Went to a midsummer nights feast at Gorton Monastery last night. The magnificent former franciscian friary had fallen on hard times, the roof was in danger of collapsing and the Catholic Church had abandoned the site, and the people of Gorton, in truth.
Back in 1989 a developer had the mad idea of coverting it into flats, that didn't work and eventually the bank (RBS) handed it over to a The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust trust to restore. Elaine Griffiths did just that, raising £6.5m to restore it. She used lottery funds, European pots of money and pledges of support. The trust has now created an awesome public space.
The event was set up by Sir Howard Bernstein, the chief executive of Manchester City Council. He has this great skill of calling in favours for good causes. And one by one his business and property developer partners pledged their support for the trust. There is truly no such thing as a free dinner.
We'd certainly like to host events in such a place. We hosted a round table there three years ago and the transformation has been remarkable. Go and see it for yourself, the link to their website is here and there's a more historical account here.