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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.

**PLEASE NOTE: The Monastery will be closed to the public for three days from Sunday, October 17th, through to Tuesday, October 19th, 2021**

Heritage and Well-being: Guest Post

A 6-minute read.

Editor’s note: This guest post was written by our postgraduate placement students, Emma Gossage and Jenny Jackman, who are studying Cultural Heritage Management at The University of York.

Heritage and Well-being: Guest Post

Over the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has made us all more aware of the importance of looking after our health and well-being. As we have been forced to stay at home, many of us have felt the effects of loneliness and isolation.

There has been a growing recognition of the value that in-person social activities (such as visiting friends and family and engaging in cultural activities) has on our mood and emotions.

Heritage can help to increase these positive emotions and benefit overall well-being. But how?

Heritage sites have the potential to be much more than places to go to learn about history and see old objects. Heritage venues, such as churches, historic houses, museums and galleries, have the power to give us a sense of rootedness, identity and community.

Connecting heritage and well-being has the potential to enhance wellness. The unique experiences the spaces offer, through their history and heritage, can be places of safety and support for well-being projects.

At Manchester Monastery the historic spiritual spaces provide opportunity for silent contemplation and mindfulness without the structures of a traditional religious space, which could be alienating to some individuals.

Can well-being be defined?

Understanding well-being can be difficult at first, especially as it goes far beyond just mental or physical health.

The World Health Organisation first defined well-being, in 1948, as:

 “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

 Well-being is much more than just our mental or physical state. It includes anything that makes up who you are as a person and those things that affect your ability to live your life well – at any stage – regardless of physical or psychological differences.

It can include socioeconomic health (like your access to employment) as well social connections and your sense of belonging.

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing defines well-being as:

“How we’re doing” as individuals, communities and as a nation, and how sustainable that is for the future”. 

Well-being is holistic, connecting individual aspects like the body, mind, and spirit with external aspects such as your connection to people, place and the planet.

The mental health charity, Mind, have illustrated this in their ‘Wheel of Well-being’.

Wheel of Wellbeing diagram

Well-being and the historic environment

It is estimated that 1 in 6 adults in the UK experience at least one diagnosable mental illness per year. It is likely that the effects of the pandemic have greatly increased this number over the past year.

Research shows that combining heritage and well-being can positively affect an individual’s mental and physical health by providing a sense of community, increasing confidence and reducing social anxiety.

There are many more benefits, both tangible (physical things you can see or touch) and intangible (things you can’t see but can feel and know are there like emotions and opinions).

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Sense of identity and community
  • Boost in confidence and social skills
  • Feeling much more connected to your heritage and the place you live
  • Feeling safe and stable
  • Feeling increased empathy for other groups or points of view
  • Making new friends and building social and professional networks
  • Increasing exercise and physical health; generally being more active
  • Developing career opportunities and new skills
  • Finding a sense of purpose and usefulness
  • Lower numbers of people experiencing mental illnesses like anxiety and depression
  • Helping to ensure the long-term sustainability of heritage spaces
  • Heritage sites more accurately reflecting the needs of their communities
  • Helping communities to grow and develop
  • Creating intergenerational connections
  • Financial – the impact for both heritage sites and the NHS.

Government research from 2015, estimated that promoting regular visits to heritage sites and museums could save the NHS nearly £300 million a year because of a related reduction in GP and psychotherapy appointments.

Heritage and well-being at Manchester Monastery

The Monastery aims to become a hub for health and well-being projects in Manchester to become a ‘Modern-Day Monastery’. This can be achieved by bringing together heritage, spirituality, and well-being in their space to support their communities.

Originally, The Monastery was the home of Franciscan friars, and these traditional values can be brought to a modern audience to increase overall well-being.

The Monastery can embrace the traditionally religious tools that they have available in their spiritual space for secular purposes. The use of silent spaces – traditionally for prayer and religious worship – can be adapted as venues for mindfulness and meditation, which has been proven to increase overall well-being and decrease feelings of anxiety or stress that are common in modern society.

The future of heritage and well-being

Although there have already been significant developments in the study of heritage and well-being over the last few years, the field still has quite a way to go before it really reaches its full potential.

It’s more important than ever to increase accessibility to those who have previously felt excluded because of their socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or even sexual identity.

Many heritage and well-being organisations are already working to increase inclusivity. We can expect many more events and projects that focus on the mental health of the wider community – no matter what their identity may be.

This will help us to better understand how different groups respond to different heritage well-being methods, helping us fine-tune how we create future projects, appraisal styles, and frameworks.

Heritage and well-being case studies

Strawberry Field Spiritual Exploration – The Salvation Army

Previously the site of a Salvation Army children’s home – where the young John Lennon played in the grounds – Strawberry Field in Liverpool has many experiences and activities for visitors to participate in.

The core value is to take part in spiritual exploration in heritage and educational settings. With religious and secular beliefs accommodated, the centre has prayer spaces, a gratitude tree, and a general cultivated garden space open for meditation and reflection.

The centre also offers a media guide through the gardens, leading visitors on a reflective walk accompanied by relevant Beatles and John Lennon songs to bring together history and well-being.

