Stories from the Middle Street Resource Centre
Robert Ashford – Manager
I started to write this article in response to a request for my reflections on Middle Street Resource Centre, based on the fact that I was employed here as a Mental Health Worker from 2001 until the closure of the of the former service in 2012, and although since then I have been employed by the County Council as a Community Care officer in the Broxtowe and Hucknall Community Mental Health Team, I am seconded part-time to the County’s small Co-Production Team led by Richard Sample. This team had responsibility for managing the building from late 2013 until BCR took over in April this year.
I now find myself completing the article after being appointed as Manager of Beeston Community Resource CIO! I am delighted to have been given this opportunity and I am very much looking forward to helping the Resource Centre to continue to develop under the new innovative arrangement.
It has to be recognised that the Centre has seen significant upheaval over the last few years. After the service closed as a dedicated mental health provision in 2012 the building underwent an extensive refurbishment, with a view to its becoming something of an annex to the continuing but very different Broxtowe Day Service site in Chilwell. Although Middle Street gradually re-opened from May 2013, service there proved difficult to sustain for Broxtowe Day Service, and it was decided to pass the management and running of the building for the time being to the Co-Production team.
The Co Production project was created, in part, to support people with lived experience of mental health difficulties within the community, to develop peer support groups and enable partnership work with other local community businesses, charities and providers. The Co Production team focused on developing Co Production opportunities within Middle Street which included supporting the MindSet charity in devising peer-led groups to serve both existing and new members. Existing Co Production partners continued to use the building, including Central College, whose recreational and personal development courses have been immensely beneficial to users of the Centre; and Framework Housing Association, which has fos- tered social inclusion groups and access to the Gateway to Nature project. The last eighteen months have also seen the commencement of other exciting and innovative partnerships, including the Memory Cafe, support for the peer-led charity Next Step Network, and liaison with the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Travel Right project.
Under the Co-Production team Middle Street made great advances, with over 50 people accessing the Centre on busier days. But last year it became clear that management by the Co-Production team would cease in March 2015, and the County had no alternative plan to manage the building, other than to retain an open-plan office area for use by the Community Mental Health team. Thus the resource Centre was once again threatened with closure.
I and my colleagues involved in the Centre were therefore encouraged when, in 2014, a highly dedicated and resourceful group of people got together and created Beeston Community Resource CIO, now regis- tered as a charity; and very pleased when BCR was able to reach agreement with the County Council to take over the management of the Centre with Council support and grant assistance.
Since assuming management responsibility in April BCR has ensured continuity of service at Middle Street for those who rely on the Centre, and as BCR’s new manager I will do my utmost to build a firm foundation for the retention of the Centre in the long term and the development and improvement of facilities to serve the whole community.
On a personal level, I would like to take this opportunity to thank BCR and the many volunteers and groups who work so hard to enable Middle Street to continue and thrive. What an amazing story; a local service which refuses to die, and lives on thanks to the determination of its users and supporters. I am so pleased to be able to play a part in this story.
In the late summer of 1976 I was between psychiatric hospitals. I was heavily medicated, having spent several months in the late lamented Saxondale Hospital and making little progress, and awaiting admission to the Lawn Hospital at Lincoln.
It was at this point that I found my way to Middle Street and was introduced to the then manager of Beeston Day Centre, Peter Burgum, who welcomed me with open arms and assured me that there would be a place there for me as soon as I was out of the Lawn and in recovery.
So it was that at the start of 1977 I began what has been a ‘love affair’ with Beeston Day Centre. Yes, I still call it that against the tide of current thinking and political correctness – it’s up to those of us who go there to reflect the positivity that this place we attend during the day brings to our lives.
I could write a book about the positive effect this early 70’s building and the people (both staff and ‘clients’, as we used to be called) have had on me. It’s the reason I started making corn dollies, which led to work in schools and community groups. Over the past 38 years, it has also supported me in developing my skills as a poet, folk singer and artist, enabling me to use them for my own therapy and for the benefit of others.
When I first attended the centre, the ‘Large Activity Room’ was a hive of industry under the tutelage of the wonderful Beryl Bickerstaffe and other excellent workers such as Nuala Hutchison. We had two storerooms full of materials for making baskets, caning chairs and weaving borders for trays and stools. It was the aptitude I found for these, which led me on to corn-dolly making. There was also a fully functioning woodwork room, which I didn’t take to so naturally, but under the wing of the patient and caring Charlie Litchfield, I became proficient enough to make a doll’s house for my niece and later a farmyard for my daughter.
