The Heart of Colne’s Community
by Josh Swarbrick
We visited Colne Citadel to learn more about their amazing work
In the heart of Colne Town Centre, just past the markets, lies Colne Citadel – a thriving hub of activity that strives to improve the lives of local residents in need of support. Nowadays, on the lead up to the charity’s ten-year anniversary, Colne Citadel is busier than ever, directly thanks to the tireless and dedicated behind-the-scenes work of manager Hayley Murphy and assistant manager Jolene Cooper.
“The thing about the Citadel is that it’s not just a community, it’s an open-armed family,” explains Hayley. “We’re always bumping into a service user when we’re out and about in Colne – it’s lovely that we’ve had such a positive impact on those people.”
“It’s a big step to take that first little step,” adds Jolene, “it can be really daunting the first time you arrive, so it’s great that so many people have built the trust with us to not just walk in freely but to talk to us and reach out if they need support. People seem to come in needing and go away knowing they can keep coming back – I like seeing that, it lets us know they aren’t isolated.”
Hayley officially took over as manager in November 2022 after setting up the Citadel’s counselling service six years prior. “Just under a year ago we were only open two days a week,” she recalls, “but each day we would get around 80 service users – that’s a huge amount! It just showed us that there was a real need there for what we do.” It was around the same time that Jolene began volunteering with the Citadel, where she has since taken on the role of assistant manager. Their combined hard work has enabled Colne Citadel to rapidly expand the services and activities it offers.
I genuinely don’t see this as a job, I enjoy coming to work each and every day.
Now open from Monday to Saturday, Colne Citadel offers a wide variety of activities across the whole week including (but far from limited to) arts and crafts sessions, a daily Low-Cost Café, bingo, and even a beginner’s IT group. The charity also offers free, professional counselling services, something that Jolene explains is really important to everyone who works with the Citadel. “We do all sorts of things to make sure people feel supported,” she says, “there’s Lego therapy for families, we have Harris the therapy dog who comes in once a week, we’ve just introduced Reiki, which is a form of energy healing, and we also have MenKind male peer support group on Tuesday nights – our youngest member for that is 18 and our oldest is 80.”
But, as both Hayley and Jolene are eager to emphasise, all of this could not be done without the invaluable contribution made by the Citadel’s volunteers and counsellors. “Currently we have a full team of 16 professional counsellors and about 30 volunteers,” Hayley describes. “With volunteers in particular, we always see that they come on for one shift and then keep coming back for others! A lot of our volunteers might have initially been here because they needed the food bank, and so we get to witness their progression – it’s really wonderful. It’s their safe space, they really do love coming here – as do we! I genuinely don’t see this as a job, I enjoy coming to work each and every day.”
“The Colne Community are the real heart of this place,” Jolene adds. “And very often the events we hold or suggestions we implement come directly from that community. Everyone contributes too, from donations given by locals to us building a good relationship with local butchers or workmen. We couldn’t do any of what we do without our community.”
Perhaps the best example of this community support is the Citadel’s very own food bank shed, constructed earlier this year by local workmen. The shed receives donations on a daily basis from nearby supermarkets like Aldi and Sainsburys, and is always open to donations from the community -from dry food products like tins, pasta and rice, to nappies, pet food and facemasks. “It’s been fantastic having the shed,” Hayley explains, “I’ve noticed that people don’t feel as anxious when coming in and asking for a food parcel now – they just come in with a bag and take what they need. We just ask that they’re mindful about leaving things for others too. With donations we do sometimes have to be careful – we can’t really take homemade food or towels and bedding, we don’t really have the storage. But often people can contact us via social media if they do have anything they want to donate that we can use to stock up the shed.”
The thing about the Citadel is that it’s not just a community; it’s an open-armed family.
Hayley and Jolene’s hard work over the past few months has transformed the citadel into the beating heart of the Colne community, an invaluable place for so many people in our local area to go to receive support and make friendships. With the community at the heart of everything the charity does, the Citadel is always looking for volunteers and donations.
ColneLife Autumn 23