The Ancoats Dispensary is a fantastic building at the heart of my constituency, it is a focal point for the community and a link to the past that is treasured by those who live in the area and admired by much further afar.
Manchester has long been known as “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” but the rest of the world has perhaps underestimated the importance of Ancoats at the heart of that process. Ancoats was a dense suburb of labourers working in nearby factories and suffering from the very worst consequences of poverty and poor health.
The original Dispensary movement was led by charity and it would be many years until healthcare would resemble what we take for granted today.
As well as serving as an attractive monument to the history of the area, the Dispensary also serves as a reminder of the effort and sacrifice made to fight for our health system. In a time of funding crisis and the ever-present risk of privatisation, reminders from the past encourage us not to take this for granted.
The Trust’s campaign also offers a real opportunity for a community space in the midst of the fantastic housing developments to come and a new way of doing things led by the community.
I have met with the Ancoats Dispensary Trust over a number of years and I am so impressed to see the progress they have made. They have not been tempted by negativity and blame but have been determined and focused in campaigning for change whilst working constructively with partners at the Heritage Lottery Fund, Urban Splash and the Council.
They have utilised every campaigning and fundraising opportunity available to them with an inclusive and interesting approach ranging from history walks and art sales through to street collections, merchandise and online crowdfunding.
Their passion and focus could serve as a model for community action in tough times and as an antidote to the cynicism that says that people can’t make a difference.
We can’t deny that times are tough. The economic crash and the subsequent unfair cuts to Councils like ours have reduced budgets and made spending much more difficult.
With this in mind, we need strong community campaigns more than ever. The work is far from over. They know that there is much more to be done but they relish the challenge. They have demonstrated how passionate and capable they are and I look forward to working with them.
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