Throughout the year, the centre offers workshops and events to allow community groups to come together. Activities can include: socially distanced garden walks with staff members to help combat Covid-19 isolation and loneliness; one on one spiritual guidance; and Reflect, Connect and Chat mornings.

The spiritual visitor journey has increased engagement with spirituality within the local community and increased visitor numbers.

Strawberry Field, Liverpool
Strawberry Field, Liverpool. Take a look at their website.

Creative Connections – Gloucester Cathedral

Designed to support adults in recovery and managing mental health issues through artistic expression, Creative Connections (a 12-week art course) was created by Gloucester Cathedral in partnership with Gloucestershire County Council Adult Education Service.

The course (designed for 9 adults referred by the local NHS recovery centre) gave participants productive and positive senses of purpose, helping them cope during their recoveries from depression.

The project coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day and local suicide prevention events to help raise community awareness for mental health issues and the final exhibition was displayed in a free exhibition in the cathedral.

Our student placement at Manchester Monastery

 Emma Gossage

My placement experience at The Monastery has been incredibly insightful, invaluable, and so interesting.

We started the placement in April 2021, when the national restrictions meant that not only was The Monastery closed and all of our university teaching was being done online but also, we were all working from home. This meant that the placement would have to be ‘virtual’, relying completely on Zoom and Google Drive.

Despite the practical difficulties of not being able to physically come to The Monastery, the staff at The Monastery, particularly Caroline and Jeannine, supported us to undertake research over 10 weeks to build a database on current heritage and well-being projects that could help guide future project and funding priorities.

Having the opportunity and support to undertake this work was invaluable for me. Before starting the placement, I had a limited understanding of well-being and its application to heritage studies or how the two can come together to support communities.

I felt the work was especially important and relevant as we were starting to come out of lockdown and it would begin to address the impact that the pandemic has had on mental and physical well-being.

Being one small part of The Monastery’s approach to helping their communities has been such an amazing opportunity and I hope that I will be able to visit The Monastery in person once restrictions are lifted!

Jenny Jackman

The experience has been extremely rewarding on an academic and personal level. Creating the database has unveiled the future possibilities of how mental health can benefit from heritage and community culture, something I was unfamiliar with before the placement.

During the pandemic, we have been relying on different sources in our local areas to help maintain our well-being. The UK has such a wealth of heritage spaces across all regions, it makes sense to use them in new ways to increase community engagement and accessibility.

I am looking forward to many of the benefits I have seen from other projects being applied to the Monastery and the Manchester/Gorton area and hope that our work really helps make an impact. I have thoroughly enjoyed my placement with the team at The Monastery and can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

We hope you have enjoyed learning more about the links between heritage and well-being and are just as keen to see future projects from The Monastery that really showcase some of those benefits!

Authors | Emma Gossage & Jenny Jackman  Editor | Dr. Caroline Paige

Emma and Jenny took part in a student placement at Manchester Monastery. If you’re looking for a student placement in Manchester, ask your university to contact us.

It’s a great way to strengthen your CV and meet others who share your interests.

Find out more

If you’d like a career in heritage management, take a look at the postgraduate MA course in Cultural Heritage Management that Emma and Jenny are studying at The University of York.

Find out more

Using Manchester Heritage to Nurture Well-being | Dr. Caroline Paige

A 5-minute read.

Heritage and well-being at Manchester Monastery

A story of community action to rescue and restore an endangered heritage site, conserving it for future generations and preserving the legacy of the community that built it. The continuing legacy of Manchester Monastery is to nurture well-being by providing a sanctuary for the people of Manchester and beyond.

Heritage projects can make a significant contribution to the way people feel about their lives. When combined with a strategic mission to improve well-being they can be a powerful force for good.

First, we’ll consider what we mean by ‘heritage’.

What is heritage?

Our heritage is what the past has given us. It’s our inheritance. It’s what we value and choose to preserve for the future.

This heritage is many different things. It can be historic sites, buildings, or objects. It can also refer to the less tangible – like customs, crafts, sports, music, folklore, and knowledge. Heritage also encompasses the natural world – everything from great landscapes and coastlines to canal paths, city parks, gardens and the creatures that live in them.

Our tangible, intangible and natural heritage and all the associated myths, legends, traditions, and memories provide us with a common language and insight that enables us to communicate on a deep level with each other and to express ourselves in a unique way to the outside world.”

The Heritage Council for Ireland

How does heritage affect our lives?

Heritage helps us understand our past and how we got to where we are today. It helps us to look at our history and traditions, so we can develop our awareness of ourselves.

This reflection on our past enables us to shape our identity and values.

Looking at our past helps us understand our present. This can inform what we value and wish to preserve – a sense of identity. 

What is community heritage?

Community heritage describes groups of people who work to preserve their local heritage. This heritage can be both tangible and intangible.

Tangible heritage is something that you can see and visit, like a building or a park.

Intangible heritage is something that you can’t see and keep in the same way but can experience – like language.

Volunteers spend many hours working to ensure that their cultural heritage is sustainable and accessible. This work can promote feelings of connectedness and belonging. A fact recognised by organisations, such as the National Lottery, who fund community heritage projects.

