Pleas for help came from beyond the Crescent-shaped skyline hanging heavy over Manchester’s most dilapidated neighbourhood. But they all fell on deaf ears.
A disastrous social housing experiment had left an entire community abandoned on the doorstep of the city for years.
But then, in 1989, some people started listening.
A cluster of of mental health workers moved into the Z-Arts (originally the Zion Arts Centre) building on Stretford Road, setting up a support group called the Hulme Action Research Project (HARP).
Suddenly, residents had someone they could talk to.
It changed everything.
In the years that followed, Hulme clambered back to its feet, and that little support group morphed into one of the biggest, most important charities in the region: Manchester Mind.
During the past thirty years, Manchester Mind has reached beyond its inner-city suburb origins and right across Mancunia – providing vital services to thousands of people living in the borough.
Today, the organisation is holding the city’s hand through the biggest crisis in living memory.
Research revealed over half of adults (60%) and two thirds of young people (68%) experienced a dip in mental health during lockdown. Those who experienced mental health problems in the past felt them resurface, whilst others began to suffer the pangs of depression and anxiety for the first time.
Mentally, Manchester has suffered more than most. But given the circumstances, this perhaps shouldn’t come as such a surprise.
The arrival of World Mental Health Day means we’re 284 days into 2020. For 175 of these, Mancs have been banned from seeing loved ones.
Other than a three-week window in July where it was deemed ‘safe’ to see friends and family, local residents have been urged to avoid any social interaction outside their bubble for six months.
Some people shielding have been unable to visit family since March 23. That’s 201 days of no face-to-face contact.
When these sobering stats are laid bare, it’s a wonder how we’re all still trudging on at all.
Mercifully, we have Manchester Mind.
The charity has carried a troubled region through the initial phase of the pandemic and is now helping residents ride a grim second wave by providing a huge variety of essential services.
These range from The Listening Ear (allowing young people and adults to make telephone appointments with staff) and mental health guidance to food projects – delivering freshly prepared ready meals for people struggling with access to items either due to loss of income or isolation.
Manchester Mind has also got peer support available via video chat and support in place for young people – with one Mental Health Practitioner actually setting up a makeshift office from home to guarantee students across four schools in Manchester always had someone to talk to.
World Mental Health Day is approaching at a poignant moment – and the charity is calling it “biggest yet”.
To mark the big day, Manchester Mind has struck a partnership with wellbeing and music festival Headstock – hosting a two-day virtual event with a stellar lineup starring huge performers and talks from the likes of Ricky Hatton and Brandon Block.
Manchester Mind had previously collaborated with Headstock to stream an incredible Ian Curtis tribute back in May.
The charity also embraced the hashtag #NeverMoreNeeded as part of an initiative to connect with more people in quarantine. And ahead World Mental Health Day, Manchester Mind has launched another campaign: #DoOneThing.
This initiative is dedicated to getting everyone involved in boosting mental health in Manchester by taking a single action – whether that’s reaching out to a loved one, starting a fundraiser, or sharing a story.
As we head into what’s being referred to as “a difficult winter”, Manchester Mind is under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge ahead.
But the organisation is facing this task head on with tenacity, commitment, but most importantly of all, positivity.
“The important thing to remember is that things can get better, and they will – even if it doesn’t feel that way,” Sam Harwood, Manchester Mind’s Communications Manager, tells us.
“If you know someone who’s struggling – reach out. Ask them if they’re ok. But most importantly of all – listen.
“Listening without judgment is a powerful thing – especially when you don’t just jump in with advice.”
Surprisingly, the anticipated surge in phone calls at the dawn of the pandemic did not materialise.
Perhaps Manchester was too busy scratching its head and trying to figure out what was going on rather than getting lost in its own thoughts.
Either way, Sam says the quiet period was something of a blessing – enabling Manchester Mind staff to take a beat, get set up remotely, and ensure they could continue providing services when demand would inevitably soar again.
