Introducing Guest Blogger Claire Benson

Introducing Guest Blogger Claire Benson

I really do feel I am now an honorary Mancunian after being here for nearly 17 years.

I love the people, the architecture, the general vibe and the beating heart of the city.

I love how the city makes me feel and that my daughter was born here.

I joined a mental health choir in March 2018 and this really helped me find my confidence by being with like minded people. I had experienced anxiety and depression for some time and I felt truly at home singing with the BeeVocal Choir. We sing at the iconic Bridgewater Hall, a place that I have grown to love since moving from London. I have sung live in Albert Square, Central Library, on BBC Breakfast and at Wembley Stadium with this choir, I feel honoured to be part of that.

I was introduced to buzz Manchester Health & Wellbeing Service when I met Neighbourhood Health Worker Patsy Williams on a community litter pick and we got chatting over a cup of tea. I told her my story of how I had experienced post natal depression (PND) and how I met one of my best friends Simone Riley through a post on social media talking about PND. Patsy told me about the Manchester Wellbeing Fund and how to apply and a seed was planted in my mind.

I applied for a small funding grant of £500 which was used for an event in Moss Side called Raise Your Voice. This event was about empowering women in the community, talking about depression but in a very different way. This was through words, poems and songs, bringing over 100 women and men together. Together myself and Simone created a unique event, perhaps the first of its kind. We invited buzz, Big Life Group, Caribbean and African Health Network and Macmillan top share their information with our guests. The feedback from the event was incredible.

Since then I have looked at ways that I can promote wellbeing and particularly depression to people in a positive way. Encouraging people to talk about how they feel, and sharing my own personal experience to help others. I started to enjoy things that I never felt possible, using my voice in a positive way. As my confidence grew, I was invited to a workshop with ITV News called Women in News. This was an amazing opportunity to visit ITV Granada, meet the news team and learn how to do a live television interview which seemed really daunting at the time. I did 2 mock live interviews and all my fears disappeared when I was made to feel really comfortable by Lucy Meacock (who let me use her make up) and Elaine Wilcox. They brought out the spark in me and the self belief that sharing your story is about being you as you are. I suppose that my confidence grew from that day and I ended up doing 3 ITV appearances (filming myself) during the first national lockdown. I also started appearing on BBC Radio Manchester on the Dead Good show as one of their posse members. I talk with the presenters about Manchester current affairs, and I absolutely love talking, especially about this city which is so dear to my heart.

I use social media in a positive way to share the things that I love and follow like minded people, and have met many people this way. This is how I connected with Radio Northenden, Sanny saw some of my posts on Twitter and he asked if I would like to join the station as a presenter. Despite having no radio experience, I said yes. But this got me thinking, how could I as a presenter incorporate wellbeing into my show? Well the answer was easy, I contacted buzz to see if they and the Manchester Wellbeing Fund could collaborate with me. So as we speak we are applying for another grant to get myself and another presenter live on the station. Our aim is to share all things wellbeing and services offered to local residents of Northenden and beyond.

Will I be any good as a radio presenter? Who knows, but my passion for Manchester and wellbeing will shine when I speak.

So watch this space!

Claire Benson - Twitter @castlefield1642

Claire Benson

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