“I Don’t Dislike It.”

Posted by editor on April 27, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

B of the BangEast photographer and self-confessed B of the Bang fan, Len Grant, documented the construction of the sculpture in 2004. Unresolved safety issues has meant that it has to come down before its time. Before the beginning of the end, Len took his tape recorder to gauge public opinion on the Bang’s demise.

Don’t forget to turn the volume up on your computer.

Revisit thisiseast.com over the next few months and follow Len’s images of the B of the Bang being dismantled.

Principal’s Blog: January-April 09

Posted by editor on April 20, 2009 under Education and health

The East Manchester Academy opens its doors in September, 2010 and already it has its new headteacher. Principal Designate, Guy Hutchence took up his post in January and over the following months, will be telling East about preparations for the new high school.

January

I’m based at New East Manchester’s offices right opposite the site of the new school. I’m made to feel welcome but it’s very different from my old job at Cedar Mount where I was surrounded each day by 100 staff and 900 enthusiastic young people.

Mr Guy Hutchence

Mr Guy Hutchence

The first few days are a whirlwind meetings about building design, room ‘data’ (that’s detail about where the light switches go), furniture, the prospectus and uniform, (it’ll be blue jacket and tie). Thankfully I got started on all these discussions before I left my old job… otherwise it’d be difficult to catch up!

I’m invited to give an assembly at Briscoe Lane Primary School. Thank you, Mr O’Shaugnessy and your pupils for a warm welcome. I make a mental note to visit local schools as quickly as possible to introduce myself and tell them about the new school. Most are amazed to discover we will share our building with a brand new district library, open even when the school is not. “Can I really stay in the library until 8 o’clock?” asked one pupil.Academy logo

We’ll build up the school one year at a time, so the current year 5s will be my first year 7s in 2010. They will be the role models, the prefects, the pioneers! And, as one year 5 pupil commented: “We’ll always be the oldest, won’t we sir?… apart from you!”

In the second week there are more meetings with architects, the sponsors (Bovis Lend Lease and Laing O’Rouke) and the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families). I’ve also been speaking to headteachers at Gorton Mount, Stanley Grove and Aspinall, to hear their aspirations for the new school. It is absolutely vital that I listen carefully to these messages and explore ideas for learning and teaching.

What’s struck me is that everyone has been waiting such a long time for a new secondary school that doesn’t involve tortuous travel arrangements. One pupil said: “It’ll be one short bus journey for me, but my older brother has to take two buses to his school now.” I expect many of our new pupils will be within walking distance or at least a short yellow bus ride away from the Academy.

Presenting the plans at All Saints Primary School in Gorton

Presenting the plans at All Saints Primary School in Gorton

I am showing computer images of the finished school to the primary schoolchildren and they are clearly impressed. The front of the building is mostly glass so passers-by will see a digital projection on the inside wall where we’ll exhibit pupils’ work… the children can’t believe their work will be on show that big!

A glass facade allows passers-by to take a look inside

A glass facade allows passers-by to take a look inside

Unfortunately the school won’t be ready for the current year 6 pupils and some are clearly disappointed. One said, “Can I stay on in year 6 for an extra year, so I can get into your school in 2010!”

I visit the local universities to look at their architecture and design studios. One of the specialisms at the Academy will be the built environment and I want to know what skills the universities – and ultimately employers – want from future students. We can develop these skills by introducing students to the latest cutting-edge technology at school, so they’ll be ahead of the competition when they leave.

Thanks to pupils, parents and staff at all our local primary schools for making me feel welcome: St Luke’s, Chapel Street, Higher Openshaw, Old Hall Drive, Ashbury Meadow, St Wilfrid’s, St Augustine’s, Varna Street, Abbott, St Agnes, Crowcroft Park, Stanley Grove, St Barnabas, All Saints (Newton Heath), Ravensbury Street, Seymour Road, St Chrysostom’s, St Clement’s, St James’, Briscoe Lane, Armitage, Medlock, All Saints (Gorton), Park View, Church of the Resurrection, Plymouth Grove, and Gorton Mount Primary Schools.

Read more of this article »

Away-day for DARTS & Co

Posted by editor on April 17, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community, Education and health

‘Recycled teenagers’ from all over east Manchester jump on a coach every few weeks and head to the coast, countryside or concert hall.

East followed them to a knees-up in snowy Bolton where lunch at the Smithalls Coachouse Restaurant was followed by a sing-a-long with The Entertainers.

DARTS & Co stands for Days Away for Recycled Teenagers and Cultural Outings and is organised by local resident Dot Rathbone. For details of upcoming events, contact Dot at dot.rathbone@btinternet.com or on 0161 273 4709.

Don’t forget to turn the volume up on your computer.

A New Way of Shopping

Posted by editor on April 16, 2009 under Community

In the first of a series about east Manchester’s markets, Len Grant takes a tour of the new Gorton Market.

Gorton Market has it all

“Do you have any mousetraps?” asks one of Khalid’s regular customers. “You know, the old-fashioned kind. It’s for my son, he’s got a restaurant on one side of him and a takeaway on the other. He’s overrun with them.”

