A group of social entrepreneurs – people starting businesses that do good – are creating vibrant new spaces in Morecambe that are benefiting the whole community. It’s all got started thanks to the support for social entrepreneurs available through Big Local.
On most days in Morecambe you can see straight out over the bay and across to the lake district on the other side. It’s these views that helped draw in tourists from Yorkshire and Scotland in the middle of the last century. Recently, things have changed – following the loss of two piers and the closure of tourist attractions, visitor numbers have declined.
Some local residents are taking that change in their stride, using their talents to try and find a new identity for the West End. Residents involved in West End Big Local area in Morecambe have tapped in to the UnLtd Star People programme, which helps people start social ventures in Big Local areas.
One big impact is how the social entrepreneurs that have emerged have been able to create vibrant spaces for the community: places to make friends, places to come together and team up, places tackle issues in their community, or create events to celebrate where they live.
Social space: The Sanctuary
Sue Gardner runs a cafe, The Sanctuary, a venue that offer so much more than good food and perhaps the best cup of tea in Morecambe. It’s a community centre – a place where people can take part in crafts like baking and knitting, and chat to other people from their area.
‘Everyone needs a place away from home,’ says Sue, ‘People need a space where they can socialise and be part of a community.’
Recently Sue has started a meals on wheels service, delivering good quality, nutritious and home-cooked food to vulnerable people around Morecambe. The people that use the service are invited to eat their meals in the cafe, bringing them out of their homes and into a space where they can make and meet friends.
‘Lots of people coming here don’t really speak to anyone else all week.’
Sue says, ‘They might be quiet when they first arrive, but once they meet the other people you just can’t shut them up. There’s nowhere else like this in Morecambe. There’s nowhere for lots of people to go and spend time – it makes such a difference to their lives.’
Sue’s also been giving over her impressive front window display to other social ventures from the area, including her friend Ellie’s Wise Up workshops that blend drama, performance and arts to promote personal development, confidence and communication skills.
‘I love what Ellie is doing,’ she says, ‘There are people working hard around here – we have to support each other, don’t we?’
Creative space: The Exchange
The Exchange is another space created by social entrepreneurs in Morecambe. Created by Jo Bambrough, Beki Melrose, and Melody Treasure, it’s a shop and community venue built on a bedrock of creativity.
The profits they make by selling art that they sell in the shop is used to widen and develop opportunities for people in the West End – one of Morecambe’s most challenging neighbourhoods. Jo explains:
‘We believe that being creative and resourceful is not just good for us, it’s good for the wider community too.’
‘We love it when we can convince people to try new things, connect with others and start to take notice of their surroundings. Morecambe is such an epic place; the beach, the bay, the views and the people. Sometimes you need creativity to really approach what’s right in front of you.’
The Exchange runs a variety of courses, sessions and projects. They ran a campaign, #FromMorecambeWithLove, which got people to create art postcards to celebrate their place. A “Brew-Bar” has quickly become the go-to place for people to start their creative endeavors, meet like-minded people, or just enjoy tea in artistic surroundings.
The Exchange’s shop is a cornucopia of creative delights, selling locally made art, crafts and gifts – all profits being used to deliver free to access workshops for the local community.
Beki explains that The Exchange was part of a movement getting people to look at Morecambe in a different light: ‘We went to university in Lancaster, but just love Morecambe. People have noticed what we’re doing and there are more creative people moving here now. The place has a bright future.’
Over 90% of the 900 social entrepreneurs from Big Local areas that have been supported through Star People in the last 5 years feel they are better able to create social change. The Star People programme is delivered by UnLtd and is joint funded by Local Trust and UnLtd.