“Our door has always been open.”

“We’ve been open throughout and that’s been important for us, says Mo. “It’s shown our community that, despite the pandemic, we’re still here for them even though we haven’t been doing things in person.”

From previous stories on this blog, I know that Community Resources Manager Mo Blue and her colleagues at Brunswick Church offer a great range of activities for local people as part of their Positive Steps programme. And, with a good-sized kitchen on site, food is often at the centre of what they provide.

Mo: “It’s been an awful time but now people are glad to be back.”

During the lockdown the kitchen still supplied takeaway meals with the support of food charity, Cracking Good Food and local café owner, Raph Mondale. “For many people, especially those living alone, it was an opportunity to get out of the house, have a quick chat and collect a meal,” says Mo. “It gave people a daily routine.

“Now, as we open up again, people are glad to be back for in-person activities. They’ve been cut off, it’s as if they’ve lost nearly two years of their lives.”

The café is now open again serving a hot meal every Tuesday lunchtime with hot drinks and snacks on Wednesdays and Thursdays. “We’ve taken on a different style of café,” Mo tells me, “so we have something to offer to everyone three days a week.”

The ‘Beestro’ is buzzing three times a week. All are welcome.

Already the Over 50s, the Women’s Group, and weekly yoga are up and running again. The Parents and Toddlers Group is back, but using the church and the revamped garden as their temporary playground as building work continues on the other side of the kitchen.

While yoga mats are being rolled out and toasted tea cakes served in one part of Brunswick Church, hi-vis clad workmen are scurrying about in another. It’s all part of the church’s Refurb project, the first phase of which will see a sports hall make-over, a new entrance and an extension with showers, toilets and kitchenette.

“It’s a sports hall but not a sports hall,” says Church Secretary Gordon Flear, as he takes me on a tour of work in progress.

“Yes, we’ll be able to accommodate all our usual groups but, because it’ll be a self-contained space, we can do so much more.

Sports England has been the major funder for Brunswick’s revamped sports hall, which offers much more.

“Youth groups will use it in the evenings – we’re getting a new foldaway basketball net – and Active Lifestyles will run classes here too. The nearby school may use it after school and local residents can set up clubs. We know there’s long been a desire for a table tennis group.

As well as the sports and activities, the hall will provide a new venue for social events. “Our first big event will be a Brunswick Caribbean celebration on October 30th,” says Gordon, “with fantastic food, music – Mo is working on getting a steel band – and dancing.”

Phase one of Brunswick Church’s Refurb project opens next month.

That’s followed by a quiz night in November and a panto in December. “And Mo has a great idea for January, when we’re all down with the winter blues,” continues Gordon. “We’ll have a ball where everyone can dress up to the nines, and we’ll lay on a three course meal.”

When I visited Brunswick Church a few months ago I was delighted to be introduced to volunteer Garry who had originally come here for help but ended up giving back by helping with the food distribution. And Garry is still volunteering here as well as at Mustard Tree in town where he’s a driver’s mate.

Volunteer Gary is still a regular at Brunswick Church: “If we didn’t have the volunteers here to help us, we’d really struggle,” says Mo.

“It’s all part of a scheme to help me back into work,” he says. “There’s a chance of some paid part-time work locally. I haven’t had paid work for 20 years. I’d be over the moon if that came off.”

Brunswick Parish Church is on Brunswick Street, M13 9SX.
Open from 10am-2.30pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
Contact Mo Blue on 0161 273 6608 or mo@brunswickchurch.org.uk