VISIT US

To discuss holding your wedding or any event at The Monastery, contact Kate or Fran to arrange a personal welcome tour.

Call 0161 223 3211 or email Kate or Fran now.

We would love you to visit us at The Monastery! You’ll be sure of a warm welcome, and we know you’ll enjoy the time you spend with us.

For more information, click here.

Keep up to date with the amazing array of events we hold all year around.

**The Monastery is open 10am-4pm, Sun-Thu each week, with free entry, parking, café, gift shop & healing garden. All welcome!**

Greater Manchester Becomes the UK’s First Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia Hosted by Manchester Camerata

The Monastery is very proud to announce that Greater Manchester is to become the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia hosted by Manchester Camerata, based here at the Monastery.

The UK’s ‘most adventurous orchestra’ are incredibly grateful to have been awarded over £1 million through the Power of Music Fund (established by the National Academy for Social Prescribing, the Utley Foundation and Arts Council England), Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the NHS Greater Manchester.

This award will enable Manchester Camerata to extend their Music Cafés’ to every borough of Manchester, providing moments of joy, connection, and expression to over 1,000 people living with dementia.

Scroll on to read the full, fabulous story!



Over £1Million of Funding

Over £1million of funding has been committed by Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester), Sir Richard Lees (Chair of the NHS Greater Manchester) and the National Academy for Social Prescribing’s Power of Music Fund to enable Greater Manchester to become the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia – hosted by Manchester Camerata from their home, here at the Monastery. The project will also receive in-kind support from the University of Manchester and Alzheimer’s Society.

Data Driven Research

This significant and successful bid will see both organisations run four weekly music cafes (two ‘Music in Mind’ and two ‘Singing for the Brain’) in each of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs. Together Manchester Camerata will collaborate with the University of Manchester and the NHS to undertake anonymised data-driven research into the impact and power that their music sessions have for people living with dementia and the way in which they can reduce pressure on hard-pressed frontline NHS and social care staff.



Training of 300 ‘Music Champions’

Between Manchester Camerata and Alzheimer’s Society, they will recruit, nurture and train a volunteer and community workforce of 300 ‘Music Champions’ who will be trained to deliver the Music Cafes, helping to support over 1000 people living with dementia in Greater Manchester across three years starting from October 2024. The research and data analysed by the University of Manchester will demonstrate the impact of embedding music support as part of dementia care and how this model can be scaled up and rolled outacross the UK and result in cost-saving measures for the NHS.

Music in Mind

Manchester Camerata’s Music in Mind programme is internationally renowned using the principles of music therapy to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia. The programme was created in collaboration with research partner the University of Manchester and was devised from the foundations of some of the world’s leading dementia experts and their research. Music in Mind has established training, delivery and support offers to help partners create Music Cafes and recruit Music Champions, and has worked with partners in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden and Japan to help them set up their own music and dementia programmes.



Singing for the Brain

Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing for the Brain is a programme based on music therapy principles, bringing people living with dementia together to sing a variety of songs they know and love, in a fun and friendly environment. The sessions also include vocal exercises that help improve brain activity and wellbeing whilst also creating an opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers to socialize with others and experience peer support.

The Power of Music

The Power of Music Fund was established by the National Academy for Social Prescribing, with generous support from the Utley Foundation, Arts Council England and other partners. It builds on the recommendations of the 2022 Power of Music report. In addition to the Centre of Excellence in Greater Manchester, the Fund is also awarding small grants to 70 grassroots music and dementia projects across the UK and will support more than 5500 people in total.



Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

This is fantastic news for Greater Manchester, and a reminder of the power of music to shape our lives and our communities. Manchester Camerata have played a key role in our Music Commission, and I’ve seen firsthand the transformational impact of what they do in our city-region. They are the ideal partner to pioneer the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Music and Dementia, working with the Alzheimer’s Society to unlock the potential of music as therapy.This project will provide life-changing support to people with dementia and their carers in our 10 boroughs – support that is grounded in our communities and delivered with a real expert focus. It will also generate groundbreaking research that will influence health and care policy across the country while directly improving lives across Greater Manchester.”


Andy Burnham, Charlotte Osborn-Forde and Bob Riley

Bob Riley, Chief Executive of Manchester Camerata:

“This is a colossal moment built on over ten years of work and research in partnership with The University of Manchester. We know it will bring much-needed support for people living with dementia and their carers. It will create new opportunities for our amazing musicians in the UK, and bring about changes in the way we invest in music to bring the widest possible benefits to society.Sincere thanks to the leadership and vision of Andy Burnham, Sir Richard Leese and NHS GM, the National Academy of Social Prescribing, The Utley Foundation, Arts Council England and many others. We appreciate their boldness and commitment to the power of music, and in recognising the outstanding musicians whose passion and commitment makes such an incredible impact on and off the stage.”

Charlotte Osborn-Forde, Chief Executive of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, said:

“We worked with the Utley Foundation and Arts Council England to create The Power of Music Fund, to ensure that many more people living with dementia can benefit from musical projects. Through the Centre of Excellence, we aim to demonstrate how prescribing music to people living with dementia can improve quality of life, reduce isolation, and lessen the need for medication, hospital admissions and GP appointments. We were delighted to choose Greater Manchester after an outstanding bid. This project will provide a lifeline to people living with dementia in Manchester, but also provide new evidence and a model that can be replicated across the country.” 


National Press

Read all about it in the national press.

BBC News

Manchester Evening News

The Independent


This content was based on an article originally published on Manchester Camerata’s website.

