Greggs Rise to the Challenge

Posted by editor on September 29, 2009 under Business, training and employment

With their new factory now officially open, Greggs the Bakers renew their commitment to east Manchester

Greggs Bakery now open in Openshaw

Greggs Bakery now open in Openshaw

In a collection of old industrial buildings next to the Ashton Canal, Greggs had been making bread and confectionery in east Manchester for more than half a century. Countless loaves, rolls, cakes and doughnuts have been dispatched from their Parrot Street factory in Clayton in the last 50-odd years.

Kevin Noden: "Everything is better about the new place."

Kevin Noden: "Everything is better about the new place."

It should be no surprise, then, that when the bakers decided to expand, New East Manchester (with the North West Development Agency and Manchester City Council) put together a package to encourage them to stay in the area.

Now, with their brand new factory officially opened today [28th September], the master bakers are ready to show off their state-of-the-art facilities to the throng of TV and radio crews, journalists and photographers who have descended on Greenside Street in Openshaw.

Susan Duffy: "I love it!"

Susan Duffy: "I love it!"

“It’s so much better here,” says Susan Duffy from Beswick who has been pulled off her cake-making duties to feature in the official photocall, “the place is just brilliant. I love it!” When she left school over 12 years ago, Susan started work for Greggs at their Beswick precinct shop. “After two years there, I fancied a change,” she says, “so I moved to the Clayton factory. First I was on dispatch and now I’m on cakes..”

She’s not the only one happy in her work. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” says one man in dispatch. “It’s one big happy family,” says the lady dipping buns into icing.

Bakery manager, Peter Birch, confirms there’s a very positive attitude amongst the staff which has only improved since their move to Openshaw. “We’ve always had an exceptionally low staff turnover,” he says. “We’ve had one employee retire recently after clocking up nearly 50 years service.”

Dispatch is now electronically controlled

Greggs in east Manchester supplies nearly 150 shops across the North West

Peter himself is a relative newcomer, “I’ve only been with the company for nine months. My first job when I arrived was to facilitate the changeover from the old to the new factory.”

It’s been a gradual process. The new factory was originally occupied in February and then, over a three month period, more and more of the production has moved to the new site.

“Logistically it’s been quite a challenge,” admits Peter, “there’s been a lot of day-to-day planning involved. At one point, we had the vans picking up some lines from the old factory and then different lines over here, but all our 150 shops continued to get the goods their customers needed.”

Greggs in east Manchester supplies nearly 150 shops across the North West

Dispatch is now electronically controlled

New ovens have been installed and existing ones refurbished so the factory has the capacity to increase the number of stores it supplies. Currently one of 10 national divisions, Greggs in east Manchester services shops as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent, Blackpool and across to the Yorkshire border.

“We could easily supply another 70 shops from this factory,” continues Peter, “and, looking to the future, there is adjacent land here we could expand onto.” Which all means extra local jobs for east Manchester.

Mary Houlihan: "These 'long tins' are one of our biggest selling lines."

Mary Houlihan: "These 'long tins' are one of our biggest selling lines."

Over on one of the travelling ovens – where the loaf is baked as it sits on a conveyor –is yet another worker full of praise for the new working environment. “It’s been like starting a new job,” says Mary Houlihan, as she stacks the ‘long tin’ loaves, “but you already know everybody!”

From a Pin to an Elephant

Posted by editor on September 21, 2009 under Community

Continuing his series on east Manchester markets, Len Grant takes a stroll around the stalls at Newton Heath where the traders have their sights set on better times.

Newton Heath MarketBraising steak, brisket, mince meat, rib-eye steak, boneless loin, it’s all flying out of Bernard Kelly’s butcher’s stall at Newton Heath Market.

“You’ll want a bit o’ fat with that, won’t you?” Bernard suggests to Mary from Collyhurst, one of his regulars.

“Oh, yes please,” she says, and then to me: “He’s taught me the secret of cooking beef, he has.”

Mary does most of her shopping at markets and prefers them over the high street shops, but she’s disappointed with her favourite market. “It’s gone downhill here since all the changes,” she says. “We used to have cobblers and a watch repairer, there were lots more stalls.”

To avoid the market closing, Manchester City Council took over the site last year with plans to refurbish it. Hoardings around the outside still proclaim a new, improved market. The whole place was closed down for a couple of months whilst old stalls were replaced but business never bounced back. Some traders left altogether and, most crucially, many customers changed their shopping habits and have not returned.

Ali Shafqat with his son: family-run for 25 years

Ali Shafqat with his son: family-run for 25 years

“People don’t like change, do they?” declares 25 year-old Moazum Ali, from the hosiery stall their family has run since Moazum was born. Judging by the number of customers on this damp Wednesday afternoon, it seems they don’t.

Well wrapped-up, local resident Rose is enjoying a cup of coffee and a cigarette with her friends in the café’s gazebo at the other end of the market. Rose has been a regular for 30 years.

“Back then every stall was taken,” she recalls. “The place was hammered, absolutely hammered.”

“What sort of things could you get?” I ask, although I’m pretty sure of her answer.

“Everything. Everything from a pin to an elephant. Now we’ve no shoe stall, no fruit and veg. We’ve only got one knicker stall now. Oh, we used to get our knickers off a lovely fella…”.

Dorothy Lees: "It'll be one of Mancester's best markets again."

Dorothy Lees: "It'll be one of Mancester's best markets again."

