‘Life and soul’ Hulme Community Garden Centre invites Manchester to become a part of its core

Found off a busy road in Hulme, Manchester, the bright and beautiful Hulme Community Garden Centre has been offering an oasis of green space to one of the city’s most deprived areas for nearly 20 years.

HCGC is a not-for-profit cooperative which aims to bring people together through gardening.

A fully functioning garden centre, dedicated to environmentally friendly products and sustainable horticulture, HCGC’s main difference is that all their surplus funds are reinvested into the projects which reach out to some of the most isolated members of the community.

BRIGHT WELCOME: HCGC’s eye-catching entrance on 28 Old Birley St, Hulme

Now, for the first time in its history, local residents and businesses have the chance to invest in the amazing work of HCGC and to become an integral part of its future.

Community Share Offer

The centre has launched a Community Share Offer, an investment scheme available exclusively to cooperative and charitable organisations.

They aim to raise funds in order to make real investment into their infrastructure making the garden centre more accessible to all members of the community.

Members of the public are invited to make an investment through Crowdfunder of between £100 and £20,000 and all investors will become a member of the cooperative and gain a vote in its decisions. One investment equals one vote, no matter how big.

Investment in the community

“The people are more important than the plants.”

This was the message of the centre’s manager Rachel Summerscales at a recent open meeting about the CSO.

“Plants bring people together, and they’re good at it, because they need a lot of care.”

At HCGC gardening is the base for a hub of learning, socialising and connecting throughout the community. There are regular workshops for adults with learning disabilities and sensory impairments as well as sessions for toddlers to come for outdoor learning.

On top of their weekly supported sessions and workshops the centre hosts events all year round such as the Summer Party and the harvest time Apple and Pumpkin Day. These events bring together a diverse range of people from the community to enjoy nature, creating a closer, more supportive network for residents.

Rachel emphasises that the centre can simply be a place for people to come and be, to play and explore. Locals can come in and not spend any money at all, just enjoy the features of the wonderfully quirky centre.

Helping to run trading and events are HCGC’s volunteer force which can number around 100 every month, with a core team of 23 coming regularly. 30% of these volunteers have physical or mental disabilities and find at the centre a space to learn new skills and grow in confidence while playing a key role in its work.

HELPING HANDS: Volunteers each month can number in their 100s

Raising funds for vital infrastructure

Up until now all the funding for these projects has come from trading as well as some grants as HCGC is an exempt charity. The site has grown organically throughout the years and in 2012 doubled in size, expanding into an old car park.

While it has continued for the last 20 years on these funds to function as a hive for the community it has never had a large investment with which to develop infrastructure.

This means that currently the site lacks hot water and flushing toilets and is not able to make its shop and offices fully accessible to wheelchair users.

INVESTORS, WE NEED YOU! The current shop is not fully accessible for wheelchair users and prams

The site’s lack of indoor provision means during the winter months trade and volunteering dips as there is no heating or appropriate indoor facilities.

Rachel and everyone at the centre want to expand and improve indoor facilities in order to function better in all seasons as an invaluable feature of the community.

Vision for the future

With an ultimate goal of raising £200,000, the centre had to raise at least £130,000 of this by August 5, otherwise all investment will be returned. Thanks to the Co-op Booster fund all money raised by the centre will be matched £1/£1 up to £100,000.

With this money HCGC plans to expand its shop, its offices and its café and create a volunteer hub, all using shipping containers. The shop will be bigger, increasing trade, visible from the road, encouraging footfall and wheelchair accessible.

A new office, replacing the current caravan which is completely inaccessible to wheelchair users, will accommodate the diverse range of volunteers. The café will go from being an outdoor pop-up to having indoor facilities where local people can come to socialise all year round.

The centre also hopes to install heating systems, running water and flushing toilets. All of this will allow the centre to a more inclusive space where people can come no matter the weather to benefit from their community outreach mission.

FUTURE VISION: Plans for the centre’s expansion (picture via Facebook, with thanks)

The Community Share Offer is a way of expanding this centre of the community while giving its residents the chance to become an even more integral part of its future. The centre hopes to make a 3.5% return on investment in three years.

More importantly however, by investing in Hulme Community Garden Centre local people are investing in their community and becoming a co-owner of the site, gaining a say in its progression and development.

Anyone interested in becoming a part of the project and helping to expand the positive work of the centre can invest through Crowdfunder up until August 12 – more here:

Main image courtesy of HCGC via YouTube, with thanks.

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