Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000


The Friends of the Whitworth seek funds to support the next phase of ‘GROW’, a pioneering outdoor volunteer programme that targets some of the most marginalised people in society (please see enclosed video). Managed by the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, to date the programme has demonstrated how powerful horticultural and outdoor work can be for mental and physical wellbeing. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is greater demand than the current project can deliver.

This next phase of ‘GROW’ will expand the ambition and scope of the programme, with up to 20 new volunteers both creating and maintaining a new Community Garden in the public park that surrounds the gallery. The programme will now also offer volunteering at various levels of commitment that is more directly linked to employability. Volunteers will be supported and mentored by the Whitworth's 'Cultural Park Keeper' (the only such role in the UK), visiting artists and a by range of experts in horticulture and landscape design.

The Friends of the Whitworth was founded in 1933 and became a charity in 2013. We have a membership of almost 700 with many of our members taking an increasingly active role in volunteering, both within the gallery and in the beautiful landscape around it. As volunteers, we work alongside a wide range of people from the communities that surround the gallery, including Rusholme and Moss Side, two of the most deprived wards, not only in Manchester but across the entire UK. Through this work, we have witnessed the often life changing effects on health and wellbeing that volunteering can offer. Further to this, we have become passionate advocates of opening up these opportunities to as many local people as possible and the ‘GROW’ programme has become our priority for support.

The next phase of ‘GROW’ will continue to be community led, working with partners including our sister organization, The Friends of Whitworth Park, which has considerable links with key community groups in our area. ‘GROW’ will aim to match the population profile in Manchester (23% BME). This will be achieved through working with existing partners including local schools, hospitals, housing associations and arts and community organisations, such as Creative Rusholme. The programme will also continue to work with specialist medical staff and patients through ongoing partnership with Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, encouraging exercise and engagement with the environment as part of recovery and treatment.

Through tasks such as helping to build raised beds and helping to grow fruit and vegetables for the community, volunteers will develop woodworking and horticultural skills. The skills acquired will extend far beyond the life of the project by installing confidence in the volunteers to pursue projects of their own whilst also helping to improve other green spaces in the community.

To create the garden, volunteers will work alongside a landscape designer, drawing on the multi-cultural nature of the neighbourhood and cultural gardening traditions. The planting schemes will reflect the nature of the communities which surround the park and the garden will be filled with plants with cultural and sacred significance. Volunteers will also be encouraged to grow their own food, with regular talks and discussions about healthy eating.

Vandalism, crime and anti-social behaviour in the park has significantly reduced in recent years due to on-going community activity and a regular but light touch police presence. The Community Garden developed by and with volunteers, has an important role to play in maintaining this behavioural change. The success of several planting schemes, which have been supported by local volunteers, and which have remained largely untouched, gives confidence that the project will encourage an even greater connection to the Park and to the local environment

Project Video

The Friends of the Whitworth

‘GROW’ volunteers will help to create a garden of peace, tranquillity and sustainability for the benefit, health and wellbeing of their local community. Moreover, the programme will offer marginalized people the opportunity to learn new skills and recognize the importance of their local green space.

Location: Whitworth Park, Manchester, United Kingdom