Last year I was lucky enough to get involved in a local arts project, in which we re-ran a collaborative project from about 20 years ago. A school near where I live, Alma Park, is a specialist centre for deaf children – with pupils travelling from across Manchester to get support with their communication needs. They spend some time in mainstream classes as well and all children in the school learn some sign language. Years ago the school was involved in a community arts project in which photographs of children’s hands signing out the name of our neighbourhood – Levenshulme – were displayed at the local train station. These were up when I moved here in 2004, but the posters were eventually taken down after suffering water damage.
In 2019 the Friends of Levenshulme Station group decided to re-run the project and invited me to take part. We decided to involve only hearing-impaired children this time and in the summer term I spent a morning shooting 11 pupils’ hands. It then took a long time to get the funding from Northern Rail and other partners which we needed to print the images onto aluminium and there have been other delays while we’ve waited for permission to get onto the platforms and install the images. But now they’re there, along with a text celebrating the existence of Alma Park School’s deaf community, which mainly local people don’t know about.
I’m not sure why I only just thought of doing this but I’ve created a stand-alone website to consolidate all my work on regeneration. I had no idea quite how much of it there was until it came to putting it all together. I’ll continue to post new work on this blog of course as well as popping it onto my Street Fighters site but this is an opportunity to get a lot of stuff not previously available online ‘out there’ in case anyone finds it useful. It will probably bore most people to tears, mind. Imagine how I feel.
I had a heartbreaking encounter yesterday that is still weighing heavily on my mind a day and a half later. Widower and war veteran Elijah Debnam will be 90 years old in June and has lived in his home in Derker, Oldham, for the best part of six decades. There is now a Compulsory Purchase Order on his terraced property under the town’s Housing Market Renewal regeneration scheme and he is being pressured to move out. Not one brick has been laid under the scheme so far in Derker. The one thing Eli – as his friends call him – dreads more than anything is ending up in an old people’s home. I am sure there are many other very elderly people around the region who share his sentiments, but many are afraid to speak out.
The Big Issue in the North kicked off a series of regeneration stories from me today with this piece about Alicia Rose, a very unhappy homeowner in phase three of Liverpool’s Edge Hill/Wavertree renewal scheme. Weekly from next Monday there will be three larger features on aspects of the Housing Market Renewal scheme – looking at the Welsh Streets in Liverpool, at West Hull and also featuring an interview with consultant and academic Brendan Nevin, architect of the programme. A number of other stories will hopefully follow, looking at some of the other communities I’ve visited lately, and those which aren’t being published in that sense will appear on my blog. After a long lull, HMR has been in the national comments pages over recent weeks, with Matthew Engel at the Financial Times and Charles Clover, formerly of the Telegraph but now at the Sunday Times, also taking another look at the scheme. Nevertheless I’m finding it impossible as ever to get any national commissioning editors interested in anything that I’ve put forward.
To read the Big Issue story, click on the image above….click on the links down the right hand side of this blog to hear out other stories from my home/castle project and check back for more…I’ll be putting one or more onto my blog each week.
I have to say, I find it quite unbelievable that these Victorian homes in Bootle, Merseyside, are being condemned to demolition to make way for boxy little new builds (having seen them I can attest that some are truly hideous). But it’s happening and the few remaining residents were served with Compulsory Purchase Orders about 10 days ago.
The three I met – Pat and John Dunn (pictured above) and their friend John Gillespie (below) are determined not to be bullied out of homes they have lived in for decades and raised their families in. For them the issue is not so much financial – they simply don’t see why their homes should be snatched away from them under the Housing Market Renewal scheme. Before Christmas, the plans for the area were criticised by the Commission for the Built Environment (CABE).
I wish them the best of luck in their fight and will be watching carefully as their battle moves towards a public inquiry.
I’ve been tweaking the other sections of my website a little and have now got around to uploading a small selection of my street fighter portraits on the photo page (click the pic above). The first audio/photo profile went up on my blog a few days ago (HERE) and more will follow shortly. This project is consuming me at the moment….yesterday it took me to Merseyside for something like the fourth time in a month, and on Saturday it’ll take me to Cumbria. It may well only be of interest to myself and the people who are directly affected by these issues. Feedback would be welcome.
Maureen and Terry Walsh are pensioners from Derker in Oldham. They’ve lived in their house almost all their married life but learned a few years ago that their terrace was going to be demolished under the government’s Housing Market Renewal scheme, which aims to tackle what ministers and some academics say are failing housing markets in areas of the North of England. The couple – not natural activists by any stretch of the imagination – were part of a group which challenged the Compulsory Purchase Order in the high court on various grounds where they believed mistakes had been made. They reached the end of the road in October when their case was rejected. They must now start looking for places to move to, but like many in their situation – especially those who have paid off their mortgages and are now retired and on a fixed income – they complain that low compensation payments will put them back in debt, or into social housing. This is a common complaint: why can’t we get a house for a house.