Measures were also put in place to check on employees’ own mental wellbeing – particularly when anxiety spread throughout the region and the charity soon found itself busier than ever.
“We know that many people have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some of us, existing mental health problems have gotten worse,” explains Sam.
“But 90% of our services have been able to continue remotely – we’ve done our best to make sure we can support as many people as possible.”
Manchester Mind’s herculean efforts have not gone unrecognised – but Sam acknowledges there’s still much more work for them to do.
“There’s always been underinvestment in mental health,” she says.
“There’s still a lack of understanding and stigma. Men, for example, may be scared they’ll just get told to ‘man up’.
“But this virus has shone a light on the importance of wellbeing.”
“As our CEO Elizabeth Simpson talked about recently, this pandemic is a defining moment for Manchester and mental health awareness.
“We need to learn from this; we don’t want to go back to how things were before. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how to do things better, adapt and change.”
We all miss our families. We all miss our friends. We all miss living, full stop.
But even in the most unsettling of times, none of us are ever alone.
Not with Manchester Mind just a phone call away.
Speak to the amazing team at Manchester Mind on 0161 769 5732, Monday to Friday. You can talk to them about anything – whether you’ve got a friend in need or you’re experiencing problems of your own.Learn more via their website.
Unplugged – The stunning countryside cabin where guests are told to lock their phones away for a ‘digital detox’
We all know all-too-well that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to properly switch off – even when we’re on holiday.
With the constant pings and buzzes and flashes of digital technology begging for our attention every minute of the day, it’s not easy to properly step away and unwind.
Which is why the Unplugged countryside cabins were invented – and its first north west location has just opened.
Each of these stunning tiny homes includes a lock box, which guests are encouraged to lock their mobile phones in.
Over the course of each three-night stay, Unplugged guests are instead given other items to keep them entertained.
The Unplugged cabins include board games, books, and cassette players, as well as an instant camera with film so you can still capture your break – without the pressure to immediately shout about it on Instagram.
You’re also handed a classic Nokia phone (yes complete with Snake) in case you need to contact anyone, and a map and a compass.
They are also kitted out with a compact but fully equipped kitchen for cooking up a storm, a log burner and an outdoor fire pit, and comfy beds with luxury Piglet bedding.
There are several of these countryside retreats dotted around the south of England, and there’s now an Unplugged property here in the North West, just outside Greater Manchester in Cheshire.
The ‘Luna’ cabin has a huge panoramic window overlooking the countryside, and its location just off the Sandstone Trail.
The cabin is even pet-friendly.
You’ll find inside the compact wooden-clad space a powerful hot shower and toiletries, while outside are wellies and umbrellas to brace you for the great outdoors.
Unplugged was launched by two friends – Hector Hughes and Ben Elliot – who at the time both worked at a tech start-up and were teetering on the edge of burnout.
So after one of them took a two-week silent retreat in the Himalayas, they decided to try and create a few pockets of total, switch-off zen here in the UK.
They say: “Humans have always escaped to nature as an antidote to hectic city life. The issue is that now so many of us just wouldn’t know where to start.
“We’re glued to our phones, inundated with push notifications and respond to emails at all times of the day. We’re on a mission to help you unplug from your devices so that you can recharge.
“So we decided to build beautiful off-grid cabins just outside of city life that take less than an hour or two to get to.
“We also remove any of the woo-woo and stigma that might come with meditation and Buddhist retreats by creating beautiful cabins in nature for you to use the space and time to switch off how you want to.
“When we launched our first cabin, Koya in July 2020 we’d check in and out every guest, lock their phones away and take the key back with us to London. Now we have a lot more cabins, guests check themselves in and are encouraged to lock their phones away to benefit from 3 nights offline.
“We of course practice what we preach and all of the Unplugged team go for a digital detox at least once per year to help us switch off and recharge.”
You can book Luna, the Unplugged cabin in Cheshire, here.
