In 1984 the German band Alphaville had their biggest ever hit with Big In Japan. It was a great tune though the lyrics weren’t the best and the video was pure 1980’s. Fast-forward 31 years to today to Rochdale in the North of England and we at Circle can like Alphaville, claim to be “Big in Japan!” It’s an unusual statement for a small social enterprise, which is just about to celebrate its second birthday, and to be fair we probably aren’t that big in Japan either, or are we?
On the 30th of March we took a call from Steve Benham of In tune Productions acting as an intermediary for an organisation called Studio-L. Pat, our community engagement worker, answered the call. Rather excitedly Pat said to me, “Mark, I think you need to take this call!” So Pat transferred the call over to me and that was the start of this incredible little story.
Steve told us of Studio-L and their interest in our work and that they would like to visit and see Circle in action. It all just seemed incredible, how could Studio-L have heard of Rochdale Circle CIC? Speaking with Steve and subsequent emails it came to light that during the course of doing research on finding solutions to social isolation, Studio-L a social design organisation based in Osaka, Japan came across Rochdale Circle via the internet. To quote Noriko Deno our primary contact at Studio-L:-
“We are interested in how to support each other and tackle against the loneliness in this ageing society and we think Circle’s system is one of the few good examples we have found so far and would like to learn from”
Circle Members and Staff with the delegation from Studio-L at Springhill at the Craven
Rochdale based social enterprise Rochdale Circle CIC was hailed as a world leader in the field of reduction of social isolation in older people by a high-powered delegation of a social designers & entrepreneurs from Japan. Members of Studio-L, a Japanese based social design organisation, led by CEO, Ryo Yamazaki, Professor and Director of the department of Spatial Design in the Kyoto University of Art and Design visited the offices of Rochdale Circle CIC to learn from the success of Circles work in the Rochdale Borough. The 8-person delegation visited the Circle offices on Oldham Road, Rochdale to drill into the work and structure of Circle and ask about what made Circle so successful.
Mark Wynn the Director of Rochdale Circle CIC said “it is incredibly gratifying that we have received international recognition for the work we do. We are only a tiny organisation but we know we make a huge positive difference to the lives of Circle Members”. Wynn added, “We are proud of the fact a Rochdale based organisation is held in such high regard around the world”. After visiting the Circle offices the party then went onto visit a Circle social event, which was taking place at the new tearooms and coffee shop at the old Craven Heifer operated by Springhill Hospice.The Studio-L delegation where made to feel very welcome by Circle Members and they all chatted about the difference Circle made. The Japanese than enjoyed an English cream tea.
The spokeswomen for Studio-L, Noriko Deno said, “Our visit to Circle has been excellent, we are struggling to take in just how successful they are at getting older people out and socialising and having a good time. In Japan we have an increasing problem of older people becoming isolated and Circle could be the solution we are looking for.” Noriko noted that the atmosphere at Circle for both Members and Staff was positive adding “We were so delighted to see what you’re achieving and further more every member of the staff are happy working at Circle.”
Circle Staff with some of the delegation from Studio-L
Rochdale Circle CIC is a membership organisation for the over 50’s. They organise between 20-30 social events every month, ranging from going out for a coffee, a meal or a show, exhibitions, day trips out, weekends away even short holidays. Members then select which activities they want to do that month, they can do as few or as many as they wish. Circle also offers practical support, such as gardening, cleaning, decorating, DIY, moving boxes, changing light bulbs. Friendly, vetted trades people deliver all the practical support.
For more information about Circle visit our website www.rochdalecircle.org or call our Freephone number 0800 112 3440 or 01706 751 165