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Aspiration and Inspiration

A few weeks ago, I sat down with a potential funder to talk about project budgets, future planning, workshop dates, outcomes and all the bells and whistles that go with grant funding and applications in the VCSE sector. Her first comments were on the beauty of the location in which we met, and I explained that some of our workshops were planned to take place there in coming months. Walk with me as I explain....

Light, bright, floor to ceiling glass, and the sun is shining in from the highstreet. People are walking by, to work, from work, for a bit of shopping - and there is a buzz of community surrounding this space, this place. It may well be it's proximity to the recently renovated bus station; which plays host to the reliably, relentless 192 to and from the city or perhaps it's the stone's throw away railway station that can take you to London just as easily pop you back into the heart of Manchester.

I tap my access card, and meander down the corridors, gentle natural light combined with effervescent lighting - this is important.

Probation centres, and some women's centres have a prepencity to be dark, drab, desolate places. No amount of sunshine vinyl stickers and smiling faces of families and probation workers arm in arm will convince you that you are anywhere else but what the law requires of you - attending.

When we go to prison, we relinquish choice, freedom and expectation. When we come home, as much as our duty and dedication to honouring that freedom must hold, it often leaves us reeling from the familiar clang of a door, the formality of the system, the power dynamic and lets face it - the utterly despicable tea and coffee. Reminiscent in so many ways of the prison experience and often, women, who come home, sit on the faux leather sofa's looking at the occasionally free toiletries, chocolates and food bank parcels on offer with a sense of "so this is life now," and it doesn't fill them, nor did it fill me with hope, optimism and most importantly, it did what prison does; it drained me of my self-worth. Sitting there, waiting. Dreary, drab and reminded - we care this much about you. In an over-burdened, under-budgeted, over-burgeoning system such as criminal justice; it's a fair thing to assume, niceities and localities go out the window.

So when designing Coming Home as a program to be delivered in a community, face to face setting, there was always one want and need at the forefront - location. Yes, pragmatic in access, transport, and everything we want from attending a session, workshop or meeting but most importantly, a beautiful, exciting, modern, bright space that fills you with asipiration as the doors gently whizz open. No clanging of heavy metal doors and probation passes here, glass doors that slide to welcome you. Trendy lights that dangle with Edison bulbs reminiscent of quirky bars in the norther quarter and coffee shops that you could spend days in; people working on laptops, in conversation, laughing and nodding hello as you walk by.

A Coming Home workshop will always be, central to a train station/bus station, in a corporate-esque setting, where women who trunch from probation appointments with little hope of change, suit up, boot up, and rock up to a workshop that could change their life.

Thats why I sit in bougie office spaces made for instagram, it's not for content, it's for work ethic, it's for motivation and drive and more than that, it's a daily reminder - I belong here. You belong here. If you want to get back on the career ladder in whatever form that takes for you, marketing, digital and tech, administration, business strategy, HR - Coming Home is here to help you make that happen. To bring you home, to safe spaces that allow for creativity, individuality, humanity and hope. So the only questions is.... cappuccino or flatwhite? Because we got both.

Coming Home 4 day workshop programmes will be in Stockport, Salford and Manchester City Centre - head to our registration page to sign up or find out more.


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