“One car! That’s all there was!” It’s difficult to imagine, but we all know it’s true.
It’s Tuesday morning and I’m in the IT room at Back on Track. I’m attending the ‘Having a voice’ group, and Jennifer has us all mesmerised. She’s telling us about a photograph of her and her sister, as children, on the street where they grew up. It’s the 1960’s, and the street is empty, except for one car.
“One, car. We were just looking at it the other day. We couldn’t believe it! I bet it was easy to park though.”
Having a voice is a weekly session to help participants develop their communication skills and build the confidence to speak up and have their views and opinions heard. During January the sessions have been focused on photography as part of Macc’s ‘Sharing Our Wellness’ campaign. We’ve agreed to take photos of what works for us in terms of wellness, or in other words, what makes us happy. It’s a really useful way to demystify wellbeing, and to help people think about it in everyday ways.
Our first session involves a trip to Manchester Art Gallery to see the Martin Parr exhibition – Return to Manchester, which contains photographs of everyday life in Manchester taken over the last 40 years. Everyone gets animated about the images – laughing at the fashions, and trying to identify the places.
We all end up talking about things from the past that make us happy. “I’ve always loved playing football.” says Anthony, as we walk back from the gallery. “I still do. I’m looking to join a veterans team at the moment. Even 5 a side would do. I know it’s fast, but there’s life in the old dog yet.” I don’t doubt it. He’s full of energy, darting about, and snapping away at random scenes with his camera.
We review the images the following week. Lots of them are great, and the session tutor Kate is full of positive encouragement and advice about how we can take even better photos. Then we’re off again with a brief to photograph patterns. Which are suddenly everywhere, if you take time to notice them. When we review again it’s clear that we’ve already got lots of good images to choose from. Kate instructs the group about uploading photos to PC and how to use the editing software. Kevin’s racing ahead, so we have a chat about his photo, and that it reminds of his school Plant Hill School. He talks about what lessons he enjoyed there, and what he’s learned since coming to Back on Track despite having learning difficulties.
There’s a real variety of photos, and when I’m chatting to people it’s lovely to hear each person talking about the image they’ve chosen. Everyone is happy for their content to be shown on online, but some don’t feel comfortable about being recorded, so we agree to type something for the website. Others are more than happy to talk, and Jennifer is really warming to the subject of old photos. “I like looking at old photographs, cos it helps me to think about being alive now, and that we should make the most of it. I used to work at a school in Wythenshawe. I still get old pupils coming up to me in the street all grown up and saying ‘Hello Miss! Remember me?’ and I always do. I ask them how many kids they’ve got and they tell me and I go ‘Alright then, see ya!’ You see, things change very quickly.”
Click here to see all of the selected images and stories from the project.