Nick Dixon and Councillor Eve Holt want to see a kinder, more connected Chorlton. Linsey Parkinson talked to them ahead of another big get-together in November 2019.
In June, Chorlton had its first Great Get Together (pictured above) in the district centre, as part of a national initiative in memory of the MP Jo Cox. Wilbraham Road was closed to traffic, instead playing host to street games, free range children, family-friendly strolling, a knitting circle and a living room – complete with comfy sofa!
“The main thing people on that sofa told us was that they wanted to see ‘more of this sort of thing’,” says Nick. “They wanted to come together, to get to know their neighbours and learn about ways to work together to make things better. These are challenging times, but one thing Jo Cox used to say was that we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
A group of people, including Nick and Councillor Eve Holt, met in a local cafe and Chorlton Connected was born in March 2019. The Great Get Together launched their first conversation with Chorlton residents – and there are more planned.
“There are so many groups and networks out there; helping others, doing good things, but operating within their own spheres. We need to share knowledge, experience and connections – we’d like the activities of Chorlton Connected to act as a sort of social glue, helping us all to come together and achieve more for ourselves and our community.”
Nick has lived in Chorlton for over 30 years and raised his family here. He works with the GM Health and Care Partnership and has a keen interest in community health in its widest sense.
“We rightly treat specific conditions with medicines but we need earlier interventions to prevent the illnesses arising: we need to build resilience. It’s like turning an oil tanker around when faced by the acute pressures in A&E and primary care. For example we need to do more to combat loneliness, isolation and people not feeling comfortable or safe. This requires a much more joined-up approach, and has to start from within a more caring community.
“When I think of the current situation I see a river: on one bank, we have public services, for example health and social services, on the other, we have local residents. We need to work to build more bridges. Both sides can learn from each other, but it will take a change in approach – especially from the services side.”
Chorlton Connected’s plan is to hold four gatherings a year. They’ll be a chance to come together, meet, chat and have some fun. Discover ways to make a difference – however large or small – and learn about opportunities to participate and contribute.
“We’re taking over the Edge Theatre on Manchester Road, Chorlton’s own ‘Theatre of Participation’,” says Eve. “We are inviting local groups to come share more about things that are going on in Chorlton and to run a host of engaging, creative activities. There’ll be something going on in every room and space to breathe and to chat.
“Whoever you are, wherever you’ve come from, however old you are, we’d love you to come along. You can talk about the things that are important to you, develop collective ideas and discuss action on issues like climate change and air pollution – share your story!”
“It’s a pretty free-form plan, to be honest,” adds Nick. “I’d say it was a movement, rather than a group. There are no leaders, no main organisers; it’s all about everyone contributing in whichever way they can.
“I strongly believe that if something goes wrong in your life, there should be people on hand to look out for you. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”
Get Together Again, 17 November 2019, The Edge Theatre, Manchester Road