One of my main focusses in Manchester since moving here a year and a half ago has been the community in Moss Side. Through a series of random chances I came upon a community that, in honesty, I never expected to be involved in and I've enjoyed having my initial perceptions of the area shattered. Despite outside views of the area, what's inside is a broad cross section of society and a huge amount of hope to improve the area they call home.
From door knocking and weekly pub meets to residents' associations and allotments the community has a wealth of ways to bring members together and bring their collective voices to the council and bodies with access to funding. These external bodies definitely have a part to play in the regeneration of an area, and money is always a necessary tool in such efforts, but Moss Side is a great example of how small societies can grow, function and improve their area.
This was nicely illustrated this week as my plans to attend Manchester Council's large, and very well attended, firework display at Platt fields were subverted by a small display in a small gravel patch over in Moss Side. Arriving and slightly uncertain whether we'd found the event or a few cold people who were creatively disposing of some left over palletes we went over to introduce ourselves. Drawing closer we found a table of barbecue accompaniments along with a man heating vimto over an already lit fire; we were there and it was already looking good.
Having collected some drink (with obligatory brandy added in) I deposited a pack of sausages for the communal meal as a stream of locals arrived, members of the residents' association putting on the event as well as surrounding streets. A real benefit to small community events is that children are much more evident, and a small fireworks display is no exception, especially when they're equipped with sparklers. One crucial part of building local communities is creating space and provision for children to interact and make friends locally, especially in multicultural areas; events like this provide a great opportunity and it was inspiring to see so many parents bringing the kids along and letting them have fun together.
Spending a short time at the bonfire, and even before the fireworks started, I decided I was going to forego the larger event at Platt. Being able to attend events in a community like this and see how people are putting in effort to build relationships in their local area is a real privillege - the big council events get a lot of people involved but just think how much stronger those social bonds could be if each group of ~50-100 people were gathering in the streets around their own homes.
As I write this I'm watching coverage of the US Presidential Election, which makes me aware of the differences and struggles facing our own political system. With last night's bonfire still in mind I'm certain that whatever the politicians decide the best changes to our country are going to come from small local groups like this, people enjoying where they live and able to help and provide when their neighbours face difficulties would reflect in every other aspect of modern life, and like a firework accidentally shot low over a terraced house it may make you nervous at first, but the results are pretty amazing.