19th September 2019
A warm welcome and a room full of laughter is what awaits you at Mirehouse Residents Group in Whitehaven.
Formed in 2008, the committee of seven encourage local residents and agencies to implement projects and events that get generations working together to improve their quality of life and reduce social isolation.
Activities run out of the Mirehouse Community Centre on Seathwaite Avenue, and with the assistance of grants from Cumbria Community Foundation, armchair aerobics, lunch club, arts and crafts and bingo have all been organised; making a great social setting for a good old craic.
Word quickly spread and members flocked in. The group started to plan for future activities and soon became a lifeline to many that may otherwise have become isolated from the community.
Since 2010, Mirehouse Residents Group has received £69,284 from the Foundation. The first grant enabled the local neighbourhood warden to relocate to the community centre and help address fears of crime in the community. Mirehouse is one of the most deprived wards in England and fear of crime is the biggest problem for its residents.
Grants have supported the running costs of the group and also the costs of community workshops such as poetry and song writing during National Poetry Week. This encouraged local people of all ages to take up creative writing.
Keith Cartner, Community Coordinator, said: “The project encouraged intergenerational activity, as well as improving basic skills in literacy and giving the residents the courage to put their work forward. It was the first time something of this nature had been tried in the heart of the community, and gave residents a first chance to engage in cultural performance and activity.
Jenny Doran who was born in 1927 loves writing poetry. In 1950 Jenny and her husband Billy got their first council house when Mirehouse was a small estate surrounded by fields. Jenny has been a regular at many of the group’s activities and is renowned for her poetry and also helps and encourages others to have a go themselves. This led to the production of Mirehouse Memories, which shared the collected stories of long-standing residents and their memories of life growing up on Mirehouse.
Jenny said: “Without the camaraderie created through Cumbria Community Foundation’s support, this could never have been imagined. Here is a poem from Jenny’s collection about her memories of one of Mirehouse’s community club’s:
The Calder Club was the place to go
The people of Mirehouse loved it so
Groups came from far and wide
Artists, singers, comedians, you were lucky to get inside.
People booked it for weddings, christening parties too
And some for funeral parties, which sadly wasn’t a ‘do’.
There was a lovely lounge, where people gathered for drinks and chat,
Men played cards and dominoes, while the women talked and sat.
There was badminton and bingo, a quiet snug to sit and browse,
To sit in peace and quiet, away from all the crowds
At Christmas there were parties, one for children too,
New Year’s Eve was a great night out, we were often there till two.
It was the best club in Cumbria and sadly now it’s gone,
But we will never forget the Calder Club,
For in our memories
It lives on.
Today you will find Edith Dickinson, a regular to Mirehouse Residents Group, sharing memories and tales of the past. She really does fill the room with laughter with her stories. Born in 1932, Edith has been a resident of Mirehouse for most of her life. She reminisces and remembers how ecstatic she was to move to the estate. Edith said: “The neighbours were all lovely. A lot of the people on the street have lived here as long as me, or longer. We talked to everybody; we knew everybody and talked over the fences. I have waited 26 years for a club like this!”
Grants have been used to introduce young people to new opportunities and increase their aspirations by engaging them in positive activities. Young people regularly attend its weekly youth group and take part in activities such as arts and crafts, cookery and sports sessions, and drug and alcohol awareness. The Food for Thought Project, proved very successful bringing together residents in a series of activities to help them to make better life choices, including healthy eating.
Alongside Food for Thought, the Fit for Life project has been getting families together for sessions incorporating health, exercise, cookery and other skills to help them towards a healthier lifestyle and increased confidence and self-esteem.
Another project keeping the community together is The Mirehouse Young Voices, which encouraged members of the youth group to work alongside the adults. The aim was to establish a youth voice and start challenging the poor opinions that the older generation often have of young people. It looked at how youngsters could develop their local environment by highlighting areas of concern or improvement from a young person’s perspective.
The area around Mirehouse cattle arch, used daily by school children and the community, had been littered with drug paraphernalia and attacked by vandals, and was ‘intimidating’ to older people. The youth group worked with The Colourful North to paint the walls of the arch, which has now become a much safer area to walk through as parents drop their children off and collect at school.
Mirehouse Residents Group continues to grow, and this group proves its residents are proud to live there and work as a community for the good of the neighbourhood.