When 63-year-old Pauline Omoboye moved to Manchester from Jamaica with her parents and six siblings in the 1950s, they hoped for new opportunities. But Pauline recalls how hard it was for the family to fit in.
“My dad experienced lots of negativity in the workplace. It was constant, every day. His work colleagues would use it against him, some in humour, some more malicious,” says Pauline.
“When he used to enter the pub, first of all it would clear, and people would move to opposite sides of the building to get away from him, and secondly, after he had finished drinking, the barman would smash the glass.”
Those feelings of being isolated and excluded stayed with Pauline in the 1980s when she had children of her own.
One day, her son was racially abused at school so Pauline wrote him a poem with the message that everyone is beautiful the way they are.
Pauline went on to publish a poetry book, Purple Mother and kept up her writing with her poems appearing in anthologies over the years, but when Covid hit she lost all the things that kept her active and creative, becoming isolated and low.
That was until she discovered Made By Mortals in the summer of 2021.
The project, based in Tameside, Greater Manchester, crosses the generations, bringing together the community to create music, theatre and podcasts for children.
Pauline fitted right in and when she was asked to share her experiences of inequality for Black History Month in October 2021 for the kids’ podcast Armchair Adventures, she was able to relate them to modern movements such as Black Lives Matter.
“It has opened my eyes to new things – I’d never even heard of a podcast prior to Armchair Adventures!” says Pauline.
“The whole experience has been a learning curve. I’ve met so many friendly and wonderful people during this journey and enjoyed everything we’ve produced.
"It’s worked very well for my mental health and has helped and prevented the feelings of isolation I struggled with before I started working with Made By Mortals.”
Project director Paul Hine is keen to bring the community back together after Covid lockdown.
“The last couple of years have been incredibly difficult for older people in our community. It has been an especially hard time for those who were already managing health, care and other concerns before the pandemic hit,” he says.
“Tameside experienced some of the worst outcomes of Covid-19 in the UK and a recent survey of young people in Greater Manchester found that it was one of the loneliest places in the region to live.“
"The pandemic made a lot of people, particularly older ones, feel quite vulnerable. In community work, we always try and avoid calling people ‘vulnerable’ but for some reason, during the pandemic, if you were of a certain age, you were labelled that way.
"That’s had a real knock-on effect to how they approached life and how they felt about themselves. It’s been tough to help people build themselves back up once they’ve been given that label,” says Paul.
But with plenty of opportunities to get creative, learn new skills and find like-minded friends, Made By Mortals is giving people a new lease of life – and funds raised through The Health Lottery have been a real boost.
“Bringing people back together, building their confidence back up, building their social connections back up, that’s what those funds did for us,” says Paul.
“A lot of the people we work with have long-term health conditions and worry about how they will be able to take part in music, drama, movement and recording technology.
"They’re worried, for example about needing to go to the toilet regularly, or about being in pain during the sessions, so that will be a barrier to them getting involved.
“So we have a very accessible model – with what we call a sliding scale of participation – and that means that you’re able to take part wherever you’re at that day - and it’s our job to make sure that it’s accessible to you and what you have to offer – your imagination, your enthusiasm, your experience, your skills.”
“It’s just about coming up with the right systems in place so that they can be creative and engaged,” says Paul. “And that in our small way, is what we’re trying to do.”
“Thanks to the money raised through The Health Lottery, we've been able to continue our Armchair Adventures programme and in doing so, helped to rebuild people’s confidence and social connection caused by the pandemic, whilst also making some great art together!"
Made By Mortals
Made By Mortals: Bringing people’s experience to life
Immersive podcasts, films and musical theatre shows in collaboration with world-class professional artists, health and social care organisations and a wonderful mix of community participants
Armchair Adventures (podcast) funded £33,050 through Health Lottery North West
Made By Mortals
Armchair Adventures Podcast