Monastery Memories Project Now Launched

The Monastery Memories Project has now launched, with the aim of collecting memories of the Monastery, from people who remember the building from years gone by, as well as memories of the surrounding area.

Do you, or someone you know, remember the Monastery while it was still a Franciscan church, school and friary, or other Monastery memories that you’d like to share? If so, we warmly invite you to come in and chat with a member of the team so that these precious memories can be recorded.

We hope these memories, once collected, will eventually be turned into a book and potentially, a podcast.

For more information about this project or to book an appointment, please email vicki.kennedy@themonastery.co.uk


New Community Projects 2024 @ Gorton Monastery, Manchester

Words | Vicki Kennedy

2-minute read

We are really excited to be launching some brand new community projects over the coming months, here at the Monastery. Some of these projects will in partnership with other local and national organisations such as Mentell, Debdale Nature Centre and Gorton Horticultural Society and you’re warmly invited to get involved!

Take a look at some of the wonderful community projects below, all of which are currently in development.


Gorton Men’s Group

Brand new men’s mental heath talking group, based on the Mentell model. We are working with the guys from Mentell to develop our own version of their project.

We have six volunteers already working on this project but always on the lookout for more.

This project will launch on April 28th, 2024.

For more info or to get involved, drop a line to Chris Kennedy on chris.kennedy.gorton@gmail.com


Men’s Shed at the Monastery

Brand new Men’s Shed due to launch at the Monastery in late spring 2024.

The Men’s Shed is a place to socialise, take part in activities and make new friends. The project aims to tackle social isolation predominantly, but not exclusively, in older men, everyone over the age of 18 will be welcome.

This project will launch on April 28th, 2024.

For more info or to get involved, drop a line to Chris Kennedy on mens.shed.monastery@gmail.com or join their brand new Facebook page.


Community Gardening Project

We have ambitious plans to re-green the Monastery site incorporating a kitchen garden, a  native flower garden and a memory garden. We already have a few volunteers signed up for this project but we will always have room for more.

More news coming soon, watch this space!


Monastery Memories Project

Project launching on Belle Vue Day. We are aiming to capture the memories of the people who visit the Monastery or live in the local area. Many of the older generation remember the building in its heyday. We would love to capture these memories before they are lost forever. Eventually we would like to turn the memories into a published book.

This project will launch on April 28th, 2024.


Support Group for Families Living with Neurodivergence

The aim is to support families living with neurodivergence. A space for adults to offload and support each other, a space for children and young people to access activities and help.

We hope to have a trained professional to run some kind of group based therapy/support, and for the young people to take some ownership and develop the group into what they would like it to be, as well as what they feel would be most beneficial to them.

More news coming soon, watch this space!


Volunteer Opportunities

There are volunteer opportunities across all of these projects, so if you, or someone you know might be interested, please feel free to email vicki.kennedy.gorton@gmail.com or chris.kennedy.gorton@gmail.com saying which group interests you and we’ll get right back to you with all the relevant information.


Directions to the Monastery here.

Celebrating the Super Listeners Who Quietly & Humbly Transform Lives

Words | Dr Jeannine Goh

5-minute read


It’s a typical rainy day in Manchester, the type of grey skies that lean heavy on your mood, and that incessant rain that makes leaving the warm, cosy house so hard. The Monastery is opening up to the public for the day. A candle is lit (as it is every day in the great nave), the bustle of the café opening wafts pleasantly around, and our big-hearted front-of-house manager, Chris, jokes cheerily with staff arriving for the day’s work.


David’s Story

The roar of a motorbike is heard in the car park and David, one of our volunteer listeners, has arrived for his client. For two years David has volunteered every week for The Sanctuary’s Listening Service, here at our modern-day Monastery.

Retired David lives in Chorley, so it is not quick journey, especially in the rain. Yet for two years and despite an initial commitment of only 6 months, David never misses a session. One of our most experienced Listeners, David is now known as a Super Listener. He has gifted the most sessions to the service, and with no obligation, he continues to volunteer. With equal measures of curiosity and gratitude we ask David what keeps him Listening?

“I feel that when I carry out a listening session, sometimes people have a problem, that has such an easy solution. You reassure them & show them their strengths & it makes such a difference. All I’ve done is be with them for an hour & they go out reassured. I have done so little but their uplift is significant. Not always, sometimes people are deeply in difficult circumstances that are ongoing. This is more difficult and needs continued visits. It’s so rewarding when somebody leaves the room & their head is in a better place.” – David



The Listening Service has many clients who book on to the service who are feeling overwhelmed, and often ‘in a mess’. As David says, the Listener themself sometimes says very little, yet the client leaves knowing exactly what they need and with clarity. It’s a kind of off-loading and emptying, but that is only one aspect.

We are very proud that our Listeners are trained by our pioneering trauma-informed approach (using the IFS model for those who know it!) to be grounded in their compassionate, calm and curious self, and this leads to a reciprocal healing. In this exchange, learning and self-knowledge is gained by both the Listener and the client.

After two years and over 1500 free FTF listening and counselling sessions ran by The Sanctuary, we have learnt a lot, and the impact we’ve seen is remarkable.


Fenia’s Story

Fenia, another Super Listener who was, like David, our first cohort of volunteers echoes the depth of this reciprocal learning..

“I have often experienced a mirroring effect that can be very powerful. It helps me with my personal development, self-awareness and shadow work. By listening to others, it puts things in perspective for me and I learn more about life too. It helps me and gets me used to get out of my ego, to be present. Listening to others is a great way to become a better person with better intra and interpersonal skills for sure.” – Fenia



Over the two years, the Listening Service has seen many clients. The waiting lists for mental health services benefit, lives are changed and transformations and positivity spread across the city. The feedback from all our clients and Listeners makes my own commitment, as Co-Director of the service, to be ever more fulfilling as we consistently see extraordinary things happen.


