Newsletter June 2021
Hopefully you are all keeping well, as we slowly emerge from the pandemic that has dominated our lives for the last 18 months.
Within this issue, you will see a number of references to the newly updated and recently issued DCS Didsbury Plan and Future Didsbury proposals for 2021, which has been written by, and contributed to, by both the trustees and members of DCS. Copies have been circulated to the senior management of Manchester City Council, including, Joanne Roney CEO, Sir Richard Leese Leader of the Council, Mayor Andy Burnham, Jeff Smith MP and our council representatives.
We have asked for a meeting with the council to update them on our plan, and discuss our future aspirations to make sure that Didsvury remains a great place to live, work and visit.
Our priority concerns within the plan include the visible and continuous deterioration of our roads and pavements, along with graffiti, fly posting, dilapidation and run down empty shop units, pavement parking and the unenforced local 20 and 30 mph limits. As well as pollution – and associated climate change – which is hindered by a lack of local legislation regarding streetside vehicle idling, local roadside collection of air samples, carbon capture programmes. We are especially keen to use the plan to improve the environment for our families, children and grandchildren. Who are encouraged to walk to school, but are then running the risk and enduring the roadside pollution at peak times.
The Future Didsbury proposals, which were largely proposed by final year students of the Manchester School of Architecture, contain some very clear suggestions as to how we can improve Didsbury centre reasonably easily. Most of the ideas require the will to change, which DCS very much supports, nevertheless, we recognise we need support of the council and additional funding… We will keep you posted on how the discussions progress and would welcome your comments and ideas.
Finally, thank you to all who contribute to this newsletter and items of interest. We should like to thank Nick Bundock who has given permission for an item from St James and Emmanuel Church Newsletter to be included within this edition.
Please have a good and safe summer.
THE NORTHERN LAWN TENNIS CLUB
The grass courts are open for play at The Northern – it must be summer! Thanks to major renovation of the turf last season and an unexpectedly warm spring, Head Groundsman, Des Ruchwaldy was able to open all nine grass courts from April 26th, a fortnight earlier than usual! It’s the traditional sign of summer for the club members – and this year it is an additional sign of hope for the beginning of the end of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Northern has had to close even its outdoor courts for nearly six of the last 14 months, with indoor facilities being even harder hit. But thanks to the support of loyal members, plus the grants available from government and sporting bodies, the Northern has survived and thrived, with scores of new members joining up, eager to get out of the house, get moving and get fit!
Founded in 1881, The Northern is one of the oldest lawn tennis clubs in the UK – in fact, one of the oldest in the world. The Northern Lawn Tennis Association was set up in 1879 – nine years before the National Lawn Tennis Association – with the object of staging a tournament to rival the new Wimbledon Tournament, launched just two years earlier.
The Club was originally situated in Old Trafford, eight miles from its current location, but as the century drew to a close, rapid industrialisation made tennis conditions difficult: “… new balls became black after only a few games and a collision with the stop netting caused a well-defined pattern of it to appear on one’s flannels,” one member complained.
The Clubhouse was duly dismantled and re-erected in leafy Didsbury in 1909. In 1936, two squash courts were added at the huge cost of £1,500, and a new era of racquet success was born at the Northern. The North of England Squash Championship was held at the Northern for the first time in 1949 and for 40 years, the Northern’s international tennis tournament was the biggest outside Wimbledon. Connors … McEnroe … Edberg … Sampras … Ivanesevic – they all played (and won!) at the Northern.
Today, the Club has 23 tennis courts – including clay, artificial, grass and indoor surfaces – six squash courts including two ‘glassbacks’ with exhibition seating, a recently refurbished gym, spacious exercise studio and a comfortable lounge bar and eatery. And it still boasts some international stars among the membership – Naomi Broady has won nine tennis singles titles and 19 doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit; Squash Professional Julianne Courtice is currently ranked 30 in the world; co-Gym Manager Lisa Pilkington is a GB Powerlifting silver medal winner.
