Summer in the city

The sun is shining. Forever Manchester’s Roadshow van is out and about. It must be summer.

Lisa and Vicky are setting up their stall in Ardwick Green Park ready to welcome local residents.

“So why are you here?” I ask Lisa as she arranges a stack of jelly beans.

“We’re here as part of our summer roadshow around Ardwick and Wythenshawe. It’s a fun day out for local people,” she says, “and a chance for us to connect like-minded neighbours.

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Been there. Done it. Pass it on.

“It’s about passing on our experience and what we’ve learnt to others in the community,” Mo tells me.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” I say. “But how did it all start?”

I’m in a Zoom meeting with the founding members of a new women’s group that call themselves the Dynamic Engagement Project. Even the title is exciting. One by one the women unmute themselves to tell me about their plans.

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“A celebration of new beginnings.”

The sun is shining and Hartfield Close Allotments are buzzing. The word is out and there’s a queue of residents, all socially distanced, come to collect their sunflower seeds.

“It’s like a celebration of new beginnings,” says Lisa from Forever Manchester who hands sunflower packs to a couple of boys. “People are really enjoying coming out, and I’m loving being back in Ardwick again after all these months.”

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Sea of Sunflowers

“It’s been a tough year,” says Ardwick food teacher Haydn Bettles. “We could all do with being cheered up.”

Haydn has been inspired to create a sea of sunflowers around his school and is encouraging others to get involved too. “Each of our schoolchildren will plant a sunflower seed to bring joy and happiness… and serve as remembrance as we slowly emerge from the pandemic.”

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“When they smile… it makes me smile.”

This time on a Monday morning the foyer of Brunswick Church would normally be buzzing. There’d be people getting help on the internet, some finishing a woman’s group and others just chatting over a coffee, maybe waiting for the free lunchtime service to start. But, of course, things have changed.

It’s not totally quiet. Behind the closed shutters I can hear lots of activity in the kitchen and, on this side, community resources manager Mo Blue is wrapping pieces of chocolate brownie. Volunteer Garry is here too, stacking takeaway cartons of chick pea curry.

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