Featured image: Pasco Photography
Neighbourhood Festival Manchester 2022 – tickets, line-up, venues and more
For those uninitiated, the massive city centre festival is Neighbourhood Weekender‘s sister event and has been running every October since 2016. Well, barring the pandemic, of course.
Springing from a fledgling one-day festival that boasted the likes of Circa Waves, Blossoms, White Lies, Twin Atlantic and Lonely the Brave, it has now become one of the biggest events of the year with over 100 acts spread across multiple venues dotted around the city centre. And just in time for the students.
Since its conception, crowds have seen everyone from Sam Fender, Easy Life and Holly Humberstone, to Mahalia, Declan McKenna, Miles Kane and many, many more of Britain’s biggest names take the Neighbourhood stages on their way to making a splash on the UK music scene.
Luckily for you, this year’s line-up looks an absolute whopper too.
Neighbourhood Festival Line-Up 2022
As well as those we already knew about such as The Snuts, Sundara Karama and local lads Everything Everything, Wigan-based indie band The Lathums have also confirmed that they will be joining the Neighbourhood headliners at this year’s festival.
You love to see it. You love to see everyone on this list, to be honest.
As you can see, there are big names everywhere – punters can also look forward to seeing the likes of Alfie Templeman and Baby Queen; Lauran Hibberd and Ten Tonnes, as well as Far Caspian and Brooke Combe, just to name a few.
There’s plenty of Mancunian music being represented as well, with Corella, Afflecks Palace, The Covasettes and The Stanleys all repping 0161.
Neighbourhood Festival 22 Venues
One of the best parts about Neighbourhood Fest is that aside from the acts themselves, there are some seriously mint venues on the list every year, from gig-going favourites to some locations you may have never seen live music before or even been full-stop.
Here is the full list of Neighbourhood venues we know of so far:
Manchester Academy 1 and 2 (14+)
Albert Hall (14+)
The Deaf Institute (14+)
O2 Ritz Manchester (14+)
Revolution – Oxford Road (14+ until 9pm, then 18+)
Bunny Jacksons (14+ until 9pm, then 18+)
YES – The Basement and The Pink Room (18+)
The Bread Shed (14+)
The Zombie Shack (18+)
That being said, it’s still worth keeping your eye out on social for any updates as more special guests and surprise appearances are expected, and who knows where they could pop up?
For instance, we already know that Hard-Fi will be playing their first gig in eight whole years at the brand-spanking New Century which we peeped not long ago. It’s quite an impressive space, guys.
Ah, the dreaded stage splits. They cause us inevitable headaches every year but they’re a necessary evil.
Want to know who’ll you manage to see and who’ll you have to prepare yourself for potentially missing? We do the dirty work so you don’t have to:
Are there any Neighbourhood tickets still left?
Put simply, yes, but you better get moving if you wanna snap the remaining few up.
Tickets for Neighbourhood Festival 2022 will set you back £39.50 face value (£43.45 all told with your booking fee) from their official retailer, Gigs and Tours. Wheelchair access tickets are also available.
Not only is that a much more affordable option for those who didn’t want to fork out more than £115 for the two-day pass at Neighbourhood Weekender back in May, but the wristband grants you access to every single venue on the list.
Even a one-day ticket at Weekender cost £59.50 + booking fee, whereas with Neighbourhood Fest you still get the chance to see some serious box office names at Neighbourhood Fest for less money. More spare pennies for food and pints, init.
It’s also worth noting that you can grab tickets on the day as a last resort, but we’d obviously advise getting yourself sorted before then.
As announced on Wednesday, this year’s box office and wristband exchange will be located at the University of Manchester Students Union building (M13 9PR) – the Lime Grove entrance, to be specific.
This will be open from 9.30am and will close promptly at 7.30pm, meaning there will be no wristbands issued after this time, so we would obviously recommend arriving as early as possible to avoid the large queues.
Organisers also had some important top tips to share with you:
Last but not least, make sure to keep a lookout on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram for the latest updates and, most importantly, grab your tickets HERE while you still can.