The range of facilities has presented a particular problem for the Club during the pandemic because each section has its own set of rules and restrictions to be followed, each one requires a new set of signage and a new risk report when the rules are tightened or eased. But also each one presented a new challenge – and a new opportunity – to keep members active and engaged. Exercise classes moved onto Zoom and squash coaches launched online fitness sessions. Long thought of as a traditional club, The Northern discovered a talent for thinking outside the box, or rather, outside and in the box – 2 metre square boxes to be precise, marked out on the grass for fresh air yoga. The classes were an instant hit: “Just like a yoga retreat!” exclaimed one delighted member, stretching in the sunshine.
Outdoor spin has been another success and continued on the covered area of the deck even in colder weather. “A lot of the members don’t want to come back inside now, even though we can,” said coGym Manager Lisa Pilkington as restrictions relaxed again recently. The Club has now invested in two large marquees to increase the covered area for both the classes and the Lawn Room bar. As soon as groups of six were allowed outside, Bar Manager Lee Wilde celebrated with the launch of Pizza Fridays and a new range of cocktails. Next on the menu, the ever-popular barbecues and of course the monthly Lawn Quiz.
The tennis teams are already in action and the North West Counties Squash League, which normally runs from September – March, is planning a Summer League to make up for lost time. The Gym has installed screens for safe operation as well as a range of new kit including weight plates, matting, lockers, a power half-rack and a deadlift platform.
Looking ahead, The Northern has plans to improve facilities right across the Club, increase court space and is actively considering the introduction of padel tennis, which has proved hugely popular across Europe. Like other businesses, The Northern has faced an enormously stressful and worrying year as it struggled to stay afloat through repeated closures and partial closures. But support from existing members saw it through and an influx of new members has contributed a fresh burst of energy.
Change: everyone can help – Jean a DCS Member has shown the way!
Who will fix my gas boiler?
Nudged by my eco-conscious daughter I asked for a quote for an air source heat pump. Slow to switch to a 100% green energy company – I overcame my inertia and moved away from gas successfully last month. Her home has Passivhaus standards – the house creates more energy than it needs – a battery stores electricity from solar panels to use at night, or sends it to the grid; underfloor heating from an air source heat pump; no letterbox, good insulation – all contributing to a greener future.
The Green Home Voucher Scheme helped me, although this was suddenly scrapped. Now I understand the finances, you can still apply to the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive as the voucher amount was just deducted from this and paid upfront. Payments are made to reimburse part of the cost of green heating installation over seven years, investigate. It is worth it! You can find out more online here: https://www.gov.uk/domestic-renewable-heat-incentive
We all need to reduce CO2 emissions as the scary deadline of an overheated planet is approaching fast. The Climate Coalition is a large collection of concerned groups(RSPB/ WWF/ Friends of the Earth/WI etc.) and aims to increase climate awareness ahead of COP 26 in Glasgow in November. Check out https://greatbiggreenweek.com/ when communities will come together to create art, nature walks, climate cafe – plant-based meals, talks – all to inspire us to make big or small changes. Could groups share their ideas and come together to plan events locally to nudge us all to make Didsbury lives greener?
DCS SOCIAL TRIP Visit to Norstell Priory Wakefield
We are considering our next social trip to Norstell Priory for September 2020. Norstell Priory is one of the great houses of the North of England and is a National Trust Property. The main house was created by Sir Rowland Winn, 4th Baronet, as a replacement for an older house already on the site. Work started of the house in 1730 and was built in the Palladian Style, which was very popular in the early 18th century. The style was thought to express order and stability. The outing includes:
• the coach trip
• stopping in the morning at Batley Mill and Garden centre for a coffee and leisure break
• Included lunch at the Toby Carvery, Wakefield.
• Afternoon visit to Norstell Priory, house and gardens included
At this stage, no more than 24 people by coach (to be confirmed). If you are interested and want to be considered for a place on this trip please e mail to email@example.com When you e mail, state your full name, telephone number and how many places you would want.
