Focusing on ‘what’s strong, not what’s wrong’, asset based community development is helping local areas shake off their ‘deprived’ status and build themselves from the bottom up.
The Miners Community Arts Centre has been proving the power of asset based community development before the term was even heard of in the area.
A former miners bathhouse in Moston, north Manchester, – the site of the former pit is opposite – it had been a working men’s club until it was left to fall into disrepair.
Back in 2010 local man Lou Beckett – welder, artist and now community arts entrepreneur – was looking for somewhere to paint his pictures and asked the landlord if he could repair and manage the building in return for using it as a studio.
He and a team of locals set about transforming the building into a community space; five years on the Miners Community Arts Centre houses the small cinema, artists studios and gallery, a bar and venue for local bands and events.
Those hiring it out range from local kids practicing their dancing to African gospel singers on a Sunday and a European punk festival once a year. ‘The punks are very polite and hoover up after themselves’, says Lou.
Apart from a few pockets of funding the centre has had no outside input; rather it has mined the assets and talents of the local community and begged and borrowed what it needs. If you look closely you’ll see that some of the chairs were originally in a branch of Costa Coffee, and a planned recording studio is soundproofed with the former insides of industrial freezers. Local people offer their time as electricians, sound crew, builders and café attendants. It’s a community asset run by and for the people.
Down the road, FC United, a community owned and run football club, will soon open its first stadium. The Miners is looking forward to the extra revenue once football matches begin, as well as the benefits of having another community collective on its doorstep.
In a so-called ‘deprived’ area this local community is proving it has more than enough assets to generate hope – and income streams – and is rebuilding its local economy from the bottom up.
Clare Goff is former Editor of New Start magazine