“There’s no need to be lonely”: Chesterfield’s open door to a hub of happiness
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“I’m feeling good… And even if you don’t, look in the mirror. You look haggard and a mess, and you think ‘In ten minutes, I’m feeling good’. It’s that. It’s making people feel included. And if they come in sad, making them go out with a laugh. Leaving with a smile on their face.”
These are the words of Pam MacDiarmid, 65, as we chat about the The Hub at Low Pavement, Chesterfield. The Hub is a place of gathering, and Pam runs a crochet club here. Talking to her is like being sat beside a rainbow. A warm funny, pesky glow of all colours.
When asked about the community here, her answer is delivered with a grin.
“Very welcoming. Very diverse… A good laugh. We do have people come in that do suffer with depression. I’ve got two or three… I shouldn’t call them hookers, but it’s a good short name for a crocheter. We’re happy hookers.”
Laughter rolls around the room. A space littered with making. Artwork and photographs. Boxes of wool and a table of cups, biscuits, tea bags and a kettle.
“You’re not just crocheting with them. I’ll sit down and say ‘How are you today?… Why haven’t you got a cup of tea?… I’ll get you one’.”
“We’re a very inclusive group. You could be homeless. You could live in a palace. You’re still welcome.”
Helen Corcoran, 47, and James Starky, 49, are the ‘co-ordinators’ here. But, as the chat develops, it is clear that labels and defining tags are not something that is used in The Hub. James underlines this when asked a question about ‘volunteers’ like Pam.
“They might not be called a volunteer. They might think of themselves as a helper. Some may not think of themselves like that. Not everyone needs a label.”
“They’re participants,” adds Helen. James nods. “They’re invited to be part of something. And I guess that’s the difference. So even if they sit and chat to someone they’ve never spoken to before, they’re contributing. And they don’t need a label to do that.”
The sense of open hand here is a quiet loud. Helen describes The Hub as “A space where people can come and have an opportunity to connect with somebody else, in one way or another. Either by chat, or through an activity.”
The uplift in here is tangible. The sound of chat and laughter. The sunlight of the street outside visible through the open door.
“This is where the magic of community work happens. When you try new things, where you experiment and you open the doors and see who comes in. When you ask them to contribute, whatever they have, things happen that you wouldn’t imagine. And that’s what makes it magical.”
Tim Adwick, 41, certainly fits with this. His contribution is through photography and mental health support. And, much like Pam, chatting to him is colour and light as he talks of The Hub, a space he calls “Vital”.
“It’s saved people’s lives. It gives them a purpose. It gives people empowerment. When I first started coming here I wouldn’t talk… I’ve come a long way now, to running my own group. I’ve got a passion for breaking down barriers, and stigmas against mental health.”
“We meet here in the morning. We go out taking photo’s around the local area. We come back to have discussions and share pictures.”
“People that have come and joined our group, you see the growth in them. From when they started, completely anxiety-ridden… One of the group has started running his own group now, turned full circle.”
When asked about the importance of creativity here, Tim smiles.
“It’s a good way of escaping your mind. To get your brain thinking out. It opens a whole new look on life, when you start looking through the lens. Looking at what’s about you. Things that you were totally oblivious to before.”
Helen highlights the bridge between creativity, community and wellbeing. “I do believe that people have purpose in connection. There’s an awful lot of opportunity for resilience building, which I really value… I really enjoy seeing people flourish. I love seeing people create things. It’s amazing. It’s just a joy.”
Jackie Allsopp is part of a “Knit and natter” group here. “It’s very relaxing. It calms you. You’re busy doing something, and you’re producing something at the same time. And of course, if you’re in a group you’re having a good old natter as well. We don’t run the group. Nobody runs the group. We’re all just here. And we all help one another out.”
She talks of the community here, of how the different groups all chat to each other as well as the group they’re in. Her glow as she speaks echoes Pam and Tim, as she tells of walking in here for the first time, “And straight away you’re offered a cup of tea or coffee. And that’s it. You’re never on your own… It’s all very friendly. The time goes so quickly when you’re here.”
When asked the moral of the story, Jackie thinks for a moment. Her answer seems to speak of everything within The Hub, and why this place matters.
“There’s no need to be on your own. There’s no need to be lonely. Because there’s plenty going on outside your own front door. You’ve got to go out and help yourself. That’s how you make friends. At my age now, I could just be sitting indoors. Getting up in the morning and sitting in my chair. But, no. I get out and meet friends.”
The Hub’s open door can be found at Low Pavement in Chesterfield: “You’re never on your own”.