On Show

Posted by editor on October 21, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

Black Looks banner

Pupils from Wright Robinson College show off their work inspired by Black Looks artist, Colin Yates. Their banner is displayed outside the Sportcity Visitor Centre on Ashton New Road.

Len Grant reports back from two exhibitions in east Manchester

Although it’s been on tour for ten years, this is the first appearance of the Black Looks exhibition in Manchester. And very welcome it is too. The 25 drawings, paintings and prints by artist Colin Yates, trace the contribution of Black and Asian professional footballers in Britain for more than a century.

Colin was motivated to produce his work whilst playing amateur football: ‘…I was witness to a series of racist incidents involving my Black and Asian teammates,’ says the exhibition introduction. ‘As a response to these verbal and physical attacks I decided to create an anti-racist football exhibition.’

Colin Yates' Black looks exhibition at Sportcity until the 26th

Colin Yates' 'Black Looks' exhibition at Sportcity until the 26th

Colin accompanies the exhibition as it visits new cities, leading workshops with local schoolchildren as part of his continuing artistic response to racism in football. This week and last, he’s been motivating Wright Robinson High School students to create their own artwork based on the issues raised by the exhibition. Colin has worked with over 200 schools and community groups, educating through his art.

But what of the work? It’s powerful and full-on. Appropriately, Colin’s portrait of City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips kicks off the exhibition. It’s a beautifully-crafted copy of a photograph of W-P playing in a ‘friendly’ against Spain in Madrid. Behind him are Spanish fans, some on their feet, and you can almost see the verbal abuse hurled from the stand. The winger commented later, “That’s why I support the ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign. It’s been going for 10 years but there is still a need for it, because you still hear the chants.”

Shaun Wright-Phillips on the receiving end of racist chants in Madrid

Portrait of Shaun Wright-Phillips in Madrid

Colin’s exhibition also charts the rise of Black footballers in the British game. One piece, Black Explosion 1970-80, features 11 footballers including, Garth Crooks, Laurie Cunningham, Clyde Best MBE, Cyrille Regis MBE, and Viv Anderson MBE who, in 1979, was the very first Black footballer to play for England in a full international match.

Anderson’s achievement is further profiled in a poster-style piece with solid reads, blues, greens and yellows and the word LANDMARK below his portrait. Obama got a poster in the same style in the run-up to the presidential elections last year.

Other notable pieces works include a ‘neon’ Stan Collymore, a controversial figure who Colin says ‘joined the list of great footballing underachievers.’

The exhibition runs until Monday 26th October at the Sportcity Visitor Centre, Ashton New Road, near its junction with Alan Turing Way. Call 0161 227 3151 for opening times.

The second exhibition has sadly come and gone. Only staged for one day in the studio at The Angels Centre in Gorton, it was Peter Koudellas’ debut show. Twenty or so black and white prints were testament to Peter’s diverse artistic talent. As a member of the Gorton Visual Arts group, 52 year-old Peter, who has learning disabilities, has documented scenes from his travels around the country.

Peter's debut solo show at The Angels in Gorton

Peter's debut solo show at The Angels in Gorton

“He’s only been taking pictures for about 18 months,” explains his mother, Marie. “He takes photographs wherever he goes, he always has his camera with him.”

Peter is particularly keen on public art and has documented sculptures in Yorkshire, artwork at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, the Eric Morecombe figure on the Flyde coast and, nearer to home, Colin Spofforth’s The Runner at the City of Manchester Stadium. Not to upset any footballing rivalries his exhibition also included the Best, Law and Charlton tribute at Old Trafford!

As part of the Gorton Visual Arts group, Peter has also contributed to the Belle Vue mosaic at Gorton Market and to the group’s many artistic endeavours. Artist Ian McKay, who inspires and co-ordinates the local amateur artists, says of Peter, “His application of paint is fantastic. He’s already where many professional painters would love to be.”

Produce of Gorton

Posted by editor on October 16, 2009 under Community, Education and health, Environment

Len Grant takes a look at the Gorton allotment project that’s keeping rural skills alive in the city

Growing your own has never been so popular. For many allotment holders it’s all about producing fresh, tasty organic food, with an eye on self-sufficiency and reducing their own carbon footprint.

Rev David Gray: "You don't need an allotment to keep hens."

Rev David Gray: "You don't need an allotment to keep hens."