Despite being called Electrical Land, stallholder Khalid Anwar does indeed have wooden mousetraps amongst the stacks of CDs, scart leads and mobile phone accessories.

“Tell your son to use chocolate instead of cheese,” I suggest as the money changes hands. Khalid nods in agreement. “Chocolate? Are you winding me up?” exclaims his customer. “Do you know that from experience?”

It’s not the sort of conversation I could imagine having at the Tesco Extra checkout on the other side of the new car park, but here at the indoor Gorton Market it seems wholly appropriate to offer some friendly advice. And yes, I know from experience that chocolate works better than cheese.

Armed with her mousetraps, Dorothy Guy from West Gorton tells me she’s been coming to the market for as long as she can remember. This time last year she’d have done her shopping in the crumbling indoor market hall and what was left of the rickety outdoor stalls. All that is now parent and child spaces. This hall, with it’s 30-odd stalls, was formerly a Co-operative supermarket but converted by the City Council to a market hall as part of the new-look Gorton centre. Not everyone has been happy with the change.

Gorton Indoor Market

“You’ve got to move with the times, haven’t you?” says Dorothy philosophically. “There’s still a good atmosphere here, there’s always plenty of banter.”

Khalid is less optimistic. “Before it was better,” he says, “more people came to the old place. I think there was more variety then.”

I remember visiting the old market in its final days and photographing the small businesses as they closed down, some for the last time. There was a lot of history on that site, a lot of good memories, but it looked dreadful… it was on its knees.

Sheila Goodwin: "It's a new way of shopping."

Sheila Goodwin: "I can carry much more stock and offer a better variety.”

Sheila Goodwin, who has run Goody Two Shoes with her husband since 1982, certainly prefers the new environment. “There’s no more loading and unloading, no more setting up and getting ‘weathered’. I can carry much more stock and offer a better variety.”

But, I ask, what about the customers? “We’ve lost a few and gained a few,” she says, “people don’t like change, do they? But this is the new way of shopping.”

Market Manager, Keith Payne, knows something about the ‘new way of shopping’. Although he’s only been here since the relaunch, he has an impressive track record. On his laptop in his back office he shows me graphs of monthly ‘footfall’ – it’s up for February – and outlines his plans to make Gorton a shopping destination.

“We’ve introduced an antique and craft table-top market on Wednesdays and Sundays,” he says, “and, in the service yard outside, there’s now a car boot sale every Sunday.”

After consulting with local businesses and residents he’s also considering launching an outdoor specialist street market. “It would add some colour and atmosphere to the overall shopping experience,” he says. “It’s got to be good for the community.”

Tesco, he suggests, should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. “Customers coming to the superstore are also impressed with what we have to offer, so that’s all positive.”

I have to admit I’m a supermarket man myself. I guess my shopping habits contribute to  what is, nationally, a downturn for markets. Although I hate the idea of giving yet more money to the big retailers, my distaste is outweighed by the in-out, grab-and-go opportunity. I’d love more chocolate versus cheese discussions but there just isn’t time.

Tesco’s influence on trade at the market is debated. Café owner, Pete Savori of the Manchester ice cream family, is unsure whether there are now more mouths to feed. His strategy is to offer something special: “We prepare simple, home-cooked food that’s fairly priced. Yes, we could always do with more customers but the market hasn’t been open a year yet, it’s still a work in progress.” His fish and chips are mouth-watering, better than any I’ve tasted in any supermarket café.

André Janjic: "Tesco has brough in new customers."

André Janjic: "Tesco has brought in new customers."

From stall to stall, it soon becomes clear than there are as many different opinions on the new market hall as there are traders. André Janjic took over his cooked meats business from his previous boss, John Singleton. “We still keep the name,” he says, “but I now own the business and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I love it. We’re in a good position here, just off the car park, and business has been good. Tesco has brought in new customers, there’s no doubt about it.”

The fish stall is not doing as well but, as Trevor Marshall of Hills Fish and Poultry explains, it’s more to do with the product itself. “The younger generation just don’t want to be bothered handling fresh fish,” he says. “Most of them just want a bag they can pop in the microwave: ping and ding, job done.” I feel my cheeks go the colour of the red snapper in front of me. Yes, I think I’m a ‘ping and dinger’. Trevor has been on the market for over 30 years, so he’s seen the trends. “There’s no way I could have stood here on a Friday chatting to you… there’d be a queue as long as you like…”

Trevor Marshall of Hills Fish: "It's just ping and ding nowadays."

Trevor Marshall of Hills Fish: "It's just ping and ding nowadays."

What the markets have over their rivals – whether regular shops or supermarkets – is the atmosphere, the chat and the personal relationships that are established between shopper and trader. Ivy Buckley is in line to be served by her butcher, George Wiltshire, who is giving his customers an analysis of Man City’s performance last night. “Robinho was unlucky with that one off the bar, wasn’t he?”

“Oh, they’re all very pleasant and friendly,” Ivy says to me later, “in the supermarkets it’s all quick service and it never looks as fresh as in here.

“What do I get for doing this interview,” she quips, as she drops her sausages into her shopping bag, “… a leg of lamb!”

Link to Manchester Markets website