Next, we’ll look at the Monastery as a heritage site.

Legacy and heritage at Manchester Monastery

Manchester Monastery is a friary. Monks live in a monastery and friars live in a friary. Locals called it a monastery and the name stuck.

Built in Victorian Manchester, the Church and Friary of St Francis was confident statement of High Victorian Gothic. Designed by Edward Welby Pugin it’s an architectural masterpiece that embodies the civic pride of the community that built it.

Working at weekends and after long shifts in their paid employment, the people of Gorton laboured to build the church and its associated buildings – even children helped making bricks.

The centre of the catholic community, the site housed several schools that educated generations of children. Gorton Lane was busy with the daily bustle of local people visiting the Church of St Francis and its schools for almost a century.

Declining church attendance from the 1970s meant less money given to church collections. Financial problems worsened when local engineering works closed during years of high national unemployment.

Demolition of the many streets of terraced housing that once surrounded the church required rehousing the inhabitants throughout Greater Manchester. The loss of community meant the church was not sustainable and its doors closed.

Years of neglect followed. Stripped of assets, vandalised, and left to decay – the derelict monastery became a sad reminder of a past heyday for a community now fragmented and overlooked.

Community action overcame this. A strong community was still present, both in Gorton and further afield. Their resilience proved in the rescue and restoration of their cultural heritage.

Community heritage at Manchester Monastery

In 1996, former altar boy Paul Griffiths and his wife Elaine led local volunteers in a campaign to try to save this Manchester landmark. They formed a charitable trust and began fundraising.

“It became a labour of love for all concerned and they held a strong vision that the Monastery could once again become a sanctuary, but this time it would bring people together and be for everyone from all faiths, backgrounds, beliefs and traditions. We believed that the Monastery could have an important spiritual role to play in our secular and fast changing world, serving the multi-cultural City of Manchester and beyond.”

Elaine Griffiths, CEO, Manchester Monastery

More than a decade of dedicated campaigning and fundraising brought the funds to restore the monastery. This important part of Manchester history reopened to the public as a community, cultural and commercial venue in 2007. It wasn’t easy and they succeeded against all odds.

Manchester Monastery has won over 30 awards for its heritage and conservation achievements, its charitable work, and its success as a unique venue for hire.

Heritage, health, and well-being at Manchester Monastery

An exemplar of community heritage it makes its own income to preserve the site by operating as a venue.

Surplus profits support the Trust’s charitable work. Now in its 25th year, the Trust has its original founders and many of the original team of volunteers.

Covid-19 meant the Monastery closed for over a year. Thanks to government funding – Heritage Emergency and Cultural Recovery Grants – it has been able to survive and adapt.

Success as an events venue allowed for the careful restoration and conservation of the building – saved for future generations. The Monastery can now refocus on its heritage and charitable role in helping the Manchester community as it reshapes and rebuilds its essential wedding, events, and commercial income.

Making heritage relevant

Local heritage can play an important role in community development, but using it to create a sense of identity means more than just conserving.

“Its relevance needs to be communicated in the present so that it may continue into the future.”

UNESCO World Heritage Convention, 2013

Relevance here is the role of community heritage in promoting health and well-being.

Setting-up a centre for well-being

The Charitable Trust that owns the monastery wished to create a more deliberate offer to improve health and well-being within Greater Manchester. The new Narrative Centre, founded by Dr Jeannine Goh and Charmain Berry, seeks to provide the people of Manchester with a safe, warm, and inviting space to share and be heard.

“We understand that being heard is fundamental to our well-being. It allows us to process our pain and remember who we truly are.”

Dr Jeannine Goh

The Narrative Centre is part of the Sanctuary of Peace and Healing at Manchester Monastery, founded to seed new creative initiatives promoting health, healing, and well-being in the city.

How it will help health and well-being in Manchester

The Narrative Centre’s key initiatives are:

  • To destigmatise mental distress with a focus on compassionate health
  • A listening service and educational courses which centre on self-knowledge and self-empowerment
  • Pioneering and creative approaches to positive health choices and social and creative events.

We want visitors to feel confident and enjoy taking personal responsibility for their health.

The Listening Service offers free counselling. The Narrative Centre trains volunteer listeners in effective listening which can count towards an accredited certificate in counselling.

Manchester Monastery also provides a quiet place where you can escape from the hustle, bustle and strain of daily life. Entry is free Sunday to Thursday and there’s a one-hour silence every day at noon. A wonderful tonic for the brain, soul, and self.

Heritage and well-being – The key points

  • Our health and well-being initiatives will help the community of Manchester in line with the heritage of the site – to provide help for those in need.
  • This work enhances the relevance of the heritage site for visitors and communities today.
  • Heritage has an important role to play in improving well-being for people in the UK.
  • It can bring us together, build connectedness and belonging and provide opportunities for people to be active and feel valued.
  • Visiting or volunteering at a heritage site can boost our sense of wellness.
  • At Manchester Monastery we recognise this intrinsic value of heritage and community.
  • We do this by actively promoting these benefits and working with trusted partners in the health and well-being sector.
  • Heritage can be a powerful force to do good.
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