Allison’s Story

Take one of Fenia’s more recent clients, Allison Angel. Allison arrived overwhelmed and in a challenging place but felt incredible clarity after the session. Allison was so blown away by the care and compassion of Fenia and ‘this incredible service’. She wanted to know more. Allison discovered the heart-felt but powerful vision at the core of the service and crucially, had experienced its impact for herself.


Allison Angel, far right, with our latest, wonderful team of volunteer Listeners


Allison could not believe something so simple, yet so powerful existed. After experiencing the transformative power of Listening, Allison has not looked back and is now the co-director of The Sanctuary! She is helping me to develop the service as a centre of excellence, one that promotes the power of Listening as a revolutionary practice, and one that we believe is set to transform our communities and our city.

This is all thanks to Fenia, who continues to be passionate about the service as well as being a talented, warm-hearted yoga teacher, who will be starting her own yoga class at The Monastery soon (watch this space!)


Olga’s Story

We have two more Super Listeners who have been with us since the very beginning. One is Olga, who continues to volunteer out of the kindness of her big heart. Olga works full time outside of her volunteer Listener role and has two beautiful sons and a busy family life, yet on a Sunday, Olga still finds the time to bear witness to those in need and lend a compassionate ear. We asked Olga what keeps her listening?



“It is the help I am giving to clients. I can feel a weight on their shoulder being removed after the session. I love to experience their feeling of not being alone and not being judged. I like the share their feeling of calm and peace while we are in the session. And the most important thing is…I love to make a difference to somebody’s life just for listening to them for one or two hours.” – Olga


Lois’ Story

Last but certainly not least, is our lovely Lois, another beautiful Super Listener. Lois has been volunteering with The Monastery way before the Listening Service began, and from when The Monastery was first restored. Lois is a corner stone of the service and her contributions, wisdom and warmth and skill as a Listener run deep.

Recently, the father of one of Lois’ clients ran the Manchester 10k marathon and raised over £840 for The Monastery! This was to say thank you to our lovely Lois, who had worked with a young woman struggling with mental distress; and totally transformed her life. We are seeing this level of impact frequently with this simple but deeply profound intervention.

“Being a Listener with The Sanctuary at The Monastery is such a humbling and rewarding experience. It takes so little, from one human being to another, to give so much. And in return, I am rewarded tenfold. The beautiful quote from Saint Francis of Assisi says it all, “for it is in giving that we receive”…the true essence and values of The Monastery and The Sanctuary alike.” – Lois



Lois sums up so beautifully the sentiment of both the history of the building (The now deconsecrated building that was once a Franciscan friary) and our compassionate Listening Service. We are slowly and one by one, changing and transforming lives. It might sound a little corny, but at the heart of the service really are these big hearts, simplicity, and a lot of love, something that is so often missing from the lives of many in our big, busy, beautiful city.

This service is creating a warm light that burns brightly in each of our listeners, transfers to the client who then takes this to their families and homes. We believe the simple process of just listening and sharing some love, kindness and warmth has the potential to light up the whole city.


What’s Next for the Super Listeners?

Firstly, we’re very proud to say that our Super Listeners have all been awarded scholarships to become Health Coaches with the Active Health Group. This is in honour of and in gratitude for their big hearts and commitment. We at The Sanctuary have realised how powerful our training is and we have carefully captured our pioneering training into an online course called Self Mastery and The Art of Deep Listening.


Would You Like to Become a Community Listener?

We are planning to gift 1000 people this transformational course for a hugely subsidised, nominal fee. We want this little warm light to burn brightly, lift the spirits of the city and for Manchester to become the ‘City that Listens.’ If Listener training with the Monastery appeals to you, please email Jeannine.goh@themonastery.co.uk


Our new group of 8 shining, bright, volunteer Listeners start their new positions in February 2024 and are poised waiting to listen to you.

Our hearts are full and every day we are touched by a new story of hope and inspiration.

For more information or to access the Listening Service, please click here

A Female Leaders Interview | Monastery CEO, Elaine Griffiths, OBE 

This female leaders interview with Monastery CEO, Elaine Griffiths, OBE was originally published by Dr. Caroline Paige on her website, Content Conscious. The interview is republished here in its entirety with kind permission. To read the original, please click here.


The project is constantly challenging and often takes us to the wire. But remarkably, at the eleventh hour, something always happens to get us to the next stage.

My fourth interview for the female leaders series is with Elaine Griffiths OBE. She’s the CEO of The Monastery in Manchester – an architectural gem she saved from dereliction. Elaine always includes the dedication of staff, volunteers and supporters in this accolade. But it’s hard to imagine it would’ve been possible without Elaine’s dedication.

I first visited Gorton Monastery (as it’s known locally) 16 years ago. Even in its ruinous state, the church was impressive. Its grand scale unexpected and unusual. But there were gaping holes in the roof and large pieces of masonry had fallen – strewn across the ground by vandalism and neglect. The friary was a maze of rooms all in advanced stages of decay. Plaster and brickwork destroyed by the unwanted ingress of rainwater. Pigeons’ messy nests balanced in any remaining dry nooks. And the red and black tiles of the cloister floors were covered with the rotting timber of upper floors and roofs long collapsed.

Now, I walk through the huge automatic doors of the new welcome wing. I pass the glass cabinet brightly lit and full of gleaming crystal awards. And I think how serendipitous it was that Elaine and this building found each other.

