Janet Reeder visits Bramhall and meets three people proud to be part of the community

Great British Life: Alejandra Solis. (c) Kirsty ThompsonAlejandra Solis. (c) Kirsty Thompson

Alejandra Solis

'What I really love about Bramhall is its community; everybody is very supportive'

Owner, Bramhall Dog Groomers

I’m originally from Mexico and I’ve been in Bramhall since 2012 but before that we lived in Italy, in Heaton Moor, Didsbury the city centre, Hale, and now we are settled here. OMG, Bramhall is such a wonderful place. It’s close to Manchester, close to nature and countryside and it has everything you need. It’s the perfect place to raise children. It’s safe, it’s leafy and the village is thriving.

There are lots of shops, restaurants, coffee shops and bars but what I really love about Bramhall is its community; everybody is very supportive. We have lots of events happening in the village and throughout Covid it was amazing how everybody was helping each other. It means that opening a business in the last two years has been great. I have always had dogs and I noticed a massive increase in dog ownership in the area during lockdown. Suddenly everyone had puppies. I used to take my dog to a groomer, but they closed down, so I thought, 'where am I going to go now?'. There was another dog groomers, but it was fully booked and there was a waiting list to join the waiting list, so I thought, 'well, I have nothing to do, I’ll investigate how hard it is to set up a dog groomers'. I researched it and thought I’d give it a go. And now we’ve been here two years. Of course, it has been a massive learning curve.

I was recently given an award and it was incredible. I was nominated by one of the local councillors, Linda Holt. It was a King’s Coronation Award for my personal contribution to Stockport and in particular, Bramhall. When we moved here in 2012, I knew no one at all so I joined the Bramhall Together Trust, which organises all the lovely events. I’ve always been quite involved in the community and I’ve raised money to replace the equipment at Lumb Lane, my local park.

I’ve also hosted a mother and daughter, Tamara and Kira Dobrovolska from Ukraine. I wasn’t their initial host, then Tamara came to my shop looking for a job. I wanted to sponsor someone but my husband, Peter, said we had too much on because I have cancer. He said we’d help but just not at home. I gave her the job and she turned out to be incredible. She’s an economist and speaks five languages. Then her relationship with her sponsor broke down and she and her daughter ended up living with us for two months.

She is 43 and Kira is 12, the same as my son Oscar. I also have a daughter, Lydia, who is nine. I thought, this could be me. This could be anyone, so I said, 'sorry Peter, she’s moving in with Kira just while we find her accommodation'.

Eventually we found them a private rental. Although they had somewhere to live it was completely unfurnished, so I did a post on local social media groups and the entire village furnished the house – a great example of how Bramhall is amazing. They now have everything, from a printer to bedding. Some people made up lovely hampers of a start-up cleaning kit, others did breakfast hampers and at some point, she said. 'I really can’t accept any more I’ve got too much'. So yes, Bramhall is lovely.

For five years I have had stage 4 breast cancer. It has gone to my bones and is now incurable, but I am the most non-cancer looking cancer patient ever.

Obviously, it has been tough, particularly during Covid when I worked really hard to stay alive. I didn’t need another thing trying to kill me. But we just plough on. I’ve got small children, and nothing stops for cancer. The laundry needs doing, the kids need feeding. I was 38 when I was diagnosed and just didn’t want cancer to define me. Five years on I am still active and involved with everything. My mojo is that I’m very aware. I’ve survived my prognosis, but I think life is for living. I don’t have time for this. I just treat it as a health inconvenience and so far, so good.

Great British Life: Tusneem Jabbar. (c) Gaalia CoutureTusneem Jabbar. (c) Gaalia Couture

Tusneem Jabbar

It’s so nice to be in the village. I really loved the feel; the people are just so friendly'

Owner and designer, Gaalia Couture

I’ve been in my Bramhall shop for seven years now. We don’t have a shop front, but we do have people coming in off the street to see what we do. That can be a bit difficult because we have appointments all the time but it’s nice in other ways because when it means you’re making relationships with the locals, and they end up recommending us to friends.

I did fashion design at Leeds University, so I’ve been doing design for 27 years. My father was a fashion trader and I loved that field and followed in his footsteps but I wanted to work for myself, so I got help from the Prince's Trust and in the process had an amazing mentor. He and his wife would take me to big events to introduce me to lots of different kinds of people and I made some really good business out of it but then my father had quite a crash in his business. The reality was that doing made-to-measure meant it could take years for me to build a name and as a family we had to pull together and help my father out.

