Welcome to Northmoor Launderette, Manchester’s first Internet launderette, a place that not only looks like great, with washers and driers complemented by strips of orange and soft lighting, but houses four broadband connections that customers can use while they wait for their clothes, a free library and upstairs, the local community association’s offices, allowing for easy access for people to find out what's on in their neighbourhood. But how did it come into being?
"It started when Kathy, who I work with, wanted to wash a large blanket," says Jane Miller, Project Assistant at Northmoor Community Association and one of the founders of the Internet launderette.
"She went to the launderette and it was pretty run-down. There wasn’t actually anyone working there anymore, just someone who went in and opened it. It came to light that the business was in decline and the building might be available and she said 'ok, shall we?'"
Having acquired the launderette, with help from the Manchester Methodist Housing Group who bought the building and paid for the refurbishments, a visit to a fast food restaurant motivated Jane to add the world wide twist.
"The inspiration came from McDonald’s in St Ann’s Square. They’ve got internet access in one corner, where you can use it in your lunch break, and I just thought it was a good idea. I mean, you’re doing your washing, it takes up to an hour and generally you’re just sat there. It’s a bit boring, so why not put some computers in?
"The internet side of things was relatively easy to get together. We’re using freeware and old PCs, which don’t even have hard drives, so they make terminals.
|"I mean, you’re doing your washing, it takes up to an hour and generally you’re just sat there. It’s a bit boring, so why not put some computers in?"|
|Jane on why they decided on an Internet launderette|
"The whole point behind it is to keep the cost down. The software is free, the computers were £15 each because they were going to be put in the skip, and we bought new monitors and keyboards. Basically, it means we’ll be charging 50p for half an hour to cover the cost of the broadband."
It seems that the launderette is about more than just surfing while you wash though.
"What we’ve got is information and leaflets on a variety of subjects that you’d usually find in a community centre," explains Jane. "The homepage on the computers will be one from our website that has links for things like benefits, training, health, housing, all that kind of stuff. Hopefully, people will use it when they have a question to ask. It’s a launderette, but it’s also an information point."
The decision move the offices to the launderette from the community centre came after the association realised there were problems of access for the public.
"It’s not like a drop-in community centre. People can’t just pop in, they have to go round to the side, ring a bell and then wait to come into the office, so access to us was quite limited. So we thought now we had the launderette, people can ask questions any time they want to, and also it means that people who may never set foot into the community centre to see us can do so when they come in to wash their clothes."
If it wasn’t enough to be helping the local populace, Jane and the team have already got plans to help the environment too.
"There’s a launderette in Amsterdam that recycles its water, because obviously the amount of water that’s used in washing is large, so we’re looking into that. And the other thing that struck us is that we’ve got seven tumble dryers going and all the heat from them is just billowing out of the back of the building. There must be some way of using that but we don’t know of any, so if anyone has any ideas, let us know."