I am writing this as a key founder of the most recent incarnation of one of Beeston’s most valued institutions Paul Walsh, begins his retirement. Luckily, I caught up with him just before his wife Sue whisked him off to Paris for a well-earned summer break.

As Paul pointed out, Middle Street gets a mention in lots of our back issues, but hasn’t featured as a main article as yet, so it’s time to remedy that! In fact, there were three articles in the last issue that featured the Centre in one way or another, and this prompted the conversation between me and Paul. It really does deserve its own write-up.

MSRC celebrated its 50th Anniversary in October 2022 and in May of this year was presented with a certificate of recognition by the Mayor of Broxtowe. The Centre was built in 1972 as a Beeston Psychiatric Day Centre by Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC). Due to a team of dedicated staff, a community evolved within the group that used the Centre.

‘Originally 74 Middle Street was just a building. Over time it became an idea that many people thought was worth fighting for. This idea was that vulnerable people deserved the best possible support and comfort.’ (quote from website)

There have been troubling times though for MSRC, and it faced the threat of closure in 2010. Paul tells me that this was reversed by the staunch efforts of pressure groups, including/led by Mindset Charity, who proved how vital the resource was to the community. Due to generous support from local benefactors Beeston Consolidated Charity (BCC) and funding from National Lottery grants, MSRC is now able to finance a team of key people that currently provide support for an estimated fifty people on busier days.

The significant investment from Nottinghamshire County Council meant that improvements to facilities could be actioned and the Centre underwent a £500,000 refurbishment which was to include improved access to the building, a new reception area, kitchen, and cafe space at the heart of the Centre. They have also more recently received funding from National Grid to improve the gardening facilities and currently grow produce in a polytunnel, which is then used in the café to prepare nutritious meals for visitors.

Users of the Centre take part in the daily operations at Middle Street, using the Co-Production principle, which Paul says is the main contributor to its success. As we sit in the café space I am aware of a social crafting group creating together around one of the round tables. They tell me they run drop-in sessions twice a week and anyone is welcome.

It is peer-led initiatives like this that make Middle Street such a welcoming place and the services offered seem much more accessible to people who are dropping in for the first time and seeking support. In fact, while we were talking Paul needed to take a break briefly to speak to a young man who had been signposted to the Centre due to recent struggles with his mental health. I listened discreetly, as Paul talked him through some of the groups he could access, posters for which cover one side of a display board in a prominent place in the café area.

As well as the walking group, which the young man seemed most interested in, there are many other volunteer led groups and regular sessions on offer. There are opportunities to get involved with music (both playing instruments and singing), arts and craft sessions, wellbeing and relaxation and writing groups – one of which is run by Dave Wood who has also been featured in this issue.

There is also a well-stocked library, where some of the writing groups meet, and community groups can hire rooms on an hourly basis which supports the Centre financially as well as brings in a diverse mix of people which integrate well with some of the centre users.

Paul is incredibly proud of what they have achieved at MSRC, and so he should be. Not stepping back completely, he will be continuing to work from home one day a week, to support the existing team, with former trustee Colin Failes stepping forward to take on some of his duties at the Centre.

Despite the lockdowns, the team continued to help people over the phone and supplied meals to the most vulnerable in the community. Another one of their great assets, the well-maintained garden space kitted out with outdoor tables and seating, meant they could open up a bit earlier post lockdown. This was indeed a blessing at an incredibly challenging time.

As a volunteer at the MSRC for over five years now, I have had the privilege of working with Paul, Robert, Mike, Lynda, and others that have assisted me with the running of my mindful creative sessions. Paul tells me they have been awarded some extra funding to employ an additional mental health support worker too, which is excellent news!

The Heritage of Middle Street Resource Centre Exhibition

2022 marked 50 years since MSRC first opened its doors. They can claim half a century of support for the wellbeing of thousands of local people with enduring mental health ill health, who were vulnerable to becoming socially excluded from mainstream society.

As part of the work to commemorate this amazing achievement, a project run by NTU and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund was undertaken to highlight the incredible service that provide to the community. Led by Verusca Calabria, Geraldine Brady and Dale Copley the result of their sterling work is the presentation containing the history of mental health day care centres, of Middle Street itself and the campaign to save it back in 2010.

There are testimonials from those who use and value the service MSRC provides and examples of artwork created by Beeston Women’s Group in sessions facilitated by Lauren Hunt of Thortify – a wellbeing initiative that uses art and creativity to support people with their mental health.

“The first thing that struck me about Middle Street is how welcoming it is, you can come along with any lived experience of mental health, no matter how old you are, no matter how you live, no matter what postcode you are. If you want to come along and be part of it, you’re really welcome to join in.”

“From entering the Centre I felt instantly connected, I felt like the Centre was a second home. I feel safe, confident, comfortable and happy. I met a lot of wonderful and incredible people, who in their own way inspired me.”

I think that pretty much sums up why we should be shouting about this amazing resource and saying a public “Thank you” to the people that make is what it is – a safe space for those people in our community who might otherwise have nowhere to belong. Do support it if you can.