NEWSLETTER UPDATE FRIDAY 16 JULY 1999 10pm BST
GREETINGS FROM HULME PARK which was officially opened at a ceremony I went along to yesterday. The celebration took place on Zion Square, overlooked by the Zion Centre (above). After music and other entertainments, local poet Mikey Sivori read one of his poems - included in the "History of Hulme" artwork (below) - and there were short speeches by Councillor Richard Leese and the Lord Mayor, who cut the ribbon to open the park. The crowd was a typical inner-city Manchester rainbow mixture of blacks, whites, kids, pensioners, people on benefits, officials in suits and, laughing and joking and mingling with the crowd, the Mayor and Mayoress in their ceremonial chains.
Hulme Park is laid out on the site of the notorious Crescent flats, built in the late 1960's and finally demolished a few years ago. The park is laid out in a high-tech 90's style, with brushed steel posts and fences, curved pathways and benches. The contemporary-style play area is named in memory of two local boys Leroy and Jamie. Safety features include rubber-cushioned ground covering, though I noticed some sharp metal edges, and the climbing rope seems very high to me.
If you fancy one of those houses (above left), they cost around £80,000 and these are all sold. I had a look round the "Chelsea" show house - nice fittings and layout but I found the rooms rather small. Bellways are building more on the other side of the park, but you'll have to hurry, there are only three left. Who would have thought that homes like this would be selling for these prices on the site of the infamous Crescents?
The regeneration of Hulme has been managed by the Moss Side and Hulme partnership, part of Manchester City Council.
Two years ago I was present at the opening of the Hulme Arch, opened by the then Alex Ferguson - see the photos...
SIR ALEX FERGUSON has, as expected, been given the Freedom
of the city of Manchester. The Manchester United manager accepted
the honour at a lunch in the Portland Hotel. Sir Matt Busby is the
only other football manager to be made Freeman of the city, an honour
which dates from medieval times and is only given to very special
20 PER CENT of people in the north west don't, or can't
have a bank account. They are excluded from modern financial services
because of poverty and unemployment. Many turn to so-called "loan
sharks" or unscrupulous money lenders, to obtain loans, but are
charged very high interest, and may face criminal threats if they
are unable to keep up with repayments. Earlier this week, the MEN
exposed a loan company with an office in Openshaw, which operates
a £1 a minute phone line. Poor people phone to enquire about
loans, but are kept waiting for a long time. An undercover MEN reporter
was kept hanging on for 28 minutes before being refused the loan.
But inner city communities are fighting back: They are forming their own credit unions so that local people can obtain finance at a fair rate of interest. I find it amazing that in 1999, one fifth of the local population use cash only.
And there was excellent news for inner-city communities
today with the announcement of millions of pounds of funding economically
depressed areas including Langworthy, Salford, and east Manchester's
Higher Openshaw, Bradford and Beswick. On Monday morning I was taking
photos at the opening of the impressive new Five Oaks Health Centre,
just near Grey Mare Lane Market. The previous health centre was destroyed
by arsonists in 1994. The new centre is a triumph of regeneration
and building design. See my photos in What's New, on the Manchester
Health Authority website.
MANCHESTER HAS COME third in a UK top 100 league table
of retail centres, compiled by Verdict. London came top and Birmingham
was second. The Trafford Centre trailed in 24th place. Criteria included
numbers of stores, floorspace, transport links and parking. Councillor
Pat Karney, of Manchester City Council, was very pleased at the result
and predicts, now as before, that by 2009, the Trafford Centre will
be demolished. I quite like to go to the Trafford Centre from time
to time, as some of the shops are very good, but it can never beat
Manchester city centre.
TOLLS MAY BE INTRODUCED on the M62. It might cost up
to six pounds per day to use the trans-pennine motorway, which runs
from Liverpool via Manchester to Leeds and on to Hull on the east
coast. This suggestion has come from a group of government and EU-funded
transport consultants who have been investigating solutions to the
problem of increasing traffic congestion. There has been considerable
opposition to the idea amongst motorists and road haulage companies.
But in France, Switzerland, Spain and the US they have toll roads
and seem to manage OK, so why not here?
COMPO, alias Bill Owen, star of the comedy series "Last of the Summer Wine", has died aged 85. The programme is one of Britain's best-loved comedy dramas, and is filmed in the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth, about 30 miles east of Manchester. REM are playing at the MEN Arena tomorrow night. Simply Red will be giving a special performance at Haydock Park in August - here's a poster I snapped under the Mancunian Way this morning. Actually I get more of a buzz from watching unsigned bands performing in small venues Caesar Lounge, who I saw at In The City last September, are playing at the Waters Edge festival Castlefield next weekend. As ever there are hundreds of things going on - if only there was the time to go to them all.
MARIA AITKEN, sister of the jailed Tory minister Jonathan
Aitken, has criticised the Manchester accent: "It's the content
of those whining Mancunian voices you dislike when you hear them on
the beach, not the whining Mancunian voices themselves" - This
is what she's reported to have said in an interview, but who knows,
maybe the comment is taken out of context. If she's referring to the
voices of certain Manchester pop-stars, where every sentence contains
a swear word, I'd tend to agree with her, but not all Mancunians talk
like that. People whose close family members have just been sent to
prison for fraud would be well advised not to criticise their fellow
MONDAY WAS HOT and sunny, but Tuesday was cloudy, though hot. Wednesday started off cloudy, but there were sunny spells in the afternoon. Thursday was mostly overcast - not so good for the opening of Hulme park, but I returned today and took some extra photos in the hazy sunshine. It's a warm and overcast Friday evening as I write. Next update from Crumpsall in the next few days. Here's a picture from earlier this month taken during fine weather.