Charity and community hub in Rochdale town centre opened by Nazir Afzal

Date published: 29 July 2021

The new charity and community hub in the former Marks & Spencer building on Yorkshire Street in Rochdale town centre, which is now known as the 'Better Together' building, was officially opened on Saturday 24 July by the former Chief Prosecutor for the North West of England and the present Chair of Hopwood Hall College, Nazir Afzal OBE.

Other special guests included, Rev Charles Kwaku-Odoi Chief Officer of the Caribbean and African Health Network (CAHN), Maqsood Ahmad OBE Chief Executive Officer of the British Muslim Heritage Centre and Professor Erinma Bell MBE who co-founded the Community Alliance for Renewal, Inner South Manchester Area (CARISMA).

The space at the former department store on Yorkshire Street is being offered for free use to charities or community groups through an organisation, ASTOP, which works to give vacant buildings a new purpose.

The two main charities linked with the project were represented by Shaylesh Patel of Temporary Use Aid/Rainbow Rising and Yusuf Bashforth and Junaid Rahim who are the founders of the Global Educational Trust.

Yusuf said: "Allah says in the holy Quran; 'We have made you into Nations and Tribes so you may come to know one another'. To truly know someone, you have to learn so much about them and in doing so you learn so much from them. This the very ethos of Better Together and Rainbow Rising."



Maqsood Ahmad also tweeted: "Pleasure to say few words this morning at the opening of “Better Together Building” in Rochdale. Fantastic initiative bringing diverse communities groups together under one roof to support the most vulnerable within our society."

Better Together is occupied by Mind Rochdale, Caring & Sharing, Reuse Littleborough, Global Educational Trust, Bridging Communities, Go Dharmic, Big Life Group, New Step for African Community (NESTAC), Showing Care, and De Butterfly community groups, with other charities set to join the project in the coming months.


Rev Charles Kwaku-Odoi speaking at the opening of Better Together
Rev Charles Kwaku-Odoi speaking at the opening of the Better Together building


Some of its occupants offer mental health, advocacy and counselling services, whilst others seek to support the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) community, refugees and asylum seekers.

The Global Educational Trust gives donated books another chance of life by providing these for free; the books that are offered may otherwise have been pulped or put into landfill.

Reuse Littleborough – which has its main hub and ‘Second Time Around’ children’s shop in Littleborough town centre – will be using some of the ex-M&S Better Together space to sell larger items like furniture, freeing up valuable space in its other shops.

Jav Rehman, the founder and chair of Bridging Communities said: "We are proud to be part of the new venture and concept where many charities are located in the Better Together Building and it fits in with the core values of bringing services and communities together."

Mr Rehman has assisted in developing the floor space to maximise the number of charities that can use the space.

He added: "We are the birth place of the co-operative movement which has been instilled in our blood in our borough of Rochdale, which was clearly demonstrated by the voluntary during the pandemic. Now that we are coming to some form of normality we have a safe space for the residents of Rochdale to access multiple support requirements and challenge any stigma related subject areas around mental health, long term illnesses, and domestic violence. Our goal is to maximise the impact for residents of Rochdale especially the marginalised communities that have been under-engaged and under-represented in the commissioning of new services, we advocate inclusive and better consultation."

Moving forward, Bridging Communities will be creating an art space at Better Together called 'Bridging Communities Arts & Culture' where the communities of Rochdale will have an opportunity on a rotating basis where they can display their arts and cultural stories. Local schools and educational establishments will have a separate section to have their arts on display in order for the children and youths to bring their parents to the Better Together building and make intergenerational engagement ultimately “Celebrating Diversity” and learning about different cultures communities and also for the younger generations to connect with their own heritage and learn about others in safe relaxed safe environment.

The Better Together building is at 54 Yorkshire Street in Rochdale town centre. It is open Monday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm and everyone is encouraged to visit.

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