Although we anticipate restrictions will be lifted, we are conscious that members may want to have the trip with restricted numbers on the coach and sit within their bubble. Should we be oversubscribed, we may explore a second trip/two coaches depending on finances. We will keep your name and send to you a letter late August or early September with more details.
Ghost Advert at Costa Coffee, Wilmslow Road
The project idea to have a wall mural above the terrace of Costa Coffee has provoked many comments. The people who were very much against the idea were opposed on the grounds of the loss of the existing heritage and historic interest of the old advertisements which they felt should be preserved.
Furthermore, the responses have also inspired further thinking about Didsbury’s culture and heritage. In this article, we wanted to share some of the comments DCS received in response to the project:
• I’d like to see a children-themed wall art. It would be lovely for the children in Didsbury grow up with this.
• …the idea of brightening up the street scene in Didsbury appeals I have to say but I have reservations about the position. The “ghost sign” admirers in the country are a growing band….
• I suggest a scene of processing with colourful flags/bunting, drums and other instruments. Celebrating the Didsbury Festival with a procession through the village in good community spirit!
• I assume that you aren`t intending to paint over the historic sign? This is a lovely feature in its own right?
The objectors (except for one), were not against murals as a way of brightening up and adding interest
to Didsbury but just felt that this was the wrong location. They made some very positive suggestions:
- If there is to be a mural it should be on boards so as to retain the original wall. Furthermore, a photographic record should be kept. There could also be an information board sited near CC explaining the significance of the names on the wall.
- Keep the advertising but enhance it and include an information board.
- It might be appropriate to site the proposed DCS mural longitudinally, like the ‘Poppy Path’ mural, on the northern side of the School Lane, former railway, now tram, bridge. This would act as a welcome for visitors to Didsbury coming up from the tram stop. It could include buildings and it is suggested it should include some visual representation of Victorian school children, as School Lane is where the very first school was sited from 1860 to 1878.
A zoom discussion was held with Shane Johnstone, sign writing expert, and a very useful discussion was had. Shane’s background is 30+ years in the industry and one of the last generations to serve an authentic apprenticeship in hand painted sign writing.
The discussion centred on whether the approach should be to conserve what is there, or as art to fade
in and out what is there. The following points were recorded at the meeting:
• A sign writer, in days gone by, would have his own patch and most likely would have been paid very little, sometimes just a pint.
• Preserving what is there is very tricky. Just to varnish over the ghost advert is not an option!
• It is a very expensive process to ensure that the brick material that is there will hold the work together.
• Different paints over time fade because of the weather and the quality of paint today is very different. The second paint protects the first, such that overtime, the most recent disappears and the oldest remains. The signs would have been repainted every decade or so, and each new painter would correct the perceived mistakes of their predecessor with adjustments to their own taste. This way the sign continually evolves as a piece of living folk art heritage.
• Although the original sign writer would not regard this as piece of art, none of the previous sign painters would object to this cycle continuing.
• The artistic value now is very high. English Folk Art is the next big thing……Though this ghost sign may well be of heritage value it is not protected.
DCS acknowledges that the existing or new landlord may come along and cover it over, paint or build upon the existing terrace. The French doors and lights inserted were done so without consideration of what was there in terms of heritage. Yes, there is a great opportunity to enhance what is there. The immediate action after the meeting was to work on a story board to find out the history of the shops before Costa Coffee. And to explore reproducing the artwork on a nearby wall possibly a new abstract. We have agreed to meet again via Zoom, most likely in August, to progress ideas.
SOUTH MANCHESTER U3A
If you’ve ever fancied learning to play the ukulele, study anglo-saxon and medieval history, get by in Welsh, join a friendly walking group, or find new friends to go on holiday with, South Manchester u3a (the University of the Third Age) may be the place for you.
