No Place Like Hulme | Hulme, Manchester, 1970s – 1990s.

By Paul Wright

Hulme, Manchester. Built after the slum clearances of the 1960s, the rebuilt Hulme with its huge crescents, deck access flats and maisonettes were a radical departure from the usual two up two down social housing of previous decades.

The crescents, inspired by Georgian Bath had promised to bring comfortable living combined with lots of open space for recreation. They were named after the main architects for Georgian Bath, Robert Adam, John Nash, Charles Barry and William Kent. However this idyllic utopia never materialised in working class Manchester, and in 1978 the scheme was blasted by the chair of Manchester City Council’s Housing Committee who described the development of Hulme Crescents as an “absolute disaster – it shouldn’t have been planned, it shouldn’t have been built”.

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Clopton Walk and Charles Barry crescent, 1972. Photo © Manchester Libraries.

It was planned, and it was was built, and whilst there were many problems and difficult times for residents, there were also memorable times too. A strong sense of togetherness, northern spirit and a diverse community made Hulme a place like no other.

1970s

Towards the end of the seventies times were particularly tough, high levels of unemployment, social unrest and crime was rife around the crescents. The controversial stop and search ‘sus’ law was being used to discriminate against mainly young black men from Hulme, and neighbouring Moss Side, becoming a major factor in the inner city riots that were on the horizon. Manchester reggae band Harlem Spirit recorded the outstanding ‘Dem A Sus (In the Moss)’ written in protest against the ‘sus’ law. It became a local anthem at the time, being blasted out of sound systems in nearby Alexandra Park, much to the annoyance of the local authorities.

Another positive outlet against the troubled backdrop was the ‘Factory’ night at The Russell Club. Situated on Royce road it was launched by Factory’s Alan Erasmus, Tony Wilson, and helped by promoter Alan Wise. The Factory night attracted numerous touring bands to the area and many upcoming post punk bands passed through its doors. 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.

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The Factory/Russell Club, 1979. Photo © Kevin Cummins.

1980s

The eighties brought in a shift of bohemian culture. Artists, ravers, drop outs and punks were drawn to the area, with its zero rent (the council stopped taking rent in 1984) and diy ethos, Hulme became a multicultural and diverse utopia, someone described it at the time as a self-contained universe.

It even had its own independent arts cinema at the time, in the shape of The Aaben, an old cinema dating back to the 1920s. The Aaben wasn’t much to look at from the outside but it had an impressive interior, it led the way for Arthouse cinema in Manchester, way before the city centre’s Cornerhouse arrived.

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The Eagle pub, early 1990s. Photo via Hulme Storytelling.

After hours 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.

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The Caribbean Club/PSV, late 1990s. Photo © Richard Davis.

The PSV (Public Service Vehicles) club, originally a social club for bus drivers (and previously the Russell) hosted regular DJs and live bands. Remembered by many as as a bit of a rum establishment, it played a mixed bag of music downstairs and predominately reggae upstairs. It welcomed a diverse crowd through its doors, from old frazzled locals and Cheshire kids to single mums, gangsters and students.

1990s

By the early nineties the rot had well and truly set in, most of the clubs and pubs had gone or became 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.

In 1993, just twenty one years after their completion, demolition began, making way for the new Hulme of today which is 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 community, survival and belonging.

Gallery

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Smoking bins, 1979. Photo © Alan Denney.
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1970s. Photo © Manchester Libraries.
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Kids play in the park in one of the crescents, 1970s. Photo © Manchester Libraries.
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1970s. Photo © Manchester Libraries.
The Aaben Cinema. Photo © Richard Davis.
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Kids make their own entertainment, 1986. Photo © Stuart Franklin.
‘P*gs get the f*ck outta here’ Late 1980s. Photo © Richard Davis.
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Snort Cocaine For Kicks/Fight Racist Scum. Photo © Unknown.
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Mattress jumping, late 1980s. Photo © unknown.
A policeman stops outside The Eagle Pub, 1975. Photo © GMP Archive
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On the edge, late 1980s. Photo © Unknown.
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A young kid sits on a car covered in graffiti, early 1990s. Photo © Al Baker
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‘Heaven Street’ late 1990s. Photo © Lee Finch.

Article by Paul Wright for British Culture Archive

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10 thoughts

  1. My home – in the 1970s a family arena; the 1980s unployment and poverty; 1990s was hell and full of crime and drugs… Try not to glamourise the 90s, but reflect on the 70s…

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  2. Greetings from Australia! i was born in Manchester in 1955 then migrated in OZ in 1960. I never knew my birth mother “Annie Silvanovitch” she played piano and sang the blues / Irish songs in the Grafton Arms and other pubs etc. I wonder by chance if anybody knew her or have a foto of her on the very off chance!! However she was born in 1919 and died in 1970..thanks for the memories…Regards Jeff

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