Last week we kicked off our Rochdale Girls 2017 LEAD programme: 4 days of activities, discussions, challenges and manifesto writing, and it couldn’t have gone better! The 31 young women who joined were engaged, intelligent and a powerful force for change, and we can’t wait to see where their leadership journeys will take them, on LEAD and beyond.


These inspiring young women are just some of the many people in Rochdale we have been talking to. RECLAIM’s work is informed by the voices of people in the communities we work in – after all, they are the experts!

So, over the past few months the LEAD team have been out and about, talking to the people of Rochdale about their town. Here are a few of the things they found…

What’s the best thing about living in Rochdale?

Amongst a few votes for the Wetherspoons and Regal Pub, the most popular answer – by far – was the people and the community. Lots of people talked about strong community bonds, friendly people, and the diversity of people in the town as their favourite things about Rochdale.

“There are good people around to cheer you up.”

Other answers included the takeaways (of course – who doesn’t love food?!), the beautiful countryside which surrounds Rochdale, and the college. A few people mentioned the good transport links, and we were glad to hear someone celebrating the town’s rich and pioneering history.

What would make Rochdale even better?

From the over 25s, the overwhelming response to this was talk of the local economy, employment and businesses. Many people want to see more investment in the area so people shop locally, as well as more incentives for local businesses. Hopefully they will see a lot of their needs satisfied with the town centre regeneration that is going underway!

There was also concern about the homeless in Rochdale, and people would like to see more support for drug/alcohol addiction and homelessness.

Many younger people (under 25) often said they would like more support for the communities within Rochdale to be more close-knit: something which the LEAD girls also expressed in their manifesto (point 4). They would like to see more community spaces which are safe for children and teenagers, and more ways of opening up conversations to help bring people together.

A common answer from people of all ages was that they want to see more of a positive image of Rochdale in society, and more positive media: to show the world what a great community there is in Rochdale and make people feel proud to belong there. This is definitely something we will be working on with the Rochdale Girls LEAD project: they have already designed a logo for Rochdale to make people feel positive about their town.

What do young people in Rochdale need?

Unsurprisingly, the 15-24s have lots of ideas about what they need! Some of the most common answers included: community projects and opportunities to be leaders in their community; motivation and encouragement to believe in themselves; and a voice. These are three of the core things RECLAIM works to achieve in working class communities, and we hope we will do the young people of Rochdale proud through our LEAD projects.

Education and guidance on life (e.g. drugs awareness, employment, life skills) also came up as something they think they need more of.

From all ages, “more to do,” “more opportunities,” and “places to go” were recurring answers – lots of people feel there are not enough safe places for young people to socialise and positive activities for them to engage in. When the Rochdale LEAD Girls discussed this with members of the council last week, it turned out that a big part of this was not being aware of what is going on that they can get involved with. They suggested ways for the council to communicate better with young people, so hopefully we’ll see some positive changes there!

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These are just some of the responses we received: if you’re interested in hearing more about these consultations, please feel free to get in touch – we want as many voices to be heard as possible. Thank you to everyone in Rochdale who has talked to us over the last few months and helped us understand your community better so we can better support it.

Now over to the 12 and 13 year old girls on LEAD: Rochdale’s 21st Century pioneers for positive change…watch this space!