I leave Rose and her pals to their lingerie reminiscences and have a chat with the café’s owner, Dorothy Lees.  “I’ve been here for 20 years,” she tells me. “It was a brilliant market then. I used to queue up at 5.30 in the morning and was lucky if I got a stall even then. Gradually, over the last 18 months, traders have left and this is what we’ve ended up with.”

But now the remaining traders have agreed with the council to form a co-operative and, from this month, will be running the market themselves. “It’s the best option for us,” says Steve Hopwood, from behind the rails of his ladies’ fashions. “Then it’ll be up to us what we do. For a start we’re having a car boot sale every Sunday starting at the end of the month. 6am ’til 1pm. Put that in your article.”

Steve Hopwood: "We'll be having a car boot sale every Sunday morning."

Steve Hopwood: "We'll be having a car boot sale every Sunday morning."

“I will,” I promise.

Despite the upheaval, there is lots of optimism for the future. Tricia McElwee has been on Newton Heath for just three years and her handmade, personalised cards and silk flowers have been selling well. “I tried Hyde and Rochdale markets before here,” she says, “and this is the best place. What I do is completely different, and I’m very reasonable.”

“People love markets, don’t they?” says Dorothy. “They love a bargain and the personal service. I think if we can get the custom back then it’ll be one of the best markets in Manchester again.”

Tricia McElwee: selling well at Newton Heath

Tricia McElwee: selling well at Newton Heath

With all this determination and enthusiasm, I think she may be right, but don’t expect to see the elephants back again.

Newton Heath Market on Droylsdon Road is open on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Car boot sales start on September 27th 2009 at 6am.

If you are interested in taking a stall call Dorothy on 07899 807697.

“I Have My Son Back.”

Posted by editor on September 15, 2009 under Business, training and employment, Community

Six months on, the Reclaim Gorton project celebrates with a graduation ceremony for young men from the ‘forgotten suburb’.

Graduation Day

On Sunday evening [13th September] friends and families gathered at Urbis in the city centre to cheer on 30 young men, who, months earlier, had been at a crucial crossroads in their lives.

Proud mum, Liz Shaw, spoke emotionally of the effect the innovative Reclaim programme has had on her son, Callum. “He was hanging around with all the wrong people, he just wanted to be a gangster,” she said. “It was very upsetting, I felt I was losing him. His school suggested he enrolled on the project and I was all for it, although Callum wasn’t sure at first.

Liz Shaw: "He's a  different person."

Liz Shaw: "He's a different person."

“Now it’s as if he’s a different person, he’s changed dramatically. He’s just so grown-up and he’s a pleasure to be with. Reclaim has given me my son back.”

Reclaim is a leadership and mentoring scheme, designed and delivered by the exhibition centre, Urbis. In 2007 it began working with 13-14 year-old boys from Moss Side and followed that with a programme for girls from the same area. The Gorton Reclaim project started in February with 30 Year 8 boys.

At the start of each programme the young people come together and write their own ‘manifesto’ for their area: things they want done and a set of principles to follow. Heading the Gorton manifesto is a plea for ‘more facilities and activities’ as the participants – and others – feel Gorton is often overlooked when public funds are allocated. ‘Police to mix more with the community’, and ‘Don’t carry weapons or you’ll get yourself hurt’ give some indication of the choices these young men face in one of the city’s most disadvantaged communities.

Distributed around their area by the group themselves, the manifesto becomes a pledge for the next six months of intense activity. Reclaim pairs each boy with an adult mentor who supports them throughout the programme. Over the months the participants undertake personal and physical challenges, hear from motivational role models, get immersed in positive community activity and meet and lobby decision-makers from MPs to police chiefs.

Ruth Ibegbuna: "It doesn't stop here."

Ruth Ibegbuna: "It doesn't stop here."

Since the 2007 Moss Side programme, Reclaim has been showered with awards. Developed by Ruth Ibegbuna, Community and Learning Director at Urbis, the project has won the Philip Lawrence Award and the National Crimebeat Award. Ruth herself has won Manchester Evening News’ Peace Activist of the Year Award.

At Sunday’s celebrations, Ruth reiterated to the ‘graduates’ that the six month project was, for them, just the beginning. “You don’t know this yet,” she said, “but we’ve teamed you all up with prestigious local employers in the area who will, for a day a week, give you work experience for the next two years.”

The Reclaim project will continue in Gorton after winning £450,000 this summer from the Government’s Inspiring Communities fund. Over two years the money will be spent on improving the educational prospects and employment opportunities of young people in Gorton South, and involving them in how their area is run.

For more information about Reclaim visit

Reclaim has been supported by Manchester City Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Oglesby Charitable Trust, High Sheriff’s Police Trust, Learning and Skills Council, and the BBC, amongst others.

Last Legs

Posted by editor on September 2, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

The dismantling of the ill-fated B of the Bang is now all but complete, writes Len Grant

For week after week the 180 spikes have been painstakingly removed until the central core sat, bereft, upon the five legs. Yesterday [1st September] contractors from Connell Brothers set about dismantling the core and the remaining legs.

From early morning a 110-tonne crane, its chains threaded through the redundant steel, supported the core as the first three legs were cut, one after the other, and lowered to the ground.

The process was deliberately slow and considered, safety being the main concern. By early evening the core was supported by only the two front legs, the massive crane supporting its weight.

As daylight faded ‘cherry-picker’ baskets were again manoeuvred into place as workers severed the remaining legs. By 9.30, the core was finally separated and brought to rest. The demise of Britain’s tallest sculpture was complete.

One of the 'back' legs is removed

Removing the third of five legsReducing the weight of the coreThe light fades as work continuesThe final two legsAt last: the sculpture's core is grounded