In 1974 photographer Chris Hunt documented the lives of working class families in Beeton Grove, Longsight – a small terraced street just a couple of miles from Manchester city centre.
Chris was fascinated by his neighbours – a diverse mix of English, Irish, Pakistani and Cypriot families. After a year living on Beeton Grove Chris approached everyone on the street with a request to photograph and interview them about their everyday lives.
Chris “I was refused entry into four houses. One was an Irishman who was drunk when I asked him and was not interested. Two others, an Irish and Pakistani family felt I would be too much of an intrusion. An old man lived in the fourth but he didn’t open the door or let anyone in, unless he was so drunk that he had to be carried home from the pub.
Of the houses I was allowed into, there were three Irishmen, Mr Kielty, Mr Killeen and Mr Guilfoyle who did not want to be photographed or interviewed for reasons they kept to themselves, but were happy for me to photograph and talk to other members of their households.
I was surprised to discover the different ways everyone lived. In some of the houses I could feel the warmth and affection within the family, the children were happy and everyone was interested in what I was doing. In others I felt more of a stranger and was never really accepted. Possibly having a tape recorder did not help, but the feeling was still there after three or four visits. Generally speaking the interviews were more like discussions, after my first visit to each household I gave each family some free photographs, which made subsequent visits easier.
All the houses were in need of some sort of repair and, as many were rented, the tenants rightly felt that the landlords should carry out the work. The landlords, in turn, were reluctant to carry out repairs with the threat of demolition facing the street.
I left Manchester soon after, thinking that the small community would soon disappear. Everyone was already dreaming of the day the could afford to buy their own house and move away from Beeton Grove once it had been demolished. As it happened, the plan was abandoned and Beeton Grove survives to this day, little different on the outside from forty years ago, although all but one of the families appear to have moved on.”
Chris created an important social record when he not only photographed members of the families but also recorded them talking honestly about their lives within the close knit community, and their hopes and worries for the future.
As well as the portraits and images of family members in their homes, Chris captured them at their places of work, out shopping, and in the nearby pubs and social clubs of 1970s Manchester.
All photos © Chris Hunt, all rights reserved.
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