So where did Salford Sling and Meet come from? In early January 2015 I was chatting to Sam in the Vine cafe at a regular Friday parents coffee group. She said she had been talking to one of the mums about revamping the small sling meet that said mum, Michelle ran and turning it in to a more structured organisation. There were some fantastic libraries around back then in Stockport, Bolton, Warrington to name just a few. Salford, however had nothing really local and already Michelle and Sam could see the need for a Sling Library.
I had met Michelle in 2014 when the twins were just over a week old and she showed me how to use my Close Caboo. I had then gone on to buy a buckle carrier. It was while wearing Henry in the carrier and pushing Matilda in the buggy that I ran in to Sam one rainy day in December in the queue for a cash machine. She was also wearing one child and pushing the other. It was the first time I had seen anyone local baby wearing so while we then queued for coffee in The Vine we got chatting.
But back to January 2015. By that time I was keen to learn more about the world of babywearing and was just starting to learn to wrap so I was quick to offer my very limited services in any way I could. At the same time Sam was also getting to know the very lovely Hayley, also with a new baby, also a babywearer, and also keen to be involved.
So two very quickly became four and we starting making decisions on how to proceed. Do we run as a charity, an unincorporated association, a full business? You know, all the fun stuff! And all stuff I will admit it took a while to fully understand. Then location, days to meet, how often to meet, how do we start building a library of carriers with no money, what carriers do we buy?
Sam quickly set about rebranding and with her ideas and her husband’s expert design skills the Salford Sling and Meet brand was born.
Our first meet was on a Wednesday morning in The Vine Cafe. We had a handful of carriers and lots of tea, coffee and cake. Now we just needed some parents. And we got some! We weren’t overwhelmed but we had a good few turn up for that first session. Most already had a little experience, a few were complete beginners. Everyone got the help they needed and we all got a chance to chat about our shared interest over coffee and cake. We were all buzzing.
We very quickly outgrew our first location. It was great to see so many new people come week after week and we wanted to be able to offer them a bigger space. Obviously our biggest concern about a move was losing such easy access to coffee and cake! We quickly found our new home at Salford Elim Church and were relieved to find that there were two kettles and that not only did the local Aldi have lots of cake but that there were a few not bad bakers among the group. Phew.
People come to baby wearing for many different reasons but what they take away from it often reaches further than they ever expected. For this reason we are not just a sling library. We are also a social meet. A place people can come if they need to chat, if they need company, if they want someone else to hold their baby for five minutes while they drink a cup of tea AND eat a biscuit at the same time!
Thankfully in our new location we continued to grow, seeing an endless stream of Mums and Dads come through at different points in their baby wearing journey. Some come just once, some still come now. Lasting friendships have formed between parents and first friendships made among the children. So once again, after several months of growth and two fundraisers we were ready to move on to another location. Now down at SAYF Salford with a library of 100 carriers, what our current location has in common with all the others is that it is right in the heart of our community.
Why do we do it?
I talked briefly about the “boring” stuff about setting up a library. Business, charity, unincorporated association? What was always important to us was the community.
Support within the local community is essential for new mums and dads. Whether it’s a parenting support group, a stay and play or a coffee morning, the more opportunities for parents to find the help, support and sometimes just company they need the better. I have lived in this area for 16 years but didn’t feel part of the community until I became a mum. With Salford Sling and Meet I get to give back to that community that embraced me when I most needed it.
This belief in the much needed support system was one held by us all so when it came to how we would run there was never any question. We would be a volunteer run organisation. We charge a donation based entry fee and we have a hire fee, but none of us take a wage. The “profit” we make goes back in to the library. To increasing the range of carriers we offer, to paying for training for us and our growing group of amazing volunteers so we can offer the best advice we can. We decided to do this because we wanted to help people.
So where to now? Myself and Sam recently did our consultancy training and will be joined in February by Hayley. What does this mean? It means we have had extra training, more in-depth training. It means we will be able to offer one to one sessions and group workshops. It will mean more me, more Sam and more Hayley focused on you. Babywearing, the carrying community and the people that visit Salford Sling and Meet have helped me realise that my future lies in baby wearing education and this has led to the creation of my consultancy.
One of our group recently described Salford Sling and Meet as her village. People often talk about finding their “people”, their family not though blood but through the bonds of friendship. Not just within parenthood but all walks of life. To hear that is just amazing. I guess it means we are doing and achieving exactly what we wanted to.
Our village (Additional Pictures)