What’s it like to be Centre Manager at The Old Rectory, Handsworth?
From fireworks displays and tea dances to wedding ceremonies and washing up, Tim Schafer gives Image an insight into the inner workings of a week in the life of a centre manager at The Old Rectory, Handsworth.
Centre manager, Tim Schafer
Tell us about The Old Rectory
The Old Rectory is an independent charity based in the heart of Handsworth, located behind St Mary’s church in a fantastic old stone built Georgian house. We’re essentially a community centre, hosting everything from mums and toddler groups and preschool singing classes to karate, yoga, pensioner’s lunch clubs and tea dances.
There are over 40 community groups that use the building weekly and our website offers a full listing, for anyone interested in getting out and about, making friends or learning new hobbies.
We also host groups run by other social enterprises, tackling issues like diabetes, alcoholism or weight loss, and often offer free courses for those who need the help most.
Alongside that, we’re a busy wedding and party venue - the old building provides the ideal backdrop for photos and the gardens offer a wonderful private space for drinks receptions and for children to play.
We host everything from birthday parties and christenings to anniversaries and retirement functions, as well as the weddings themselves, as you can hold the ceremony inside the Old Rectory.
We use all the profits generated from weddings and parties to put on community fun days over all the bank holidays, the big fireworks display in November, as well as a music festival in August, ensuring a jam-packed calendar of events for our local residents, to help build community cohesion.
What lead you to The Old Rectory?
I had previously worked in retail, running my own shop, and took time out to look after my second son, so when returning to work I wanted a new challenge - this was it.
What is a typical working day like for you?
No two days are the same. We’re a small team, so although I am the centre manager, there’s also plenty of stacking chairs, washing up and serving drinks to be done.
I particularly enjoy meeting couples and helping plan their special day, and I’m often here at weekends and evenings, too, letting community groups in and out of the building or running parties, so 5am starts for the car boot are often a challenge. But then the magical days like Santa’s workshop or helping set off the fireworks make it manageable, especially when I see the pleasure it brings to the local children.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I’m particularly proud of the Handsworth music festival and this year will be our 6th year. It’s an amazing family day and it’s great to host an event like that in the heart of the community. I’m also enjoying our current program of building renovations - we’ve recently added large garden doors to the function rooms and are looking to build a new bar area next year. It’s great to think that the changes we’re making now will improve the flexibility of the building and ensure it’s here long after we’re gone.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of a similar career?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Not everything we put on is a success, but it’s about having a go, seeing what captures the community’s imagination and being prepared to evolve or change. We try to reinvent our affairs each year, to keep things fresh and interesting, and as for the wedding side of the business, it’s all about the planning and detail, so be organised.
What is the toughest part of your job?
Sometimes it is sad, because within groups like the pensioners lunch club - where we are feeding the very elderly and lonely - dementia can set in and member may exceed our care abilities. It is tough when we can no longer take in a member who may have been coming to us for years or who has made good friends, but sometimes it is imperative that we refer people to the next level of care.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I have three boys, so a lot of my spare time is spent watching the football matches they play in, and those they don’t. I also have a dog, who gets me out on long walks, and I’m very fond of my garden and growing produce, as well as keeping chickens.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
We’re currently looking for a community engagement officer to join our team, and are hoping to put on more courses, classes, holiday activities and counselling sessions, using the profits generated from weddings. So as that side of the charity grows, we need another staff member to organise everything. I’m currently working on job specs and reading through applications, which is really exciting.