eighty-five year-old Maggie Wade was, at first, reluctant to join in the group’s activities: “When they came to ask me if I’d like to join I told them I could only see light and shape and I’d never to able to manage. We started with pottery and I thought I’d never to able to do it but, with the help of these people, I’ve managed. I felt as if I was past it at my age, so it just goes to show.
“They’re starting keep fit classes on Wednesday so I’ll come down to that too!”
“Some older people hardly go out at all,” says club secretary, Audrey Hurley. “So this group has given them a chance to have a cuppa and a chat as well as make some fantastic art. We all enjoy the laughs when we get together.”
“CALL-ME is part of a longer research project aimed at improving the quality of life for older people,” explains Keele University’s Professor Michael Murray. “With our partners, we’re providing opportunities for older people in disadvantaged areas of Manchester to socialise. Here the Young at Heart group have produced some amazing artwork but mainly it’s been about people coming together.
Our field worker, Amanda Crummett, has been able to support the group to apply for funding, recruit a community artist and develop this project. We’re really pleased with the results.”
It’s October, and once again the Manchester Food and Drink Festival is in full swing. And, once gain, east Manchester gets stuck in as if the festival was designed just for them! Len Grant reports from Sportcity.
This month there are dozens of festival events from food tasting to cookery competitions and food-inspired poetry. For East I take a trip to a tea dance at the City of Manchester Stadium and a community allotment in Gorton, (more of that soon).
Tea dances are always good fun to photograph. Everyone’s in a good mood and up for a laugh. Alan, the DJ, is warming up his audience as I arrive and, as this is a regular monthly event, he knows many of the punters by name. “Come on, Cyril, this is your favourite,” he says from behind his deck. “Table five, do you fancy a slosh?”
Beswick resident, Mary Bailey never misses a session. “I like a bit of Nat King Cole,” she says. “Oh, and we do like a bit of disco,” chips in her friend, Joan from Audenshaw.
Once they’ve bought their ticket it’s free tea and – usually – biscuits. But today, maybe because of the festival, it’s scones with cream and jam. I guess they all work it off before the end of the afternoon.
Harry : "I've had these dancing shoes for years."
Another of Mary’s friends, 82 year-old Harry Leigh, was born and brought up around here. “Our terraced house would have been somewhere on this Sportcity site,” he says. “It was a dirty industrial area in those days and things were hard, but we got by.” Harry slips on his treasured dancing shoes as I quiz him about his younger days.
“Oh yes, there were plenty of places to dance. We’d go down to Belle Vue, or the Lido on Ashton Old Road, or the Apollo on Ardwick Green,” he recalls.
Dorothy and Ada: "We used to dance all over east Manchester."
Over on table seven, I hear more reminiscences from Dorothy Longmire and Ada Wakefield. “You’d buy a ticket from the Co-op for a shilling,” they say, “and that’d get you in the dance on the Saturday night.”
“We’d go all over,” remembers Dorothy, distracted by a change of line-up on the stage, “the Conservative Club on Pinmill Brow near town, or Ardwick Lads Club. We’ve always enjoyed dancing… Oh, look, it’s Carl on now.”
Carl 'has a way with him'
Alan is taking a break as singer Carl Bennett takes to the microphone. “Carl’s lovely,” says Dorothy, “he’s the best singer we have.” Ada agrees, “He’s brilliant. He’s got a way with him.” Sure enough, Carl does have a way with him. Permanently smiling, he belts out the classics with an infectious enthusiasm that’s difficult to ignore. Soon I’m tripping around the dance floor taking pictures with a little swagger, wondering if anyone would notice if I put my camera down and joined in.
I have to leave sooner than I’d like but first have a quick chat to Deborah and Sophie, the City in the Community organisers who’ve been running the dance for the past two years. “We advertise in the match day programme,” explains Deborah, “and visit care homes and community groups to tell them what we do. It’s becoming ever so popular.”
But what has been special about today, for the food and drink festival? “We’ve given everyone recipe cards for healthy meal suggestions,” says Sophie, “and this month’s picture quiz features celebrity chefs. We’ve also got outreach workers here from the NHS and the ‘Getting Manchester Moving’ campaign.”
“But what about you two?” I ask, cheekily. “Do you ever get up for a bop?” Deborah and Sophie are emphatic in their joint response, “Oh no! We just observe.”
I can’t believe they haven’t succumbed to Carl’s crooning before now!
The next tea dances at the City of Manchester Stadium are 12th November and 3rd December. Call Sophie or Deborah on 0161 438 7711 or 438 7834 to book tickets.