Hulme Manchester Crescents 1980s Richard Davis Photographer British Culture Archive

Hulme, 1980s-90s | Photographs by Richard Davis

Hulme in the 1980s and early 1990s – a time when this inner city suburb of Manchester was a haven for squatters, punks, drop-outs and artists. With its brutalist concrete crescents, graffiti-ed up walkways – there was nowhere quite like it. 

Built after the slum clearances of the sixties, this version of Hulme is a place with a lot of history, good and bad. A place that needs to be documented and preserved for future generations.

Richard Davis

Photographer Richard Davis, a former resident of Hulme lived in Charles Barry Crescent – one of the four brutalist crescents that dominated the area. 

Richard “I grew up in Birmingham and left school in 1982 with no real qualifications and no idea what to do. I spent a few years on various worthless schemes, but mostly I was signing on. It was while I was receiving unemployment benefits that my interest in photography grew. I got involved with Birmingham Trades Council’s ‘Centre For The Unemployed’ and was encouraged to photograph things that caught my eye in the street, as well as the many political demonstrations happening at that time in the Midlands.”

Richard Davis Photographer Self Portrait, Hulme, 1989.
Richard outside his flat on Charles Barry Crescent, Hulme, 1980s.

Photo © Richard Davis.


“They had a darkroom at the center, which I really took to, and it wasn’t long before I was teaching basic photography and darkroom skills to other unemployed people. I loved it, and a lifelong love of photography began. Someone at the center suggested I should look into getting a qualification in photography, and before I knew it, I had been accepted onto a course at Manchester Poly in September 1988.”
Graffiti in Charles Barry Crescent, 1991.
Graffiti in Charles Barry Crescent, Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.


“I had always loved Manchester music, so I didn’t need any persuasion to leave Birmingham for a new life up North. On day one at the Poly, we were advised not to go into Hulme, a neighbouring district to where the Poly was situated. We were told that Hulme was dangerous, lawless, and should be avoided. However, the very next day, I decided to explore Hulme and see for myself. I never did like being told what I should or shouldn’t do!”

We're From Hulme Graffiti. Hulme, Manchester, 1990s.
We're From Hulme. Graffiti in Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.


“Little did I know at the time, Hulme would play a massive role and shape my life for many years to come. I took to it straight away. How could you not? It was just so damn photogenic and very different from anywhere I had seen before. A lot of it was derelict, while what was occupied tended to consist of a diverse mix of artists, musicians, ex-students, and the unemployed – the kind of people mainstream society seemed to reject.”

Hulme resident Dave Ansell, Charles Barry Crescent, 1991.
Hulme resident Dave Ansell, Charles Barry Crescent, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

“Hulme had the most amazing creative spirit and sense of community, and for many people, it was a real source of inspiration and energy. I quickly made friends with various musicians and the word got out that I had a camera and knew how to use it. It was that easy. This was way before mobile phones and, at that time, Manchester didn’t have many photographers.” – Richard Davis.

Community Charge Band. Hulme, 1991.
Local band Community Charge led by Kwasi Asante (front), Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Hulme Crescents

“After only a few months in Manchester, I was offered the keys to squat in Charles Barry Crescent, one of the four big Hulme Crescents. The flat used to belong to Harry Stafford from the Manchester band “Inca Babies”. It turned out, I could have his place as long as I forwarded the mail that his band used to receive. I was in heaven, with my own rent-free place which I eventually converted into a darkroom and studio.”

Walkways In The Sky

“The flat had no windows at the front—all boarded up—which was perfect, as no light would get in. The only problem was keeping the temperature consistent for developing and printing photos. This proved difficult in winter as it was so cold. The flat only had one plug-in heater. Hulme was ideal to use as a backdrop for my photos; all concrete and strange walkways in the sky and an amazing lack of colour which suited what I was after.”

Hulme Crescents, 1990.
Hulme Crescents, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.


During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Manchester became “Manchester” and the city went through a huge creative period. Living there, you could certainly feel the energy and excitement. It’s funny because I moved to Manchester mainly because of the music scene. I’m a huge fan of Joy Division, Buzzcocks, The Fall, Magazine, and so on. However, during those years, I found myself at the center of the burgeoning comedy and spoken-word scene.

Steve Coogan

“I became good friends with Henry Normal (who later went on to form Baby Cow Productions with Steve Coogan). Through Henry, I met and became friends with Caroline Aherne, John Thomson, Steve Coogan, Lemn Sissay, and Dave Gorman. I ended up photographing Steve a lot and helped with projections at his early comedy shows.”

Steve Coogan in Hulme, 1991.
Steve Coogan in Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Steve Redhead

“After completing my two-year course at the poly, I spent a further year hanging around with Steve Redhead (known as Professor Rave), who ran the Unit for Law and Popular Culture. Steve was working on a project that involved the crossover of football, music, and fashion. He wanted me to take photographs for a book on this topic. It was a really productive time for me. Many of the photos taken around this period were shown in various exhibitions, and the book, titled ‘Football With Attitude,’ was published in 1991.”

“I always felt lucky living in Hulme, having my own darkroom and studio right in the heart of everything. All the clubs and gigs were within walking distance of my flat, and most of the time, I took my camera along to capture it all.”


The PSV Club, Hulme, 1990.
The Caribbean Club / PSV Club (Previously The Russell Club, home of The Factory night) Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Free Kuwait with Tiger Tokens Graffiti, Hulme, late 1980s.
Free Kuwait with Tiger Tokens (Gulf War related graffiti) Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Looking out over Charles Barry Crescent.
Charles Barry Crescent, 1990.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Friends and Family on the walkways in Hulme, 1989.
Friends and Family. Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

The Caribbean Club / PSV Club, Hulme, 1990.
The Caribbean Club/PSV Club, Hulme, 1990.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Poet Lemn Sissay in Hulme, 1990.
Poet and author Lemn Sissay in Hulme, 1991.

Photo © Richard Davis.

Richard Davis’s work was exhibited as part of BCA’s debut exhibition at The Social in 2019. Select works were also included as part of the British Culture Archive exhibition at the annual British Shorts Festival in Berlin. 

A selection of his Hulme series are part of the touring exhibition – The People’s City. 




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