Today, I found Elaine upstairs in her sunny office lined with filing cabinets full to the brim. There are plans of the buildings, exhibition posters, samples for the shop, and boxes of donated photos and memories. A plant I bought for the office is still alive and living on a window ledge. We’re both impressed it’s lasted this long. Elaine fusses over the plant and me – checking we’re OK.

So, Elaine…

Why did you decide to restore a ruinous heritage site?

Paul and I were talking about our bucket lists and the important things we wanted to do with our lives. Paul wished someone would do something with Gorton Monastery. He grew up in Gorton and was an altar boy here. It was constantly vandalised and we kept seeing it on the local news. So, in the summer of 1996, I asked Paul to take me to see it. That was when our journey began.

I had a marketing company and regularly travelled to London to see clients. When I was there, I’d visit various experts and organisations like English Heritage. I was working full time, so The Monastery had to fit around that for the first year or so.

When it got more serious – with funding bids to write and deadlines to meet – I managed to get some money for a project leader. The project was much bigger and more complicated than we’d ever imagined. We had to make a commitment to The Monastery then, because a lot of people were pinning their hopes on us. We looked at the family finances and decided it was worth me giving up my job and volunteering for the next few years.

Was the conservation and restoration process what you expected?

We started in 1996 and it took almost 10 years to get the funding to start the restoration. If we’d known it would take that long, we probably wouldn’t have started. The project unfolded a step at a time. We started the campaign and realised how important it was to people locally. Hundreds of people turned up at open days – giving us donations in envelopes. We kept going because so many volunteers and supporters wanted the project to happen.

Every step of the journey minor miracles seem to happen. The project is constantly challenging and often takes us to the wire. But remarkably, at the eleventh hour, something always happens to get us to the next stage. It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for 27 years now! It was a steep learning curve because heritage and fundraising were a whole new world for me. Perhaps my background in sales and marketing helped, as I wasn’t frightened to talk to people. I suppose, instead of selling and marketing a product, I was selling The Monastery.

What was your career before The Monastery?

I worked in the food industry for 20 years. I remember a placement as a food science and nutrition graduate (wearing a white lab coat) at the Co-op laboratories in Manchester. The senior marketing team used to come to taste and evaluate the food. I realised I’d much rather be in their role – taking the products to market – and started to apply for those kinds of jobs instead.

When I had young children, I set up Playmarket to market children’s products. For one project, I needed a trusted brand to put into supermarkets to become a national franchise. My kids and all their friends were huge fans of Sooty and Sweep. With brand awareness of 98% across all generations they were my first choice. I got in touch with Matthew Corbett and ended up doing his marketing for Sooty International for the next three years. It was a really fun time.

Do you have another passion?

The Monastery combines all the things I’m interested in. In the early days, I met many people with spiritual gifts I didn’t understand. I trained as a healer and learned about working with energy. I went on quite a journey in those early days (training, learning and reading a lot). Many people don’t have a spiritual understanding in their lives and feel there’s something lacking. I’ve met spiritual people from many different backgrounds and beliefs. Knowing there’s more than this physical world is such an important thing to share with people.

It’s in the atmosphere here. You can almost touch it. Some say the veils between heaven and earth are thin here. It’s a beautiful space. It allows people to see we’re all spiritual beings experiencing living in a human body. We’re not a human body that happens to have some kind of spiritual experience.

Over the years so many uncanny things have happened. The brothers (the friars who lived here first) took 10 years, 9 months and 26 days to build the church. From the day we set up the charitable trust to the day we got the keys after the first restoration was 10 years, 9 months and 26 days! There have been these incredible, minor miracles and coincidences. Synchronicities. The right people turn up at the right time to help us and it’s been a leap of faith for us all. The brothers that built this place achieved something remarkable. It was a real labour of love for them and it has been for us too.

It allows people to see we’re all spiritual beings experiencing living in a human body. We’re not a human body that happens to have some kind of spiritual experience.

Do you feel you’re in service to this building and its heritage?

This project has affected me because I know it’s a very special and important place. I also felt it could be the catalyst for so much change. And I do believe we’re coming into that phase now. Lots of things aren’t working in society. The system is broken. The health service isn’t working. The transport system isn’t working. There’s a massive cost of living crisis. People are struggling. And yet, communities display the importance of compassion and supporting one another.

Those values are embedded here. We inherited them from the Franciscan brothers. This is a place for people to come together. The church is deconsecrated but it still has that sacred energy. All those prayers and lives are imbued in every brick and stone. You can’t turn that off. It creates a beautiful healing presence for people.

Each day we have an hour of silence so people can have some timeout. Time to reflect. In summer, when the garden is in bloom, people enjoy peace and tranquillity within the shelter of the cloister walls. And we have a listening service – to ensure there’s always someone here to talk to. We’re very lucky to have our volunteers and a core of people who genuinely feel in service.

All those prayers and lives are imbued in every brick and stone. You can’t turn that off.

You’ve met a lot of people. Who’s made the biggest impression on you?

Terry Waite. His book, Taken on Trust, details his experience as a hostage. It’s incredible what he went through in solitary confinement all those years – normal humans would break. He not only came back from that, he also became a passionate campaigner for other hostages and set up Hostages UK and then Hostage International.

Terry is involved in lots of other charities such as the homelessness charity, Emmaus. I wrote to him out of the blue and he took the time to come to Gorton to meet us. He very kindly supported our campaign and became a patron of our trust. He’s an incredible man who’s become a dear friend. He has such strength. He’s a gentle giant with a heart of gold.