The name could be taken as a bit of a misnomer as it is not actually a university as such, but with its motto of “Live, Learn and Laugh” South Manchester U3A offers older members of the community the opportunity to take part in over 30 different activities from the academic to the physical, so that clichéd phrase ‘something for everyone’ really does apply. Membership is open to everyone who is either retired or are only working part time. Membership costs just £15 a year and attendance at activities costs a mere £1 each time. Activities are taught on a voluntary basis to members by other members who have the relevant skill or knowledge, thus promoting the value of lifelong learning.
In South Manchester, there are informal groups learning Italian, French and Spanish, or you could join a craft group or singing for fun, play table tennis or badminton or even just go for a walk (when lockdown allows). If you want something more cerebral, you could find yourself discussing psychology or philosophy, or listening to and making music.
There’s a book group and a play reading group, as well as tai chi, get fit and walking activities. Other possibilities include art appreciation, table tennis, poetry, and creative writing. During the pandemic, many of these activities have continued on Zoom.
There are 13 u3as in Greater Manchester and it is often possible for members of one group to visit another. Indeed, as it is a worldwide organisation, u3a members can often visit groups in other countries as well. New members are always made very welcome. Membership includes an excellent quarterly magazine which can be read on paper or online. If this sounds like you, all you need to do is contact the membership secretary: Sue Trotter 07774 464866, firstname.lastname@example.org
A great meeting with Stagecoach!
Both Mike, Chair of DCS and Mary, Secretary of DCS met with Stagecoach Directors. Matt Kitchin, Operations Director and Ross Stafford, Head of Delivery. We had a great Zoom meeting with Stagecoach about….what else…
but buses! Strategically, DCS is interested in addressing issues, such as, diesel v electric v hydrogen buses, a more thought through terminus and transport hub at East Didsbury, that puts the safety of cyclists, bus, trains and tram
users first! Above all else, DCS wants to be listened to and consulted on changes.
This was an important meeting as DCS wants to engage with other agencies about important matters that affect Didsbury. The buses that travel through Didsbury has been a very important subject and feature in our Didsbury Plan. We need transport through Didsbury centre to ensure a thriving and accessible Didsbury to all. Some say the buses are too expensive, others say there are not enough buses connecting East and West. Certainly, pre-pandemic, we had buses running through Didsbury Centre every 10 minutes with three arriving at once on occasions. Indeed, as the buses were close to the terminus at East Didsbury they were running empty of users as many get off at Withington. Why do we have so many double deckers during off peak times?
The meeting with Matthew and Ross gave an insight into how this particular bus company has managed through the Pandemic. Certainly a much reduced service was available during the pandemic with central government monies used to Monday 21st June 2021 to fund essential wages, fuel with the charitable works stopping. By April 2021, the service use was about 60% and by Autumn 2021 the service users will be back to pre-pandemic times, running at 80 to 90 percent. There has been a noticeable reduction of buses to the airport as airport staff jobs were lost. What was interesting is that Stagecoach are not allowed to change bus timetables, even bus shelters or undertake commercial innovation without discussion and approval of TfGM Bus Service Committee. PreCovid, any changes took about 10 weeks to consult with any changes. 10 weeks to consult and get a decision.
Just when we wanted to ask for a bus shelter outside the Digby House, Johnnie Johnston flats at Fog Lane!
We shall pick our moment to raise this issue ……… What was good to hear, was the frustration shared by
Stagecoach on the lack of planning and forward-thinking by agencies and influencers of transport. An East
Didsbury Transport Hub would be great. Hydrogen run buses would be great. Climate change concerns should
underpin future transport planning. To end the meeting, we did say that DCS would like to be consulted on changes and that we could ask the wider community in Didsbury to join any local focus group when required. We agreed to meet again in September to discuss the buses. Please let us know if you want to join in the discussion. A copy of the Didsbury Plan 2021 is on its way to Stagecoach too.
NHS England have approved Emmanuel Church as a Covid-19 vaccination centre. The set up began to administer the first vaccines on Monday 24th May. The centre eases an M20 ‘black hole’ in provision and will administer 200 vaccines a day until July/August. There is little doubt that there will be a degree of disruption as more people seek to use an
already busy site. Here are a few things you might want to know:
• Eight car parking spaces will be permanently reserved for patients.
