Reflecting on the BME Network Capacity Building Programme

By Atiha Chaudry, Chair of the Greater Manchester BME Network

We are enjoying our work with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and have found them to be a really innovative funder. The North West Development Team understand BME communities and the level of support they need to engage with heritage and apply for project funding.  I must acknowledge the encouragement of particular individuals; firstly Maya Sharma who gave us the initial inspiration to develop a BME Capacity Building Programme. (Maya has now moved on but remains connected with us as a mentor). Louise Southerland manages the team and has provided unbelievable support, leadership and reassurance.  And Antonia Canal who joined the team more recently brings lots of support and warmth to our partnership. 

Our journey began …….

In collaboration with the National Lottery Heritage Fund , we started a BME engagement programme focusing on capacity building support for groups interested in developing a project application.  Our first cohort comprised of 10 diverse community groups and a twelve month structured programme. Sessions gave participants a greater understanding of ‘heritage’ and provided opportunities to learn about project planning, budgets and funding application procedures.  We purposefully held all of the sessions at heritage sites giving our participants the opportunity to visit new places and make useful contacts.  Of the ten groups that started the programme, eight remained engaged for the duration. Two groups successfully applied for funding and started their projects within six months of completing the programme.  Both groups went on to deliver a second project after the successful completion of the first one. Moreover, everyone who took part in the programme acquired new knowledge and skills. We are all really delighted with the outcome, which proved very effective and great value for money.

After reviewing our learning, we were delighted when asked to consider running the programme again.

Partnering with the AIUET

Around the same time The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust also received a much larger grant to support the development, delivery and archiving of BAME heritage projects. We were pleased to partner with them to help with outreach and engagement. So far we have co-hosted two ‘Community History Showcase’ events (which take place annually), and taken part in Steering Group meetings that guide activities. AIUET staff have also hosted coffee mornings, delivered training sessions to participants and taken part in the mentoring programme. It’s great that our small project can be a complimentary link to this wider initiative, which aims to increase the visibility of BAME heritage in Greater Manchester.

Talking to Shabana Baig, Manchester Rape Crisis

Our second cohort was recruited with momentum and we had 16 community groups around the table to start their heritage journey. This time we built on our experiences and learning by adding a third element to the programme; mentors who could be a critical, supportive friend to participants.

One such participant was Shabana Baig from Manchester Rape Crisis. Shabs’ journey began when she bumped into us at the launch of our Memories of Partition exhibition (a NLHF project we delivered in partnership with the Manchester Museum, The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust and the Royal Exchange). It immediately brought back memories and got Shabs thinking about heritage. It gave me the opportunity to tell her about our Capacity Building Programme which was about to start. She jumped at the chance to join as she had a few ideas but lacked the confidence (and time) to apply.

Shabs attended six core (full day) sessions at locations including Manchester Museum, Ordsall Hall, Manchester Art Gallery, Elizabeth Gaskell House, and the Peoples’ History Museum. She also came to four (half-day, optional) skills sessions to learn more about oral history, conducting research and gathering evidence of need. She even attended every coffee and catch-up session we held to keep people connected after the structured support finished.  Shabs also met regularly with her allotted mentor, Nusrat Ahmed.  She received a special 1-to-1 with the NLHF after submitting an expression of interest, providing her with positive feedback that she used to develop her final application. Throughout the process, Shabs had access to the BME Network and AIUET team for additional support.

2019-20 programme

We started our third cohort this summer with 16 amazing organisations:

Big People Music


Turkish Association

HMR Circle

Wonderfully Made Women

Nigerian Community Association

Warriers, Survivors and Heroes

De Butterflies

Blossom Foundation

Home of Justice Network

GM Caribbean Carnival and Heritage Alliance


Holding Her Space

Zimbabwean Women’s Organisation

Linga Franca World Music Agency

The African Project 

We are part way through our structured part of the programme and having a great time.