Anne Worthington grew up in Blackpool in the North West of England and then moved to Manchester. Whilst living in the inner-city area of Hulme, she became part of the mix of artists, ex-students and squatters who had made the partly abandoned blocks of flats their own. Anne became part of the Dogs of Heaven collective that produced large-scale art performances. It was during this time that she first picked up a camera and took photographs of the area as it was being demolished, marking the end of an era of squat culture.
Anne went on to become a documentary photographer, working around the country in an old Land Rover, and over the next twenty years, produced a body of work that highlighted the conditions of housing, and the effects of social and economic change that had begun during the the 1980’s.
The photographs show the inner city communities of Beswick, Clayton and Openshaw – areas of East Manchester that had fallen into decline. They capture the last days of these industrial areas, before and during the demolition that made way for new housing and businesses. Anne focused on the daily lives of people who lived there, and how they worked to keep their community together when so many institutions had fallen away.
Anne “I took these photographs in Beswick, Clayton and Openshaw, three areas of industrial East Manchester. Areas that had employed thousands of people and very little remained. The streets housed a fraction of the people who used to live there. Like other parts of the UK, it’s a well trodden story.”
“The collapse of industry made this area one of the poorest in the city. East Manchester ended up being earmarked for regeneration, and by the time I started to take photographs here, streets in Beswick and Openshaw had been emptied and made ready for demolition. I’d meet people living in the one house still occupied in otherwise empty streets. Kids would take over those streets and walls got smashed in and fires lit in the empty houses. I got to know a family who’d started a club for young people to give them something else to do. They’d check on the kids most nights, the ones who were still out late into the night because some of them didn’t have stable places to call home. They opened their homes and gave them somewhere to stay.”
“I met people down streets and on steps, and got more known as the photographer. It could be a tough place, sometimes a dark place, but rarely unhappy. People had a sense of purpose. They saw something wasn’t right and took it on. They’d been keeping their community going when other institutions had fallen away. And they knew how to have fun.”
Sense of Belonging
“I got to know a few families and saw what can be overcome with that sense of belonging. Times have changed since I was there in the late 90’s and early part of the 2000’s. Some of the streets aren’t there now, kids were outside a lot then, and the clothes were different. The Tab and the temple have gone. Some people in the photographs still live in the area, they’ve married, grown up, got older. Some of them have died. The regeneration scheme came and went, the new houses were built, and the areas have changed. They are distinct from the rest of the city, still dislocated maybe, and the people are still kind, enduring, wise and angry.”
All Photos © Anne Worthington.