“This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real”

This is the age of the neighbourhood.  People and place matter.   

“It takes a village to raise a child”. Whatever our age, all the different people and aspects that make up a place play their part in shaping our health and wellbeing. From childhood to old age, it takes a community to create a safe and healthy environment where we can all grow and thrive.  

I was raised in and by the village that is Chorlton. I am now raising my own kids here and hope to have the choice to grow old at home, in my community. I learnt to walk and ride my bike on our streets, swim at Chorlton Baths, play in our parks, mix and make friends in our schools. I’ve formed critical connections and trust with the people who live and work here, my neighbours, family, friends, babysitters, teachers, carers, doctors, shop keepers…in all their diversity.  As a child they lifted me up on their shoulders and filled me with a sense of wonder and hope for people and place.  They inspired me to dream of a fairer, greener, safer world, and encouraged me to roll up my sleeves and be a part of the change I want to see.  And they still do.

What we pay attention to grows. Whilst there is a lot going on in the world which feels desperately hard, sad, frustrating and out of our control, we mustn’t overlook the opportunities we have on our doorstep to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’, to sow new seeds, water green shoots, and do all that is within our power to make Chorlton ‘a great place to grow up, get on and grow old’, for generations to come.

“Before we can build the world we want to live in, we have to imagine it”. None of us can shape the way forward on our own and we can’t move forwards and build back better together, without a shared destination, a vision. There’s been no lack of local consultations, surveys and discussion in recent years, on and off-line, and they’ve shown me that we all:

  • Have ideas and expertise to offer and want to be involved not just ‘consulted’.
  • Disagree about lots of things but ultimately care about each other and about this place. 
  • Want Chorlton to be a safe, green, healthy and kind place to live and work.
  • Are proud and appreciative of our local cooperatives, independent businesses and community groups and want to see our local highstreets thrive with a diverse and sustainable offer.
  • Value diversity and equality and want to make Chorlton a fairer and more age-friendly place to include more affordable housing, high quality public realm and accessible ways to get around.

“It is healing behaviour, to look at something so broken and see the possibility and wholeness in it” How we experienced and responded to Covid differed across the world and in different households across Chorlton. Whether you experienced a pause, a quickening of pace, or a sharpening of pain, the shock, disruption and turbulence caused by Covid has made us all reflect on what really matters to us.  And the vast majority of us don’t want everything to return to how it was before.  So, what can we learn from the last six months? 

Caring for the flock people didn’t need to be told, mutual aid groups formed and self-organised on streets, neighbors helped neighbors,  like a murmuration of starlings, people watched out for each other, moved and adapted seamlessly.  ‘We’re feeling an increased sense of community here in Claude and Reynard Road thanks to these new connections.  Our WhatsApp group is like having a chat in the street, but from your sofa. #staysafe #M21’   ‘Loving all the lending and sharing going on through my road’s whatsapp group… Hope all this continues after the lockdown ends’   

Local businesses put people before profit, working cooperatively with local community groups, residents and services, thousands of meals were cooked up each week and local deliveries made by foot, bike and van.

We enjoyed being active and learning, seeing, hearing and creating new things – ‘2 children in our street have learned to ride a bike over the last week – they are so proud of themselves!’  Strangers came together (virtually) with bursts of creativity, window galleries, doorstep singing, music and dance, craftivist yarn bombing, the painting of murals, quit making, Chorlton High’s Beelong festival, chalking on streets, naming of wild flowers, messages of hope were spread far and wide.  We appreciated nature and were more mindful of ‘the small things’ – ‘“Wow I love hearing the birds sing.  Is it me or are there more birds? Can I hear them because there is less traffic?’ Just recently I hear them every morning and it’s beautiful”. 

Let us breathe – We celebrated the green lungs of the city – our green spaces – and our outdoor ‘living rooms’.  We enjoyed breathing cleaner air as more of us took to foot or bike and car use plummeted. “My daily walk is becoming super important to me. Today it was the signal that I’d finished work for the day, it gave me time to decompress, breathe and get home in a great state of mind. Definitely value the sun, the birds and the blue sky right now” At the same time we feared Covid would take our breath away. The murder of George Floyd and his final words ‘I can’t breathe’ stirred us. We read, listened, took the knee, beeped their horns and pledged to check their privilege and do the work needed to tackle racism and dismantle white supremacy.  Whilst black, Asian and minority ethnic members of our own community were disproportionately feeling the impact of Covid. 

 “Look closely at the present you are constructing, it should look like the future you are dreaming”   

A call to action – We are all place shapers, makers, leaders and dreamers. I invite you to play a part in shaping the future of our neighbourhood. Some practical suggestions for next steps:

  • Join the ‘Let’s Reimagine Our Chorlton’ big conversation
  • Watch out for more information about the Chorlton Climate Change Partnership.  
  • Get involved with Chorlton Community Land Trust.  
  • Go on the Cooperate site and find or add details of local groups, activities, businesses.  
  • Read up on 20 min neighbourhoods and chat to your friends, family and colleagues about what sort of neighbourhood you’d like to create together.
  • Keep chatting to your neighbours and keep doing what you are doing.

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