At the Faith in the Community allotments in Gorton, they’ve taken it a step further. Here local people are being encouraged to not only use whatever space they have – back yard or window box – to grow vegetables and herbs, but they can now learn how to keep ex-battery hens.

“We’ve got 14 chickens, six ducks and five geese at the moment,” says Rev David Gray, whose wife Elaine, runs the allotment. “And all the chickens have been rescued from battery farms.” Apparently Britain’s 20 million battery hens only have an 18-month productive life before they are slaughtered. Increasing numbers are now being rescued by the Battery Hen Welfare Trust (they’re either given away or sold for up to 50p each) and found new homes. With a little ‘TLC’ the hens recover physically from their ordeal and reward their new owners with fresh eggs.

Bath-time“Almost anyone can keep chickens,” explains Rev David, “you don’t need an allotment like this. It would be great to see people across the city building pens and keeping rescued birds.”

It’s a popular prospect for many. Already David and Elaine are offering workshops in ethical poultry care and fox-proof pen construction. “Over a generation we’ve lost many of our basic skills,” explains Rev David, “looking after animals and growing and preparing fresh food would have been second nature, but fewer people now know how to do it. We’re trying to pass on some of those skills before they are lost forever.”

Marrows and pumpkinsOver the last twelve months Elaine has hosted sessions with local volunteers, schoolchildren and young people on probation, demonstrating how to grow fruit and vegetables from seed, and most of all, how to prepare food for the dinner table.

As part of this month’s Food and Drink Festival Open Day, one visitor, Pushpa Lad, has come along to see what’s what amongst the leeks and marrows. “I’ve never been on an allotment before,” she confesses. “My husband is very interested in starting one up and I’ve come to take a look. I can imagine we’d grow coriander, spinach, aubergines, all sorts.”

Pushpa Lad, centre, with allotment volunteer, Elaine Gray

Pushpa Lad, centre, with allotment volunteer, Elaine Gray and John Steadman of Gorton Horticultural Society

“What we’re striving towards,” says Rev David, “is a whole network of local producers who can not only satisfy their own needs but have sufficient surplus to feed vulnerable people across the city. We’re making connections between different groups to achieve this, and the community allotment here is just a small part of that broader picture.”

To find out more about the network of producers helping to feed the vulnerable, visit the “Pharoahs Barn” group on Facebook or email Rev David Gray on david@fn4m.org

The Battery Hen Welfare Trust is at www.bhwt.org.uk

The Sportcity Slosh

Posted by editor on October 13, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

It’s October, and once again the Manchester Food and Drink Festival is in full swing. And, once gain, east Manchester gets stuck in as if the festival was designed just for them! Len Grant reports from Sportcity.

Sportcity_sloshThis month there are dozens of festival events from food tasting to cookery competitions and food-inspired poetry. For East I take a trip to a tea dance at the City of Manchester Stadium and a community allotment in Gorton, (more of that soon).

Tea dances are always good fun to photograph. Everyone’s in a good mood and up for a laugh. Alan, the DJ, is warming up his audience as I arrive and, as this is a regular monthly event, he knows many of the punters by name. “Come on, Cyril, this is your favourite,” he says from behind his deck. “Table five, do you fancy a slosh?”

Beswick resident, Mary Bailey never misses a session. “I like a bit of Nat King Cole,” she says. “Oh, and we do like a bit of disco,” chips in her friend, Joan from Audenshaw.

Once they’ve bought their ticket it’s free tea and – usually – biscuits. But today, maybe because of the festival, it’s scones with cream and jam. I guess they all work it off before the end of the afternoon.

Harry : "I've had these dancing shoes for years."

Harry : "I've had these dancing shoes for years."

Another of Mary’s friends, 82 year-old Harry Leigh, was born and brought up around here. “Our terraced house would have been somewhere on this Sportcity site,” he says. “It was a dirty industrial area in those days and things were hard, but we got by.” Harry slips on his treasured dancing shoes as I quiz him about his younger days.

“Oh yes, there were plenty of places to dance. We’d go down to Belle Vue, or the Lido on Ashton Old Road, or the Apollo on Ardwick Green,” he recalls.

Dorothy and Ada: "We used to dance all over east Manchester.'

Dorothy and Ada: "We used to dance all over east Manchester."