What have you read recently that resonated with you?

Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks. He calculated the average lifespan as 4,000 weeks. Paul and I were laughing and wondering how many weeks we have left. It’s quite scary to think about your life as 4,000 weeks, because it doesn’t seem very long. But it’s an interesting way to think about it! Oliver Burkeman questions why we worry about small things and things we can’t change.

Paul’s mum died leaving behind 5 little kids when he was 12. She used to say, it’s just a swallow’s dive. She was so right…life is just a swallow’s dive.

Life is just a swallow’s dive.

What’s on your bucket list?

I’d love to go on safari in Africa to see the white lions. And I’d like to visit some of the sacred sites around the world that are off the tourist track. When I was younger, it would’ve been to backpack around South America.

When I was a student, I went all over Europe with friends. In those days you could buy an Interrail ticket that lasted a whole month for £28. When we were on an overnight train, we’d string up our washing to dry from the luggage racks and fall asleep. We’d wake up realising we were getting off at the next stop and had to rush to gather up all our washing. It was hilarious and we met some incredible people. I’ve been very lucky.

What advice would you give women thinking of starting a challenging project?

Sometimes, you’ll have to learn from failure but when you try again you’ll be able to do it. But avoid the folly of keeping on going when you sense things aren’t right. Ask yourself if you’re motivated enough to do it and where it’s going to take you. If it doesn’t align with where you want to be or it’s something that’s not that meaningful, maybe let it go. But if it’s going to make a difference and it’s your passion, don’t let go. It’s about balancing your decision with everything else going on in your life.

I use the phrase ‘divine timing’ a lot these days – for when things fall into place at the right time.

Ongoing conservation of The Monastery relies on donations and revenue from venue hire. It’s open to the public from Sunday to Thursday and has a variety of heritage tours and wellness activities. There’s also a free listening service and daily hour of silence. The Monastery houses several charities including the Manchester Camerata orchestra, who run a music cafe for people living with dementia. On Fridays, Saturdays and weekday evenings The Monastery is a unique setting for weddings, concerts and corporate events. All profits are reinvested in the charitable trust.


Words | Caroline Paige   Images | Len Grant


You can easily donate to the Monastery Trust via our Just Giving charity page – click here.

Photo exhibition: Monastery dereliction, art, carvings and light

A 3-minute read

The Monastery is delighted to present a photo exhibition by Graham North, in the Great Nave. It’s a remarkable collection, spanning many years of Monastery history, all documented painstakingly by Graham. Many photos have been metamorphosed into intricate geometric designs using a range of techniques.

You can come and browse the photo exhibition any day between Sunday and Thursday, from 10am-4pm. Entrance and parking are free and our onsite café and garden are open.

In the meantime, here is the transcript of an interview with the photographer, with lots of insights into the collection, along with information about equipment and techniques used for any photography aficionados.


Qu: What is your connection with the Monastery?

I first visited the monastery in 1999 whilst doing research for my wife (Kath), into her family history as her family had lived in the area since before the monastery was built. Many members of her family had been christened there and some of them went on to get married there.

When we arrived, the monastery had obviously been closed for a number of years, but there was a contact number on a board which we rang and spoke to the Monastery Trust. We were invited to come to a meeting a few days later at a local centre, and we met some of the people who were involved in the trust, and consequently we attended an open day.

Some of the first pictures in my Derelict Monastery exhibition were taken on that first open day visit to the monastery.

Qu. What inspired your collection?

I have always liked taking photographs of beautiful and impressive buildings and the monastery has these qualities in abundance, especially so when it was in its most derelict state. When I first saw the inside of the building I wanted to take pictures of all the broken altars from every possible angle, and every aspect of the dereliction that I could capture with my camera. This building was a gold mine of beautiful pictures. Even the most unpleasant scenes of decay and destruction held, for me, a great attraction, and all this was almost on my doorstep.

Qu. Can you talk about the techniques you use to create your magical images?

I have a series of pictures which I have called Artfotos. These are pictures that I have taken during the course of events, or just ordinary day to day photos taken in and around the monastery. Some of these photos I have altered in such a way that they might be changed so completely that they are quite difficult to recognise the original picture. It could be the simplest of changes, what I call cut and flip where I crop the picture and copy one half, then flip it over and stitch it on to the original image. I might do this multiple times for one picture. The results can be very effective. I might also use dark or light vignettes to soften or fade out the edges. Another tool I often use is colour saturation which creates vibrant colours. I might also superimpose various extra elements from different pictures, like using Christmas tree lights on a darkened background to create a starry sky effect. Using these tricks I have created some pictures that appear to be taken from outer space. I have had a lot of enjoyment making these pictures, and the only rule that I keep to is that I never use any image or element that has not been taken within the monastery grounds.

Qu. What camera equipment did you use and why?

When I started taking these pictures I was using a small digital pocket camera made by Fuji, because that was what I had at the time. Most of the ‘Derelict Monastery’ exhibition was taken with this camera.  After a while I bought a couple of Minolta cameras, models MD5 and MD7, and bought extra lenses from E-bay whenever I could afford them, These cameras were quite large and cumbersome for me so after a few years, when Minolta sold their business to Sony, I changed to the smaller but better quality Sony cameras, I still use these quite often but have also bought a Nikon which is now my most versatile camera.

For digital development of photos I use mainly Windows standard computer software, and sometimes for the Artfotos I use Lightroom, which I have an old basic version of, I don’t use it that very often, as I only have it on an old laptop which is about fifteen years old.