• The car park will be monitored and controlled by volunteers to ease access in and out during operating hours – up to 8pm.
• To avoid embarrassment don’t use the car park for shopping in Didsbury – you will be asked! Using the carpark for parish business, Home Cafe or groups in the Parish Centre/No.6 are perfectly acceptable uses of the carpark.
• However, please consider walking/cycling or parking responsibly elsewhere.
• If there are spare vaccines at the end of the day a message will be broadcast so that you can add your name to a ‘reserve list’.
• There will be no vaccines administered on Sunday mornings and the car park will be fully available.
• There will be vaccinations administered from No.6 on Sunday afternoons but at a lower level.
• Home Cafe will be open as normal throughout this period.
Despite all this I’m sure that you are as proud as I am that we can play a small part in the national vaccination programme so let’s be kind and understanding towards the many patients, NHS staff and volunteers who will be on site from May 17th.
The photo below is Ali (vaccine centre manager) and Nick scoping the site this week…
High Sheriff’s Young Citizen of the Year
An 18-year-old from the parish of St Catherine of Siena in Didsbury has been recognised as Young
Citizen of the Year in the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester’s awards, for his digital efforts throughout the pandemic.
After the first lockdown, Matthew Montgomery moved all the parish Masses from St Catherine’s onto YouTube so that people could remain connected to their faith through the pandemic. Over the last year, Matthew has singlehandedly edited videos, as well as recording audio from the Mass, including: Music, Readings, Acclamations, Psalms, Prayers, and of course pictures of the Children who have created art which is normally part of ‘little church’. When asked why he chose to support the parish, Matthew said: “The main reason I was motivated to help the Parish is because our community has always helped each other, and I felt as though it was my turn to restore some normality into people’s lives as we all dealt with the pandemic in our own way.
There are stories in the world where religion has helped people in difficult and uncertain times so I knew many people would benefit from it. It was also good for me to learn a new skill which is video editing, I had only been teaching myself for a couple of months! It allowed me to learn the skills at an exponential rate. I also learnt that my true calling in life was creating videos.”
170 videos later, and Matthew’s contributions have been far-reaching. The parish have received messages from people as far away as America: “A woman wrote to us to say that we managed to make her feel a part of the community even though she has never been to our church, seen or talked to our priests or parishioners! I never thought it would have this impact.
I feel honoured to know that people value the work I put in and to know that I was picked out of thousands of applicants across Manchester is mind blowing. I never set out to get recognition for doing something as simple as giving back to the community and people that I have surrounded myself with my whole life.
Eamonn O’Neal DL, High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, added: “As Her Majesty’s High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, I wanted to recognise and acknowledge the young people who are making positive impacts upon their communities through these difficult times.
Matthew is one of those people. In the early part of lockdown, he used his knowledge and expertise to provide the technology for online Masses, realising how important this service was to keep people connected, offer them hope, and to serve their spiritual needs. He has also been making videos to maintain contact between the clergy and parishioners. He did all this – and more – whilst studying for A-levels at college. He is also a dedicated member of the
parish Scout group where he enjoys taking on more and more leadership roles. Matthew’s efforts have been selfless and extremely impressive. This is a fine example of faith in action, and he deserves this High Sheriff Award and our many congratulations.”
Milson Rhodes Clock
Here is an update on The Milson Rhodes Clock and Cenotaph.
