In the late eighties and early nineties Manchester’s inner city suburb of Hulme was a haven for squatters, punks, drop-outs and artists. With its brutalist concrete crescents, graffiti-ed up walkways and alsations on flat roofed pubs – I’d never seen a place like it. It was a real eye opener at a young age to see how different life was just a few miles up the road from the South Manchester suburb where I grew up.
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.
I was in contact with photographer Richard Davis, a former resident of Hulme, who around this time lived in Charles Barry Crescent – one of the four brutalist crescents that dominated the area. Richard’s photographs are incredible and had been on my radar for some time. It was great to finally speak with him to find out more about his journey into photography and his time living in Hulme.
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 whilst on the dole my interest in photography really began. I got involved with the Birmingham Trades Council ‘Centre For The Unemployed’ and was encouraged to go out and photograph things that caught my eye in the streets, as well as the many political demonstrations happening around that time in the Midlands”.
“They had a darkroom at the centre which I really took too, 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 centre suggested I should look at getting a qualification in photography and before I knew it I was accepted onto a course at Manchester Polytechnic which began in September, 1988”.
“I’d always loved Manchester music – I didn’t need any persuasion in leaving Birmingham for a new life up north! On day one at the Poly we were all advised not to go into Hulme, a neighbouring district to where the Poly was sited. A dangerous, lawless place to be avoided we were told, so obviously the next day I decided to explore Hulme and see for myself. I never did like anyone telling me what I should or shouldn’t do!”
“Little did I know at the time this place would play a massive role and shape my life for many years to come. I took to Hulme straight away, how could you not – it was just so damn photogenic and so very different from anywhere I’d seen before. A lot of it was derelict, whilst what was occupied tended to consist of a diverse mix of artists, musicians, ex-students & the unemployed – the kind of people mainstream society seemed to reject”.
“Hulme also had the most amazing creative spirit and sense of community, and for a lot of people a real source of inspiration and get up and go energy. I quickly made friends with various musicians and word got out I had a camera and knew how to use it, it was that easy. Remember, this was way before mobile phones and Manchester at that time didn’t have many photographers”.
Charles Barry Crescent
“After only a few months in Manchester I got offered the keys to a squat in Charles Barry Crescent, one of the four big crescents in the heart of Hulme. The place used to belong to Harry Stafford from Manchester band The Inca Babies, turns out I could have his flat as long as I forwarded all the mail to him that his band used to receive. I was in heaven, I had my own rent free place which I converted into a darkroom and studio”
“The flat had no windows at the front, all boarded up, it was perfect as no light would get in. The only problem was keeping the temperatures of the chemicals consistent for developing and printing photos. This proved difficult in winter as it was so damn cold, the flat only had one plug in heater. Hulme was ideal to use as a backdrop for my photos, all full of concrete and strange walkways in the sky, and an amazing lack of colour which really suited what I was after”.
“During the late eighties and early nineties Manchester went through a real creative period, you definitely felt it living there, having Hulme as a base highlighted it even more. It was funny for me as I moved to Manchester, in large because of the music – i’m a big fan of Joy Division, Buzzcocks, The Fall, Magazine etc, but during those years I found myself at the heart of the Comedy/Spoken Word scene, which also started up at the same time as Madchester.”
“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 & Dave Gorman. I ended up photographing Steve Coogan a lot and helped him with his projections at his early comedy shows”.
“After my two year course at Manchester Polytechnic finished, I did a further year hanging about with Steve Redhead (known as Professor Rave) who ran the Unit for Law and Popular Culture at Manchester Polytechnic. Steve was working on a project at that time of the early 90’s which involved the crossover of football, music and fashion, he wanted me to do the photographs for a book on this topic. It was a really productive time for me, a lot of the photos around this time were shown in various exhibitions and the book called ‘Football With Attitude’ came out in 1991″.
“I always felt lucky during this time living in Hulme, having my own darkroom and studio right in the middle of things. All the clubs and the gigs were all in walking distance of my flat and most of the time I took my camera along to capture it all”.
Richard Davis Gallery
All images © Richard Davis, all rights reserved.
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