We had football and cricket teams over the years and many events and activities. The wonderful Robert Ashford and, before him, the manager Graham Bragg, have worked wonders in establishing and encouraging a flourishing music scene.
There are so many staff that have helped me through difficult and improving times – the names of Steve Edwards, Cherry Taylor, Sally Grice, Alison Maclean and Teresa Woodyett deserve special mention. I’ve made many friends here over the years and those relationships have been special and have endured.
More recently I was out of the picture and virtually housebound for seven years – a situation I believe that was partly created and certainly exacerbated by the uncertainties, cuts and changes at the renamed Middle Street Resource Centre. The loss of individual key workers and threat of losing my home from home hit me hard.
Under the Mindset banner we adapted to save the building and its facilities. We have had to move with the times – something I admit I find hard to do sometimes – and the activities are different, but this place is once again a haven, a sanctuary, a place to create, build and sustain relationships and mutual support, to survive, relax or thrive.
I really would be lost without this place. We are one of few ‘Day Centres’ to survive. It’s scandalous that this is the case – closing them is false economy. Please use our “Day Centre”. Whatever the name, it’s part of Beeston’s community.
After being unwell for many years I came to Middle St and have absorbed so much care here that I am now in a position to manage myself a bit better.
It is so important that such care needs to be available to other people now so that they too may be enabled to take good care of themselves.
Peoples’ support of one another which takes place here is a vital part of the process. In being together and sharing activities we both give and receive. Middle St has long been a place where good things happen. I very much hope that this will continue. It is our challenge now to once again seek to provide that safe haven.
When I first started going to Middle Street in about 1980 I would not talk very much to people. I was scared of people and this remained so for many years. It was only in about 1989 my mental health and self-confidence began slowly to improve. It helped me a lot mixing with the general public by going to the gym at Bramcote Leisure Centre and afterwards to the pub for something to eat. We also went on holidays in this country, France and Ireland. These were fantastic holidays that I have good memories of and I would not have got the opportunity without Middle Street.
I have got certificates at Middle Street for all sorts of different things – English, Maths, first aid, health and hygiene, computers, digital photography, art and personal development courses on building self-confidence, relaxation and dealing with anxiety and depression.
These courses were taught at Middle Street by tutors from the College. We would not have had the confidence to go to the College for them so would not have had the opportunity to learn and improve ourselves.
Gradually over these years these courses have enabled me to talk and express myself better. It takes time and patience but with determination step by step taking one day at a time and with set-backs along the way I have improved myself, built my self-confidence and made myself a better person. You can do this with help from a lot of people along the way. Never give up! would be my motto.
When my brother passed away in 2008 I got a lot of help from the staff at Middle Street, and it gave me somewhere to go and keep busy taking my mind off my brother’s illness. This helped me keep well mentally and I will always be grateful to Middle Street for this help.
Middle Street was a brilliant resource that helped me enormously and has kept me well mentally for many years. Middle Street needs to be built up again to what it once was. It can be done with a lot of hard work.
I have attended Middle Street Resource Centre regularly since 2005, when it was run as a Day Centre by the County Council. I was helped a lot by the counselling then available, and also by the support I received from other service users.
I do not know where I would be without such support being available. Since the Centre was refurbished and re-opened the Day Services staff have gone, but most of the former users, like me, have joined MindSet, our own charity, and we continue to support each other and enjoy a wide range of activities. I enjoy the fact that MindSet is a supportive community of people with mental health problems, a real cross-section of society from all walks of life. I like the mix.
I have a visual impairment, and since we are always in the same building I know my way around, so am able to navigate by myself, or with help from others in our supportive community.
It is important that the Centre provides a permanent base for MindSet members and the other people with similar needs and interests who are now using the facilities there. The permanent space means permanent facilities; for example the music room and the garden.
Equipment can be kept securely in the office or storeroom and taken out when needed. Above all, we enjoy safe, familiar surroundings where we all feel at home
In 2013 I was looking for a meeting place for our wellbeing support group, when our twelve-week County Council course at Oban House, Beeston, came to an end. One of the County’s Co-Production team arranged a room at Middle Street, and so I was introduced to MindSet. At that time I had very little confidence and wasn’t doing a lot. I wasn’t going out without my family and had no social life at all. I was just sitting at home frightened of getting ill again.
Gradually over time I was encouraged to do more and more things at Middle Street and introduced to people who are now great friends. I have been on various self-improving college course provided at Middle Street, joined different arts and crafts groups, and found a whole community of people just like me that I never knew existed.
I now do bits of voluntary work for Mindset to give a bit back and this gives me a great sense of purpose and stops me feeling like such a drain on society.