Mark opens pilot 'Healthy Space' in Preston

(March 27, 2014)

Mark attended the launch of a new Community Hub in the Fishergate Shopping Centre on Saturday 22nd March 2014.

The community hub is run by national charity Healthy Planet who also run the ‘Books for Free’ and ‘Stuff for Free’ initiatives which are situated on the first floor of the former TJ Hughes retail unit.

HP Volunteers 1

Mark with volunteers from the Preston Healthy Planet  Community Hub

The opening was open to members of the public and volunteers groups were on hand to promote their organisations.  Mr Hendrick took the opportunity to talk to volunteers about the work they do in the community.  He was also given a tour of the ‘Books for Free’ store which is a free volunteer-run facility that allows members of the public to take books home which would otherwise be pulped or go to landfill.

The charity offers free space to any organisation that either promotes healthy living, is educational, charitable or beneficial to the local community. The Community Hub in Preston is already home to a number of local non-profit partner organisations including Total Reuse, a furniture upcycling group; Lovecraft, a crafting group who primarily use recycled material, Aromatic Cookery, a social enterprise promoting healthy nutrition and lifestyles,  Preston United, a community group providing training skills and volunteering opportunities for young people and Release to Victory, a support service for adults who have been affected by Childhood Sexual Abuse.

The opening of the Preston Community Hub is the largest in the country and has attracted the attention of celebrity retail marketing consultant, Mary Portas.  Mary has praised the Preston initiative in a Facebook post entitled ‘I really want to go to Preston’.  She said: ‘From what they’ve told me there are Books for Free, Training and Voluntary opportunities, Tai Chi classes, creative spaces for youngsters, craft projects, relaxation and stress management, the NHS and the Red Cross – it sounds like a third sector Disneyland! I’ve just noticed Aromatic Cookery courses and socio-legal advice services on there as well. 

‘This kind of use for unwanted retail space is exactly what I had in mind when we did the original Portas Review. Towns need High Streets in good health and people need places to commune. This kind of initiative is a great guide to how we might all use space that is otherwise wasted and offers an opportunity to study in detail how it’s welcomed by local people and the benefits it provides.’

Mark said: ‘We want to see more flexible and innovative solutions like these hubs that will breathe life back into our City Centres right across the country.  I am pleased to see the council, commercial landlords and community groups working together and taking the lead in reinvigorating the city centre. This initiative has brought an insight into what I, and experts like Mary Portas, envision the future of the high street to look like. Big chains stores and small retailers can work alongside social enterprises and community led groups to foster a real community spirit that will bring benefits to everyone in Preston.’

HP Launch

Mark with Healthy Planet staff and Founder, Shaylesh Patel (centre)

Shaylesh Patel, Founder of Healthy Planet said: ‘Getting positive feedback from Mary Portas and having Mark Hendrick visit our first ‘Books for Free’ centre in Preston and our first ever large ‘Healthy Space’ adjoining it, has sparked off more ideas of how we can make the most of the space for the benefit of the community.

‘Having that kind of knowledge of local issues is how we can help grassroots activities, which add up to making a greener, healthier planet.  It's the first time we have given away over 25,000 books so quickly or had such an extensive array of local groups sharing our space.  We look forward to delivering more in the city from our Fishergate home."

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