Over on table seven, I hear more reminiscences from Dorothy Longmire and Ada Wakefield. “You’d buy a ticket from the Co-op for a shilling,” they say, “and that’d get you in the dance on the Saturday night.”

“We’d go all over,” remembers Dorothy, distracted by a change of line-up on the stage, “the Conservative Club on Pinmill Brow near town, or Ardwick Lads Club. We’ve always enjoyed dancing… Oh, look, it’s Carl on now.”

Carl 'has a way with him'

Carl 'has a way with him'

Alan is taking a break as singer Carl Bennett takes to the microphone. “Carl’s lovely,” says Dorothy, “he’s the best singer we have.”  Ada agrees, “He’s brilliant. He’s got a way with him.” Sure enough, Carl does have a way with him. Permanently smiling, he belts out the classics with an infectious enthusiasm that’s difficult to ignore. Soon I’m tripping around the dance floor taking pictures with a little swagger, wondering if anyone would notice if I put my camera down and joined in.

I have to leave sooner than I’d like but first have a quick chat to Deborah and Sophie, the City in the Community organisers who’ve been running the dance for the past two years. “We advertise in the match day programme,” explains Deborah, “and visit care homes and community groups to tell them what we do. It’s becoming ever so popular.”

But what has been special about today, for the food and drink festival? “We’ve given everyone recipe cards for healthy meal suggestions,” says Sophie,  “and this month’s picture quiz features celebrity chefs. We’ve also got outreach workers here from the NHS and the ‘Getting Manchester Moving’ campaign.”

“But what about you two?” I ask, cheekily. “Do you ever get up for a bop?” Deborah and Sophie are emphatic in their joint response, “Oh no! We just observe.”

I can’t believe they haven’t succumbed to Carl’s crooning before now!

The next tea dances at the City of Manchester Stadium are 12th November and 3rd December. Call Sophie or Deborah on 0161 438 7711 or 438 7834 to book tickets.

Principal’s Blog: September 09

Posted by editor on October 6, 2009 under Education and health

The East Manchester Academy opens its doors in less than 12 months. Principal Designate, Guy Hutchence keeps East readers updated in the latest installment of his blog.

Mr Hutchence on the site of the new Academy
Welcome back to the blog after the summer break. Although there has been little break in our preparations for the new school, which, by this time next year, will have welcomed its first pupils.

During the holidays 70 children from 12 primary schools made good use of the local sports facilities. As part of our Children’s University programme we had youngsters racing around the indoor track at Manchester Velodrome, which was fantastic to watch. The special track bikes don’t have brakes or gears so it can take some getting used to. Look out Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, there’s new talent on the way!

The Key 103 bus came down too and pupils from St Barnabas and St Wilfrid’s worked with a radio professional on a new jingle to advertise our Open Evening. The same pupils have since been visited the radio station to complete the production in their studios. Well done to everyone involved in that!

These holiday activities are just a taster of what will be offer once the school is up and running. Our young people will have every opportunity to use the full range of east Manchester’s facilities as they progress through school.

The radio jingle did its job because I was amazed at how many people came along to our Open Evening at the Stadium at the beginning of September. We were expecting 250 but 400 prospective pupils and their parents/carers came to hear our plans for their futures. It was standing room only! Thanks to everyone who came… next time we’ll provide more chairs! We answered lots of questions on the night but if there are more please contact me on 0161 223 1155 or email g.hutchence@manchester.gov.uk.

I wrote, 'Be the change you want to see.'

I wrote, 'Be the change you want to see.'

Building progress on the Grey Mare Lane site continues apace. The brickwork and cladding are now complete and the window frames are being installed. We marked the progress with a ‘Golden Bolt and Beam-Signing’ ceremony earlier this month. OK, it was a regular bolt painted gold but it looked the part! Our local MP Tony Lloyd and I were transported in a ‘scissor lift’ 15 metres above the ground to make our mark on one of the highest steel beams. I wrote ‘Be the change you want to see’, and Mr Lloyd wrote, ‘Here our children’s dreams come true’. Hopefully it’ll be the last graffiti we’ll see in the school!

So, the East Manchester Academy will be open in less than 12 months and, to be honest, it can’t come quickly enough for me. Once the building is full of pupils I can return to helping young people develop their full potential and already I am beginning to recruit an outstanding team of teachers to help me. Watch this space.