So I had to leave all that behind and instead I fell into the bridal industry. It was good for me as I began to make bespoke wedding dresses. And when I came back to eveningwear and mother-of-bride styles it was very much a thing I loved. The designs I did were very bohemian, very dressy and quite inspired by my background. Everything is linked to me and who I am. Over the years, I built so much knowledge of what women want and why they struggle to find a gorgeous stylish chic outfit that is wearable.

I chose Bramhall for my business because it is a beautiful village and I wanted that environment where women would make an appointment, have a lovely experience, and then go out afterwards for a drink or lunch, which is possible because everything is in the same area. They are coming specifically to us but then it’s great to send them off to the local eateries as it’s so nice to be in the village. I really loved the feel; the people are just so friendly. I really liked it and I still do.

I’ve always been a bit entrepreneurial with what I do. At Gaalia Couture, we have a beautiful boutique and get a lot of local business in but now I am trying to make Gaalia a bigger brand and reach out to audiences overseas. I am currently in talks with the UAE – the Saudi market – as well as the US market. So, in the future, Gaalia is not going to be just occasionwear but chic, casual, timeless looks, and chic workwear. I am trying to take brand bigger over time. At the moment what we do is bespoke, it’s all done in-house and it has been like this for years. I guess for me it’s just taking the brand further.

It’ll take a long time to prepare but it’s going to be great because many more women are going to be able to afford the gowns.

Great British Life: David Hird. (c) Kirsty ThompsonDavid Hird. (c) Kirsty Thompson

David Hird

'Bramhall is wonderful. This group I’ve set up has already seen so many acts of kindness'

Community fundraiser and We Love Bramhall administrator

My wife Anita and I are heavily involved in the local foodbank and I also set up a community group called We Love Bramhall. We did have one called I Love Bramhall, but it was a business that went into administration and I felt we needed something to replace it. There’s one thing I’m good at and that’s not making money as my heart overrules my head all the time, but I set up this group in October last year and it already has 5,000 followers.

The NatWest Bank in the village has closed down now but I got a nice banner put up there while it’s up for lease and it says: 'If you see someone without a smile then give them one of yours' and it works. We had a guy with his two daughters who came to the food bank and I said, 'where are you from?' and he said, 'Bramhall'. I told him I’d set up We Love Bramhall and his two little girls said, 'If you see someone without a smile give them one of yours' – that was great. I I’m very fortunate being born and bred in Bramhall so it’s time to give something back. I’m bringing all the communities together.

I’ve been married for 36 years to my very long-suffering wife and we have two children who are now grown up. One lives in New Zealand and one lives in the Cayman Islands so we’ve done something right, they couldn’t get further away from us!

Bramhall is wonderful. This group I’ve set up has already seen so many acts of kindness. We’ve got a group who look after the park, called friends of Bramhall Park, and I gave them a bit of promotion because they needed volunteers.

One of the bar owners in town looked at what they do and said, 'I’d like to give them all free tea and coffee once a week. Tell them to come in'. Another guy from the British Legion – they used to do a lot of events comedy nights things like that, but it all stopped during Covid – managed to raise money for a defibrillator but they didn’t have any further funding for the batteries and pads that needed replacing. I told then to put it on the group to see what happens and within four hours everyone had donated so they could order the pads and the batteries. Then we’ve got Bramhall in Bloom. Again, all volunteers. I love helping people who do stuff from the heart not for the money. They wanted to put flowers in the village to make it look nice for the summer. They’d raised £70 in two months and needed £1,000. I said I'd help and I pushed it and pushed it and we raised £1,170. Stuff like that. It’s just nice. It’s a great place to live.

Recently my wife and I have been organising our second ball for Chelwood Food Bank in Cheadle. It’s at Shrigley Hall on November 18. I put 250 tickets on sale and they sold out in a few hours, so the response has been fantastic. We are a community food bank so we are really struggling at the moment and need to raise funds.

I am also a Coronation Street extra so when you see that weird guy drinking a pint of beer in the Rovers or eating a bacon butty in Roy’s Rolls that’s what I do. I’ve done that for 25 years, it’s a good place to be and everyone is super friendly.