Reopening an iconic Victorian building as a community hub
An unloved and disused building in Manchester is being given a new lease of life as an affordable café, community pantry and activities centre
The Mechanics Institution Public Hall, Library and School was built in an age (1880) before state education. When cholera was endemic, and poverty was rife. It was probably inspired by the writings on the Manchester working man by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles. It was the second free public library in England and along with the other facilities transformed the fortunes of numerous generations.
It enhanced the work of Sir Edwin Chadwick, born opposite the building, who founded the Poor Laws Board and persuading the Government to pass an Act requiring factory owners to provide 3 hours schooling for working children.
This iconic Victorian building on the busy A6 shut in 2010 due to austerity cuts. It was left to decay and was then ransacked by squatters, leaving it on the brink of never reopening.
Manchester Vineyard, part of the Vineyard network of churches, took on the challenge to reverse its fortunes and once again make it a thriving centre to improve the community’s wellbeing. 422 Community Hub was born.
This was much needed. With over half the area’s children growing up in poverty, many households without a cooker, relying on microwave meals and takeaways. Extremely high levels of spending on diabetes medicines, low school attainment and a reliance on benefits and the gig economy demonstrates how essential it was to create space for people to thrive.
We opened an affordable café first, which also trains people with life challenges. This was closely followed by a community pantry, Bollyfit dancing, kids’ classical music lessons, concerts, youth clubs, financial advice, youth mental health teams. There’s much more to follow including £1 bring-your-own bean bag film nights, circus skills and digital skills classes to name just a few.
Our plan was simple and universal. Hope. Make a start, don’t be afraid of failure, persistence, ask for things, if that doesn’t work beg. Don’t be daunted by the size of the whole task, plan for incremental successes.
To find out more about the project you can watch the video on Vimeo.
Stuart Hogg volunteers with Manchester Vineyard.
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