Anna’s Blog – The Creative Together Centre
Our CEO, Anna Lunts, reflects on what makes ‘Creative Together’ special
The refurbished space at our ‘Creative Together’ building on Swan Street in Manchester is impressive. Original stripped floorboards and a large expanse of white walls. Sections of exposed brickwork and industrial piping pay homage to the history of the building – it was once a warehouse storing furniture and lino.
There is a large central space, a separate meeting room and a café with a seating area. There is also a small hairdressing salon and a music room.
We are delighted with the space but it’s what happens here that is truly inspirational. The Creative Together building is a place where people become musicians, artists, writers, cooks, poets and keep fit fans.
It is a safe space where people can learn to grow and flourish. A warm, inclusive social club where people with a learning disability or mental health needs can be themselves without fear of judgement or disapproval.
The Creative Together Building plays host to our long-standing social group Breakthrough which has been running, from various locations in Manchester, for over 20 years. Now established at Swan Street, we’re looking forward to the next 20 years.
To understand the ethos of Breakthrough is to understand what Creative Support is all about – providing a safe, nurturing, supportive environment where people can learn to set their own boundaries and develop their practical and emotional skills.
Chris, one of our volunteers runs a keep fit class at Creative Together on Friday mornings. It’s more ‘pop in and do as much as you can’ than ‘boot camp’. Chris is very much of the view that any exercise is better than none and members can do 10 or 20 minutes then take a breather and come back – or not, as they choose. The sessions are geared entirely around what each individual wants to achieve.
There are drama, art, cookery, maths, English and IT classes along with music sessions run by Charly. He sees first-hand what people can achieve in the right environment, given time and support.
Liam, for example, who has been coming to Breakthrough for four years and rarely misses his weekly one-to-one guitar sessions. Despite a condition that limits his dexterity, years of hard work and commitment mean he can now play full songs with just a few prompts and is well on his way to achieving his ambition to perform live on stage.
“Very rarely have I seen a person with such passion and perseverance as Liam,” said Charly. I’m confident he will be performing at an event in the near future, because he found a place where he can trust in himself and the staff, to learn and progress at his own speed. The results have been and still are fantastic,” he added.
Aron, too, has made remarkable progress. He has been attending Breakthrough music sessions regularly since 2015. Initially his verbal communication was very limited but he soon shared with Charly how he wanted to write songs and play the guitar.
“Aron started to write lyrics, and not just one liners but verse after verse. He then asked me if we could record vocals too. The certainty and confidence that he projects when standing behind that microphone is amazing, given that this man barely spoke for most of his life, the lyrics that he writes give insight into his very personal journey and views.”
I am extremely proud of Creative Support’s track record in providing unique and invaluable community support through Breakthrough for over 20 years and the fact that we are part of the fabric of an inclusive Mancunian society. As Charly said, it is fantastic what people can achieve when they find the right place.