Angela and a group of young people are milling about the main space at The Edge debating how to make a Ferrero Rocher pyramid. There are boxes of the chocolates spilling out of the YES office and their inclusion as an activity at the Brix Awards is, apparently, critical.
“Look it up on YouTube,” someone suggests, “there’s bound to be something on it.”
A laptop appears and sure enough there is an official video on building your own Ferrero Rocher pyramid. “We’re going to need lots of that green foam you get from the florists,” says Angela, “and cocktail sticks, lots of cocktail sticks.”
Yesterday I had asked Angela and Chris if I could speak to a YES ‘graduate’, someone who had been through it and come out the other end. A success story, I suppose. Becky, they had both said, we’ll ask Becky. So now I am about to go and have a chat with this 22-year-old young mum who, coincidentally, lives directly across the road from The Edge. Laura is coming along to take some pictures.
“I’ve just been over,” says Laura. “She’s not back from work yet. Shall we try later?”
“Would you go and take a look at the Creative Café while you are waiting,” says Angela. “They do a session every Tuesday with Mara and Ali.”
This is another Neighbourhood Challenge project, a simple idea that’s so laid back it’s almost not a project at all. For a couple of hours people get round the big table in the café and make stuff… and chat. There are no signing-in sheets, no formality, just Mara, who runs the café and ex-teacher Ali with whatever craft material they are using at the time. Today it’s clay.
Over the months they have tackled felt, pottery and next it’ll be glass. Although what I am experiencing is an extremely calm and relaxed arty session there is a more serious side to the Creative Café. Yes, it’s to do with building relationships and self confidence through creativity but there’s also an aim to make The Edge into an Arts Award Centre where young people can use the arts to develop leadership skills and gain qualifications.
Ali asks me where I am from. “And are you feeling the recession in Manchester?”
“It’s hit a different type of people this time,” I say, “council people… people who thought their jobs were safe. And yes, for the first time in a long time, I’ve been feeling it too because a lot of my work has been for the public sector. What about here?”
“We don’t feel it so much here because of the fishing industry. There are lots of young men with money to spend.”
“What if you’re not in the industry?”
“Then it’s very difficult. You have to be incredibly self-motivated or move away. I have a 16-year-old daughter, a lovely and amazing daughter, who I hope will go to university.”
Ali’s dog, who had been pushing its head over the top of the table to see what’s been going on has now retired to the sofa, disinterested.
“What’s the name of the dog?” I ask.
“She’s called Daisy.”
“I know nothing about dogs. What type is she?”
“A spaniel,” says Ali. Obviously.
I look over at the sofa. “I knew that.”