East tells the story of east Manchester’s ongoing regeneration. It's about places being transformed and projects that make a difference. But most of all, East reports on local people's contribution to the UK's most ambitious regeneration project.
Giving local people the opportunity to work in radio broadcasting is what ALL FM is good at. Len Grant trudges through last week’s show and ice to visit their Mill Street Venture Centre studios and meet one of their most successful new talents.
Ahmed invites listeners to take another spin in his African Taxi
Ahmed Koroma is quiet and unassuming – more John Peel than Chris Evans – as we sit in the corner of the production office. How, I wondered, did he first get involved with the community radio station?
It was two years ago that I answered an advert in The Advertiser inviting applications for a radio production course at MANCAT [now The Manchester College]. I applied and, well, I got accepted. The course included technical skills like mixing the decks and compiling your programme but it was really about how to communicate effectively. Generally, in everyday life, it improves your communication. Before I would never have been able to talk in front of a crowd, but now I can.
After the course Ahmed was part of the outside broadcast team covering the New Islington Festival in 2008. (I was there too, and remember photographing him doing his vox pop interviews with the party-goers). Shortly afterwards he developed his own show – African Taxi – and has been broadcasting every week since.
Ahmed: "Sometimes you like more like a counsellor than a taxi driver."
I am actually a taxi driver here in Manchester and I am from Sierra Leone in Africa, so it made sense to put it all together. The show is just like a real taxi ride: it’s open to everyone and as we are going round I play you some music and chat to make you feel welcome. I bring Africa to Manchester and I take Manchester to Africa.
In fact, Ahmed’s show goes further than Africa. The internet allows ALL FM’s output to be heard worldwide and this taxi driver has a regular followers in Australia and the US.
I do more than two hours research for each show and, on air, I interview many musicians and managers from Sierra Leone. Although I play music from different African countries, most is from my country and that, I know, makes the people back home very happy. Until recently Sierra Leone had suffered civil war for many years and still the people there are very traumatised, so hearing their celebrities on the radio is a positive experience.
Ahmed left his home country 16 years ago but now, since the civil was has ended, returns each year and has plans for the future.
There is an african proverb that says, ‘a toad likes water but not when the water is boiling’. Well, the water was really boiling when I was in Sierra Leone so I had to jump to a safe place and I found myself here. But now, with my business partners, I have set up a recording studio back home and one day I hope to start a radio station there too. Maybe I’ll call it ALL FM in honour of the station that has given me a great start.
As well as radio presenter and real life taxi driver, Ahmed is a the social secretary for the Sierra Leone community in Manchester and has set up a football team – open to all nationalities – which is about to reach the top of their league.
African taxi can be heard on ALL FM 96.9 every Wednesday at 12 noon.
It’s full ahead, says Guy Hutchence, Principal Designate of the East Manchester Academy, as he counts down to the new school opening in September 2010.
Despite Christmas festivities we found time last month to launch the ‘Career Sixth Form’ at Cube in Manchester city centre. I’m delighted that – although we obviously haven’t got any of our own Year 11s yet – 30 or so young people came to see us at the gallery.
The 'Career Sith Form' is launched at Cube in December. Photos: Karen Wright Photography
The Universities of Salford and Manchester were represented as were our sponsors, Bovis Lend Lease and Laing O’Rourke. Aim Higher and Places Matter were there as well as some local architects. It was very encouraging to see so many local young people considering the new East Manchester Academy.
Year 11 students check out the exhibits
The academy model can offer something extra to these post-16 students. Although our sponsors can’t guarantee every school leaver a career, they are obviously looking for the creative, bright young minds of the future and will offer mentoring and job placements to many of our students. Our sixth formers will automatically get much closer to the job market than their contemporaries from other schools and colleges. They will be ahead of the field.
Round table with Guy Hutchence
We’ll only have a small sixth form to start with but we are especially keen on those young people who have a special interest in science, engineering, the built environment, and art and design. The application deadline is later this month and we’ll interview everyone who applies. By the end of next month we should know who has been successful in becoming one of our first Career Sixth Formers.
