Crumpsall and Levenshulme Revisited
We've had the Jet Age, the Space Age and the Computer Age, now it's the Regeneration Age. All over the UK, Ireland, Europe, North America and beyond, cities are being rebuilt, renewed, redeveloped and reinvented. At the forefront of this trend is Manchester. In few other cities will you find so much demolition and construction, buildings under scaffolding, workers in hard hats, and everywhere you look in the city centre, cranes.
Not so long ago it was the age of stagnation, economic collapse and decay. It took only a few years for an industrial base, a residential area or a city district go down the tube, but still takes longer, much much longer to bring it back to life again.
Regeneration doesn't always achieve what it sets out to do. In some areas there is evidence of something I call 'regeneration blight', urban decay caused by ill-conceived town planning or architecture. The general consensus of opinion is that Manchester is better now than how it was a few years ago. But how can you objectively measure how much a city has improved in the opinion of its citizens? By reading 'Manchester People' the publicity newsletter issued by Manchester City Council, or by looking at press releases on the websites of local authorities? There appears to be no independent way to appraise the success of regeneration attempts, apart from chatting to friends and collagues in person and online, or overhearing conversations on the bus.
After redevelopment is completed there are no assessments, no feedback forms handed out, no checks as to whether people approve of the changes, for instance in Piccadilly Gardens.
It's not difficult to tell whether a place is suffering from economic difficulties. On my trips to East Germany in the 80's it was pretty obvious from the grey streets, the run down facades, the ancient trains and trams that things weren't going well. I felt curiously at home there because it seemed quite similar to Manchester.
You can tell a lot by using your eyes, looking around, assessing and taking note. That's what Eyewitness in Manchester is all about.
And so in this the first EWM update of its kind, I have revisited and rephotographed parts of Manchester featured in previous editions of the site: Ancoats, just east of the city centre, Crumpsall in the north, Levenshulme in the south. All these areas have faced multiple economic problems, and have seen large scale regeneration with a sizeable influx of resources over the past few years.
Eyewitness in Manchester offers an independent and often quirky view, focusing not on grand plans or exciting new schemes, but on the evidence of what's there, as reflected in the photographs. I have not picked out new photo opportunities or tried to put a particular slant on things. I have gone back to the exact locations of photos taken four to seven years ago to and carefully re-photographed them, placing old and new scenes side by side for comparison. The results are surprising, in some ways disappointing, but generally encouraging.
Of all the districts, Crumpsall seems to have advanced the most over the last few years. Evidence of improvement is all around. Ancoats is currently in the midst of the biggest repair and rebuild project in its history. Levenshulme has seen many improvements, but the effect is patchy and incomplete. Rome wasn't regenerated in a day, and it can take years, possibly decades to restore an attractive, prosperous and characterful city. How Manchester will look after the current wave of regeneration is completed - if it's ever completed - remains to be seen. Keep visiting Eyewitness in Manchester.
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All photos and articles © Aidan O'Rourke
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