I find the most useful tool is the ability to see the pictures in my head before I take them. I try to imagine not just the subject but the background of any photo before I take the picture. I think that if you have your frame set straight, in focus, and centralised, remembering that the background is just as important as the subject, then you have the makings of a really good picture.

Qu. How long is the exhibition on show for?

The exhibitions are usually on show from Sundays through to Thursdays during the regular monastery open days, unless we have to remove them to make way for special services or events in the monastery.

Qu. How many photos are in the exhibition?

This can vary, as I occasionally make changes and updates to the exhibitions. There are usually four separate categories,

1. The derelict monastery

a series showing the monastery when it was in its derelict state before the restoration work started.

2. Artfotos in the monastery

these pictures have been changed to create imaginary views within the monastery.

3. Trick of the light

a set of photos showing various light effects either purposely generated by the structure of the building, or created unintentionally by shadows, or actions during events in the monastery.

4. Carvings around the Monastery

Photos taken during a journey around the roof of the monastery from the cradle of a high cherry picker as it made its way around the monastery.

All these exhibitions consist of frames each containing two or three photos. In total there are about forty five frames, so there could be in excess of 100 pictures.

Qu. How many years do they span?

I started taking these photos in 1999 and have continued taking them since then, so it is pretty much an ongoing project.


Many thanks to Graham North for sharing his artwork with the community, please feel free to come and explore.

National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant Awarded to Gorton Monastery

The Monastery of St Francis & Gorton Trust has been awarded a £232,000 Heritage Resilience grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund so that the Trust can continue to develop and deliver its important charitable work in the community.

This exciting project, Unlocking the Social & Cultural Capital of the Monastery, will include plans to ensure that the Grade II* listed Monastery can be future proofed for the years ahead. This extensive programme of development work will begin immediately and run until July 2024. This important grant support will not only ensure the Monastery’s continued success and survival during these challenging times, but it will help to develop and sustain the Trust’s visionary work for future generations across a wide range of health, wellbeing, cultural and charitable activities that serve our community, our visitors and the city.

Planning the sustainability of this precious heritage site is more important than ever before following the impact of recent lockdowns and substantial increases in energy costs. This short-term resilience funding enables us to define the new sustainable operational priorities for the ongoing Quinquennial heritage works and the Carbon Management plans. That detailed work will then inform and evaluate the Trust’s future priorities for its heating systems around new boilers, solar, ground source heat pumps, external works, window seals and external decoration.

The Monastery is one of Manchester’s much loved architectural treasures that was rescued from ruin by local volunteers over 25 years ago and it has been serving the city as a cultural and community resource ever since.

Elaine Griffiths CEO of The Monastery of St Francis & Gorton Trust said,

“Gorton Monastery is already a hugely significant landmark for the people of Manchester and is a well-used community space. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this project will future proof the Monastery and demonstrates how a heritage building can provide a much-loved resource at the heart of the community. The Monastery not only provides an important link to a community’s roots, but its daily programme of activities continues to inspire and support the health and wellbeing of all of its visitors and local residents.”


About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.

www.heritagefund.org.uk

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

#NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Is Science Finally Accepting The Extraordinary? | Dr. Jeannine Goh

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” – Nikola Tesla

Have you ever had an experience that blew your mind and shook your reality? Have you had an experience that made you question all that you knew? Maybe you have had a strange synchronous encounter that changed your life? We often hear people talking of a guardian angel that appears at a significant moment, or a voice…or a figure, or even a goosebump moment of just knowing? These types of curious happenings and meanderings are common occurrences within the religious or spiritual paradigms and also in the spooky and paranormal paradigms, but what does science have to say about all of this?

Rigid Boundaries of Science

In traditional science seeing really is believing and unless something can be measured it is not considered to exist. Moreover, if you did go to the doctor and talk about hearing a voice or something extraordinary they may well whip out the DSM-IV and start looking to categorise you as schizophrenic, or try to give you some kind of label for mental distress and medication. However, voice hearers throughout the world who have been categorised, astutely point out that both Jesus and Moses heard voices and more and more Science is having to move its rigid boundaries to accommodate some very clear findings that maybe these extraordinary phenomenon do actually occur.

I wonder where you sit in this debate?

The Extraordinary

What if I divulged to you that even as a Doctor of Psychology myself, that I have heard voices at times? Would you think I needed to see a psychiatrist? What if I told you that before a meeting with Elaine Griffiths, CEO of The Monastery, I was driving up the road, planning how I was going to explain to her that I did not want to collaborate again on a previous project.

Then, I heard a voice.

It was so clear and so profound I pulled over and I recorded myself repeating the 4 words that were being echoed to me. On meeting Elaine, I told her the four words and she wrote them down and as I was talking, I noticed she kept underlining them and drawing boxes around them. It was those four words that led me to work with Elaine directing the Modern-Day Monastery and to becoming the Co-Director of The Sanctuary.

What are you thinking now? Are you judging me and this situation? If so, what is that judgement based on? Do you think I need to call the psychiatrist or are you intrigued? I will write again about those four words but that’s not for now.

Post Materialist Manifesto

For now, I want to just stay with the idea of The Extraordinary and the forms it can take, as well as whether or not the rigid boundaries of Science and what we as a collective believe, are actually moving. Allegedly they are! With the advent of quantum physics and movements like the post-materialist manifesto, things are changing. It is suggested that there is a revolution brewing in modern thought, with academics from all around the world ‘coming out’ as believing far more than they are able to publish in their research. Next week, I am excited to be going to meet some of these Scientists and I will hopefully be gaining an explanation as to what that voice and those four words really are.

