By Paul Wright
Hulme, Manchester. The crescents, high rise walkways, the old Hulme.
Built after the slum clearances of the 1960s, the crescents, deck access flats and maisonettes were a radical departure from the usual two up two down social housing of previous decades.
Named after architects Robert Adam, John Nash, Charles Berry and William Kent the new crescents and housing created some difficult times for residents, but also some memorable times. With its strong sense of togetherness, northern spirit and diverse community, Hulme was a place like no other.
Towards the end of the 1970s however times were particularly tough, high unemployment, social unrest and decay was rife. The controversial stop and search ‘sus’ law was being used to discriminate against mainly young black men from the area, and neighbouring Moss Side, becoming a big factor in the inner city riots that were on the horizon. Manchester reggae band Harlem Spirit’s record ‘Dem A Sus (In the Moss)’ written in protest against the ‘sus’ law became a local anthem at the time, being blasted out of soundsystems in nearby Alexandra Park, much to the annoyance of the local authorities.
Another thing happening against the backdrop of all this was the new ‘Factory’ night at The Russell Club on Royce road. Launched by Alan Erasmus, Tony Wilson, and helped by promoter Alan Wise it attracted numerous bands to the area. Many upcoming ‘post punk’ bands passed through its doors, and the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen, The Human League, The Cure and Factory’s own Joy Division and A Certain Ratio all graced its stage during the clubs life span.
The 1980s brought in a shift of bohemian culture. Artists, ravers, drop outs and punks all flocked to the area, with its zero rent (the council stopped taking rent in 1984) and diy ethos, Hulme became a multicultural and diverse utopia.
Hulme even housed its own independent arts cinema at the time, in the shape of The Aaben, an old cinema with an impressive interior which led the way for Arthouse cinema in Manchester, long before the city centre’s Cornerhouse arrived.
After hours Hulme was a haven for party goers and hedonists, makeshift venues like The Kitchen (which was basically two flats knocked through with a sledgehammer) hosted many a post night out/early morning gathering with DJs often playing a set there after appearing at The Gallery or Hacienda in town.
The PSV (Public Service Vehicles) club, originally a social club for bus drivers and previously the Russell hosted regular DJs and some live bands. Remembered by many as as a bit of a ‘rum’ establishment it played a mixed bag of music downs stairs and reggae upstairs, welcoming a diverse crowd through its doors, from old locals and Cheshire kids to single mums, gangsters and students.
However by the early 1990s the rot had set in, most of the clubs and pubs had gone or had become a no go zone for many. After being abandoned by the council for so long the flats and crescents were on their last legs, plagued by damp, squalor and infestations the council finally found the money for their demolition, and in 1993, just twenty one years after their completion demolition began, making way for the new Hulme of today, mostly unrecognisable to its former residents.
Our gallery below revisits the old Hulme, a place where memories and lifelong friendships were forged by a sense of survival and belonging.
Article by Paul Wright for British Culture Archive. www.twitter.com/mrpaulwright
2018 © British Culture Archive