Guest blog from Ed Cox, Chair, Levenshulme Inspire Partnership
Elevate – a new project at Inspire
Last summer two events in a matter of days reminded us that neighbourhoods like Levenshulme and Gorton can easily become divided on the grounds of class, race and religion. The terrible murder of Jo Cox MP, followed shortly afterwards by the EU referendum, was enough to prompt a diverse group of local residents from Levenshulme to join together for a Hope Not Hate vigil on the ‘village green’. At the vigil we pledged to get to know somebody who might hold different views from us.
Since then we have seen the publication of Dame Louise Casey’s review of ‘Integration and Opportunity’ which found that social mixing and interactions between people from a wider range of backgrounds can have positive impacts; not just in reducing anxiety and prejudice, but also in enabling people to get on better in employment and social mobility. The review identified a wide range of ideas that encourage integration and social inclusion and reduce division and hatred including: English language learning, promoting activities that encourage social mixing, and empowering marginalised women.
While we may not agree with every aspect of the Casey Review, the simple idea that in diverse neighbourhoods like Levenshulme it is important for people from different backgrounds to meet and understand better those things that make us different – and those things we hold in common too.
This idea lies at the heart of what we try to do at the Inspire Centre on Stockport Road. Our busy community hub has welcomed people from very diverse backgrounds since it first opened in 2010; its board, staff and volunteers come from all walks of life and from different faith and ethnic groups. Many of its current activities celebrate the diversity found in our neighbourhood from capoeira classes to Arabic writing groups; from ESOL sessions to armchair aerobics. But until now we have never taken an intentional approach to promoting integration and empowerment.
Our new project – ELEVATE – is designed to focus hearts and minds on this vital task. From now on we are going to be particularly keen to support any activity that promotes integration and empowerment. In practical terms this means that we will have a ‘suspended room hire’ fund so that we can subsidise our normal room hire costs for those activities that bring people together or empower people who are often isolated or excluded.
We are going to develop a special Levenshulme Inclusion Charter which anybody can sign up to if they are committed to some basic principles of welcome, tolerance and support. And we are going to do some research about our local divisions and how we best overcome them. This will inform our project as it develops and as we try to become a special ‘centre’ for integration and cohesion in Greater Manchester.
In the next few months we are very much in ‘listening mode’ and we’re keen to hear people’s views and ideas about our project. We’re also in ‘fundraising mode’ as we try to generate a modest fund to support this work. To this end, I’m running the London Marathon on April 23rd and if anybody would like to sponsor me then they can e-mail me with their pledge or sponsor me directly online by clicking HERE.
Chair, Levenshulme Inspire Partnership