Science & Consciousness Conference

This is all happening at the Science and Consciousness Conference at Broughton Hall, which is run by Ubiquity University. Looking at the schedule, it looks like quite an event. They will be running live experiments that illustrate that remote viewing is possible and that we are all connected. They will be showing us exactly what consciousness and oneness is, through more experiments and using equipment set up from the infamous Princeton experiments. We will watch leading academics illustrate to us that there is much more to the world than meets the eye and certainly more than Science would allows us to believe or thoroughly investigate.

These mind-blowing few days are taking place at the beautiful Avalon Retreat Centre at Broughton Hall and starts on Samhain. I believe there are a few tickets left if you want to see for yourself. Or, if it’s all too spooky and strange for you and you are happy with your understanding of reality then that is great too. I suppose that if we are all connected, it means that if I am going you are kind of going too!

This visit is also the beginning of our collaboration with Broughton Hall and Ubiquity University so look out for the forthcoming courses.

We hope to bring this fascinating event to The Monastery next year. In the meantime, if you’d like more info about this year’s conference, you can do so by clicking here.


Words | Dr. Jeannine Goh

When Having A Baby Messes With Your Mental Health | Dr. Hayley Dunn

Pregnancy and childbirth can have a profound impact on mothers’ mental health. In this article, Dr. Hayley Dunn discusses trauma symptoms & how to get help.

A 5-minute read

Pregnancy, Childbirth & Mental Health

Having a new baby should be a time of joy and love. For some, however, this time is marred by jarring memories of what happened to them while they were giving birth. My interest in perinatal trauma began after the birth of my own son. My experiences left me horribly anxious and haunted by memories. I struggled to process my feelings whilst also adjusting to being a mum. I felt like no one wanted to hear my story, and that I had nowhere to turn. As part of my healing I learnt as much as I could about trauma, determined to understand what had happened to me.

What Is Perinatal Trauma?

Perinatal trauma refers to lasting emotional scars caused by painful or frightening memories from pregnancy, birth or just after. For some people, feelings associated with these memories fade on their own within a few months. For others, they can linger, overshadowing playdates, ruining birthdays and damaging relationships. In these cases, professional help can help to heal this pain and stress, removing the power that memories have over you. Allowing you to move on and start creating happier memories.

Trauma is caused by experiencing acute fear or pain, or feeling like someone’s life is in danger. 1 in 3 births are described as traumatic but trauma is not limited to having a difficult birth. Many people develop trauma symptoms after experiencing extreme morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Breastfeeding can be another source of trauma. Without adequate support, women can struggle desperately trying to feed their babies. Breastfeeding can be much harder after a traumatic birth. This can be a double whammy of pain and distress for new mums.

Pregnancy And Birth Related PTSD

For a small number (1-6%), these lingering feelings can even develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Untreated this can have huge consequences for both mum and the rest of the family. It can be harder to bond with your baby. Your relationship with your partner may break down. Your own mental health can end up in a negative spiral.

Secondary Trauma

Anyone can be traumatised by experiencing or witnessing horrendous, life threatening events. Mothers, partners, even midwives and doctors. The fear of thinking that someone you love or who is in your care is going to die can be just as traumatic as going through it yourself. This is known as secondary trauma, and can also have lasting effects on mental health.

Vulnerable Groups

Some people are particularly vulnerable to being traumatised. Eg: Anyone who is highly sensitive or anxious, such as neurodivergent people (eg autistic or ADHD), people who experience body dysmorphia, survivors of abuse or oppression, or previous traumatic events. All of these groups can easily be re-traumatised. To these individuals, events that seem fine from the outside can be overwhelming and terrifying. They need knowledgeable, sensitive, responsive care to prevent acute lasting distress.

My Own Experience

In my case, my son’s birth was all fairly routine, nothing dramatic happened but I felt terrified, alone and out of control. This had little to do with what was really happening at the time. It was undiagnosed, untreated PTSD from my childhood that for me triggered serious mental health problems. Even after my baby was born I continued to struggle mentally and emotionally for some time after, not really understanding what was happening to me. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t trust anyone else to look after my baby. I had constant mental images of bad things happening to him, even images of me hurting him. Things that once made me feel happy felt stressful and pointless.

Trauma Symptoms

Symptoms of trauma are different for everyone. Generally it involves anxiety, disturbed sleep and uncontrollable upsetting thoughts or memories. Fear grips you even though you know you are safe. You might lie awake at night terrified that something bad is going to happen to your baby. You could be plagued by nightmares, making you fearful of sleeping. You might avoid things that remind you of what happened. You might even struggle to look at your baby without being reminded of the horror. You might feel numb and empty, unable to connect with others.

Isolation

It can be difficult to know what to do with these feelings and thoughts. Untreated trauma can be incredibly isolating. Often, telling someone about it, gets dismissed with comments like ‘Well, at least you’ve got a healthy baby’. Comments like this left me feeling even worse. I felt misunderstood, ashamed and alone, bitter and angry. Of course I loved my baby, but my love did not magically heal those wounds.

Help Is Available

Its so important not to suffer in silence. It is totally possible to recover from birth and other perinatal traumas. Even PTSD can be treated. Get your GP to refer you for trauma-focused therapy such as EMDR, or Rewind. Seek out a counsellor experienced in treating trauma.

I eventually saw a counsellor and began to heal. My healing journey led me to becoming a doula so that I could prevent others from going through birth and perinatal trauma. I later trained as a counsellor so I could have more tools for easing the symptoms of trauma.

What Is A Doula?

