What is it that turns a neighbourhood into a thriving community?
Is it jobs, housing, public transport or places to go? Perhaps it’s people with an enterprising outlook, willing to organise things and encourage others to take part? And folk willing to share their knowledge, help others and spread the word about what’s going on and how people can get involved?
It’s all of these and more, but sometimes it’s having a focal point where people can meet, inside and out, and just be part of things.
Bramley Lawn was a council-run care centre for older people which closed four years ago but which opened again recently after being transferred to the local community. It is now being transformed into a social space for older people by Bramley Elderly Action, the local Neighbourhood Network.
We visited them on their opening day to find out about their plans to create a social space in Bramley. Lee Ingham, centre manager and Fran Graham showed us round.
Fran; “Let me get you a cup of tea and a piece of cake before I show you round. And you must talk to Lee and Margaret too.”
You know you are speaking to the right person when that happens.
Armed with a cup and a saucer that couldn’t really cope with the piece of flapjack balanced on it, we started a tour which I’ll now recount with the photos I took.
We started in the barber’s room. Yes you read it right; BARBERS!
The reason for having this is there’s a big issue across the country with an increasing number of lonely older men. Sometimes services such as lunch clubs and coffee mornings, while providing a much needed service, might be aimed at the social preferences of women rather than the activity that men may prefer.
Bramley Lawn decided to dedicate one day a week for men. Saturday will be Men’s day, so there’s a barber’s chair and all the kit for a short back and sides and a good natter. It might also be used to train some budding young barbers.
There are also plans to show some old sporting films on Saturdays that older folk might like to see again that bring back good memories. Fran explained they may also be of interest to the younger generations too, so there may be some discussions about how it used to be and how different it might be today.
“The centre doesn’t just have to be a place for older folk. We just want people to have fun” Fran added.
The centre has two support workers but will also rely on volunteers. As they are an important part of the future for Bramley Lawn, they have a dedicated room.
The centre is only currently open three days a week but there are plans to increase that. Saturday will mainly be Men’s day and Thursday will be a day for dementia support. Wednesday will be lucky dip day, so anything might happen.
Fran added that one of the issues for some people is getting to the centre. So accessible transport is laid on so that those who want to come can get there. Volunteer drivers will play a big part in this but as always more are needed.
The next room on our tour was the reminiscence room. This will have three murals dedicated to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. A local artist will be creating the murals once ideas have been collected.
If you would like to suggest what might be included then please let us know and we will pass it on.
Quickly passing the centre office and kitchen, we negotiated the table tennis area where serious competition was underway:
The new garden, which is being created with help from social enterprise New Leaf, will be used by locals to grow fruit and vegetables and will be accessible for people with dementia.
Lee told us that staff from ASDA had volunteered and painted the railings. The water feature had come from the Harrogate Show and earlier in the morning a lady had taken two buses just to drop off a couple of bags of plants for the garden. Lee also said he wanted Bramley Lawn to be a friendly social space that makes life more interesting and fun, where people of all ages learn from each other.
The centre will also offer activities for local people, aged 60 and over, including arts sessions, social media classes and a monthly Saturday walk.
We hope the social centre goes from strength to strength.
Thank you Lee, Fran and everyone at Bramley Lawn for showing us round, but more importantly, for what you do for the folks of Bramley.
Leeds has an increasing number of social spaces aimed at bringing people together and creating a sense of community. Some examples of where people with socially enterprising aims are the Heart Centre in Headingley which is owned and run by local residents and provides work space, meeting rooms, a range of community events and activities for all ages and a great café. Other examples of community enterprises are Shine in Harehills and Hillside in Beeston.
Bramley Baths Community Ltd is a new community led social enterprise that took over the management of the historic grade II listed building through an asset transfer from Leeds City Council in 2013. Early days for the enterprise but it’s an example of how local residents can be included in running a community venue. They aim to provide affordable health and fitness facilities, whilst also maintaining a historic landmark.
In Leeds we have a number of organisations which social entrepreneurs (both new and old) can turn to for help, advice and investment. Leeds Community Foundation runs two programmes which social enterprises can get both investment and business support from. The Yorkshire Philanthropy Fund (open to social enterprises working across all sectors) and the Ideas that Change Lives fund (supported by the council) which is specifically to support socially enterprising ideas which can support people with care and support needs to live more independent lives.
Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber is a regional body that represents and promotes the sector and is a good way of networking with other social entrepreneurs – they also run a series of useful workshops, conferences and seminars for the sector.
The Leeds City Region Partnership also has a list of useful support organisations on their website