In March, we’ll also know which of the current Year 6 will be joining us in September. We know we’ll be full and we’re looking forward to providing those 180 pioneers with a first-class educational experience.
One other things I wanted to mention is that, towards the end of last year, Balfour Beatty – the contractors for the academy – ran a competition amongst local primary schools to calculate how many bricks were used in the construction of the building. I can’t say yet who the winners are but I can reveal we had 11 correct answers. Okay, there were some clues: the entrants were told the school’s dimensions, the size of the windows – which of course had to be excluded – and the dimension of a brick. There must be some excellent mathematicians in east Manchester!
The winners will get prizes and a tour of the building by Balfour Beatty and I’ll announce the winners in next month’s blog!
It’s 12 months now since I started as Principal Designate. The time has flown by and we’ve made fantastic progress. But the clock is still ticking and there is still a lot to do. By the end of March we will have recruited all the staff we need for September, so we’re on target and looking forward to an amazing 2010.
As the Rolls-Royce site on Pottery Lane faces the demolition gang, Len Grant nips in to chat with the one of the last employees about the site’s historic past.
Last Man Standing: David Hibbert was one of the last Rolls-Royce employees to leave Crossley Works
When David Hibbert first joined Crossley Premier Engines in 1968 he was expecting to working as a fitter or an engineer. His career path changed after he returned from a stint at the local college. “As apprentices, we’d all done 40 weeks next door at Openshaw Technical College [now the Manchester College] before reporting back to the factory to be assigned our jobs. Some of the lads were taken to the shop floor but I was sent to the drawing office and started work as a junior draughtsman. There was no explanation, I was just told to get on with it.”
These were turbulent times for the engine manufacturers who – as Crossley Brothers – had built a new factory at Pottery Lane in 1882 after outgrowing their Manchester city centre premises. At the turn of the century business was booming. Francis and William Crossley at first made gas-fuelled engines, and then diesel and petrol engines. The potential for motor car engines was not lost on the two brothers – indeed Henry Ford visited Openshaw to see how they did it – and a new factory was established in Gorton in 1906 from which another branch of company history unfolded under Crossley Motors.
Industrial engines, for railways and shipping, continued to be designed and manufactured at Pottery Lane. In the early 1960s the company took out the licence to build a French engine called the Pielstick and, although they were selling well, the company went into liquidation and was bought out. Almost as soon as David had picked up his pencil and slide rule, the company became part of the Amalgamated Power Engineering Group and the sign on the side of the factory changed again to APE-Crossley Ltd.
In later years Rolls-Royce at Crossley Works became a spares and serice centre
“The shipbuilding industry was shrinking at that time and although we still supplied some engines to the Ministry of Defence – our engines still power HMS Ocean – we switched to producing engines for industrial power generation mainly in developing countries like Sudan, Fiji and Bermuda.”
Rolls-Royce took over the business in 1988 and continued Pielstick production for another eight years. “Understandably Rolls-Royce were more interested in producing their own world-beating engine rather than someone else’s under licence,” recalls David. “At their Bedford base they designed the Allen 5000 and tested it here for 1,000 hours. All was well until it went into the field and then problems occurred. By the time design changes were made the project had to be scrapped because it had been tarnished with a bad reputation.
“Over the last decade or so, Crossley Works has become a spares and service centre for the Pielstick product,” continues David. “We’ve had numerous redundancies over the last 25 years and it’s been sad to see the business slowly shrinking. We stopped operations all together in February and since then what’s left of the business has been transferred to Rolls-Royce in Scotland.”
At the end of 2009, David and a few colleagues were packing up, ready to leave Crossley Works – the last employees after 127 years – and make way for demolition workers preparing the site for future redevelopment.
Below is slideshow of historical and contemporary images of Crossley Works. It’s automatic: no need to click.