A doula is a professional birth companion. You can hire them when you are pregnant and they will accompany you through your pregnancy and the whole of labour and birth. They provide evidence based information, birth education as well as emotional support. They are not a replacement for your midwife or partner. Instead they work along side your birth team, providing continuous emotional support and knowledgeable, practical guidance and encouragement. They can also be hired to help out in the postnatal period, giving hands on practical support in your home whilst you adjust to being a parent.

Trauma Is Avoidable

Its important to remember that trauma is avoidable and birth doesn’t have to be traumatic. The most effective way to prevent lasting trauma is person-centred care. If you are pregnant, make your maternity team aware of your history, or hire a doula to ensure you get sensitive, individualised support. With responsive, reassuring care even if your pregnancy and birth don’t go according to plan, you can adapt and feel in control which cis the best way to prevent lasting traumatisation.


Dr. Hayley Dunn trained and qualified as a geneticist, before becoming a mother and dedicating herself to exploring the reasons why pregnancy and childbirth can sometimes have unexpected consequences on mental health. Since then, Dr. Dunn has specialised in perinatal, birth related and postnatal trauma, helping others to navigate the huge changes and challenges that motherhood brings as a counsellor & doula. You can check out Hayley’s website here or follow her on Facebook here.

 

If you’d like some help and support for any reason, there is a free counselling & listening service available Sun-Thu each week at the Monastery. For more information and to book an appointment, click here.

Job Vacancy: Wedding & Special Event Co-ordinator

The Monastery Manchester is looking for an exceptional Wedding & Special Event Co-ordinator for our award-winning venue. Competitive Salary plus incentive scheme/depending on skills and experience.

The Monastery operates as a community charity, a heritage visitor attraction and a weddings and special events venue as well as being an educational, training, cultural and community venue with a spiritual sanctuary and wellbeing centre. We have an exciting and varied programme of events and visitors… so no day is ever the same!

Who we are

The Monastery of St Francis & Gorton Trust owns this precious heritage site, it is a registered charity and building preservation trust set up in 1996 to save, restore and find a sustainable new use for E W Pugin’s architectural masterpiece, known locally as Gorton Monastery.

The significance of Pugin’s derelict site led to its listing by the World Monument Fund in New York as one of the “100 Most Endangered Sites in the World” and led to its nickname as Manchester’s Taj Mahal. The Trust is now in its 25th year with an award-winning track record as a wedding and events venue.

Who we’re looking for

We are looking for an exceptional and experienced wedding & special events co-ordinator who will assist the Senior Sales & Event Coordinator by generating new business for the Monastery.

Your key responsibilities will be to deal with website, email and telephone enquiries. You will convert these wedding enquiries and special event leads into bookings. From that very first contact you will nurture and develop a friendly and professional relationship with potential clients to ensure that they have the best possible experience when holding their wedding or event at the Monastery.

You will need to be someone who loves working with people who is efficient, organised and good at making things happen. Above all, you must truly enjoy the wedding environment and be self-motivated to do well for themselves and the charity owned Monastery.

You will be working with a wide range of clients and liaising with catering and event partners as well as sharing the building and working alongside community, charity and trusted partners who deliver health, education and outreach projects.

What it’s like to work here

We are a small, friendly and highly motivated, inclusive, hands on and happy team with a big vision for our Modern Day Monastery to thrive and serve its highest possible purpose for our clients and our community.

We’re a passionate bunch and we enjoy learning from each other. We thrive on change and love working in such an inspirational and unique site. We are all keen to do good and to put something back into society. We make sure we support others through our community and charitable partnerships.

Many roles at The Monastery are customer and community facing, with all teams working hard to make everyone feel welcome and valued while we maintain superb standards of service. This is an opportunity to make a real difference in the widest sense and to become a valued member of our Monastery team.

The skills you will need

To be successful in your application for the position of Wedding and Special Event Co-ordinator you will need the following skills in your toolkit;

  • Be a meeting & events professional with a minimum of one-year event sales experience in the hotel/venue/hospitality industry.
  • Enjoy working and dealing with the public and being part of a team
  • Be confident, pleasant and a good communicator, able to stay calm under pressure
  • Be efficient, organised and self-motivated
  • Have strong presentation and interpersonal skills
  • Have an excellent command of the English language
  • Be able to demonstrate your progress, success and achievements in a steady career path to date
  • Be computer literate with an understanding of Microsoft Office, databases and a knowledge of venue booking systems
  • Have high standards in your work and client correspondence
  • Have a flexible approach to working as the hours for this role may include some weekend and evening working
  • Have a strong eye for detail to ensure the client expectations are exceeded
  • Have strong organisational and multi-tasking skills to match the variety of meetings, activities and exciting events that may take place each day
  • A high standard of personal presentation
  • Understand the importance of maintaining a professional outlook with clients and visitors.

About the Monastery

As a multi-purpose heritage site owned by a charity, the building is available for exclusive hire every Friday and Saturday and after 4pm most days. The venue is operated by its trading subsidiary The Monastery, Manchester, a winner of over 30 prestigious UK & International Awards (including Best Manchester Wedding Venue 2021).

All proceeds from events are donated to the charitable trust to support the maintenance and upkeep of this precious heritage site as well as our charitable and community projects in education, skills, arts and health.

The Trust’s 4 pillars of work are: Heritage & Culture; Health & Well-being; Ceremony & Celebration; Wisdom & Consciousness.

Our Modern Day Monastery

An extraordinary place to visit
A sanctuary with a heart full of peace
An architectural wonder
And an intellectual feast

To find out more about The Monastery and our work please follow us!

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Email for applications please: trust@themonastery.co.uk 

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