The Great Southern to Western Community Action Network
GreatSoWeCAN is a small network of active residents who want to sustain our community and improve our environment in the Edwardian terraced streets between Great Southern Street and Great Western Street.
GreatSoWeCAN is about connecting people within and between streets to be able to improve things ourselves, and to have a stronger voice when we ask the council, waste collectors and others to improve our services and safety.
We collaborate to support neighbours, to clean and green our alleys, to increase social contact among neighbours who may not otherwise meet, and to improve our waste management and services.
The Edwardian rectangle consists of Acomb St. (south), Crofton St. (north), Cyril St., Deramore St., Gascoyne St., Great Southern St., Kippax St. (north), and Ossory St., plus the adjacent houses on Great Southern Street. There are around 250 houses (map).
Some GreatSoWeCAN achievements include:
- Working with neighbours to clean and green our alleys, some of which have been sustained and developed by the residents with enthusiasm.
- Entering a couple of alleys in the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Britain in Bloom.
- Inspiring the University of Manchester volunteering team to hold their ‘Big Volunteer Day’ in our area: around 50 students cleaned and greened our alleys for a day, supporting the alleys which needed help.
As we have learned with Upping It, when residents collaborate to transform or maintain a street and alley, they meet, enjoy working together, and build trust and a sense of ownership of the neighbourhood. With effort, the alleys become pleasant places to be and walk through, and safer for children to play.
Collaboration is vital in our area where the universities have inspired investor landlords to replace family homes with short term tenants. Changing a family home to an HMO (house of multiple occupancy) has been prevented by a council directive since 2011. But where the council and universities are inattentive, unquestioning or look the other way, landlords get away with it. It is where the University of Manchester’s claimed ‘Social Responsibility’ falls flat on its own doorstep.
Regular GreatSoWeCAN collaborations have included:
- Creating information leaflets on current local issues, delivering them to every house in the area, and talking with residents on doorsteps about local issues.
- Creating and delivering welcome leaflets for the students moving into the area, with information they need to find things, manage their waste, and understand and respect the neighbourhood.
- Growing cuttings and plants in a range of containers to create some alleys that residents and walkers now respect and enjoy. Learning which plants are low maintenance and suited for particular locations.
- Coordinating a small team of University of Manchester international student volunteers, who helped us fortnightly with litter picking and planting.
- Reporting graffiti repeatedly until the helpful-but-totally-understaffed MCC team finally remove it. Reporting blocked drains repeatedly until the helpful-but-totally-understaffed MCC team finally clear them, but bizarrely one at a time on multiple trips… Reporting fly-tipping to get it removed, and greening the alleys to discourage it.
- Liaising with our helpful local Biffa manager, Paul, about improving the waste collection and cleaning around the bins, and for providing us with litter pickers and bags.
- Putting up solar lights around the communal bins in the alleys.
- Discussing issues with our great local Police Community Support Officers, Ed and Sabah, sometimes to keep an extra eye on things, for example if residents have said they feel unsafe.
If you are a resident and want to help to improve things, please speak with your neighbours and contact us so we can explore ideas and achieve things together.
Note: GreatSoWeCAN is not a formal association with a constitution and an AGM. It has been hands-on. But if there is enthusiasm for a more formal setup, with online or physical meetings, then help us develop it. It has been mostly dormant during Covid, but it can renew with your interest.