The Wythenshawe Forum Trust could hold a model for knitting society back together after heal Brexit divisions
Elections can be a great barometer of society and we know that, in many ways, Britain is changing. Votes are now split between ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ as well as traditional party views. Age group is now a bigger predictor of which way somebody will vote than class. Labour is running on the most radically left-wing manifesto in decade and is seeing considerable success.
These changes come at a time when political discourse is at its most animated, or toxic, depending on how you look at it. Time and time again in recent years, politicians and commentators have espoused the sentiment that they have seen heated arguments before, but that this atmosphere is different. In an era of social media, where people get caught up only seeing arguments they agree with, many become entrenched without even being aware of how homogenous their own online communities are.
It is in these two words, ‘online communities’, that we can diagnose and unpack a lot of the issue. Communities have traditionally been geographical, bringing together people from different walks of life who happen to share a postcode. Interactions in person allow people to have nuanced conversations, to smile at each other, to meet one another’s children and families in a way that simply isn’t the case over the internet, and this can be very humanising in a way that, more and more, seems needed in today’s society.
An organisation who understand the importance of this more than most is The Wythenshawe Forum Trust, who run the Forum Centre in Manchester. CEO Eddie Flanagan wrote in his best practice piece for The Parliamentary Review that the aim for the centre is to make sure it ‘meets the needs of a diverse community – catering for different age groups, lifestyle and interests, or those with more complex needs’.
The Centre is a real example of a physical community space, providing ‘improvements in the health and wellbeing of the community’ while allowing diverse minority groups support. Partners of the site range from Job Centre Plus to the University of Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, bringing expertise and resources from wider Manchester and ensuring that these can be provided to those who need them. Perhaps, in an era where division appears to be growing, community centres like this are a way to bring people back together.