7 miles northeast of Manchester amid the Pennines lies Oldham – once the boomtown of the Industrial Revolution and the one of the most important centres of cotton and textile industries in England.

Today, Oldham is a predominantly residential town and is home to over 900 community groups. In the last 8 years, we have delivered £2.25 million in awards to over 400 groups in Oldham and last July, we awarded £125,000 from our Disaster Relief Fund to support those affected by the Shaw disaster.

Over the past couple of years we’ve been developing our pioneering approach to connecting communities in the ward of St. James and the Alt estate in Oldham, headed up by one of our Community Builders, Helen Smith.  She enthuses, “The more time I spend in the area, the more gems of ideas residents come up with.”

A quick trawl through the ALTernative website (a community led-website that Alt residents have set up) will give you some idea of what residents have managed to achieve with support from Helen. A group of women on the estate formed the Alt Community Challenge Team (ACCT) and worked tirelessly to develop an environmentally friendly green route to school, and a whole host of clubs and groups have been set up to make Alt a better place for everyone.

Another success story is that of our newest staff member, Lyndsey Ashworth. We met Alt resident, Lyndsey, 12 months ago through our community building work in Oldham and were really impressed by her natural community building talents.

Lyndsey completed our five day Women in Neighbourhoods training and, by utilising our Cash 4 Graft award of £250, set up Laffs and Crafts – a Saturday morning club for families in her local community. She’s also launching a Knit and Natter group for local women to come together and share and learn new skills.

Lyndsey comments, “I’m really excited about joining the Forever Manchester team. The experience I’ve already gained has had a massive impact on my life. I can’t wait to start working closely with residents in Oldham and Trafford.”

Our work has attracted attention from Oldham Council (East and West Oldham Partnership), who have since invested in us to continue our work in Alt and St. James. We’ve also worked very closely with housing association, First Choice Homes, and have recently been funded through their New Innovations Fund to deliver a series of asset-based community development workshops where residents can come together to share stories and ideas about what they would like to see change in Oldham.