The Rhodes Clock cleaning was part of a package of memorials that were cleaned in the city towards the end of the financial year. The cleaning was completed by CBS conservation. CBS were chosen from a tender of 3 companies. Their work is of a very high standard. Please see the link to their website for some further information about their company for your interest: http://www.cbsconservation.co.uk/
The Rhodes Clock was steam cleaned using the doff system, the plaques were purged of moisture, selectively patinated with a potassium polysulphide mix, hot waxed and then buffed with microfiber cloths. With regards to the new door on the clock tower we are working with Halcyon and our planning team. We are looking at this work as soon as
We are awaiting further feedback from the War Memorials Trust on our grant funding before we can start works to the Didsbury War Memorial. It is estimated to be around June/July. It will be Halcyon Conservation working on this memorial. This work is expected to entail:
• To clean the war memorial
• To remove plaques and access the corrosion to the reverse
side/apply protective coatings
• To replace lost letter fills to incised bronze plaques
DCS are especially pleased to have the Cenotaph Cleaned ready in its Centenary year.
Didsbury Civic Society trustees meet monthly with members to discuss business as usual as well as a number of additional special projects. There are lots more to come but for now we are able to report recent achievements as follows:
• Persistent progress with the Realms Officer, MCC has resulted in The Milson Rhodes Clock being cleaned
• The Cenotaph commemorating 100 years this June/July will be cleaned. This has been paid for 50% by DCS through grants and 50% match funding from the War Memorial Trust. Total £3,400
• Renovation of the bus stop bench Cost £690 Funded by DCS. Thanks to Sam du Prez Didsbury carpenter
• Insertion of a new DCS noticeboard is imminent at Didsbury Library – Thanks to Mike`s perseverance. Cost £1800 which includes a 50% grant funding plus installation costs
• Completion of The Didsbury Plan in conjunction with Future Didsbury and Didsbury Traders Association. Copies of this have been circulated and you are asked to email to friends and family. A copy is on the DCS-Website
• A successful meeting with Southway Housing to support planting of a shrub in memory of Jim Leeming, DCS President of many years. Furthermore, as Southway Housing own the Jubilee Gardens land they have agreed to provide more support in keeping this area free from litter. We are also exploring a new DCS Noticeboard at this side of the Didsbury centre or a wall-based noticeboard.
• A successful meeting with Stagecoach to forge greater links with them. This should result in DCS Members being consulted and used as a focus group for future bus changes and feedback to Stagecoach services.
What Now & What’s Next
The positive news is that we are progressing further forward along the ‘road map’ to freedom and we hope that new variants can be contained physically and by the ongoing vaccination timetable. In the previous Future Didsbury article, our sense of community becoming stronger was highlighted, and it’s beginning to look like the ‘bounce-back’ is actually happening! Right now the children are back at school and some people are back behind their desks in their offices, our shops are opening again and we can sit and freeze outside the pub if we fancy a pint or a G&T, although we can choose to sit inside if you don’t mind taking a risk of catching ‘the dreaded’, especially if you are planning a holiday at the moment!
Like many organisations, Future Didsbury has been forced to reduce its level of activity but now is the time to reignite the project! Soon we will have some good news to share in the context of a new facility to Didsbury, a facility which is a rarity in most towns and villages in the country and capable of delivering ‘life-changing’ opportunities. Future Didsbury hopes to be able to explain further in the next DCS newsletter article!
Residents of Didsbury will soon be made aware of a document which notes the aspirations of DCS for the Future of Didsbury. It equates to a ‘plan of action’ and is to be shared with Manchester City Council (MCC) and any other body or organisation likely to assist as we attempt to make the village centre become the focal point of most community activities in combination with the various voluntary groups we have. To this we must add the area around Burton Road which is an amazing hive of activity! Recent years have seen a great explosion of venues and the popularity is plain for all to see by the numbers that congregate (BC, Before Covid).
It is good to hear that Withington is to benefit from MCC investing in Withington Regeneration Partnership! This is great news for the residents and businesses of Withington and an example of much needed support being provided to finally stem the steady decline of the fabric of Withington. DCS and Future Didsbury hopes to be able to mirror the pathway which has led to this initial investment as fears grow around the viability of some businesses due to the shifting trend away from the high streets and, more specifically, the virtual absence of policing around Didsbury which has become a major concern.
So, some hope for the future with the ‘big reveal’ hopefully in the next issue…
Phil Downs, MBE