I came to Manchester in 1979 and after 18 months in the then sterile and unwelcoming Chorlton, found my home in Rusholme, then as now, a vibrant, diverse and ever-changing neighbourhood. For me Rusholme has always been the wider area, from the Universities to Whitworth Park and from the Anson estate to Cambridge Street and beyond, an area with the most amazing assets in its people, cultures, businesses, parks, educational institutions, religious and community buildings and its constant influx of young people. I brought up my family here.
Over forty years I have seen many changes, for good and ill. Recently the developers have discovered the area and over-development and breakdown of the residential community is a major threat. We saw Fallowfield going that way and now other parts of the area are in real danger of following. And of course, poverty and inequality are a growing blight facilitated by government deregulation and disinvestment in the state and communal life.
But above all the wider Rusholme area has major, but unappreciated and disjointed assets.
In 2012 a very wide range of stakeholders came together for two creative appreciative enquiry events – Imagine Rusholme - held in Birch Community Centre where we imagined what Rusholme might be like in the 2030s. A number of working groups emerged, with progress made on cycling, the parks and wildlife, crime, litter and other key issues - albeit that some of these have too often been a case of two steps forward and one step back. But I have been centrally involved in Creative Rusholme. In 2013 a Feasibility Study was carried out and discussed by over seventy creative stakeholders in the area – unanimously supporting the idea of an initiative “to raise the cultural profile of Rusholme, connecting creative industries, businesses and communities”. The principles were clear – it would need to be led from the bottom up but facilitated by the cultural organisations in the area The Whitworth, Manchester Museum, Platt Hall (then the Museum of Costume), the Universities, the Parks.
The timing was poor. Austerity was beginning to bite, The Whitworth closed for several years for its expansion, key staff at Platt Hall moved on and then the moths moved in… But a small group of residents have kept the idea alive:
And proposals were developed:
My hope now is that the opportunity offered by the refurbishment and re-purposing of the Hall and its surroundings as a major Hub for the community can adopt the economic, social, community, environmental and cultural opportunities latent in the area, help us all to co-ordinate and collaborate, not to reinvent the wheel and to keep indigenous businesses, communities, residents and organisations in the lead of an ambitious programme to build the area to the benefit off all of us who live, study or work here or who visit the area and hopefully create jobs as well.
Resident, Artist and Creative Rusholme