Forever Manchester is delighted to be hosting a series of Connecting Communities Workshops throughout 2016, starting with one in Chorlton on 17th May.

So far, our Connecting Communities Workshops, hosted by our Community Building Co-Ordinator James Hampson, have been a huge hit.

One person who thoroughly enjoyed the workshop held in Stretford was Jenni Blott.

As a mother who was tackling the usual family life as well as a degree at University, Jenni attended the free workshop out of curiosity. With an idea in mind for free drama workshops but no set plan or contacts, Jenni attended the workshop in the hope of meeting likeminded people and making great new connections.

We recently did a Q&A with Jenni, here’s what she said about our workshops…

What made you attend the Connecting Communities Workshop?

I saw a poster on the Stretford M32 Facebook page, and I was interested. As I am in my final year of Uni studying Performing Arts, I was aware of what I wanted to do for my dissertation starting in January. I wanted to start setting up groups and classes for children within the Stretford area, offering dance and drama. The main vision from this would be to start putting on shows for the community to allow children to develop new skills and make friends, give them something to do and just generally to have fun! I knew before I started there would have to be a lot of behind the scenes work contacting people to find a suitable venue and most importantly promoting the idea to get children to join.

What was the most beneficial thing about attending the Connecting Communities Workshop?

I found all the information very beneficial for myself, however I have two main points that were most beneficial to me.

I would have to say firstly developing my skills and discovering what is actually going on around me in Stretford was really helpful. Using a map and listing what is around in the community in the workshop was a big eye opener for me. Shortly after the workshop I began to develop my own research and discover what was happening in my area and I made so many contacts by talking to people and telling them what I can offer and what they could do. I have made a really good relationship with a nursery/crèche now and I am going to be moving in their facilities as permanent place for my dance and drama classes.

The second beneficial thing was the people I met. I met a lady called Esther who had previous experience in running drama sessions. After this workshop we exchanged emails and phone numbers and got talking. We met up for a coffee and Esther gave me a lot of advice and help with the process of setting up the project. This was extremely beneficial. If I hadn’t gone to the workshop I wouldn’t have met these other people. I also met a lady called Denise, who introduced me to another lady called Amanda who is currently studying a Masters in Autism. My 3-year-old daughter is currently being diagnosed with Autism and we set up some one-to-one sessions so Amanda could work with my daughter Ella.

What positive things have happened since you attended the Connecting Communities Workshop?

I have set up a toddler dance session and shortly after using the skills I used from the workshop, an owner from a nursery approached me offering me an opportunity to run some Saturday sessions. This then progressed into me having my own studio to deliver my sessions permanently in one venue. I have been able to speak to so many parents in the community and we will hopefully be putting a show together to show the community what the children have been doing. It will be a chance for the parents to see all the hard work they have done and for the children to see what other classes are doing and give them some inspiration hopefully. This show will be the main source of income to develop the new studio to help pay for barres, mirrors and other equipment we need. Due to how much I have enjoyed engaging within my community I have now decided to apply for a masters in Project Management!

How has attending the workshop made a difference to your community work and your life?

It has helped to provide me with the skills and confidence to get out there and if I have a knock back, I get back up and carry on. So much has happened this year and with the help and support I received from Uni and this workshop I have been able to achieve something I have a strong passion for. As I have three children its very hard for me to do a 9-5 job so this workshop has allowed me to be a mum and include my children in the work I do as well.

What would you say to anyone thinking about attending the Connecting Communities Workshop?

Go in with an open mind and listen and learn from the skills you learn within the workshop. Try the tasks yourself after the workshop and see if they help you. For me personally they have all been great for me. I have discovered who is in my community and what other projects are out there. I really feel connected and engaged with what I have been doing.

Would you recommend them to other people?

Yes definitely! I am always referring back to what I have learnt. I have also told my Uni about it and the other students there and have recommended that they attend a workshop if they can, as it is such a big help! What’s great about the workshop, is that it uses skills you already do and have but shows how to use them in a correct way.

If you’d like to attend the next FREE Connecting Communities Workshop, it’ll be at The Edge Theatre in Chorlton on Tuesday 17th May 12.30-3pm.

Sign up for free using the form below.

Date: Tuesday 17th May
Venue: The Edge Theatre, Chorlton
Time: 12.30-3pm