Amplify Leeds travelled to Cottingley Community Centre to talk to people about their local narratives; the themes that emerged centred on nurturing people and the environment, groundedness and sharing and exchange.
The questions asked included how can we nurture and support people who experience poor physical and mental health in Leeds? How could you collaborate and share with others? What are your hopes and aspirations for the community?
In relation to the above questions, the very first response I received from an elderly gentleman was ‘(we need) more initiatives that integrate and support people with mental health difficulties’. As the day progressed I learned of an initiative that Cottingley Community Centre was planning to undertake. This particular initiative was everything the elderly gentlemen could have hoped for and it highlighted the centre’s understanding of local issues. To coincide with World Mental Health Day, if the funding was sufficient, Cottingley Community centre planned to help raise awareness of the aforementioned issue in a safe, positive and nurturing environment.
In my opinion, based on this visit and general discussions amongst various individuals; inclusivity, friendliness, empathy and an inspiring community spirit is what embodies the Cottingley Community Centre. It is a place where all individuals regardless of age, gender, sex, religious beliefs and ethnicity can come together as one. The issues facing the residents of this council estate are isolation, unemployment, poverty and a lack of investment amongst others. Nonetheless, together they are beginning the fight back!
Christine, the wonderful manager of the community centre and a local resident leads the charge. She is flanked by the amazing volunteers who selflessly donate their time for the betterment of their community. To combat the high levels of poverty within the area, Cottingley Community Centre provides individuals and families with cheap meals and hot drinks; the kettle is always on!
Ever seen or read about the stigma that is associated with asylum seekers and refugees? Does that sicken you? Well then, consider Cottingley Community Centre a breath of fresh air! They are actively seeking to engage and welcome these individuals into the centre which simply stated, is the heart of the community. They love holding events as it is a chance to see new faces and build meaningful relationships. Inclusiveness and equality are not just empty words and promises at this centre. As evidence, they are hoping to start English lessons to help facilitate integration and community cohesion.
As briefly mentioned above, I had the chance to personally talk to various individuals who were present at the centre and I heard nothing but positives. One gentleman, who was relatively new to the community spoke of how this centre has helped him integrate within the community. When he moved to Cottingley he was relatively isolated and alone, that all changed when he was personally invited to the centre by Christine on numerous occasions. At first hesitant and with a healthy dose of distrust, he eventually warmed to the idea and decided to pay a visit. The ‘friendly’ nature of the individuals and ‘the great vibes’ is what appealed to him the most, and now he is a regular visitor within the centre.
Many individuals within this locality are unemployed and feel the effects of poverty on a daily basis. This is further compounded by a lack of services and the feeling of isolation which leads to apathy and disillusionment in the eyes of some. The feeling that there is no point trying as things will not change for this deprived, underfunded community.
However, certain individuals have refused to accept defeat, they have accepted that if things are to change, then they must take charge and facilitate that positive social change themselves. Individuals like Christine and Adam Ogilvie, the local councillor who takes a hands on approach. The team of volunteers that run the community centre, and the residents that are frequent visitors. Cottingley Community Centre highlights that a group of people, some of whom are unemployed battling poverty, can unite against shared struggles, and collectively empower themselves and their community. This was also the sentiment echoed by Adam Oglive who stated as part of his closing remark ‘(It’s) been a very good day, good spirit and a great atmosphere. There is still a lot to do but the general feeling is one of optimism’.