National Highways sets the stage for vital community work this Christmas


22 Dec 2023

A theatre group’s first pantomime lit up the stage this Christmas thanks to help from National Highways and its partners.

National Highways sets the stage for vital community work this Christmas

The team helped create elements of the set plus a lighting desk to ensure the community show can shine this festive season.

Keeping with the festive theme, volunteers also helped cook and serve 200 Christmas dinners for older folk at a luncheon club and donated raffle and bingo prizes to help ensure seasonal celebrations were a success.

It’s all thanks to partnership work in Greater Manchester, where together with contractors Tilbury Douglas, National Highways continues to undertake social value work in the community as the £23m M67 St Anne’s Road Bridge replacement scheme progresses.

The team first helped Denton-based Ensemble Theatre group create a set for their summer production which extended to lending a helping hand for their December pantomime.

It is only one highlight this year, spotlighting how National Highways is playing its part in Tameside.

Using shared skills and expertise, an unsafe and unused area at a church has been transformed into a sensory garden for many community groups to enjoy. The teams also built benches at a newly created wildlife educational beauty spot. Team members volunteer too at the Denton Luncheon Club, which provides free meals for older folk, helping ensure this year’s festive feast was extra special, while they have also helped other community initiatives throughout the year, including Denton’s Party in the Park and Coronation celebrations.

Photo of the team creating a sensory garden for the community in Denton
The team creating a sensory garden for the community in Denton

National Highways Programme Delivery Manager Mangat Bansal, said:

“As part of our engagement with the community through the bridge scheme we became aware of various projects where we could lend a helping hand and make a real difference.

“At New Chapel Unitarian Church in Denton our crew worked with volunteers of all ages, including members of the Prince’s Trust, to create a new sensory garden, and at Dane Bank Green Space in Denton we’ve provided new benches where people can sit and enjoy the countryside.

“While our crew members were also able to lend a hand to help build elements of a stage set for a community theatrical group, helping to celebrate the return of theatre to a community hall in Denton for the first time in more than 25 years.

“It’s not just about building bridges and roads; it’s about being a good neighbour and helping locally where we can.”

Claire Firbank, for Tilbury Douglas, said:

“As a business, Tilbury Douglas takes community engagement seriously and is proud to have made a difference in Denton and the surrounding area. We will continue to support great local causes throughout the project.

“We always enjoy attending and helping at Denton luncheon club, there’s always an amazing atmosphere. The Christmas party was brilliant, and the lunch was exceptional!”

Ensemble Inclusive Arts Director Janet Fagan, from Denton, has volunteered with all the projects and said:

“The community of Denton including Ensemble Theatre, New Chapel Unitarian Church, Russell Scott Primary School, and Dane Bank Green Space are extremely thankful for all the time, dedication, experience, and effort the team of volunteers from Tilbury Douglas have given us for all of the projects.

“They shared their knowledge and skills with young people to support learning and community engagement to make all the projects a success. The garden area at the church was unused and unsafe but is now used every day to support community engagement.”

Tameside councillor and Denton Luncheon Club founder Denise Ward said:

“The team have been helping volunteer with the luncheon club ever since the bridge work began. They help serve residents their dinners, clear tables and provide raffle prizes too, plus they’ve helped with our other community events, like Denton’s Party in the Park and community Coronation celebration, so we’re really grateful to them.

“They’ve also been brilliant at keeping residents informed about any works at the bridge.”

National Highways celebrated its very first Communities Week recently, spotlighting some of the vital work it undertakes to support local communities, following the publication of its Delivering Social Value Annual Report.

The report measures for the first time the work carried out by the government-owned company and its supply chain in local communities. Since National Highways launched its first Social Value Plan last October, more than 50 suppliers have signed up and some £220,000 been spent through the regional social value fund.

Vital work on replacing the M67 St Anne’s Road Bridge continues as part of a £23m renewal scheme. The bridge required extensive structural repairs and due to its age, replacing it entirely was a quicker, safer and more practical option.

To read more about the project, click here to visit the scheme webpage.