New Deal’s Legacy

Posted by editor on March 31, 2010 under Community

Today is the end of an era. East Manchester’s New Deal for Communities programme is now officially over. For more than ten years millions have been spent on transforming the ‘broken’ neighbourhoods of Beswick, Openshaw and Clayton, with residents at the forefront of change. Len Grant tells of his new book, Reclaiming East Manchester: Ten Years of Resident-led Regeneration which charts the successes and frustrations of the last decade.

Charting the success of the New Deal programme which finishes today

"It's a story of how mistrust and apathy gave way to co-operation and mutual respect."

I’ve been following east Manchester’s regeneration since about 2005 and was commissioned at the end of 2008 to produce a ‘legacy’ book to mark the completion of the New Deal programme.

Sean McGonigle, NDC’s Co-ordinator, said the book should show how New Deal had changed east Manchester socially and physically, but, more importantly, demonstrate how the regeneration effort had helped individuals improve their lives.

Some might think that was a tall order: having to recount how lives had been positively changed through regeneration. Does it really happen? Well, there are plenty of people in east Manchester who would give an emphatic ‘yes’ to that and I have included some of their stories in this book.

There is the story of Gwen and Steve who bought a house on a Beswick estate in 1995 only to find it had a 96% crime rate. Working with their neighbours, with New Deal and with the police, they turned their neighbourhood around and it now has a crime rate of less than 1%.

Gwen Woolon: "I'd had enough. Something had to be done."

Gwen Woolon: "I'd had enough. Something had to be done."

Then there is Shirley, stuck in a rut, who threw herself headlong into computers when the subsidised internet provider Eastserve come on stream in 2001. She started out as a volunteer and is now a full-time computer tutor at The Manchester College.

Or long-term out-of-work Carol who, with NDC support, gradually got herself back into work and now – as an Employment and Training Consultant – helps others do the same.

The book is set out in a timeline. It starts in 1731 when Ashton Old Road is first established and finishes in March 2010. Throughout the book I have sprinkled quotations from New Deal officers and residents, like this one from Clayton resident, Maggie Warburton talking about her area before New Deal: “The houses round here were an absolute bloody shambles. So in my infinite wisdom, I decided to have a go at the housing association… and the Council…and the police, and anybody else I thought needed kicking up the arse. We didn’t deserve this. All we were asking for was a decent street to live in and for them to do the job they were getting paid for.”

This is what resident Andrea Melarkey had to say about the whole ten-year process: “New Deal has made my area friendly. They’ve made it liveable, and people are happier. We chose to stay and I’m glad we did. We could have upped and left but we decided to stick it out and see it through. I feel really quite passionate now about where we live.”

I’ve interviewed dozens of people for the book and could have interviewed dozens more, there has been so much involvement in the project. But, after 186 pages, I’ve had to draw a line on this chapter of east Manchester’s recent history.

New East Manchester Ltd has planned for this moment for more than two years and so, although the New Deal funding draws to a close, the regeneration effort continues seamlessly and today will feel like any other in the area’s ongoing success story.

Congratulations to all residents and staff for their resolve and commitment to east Manchester!
Reclaiming East Manchester: Ten Years of Resident-led Regeneration
is featured here on the Manchester Evening News website.

It is available to buy online at Cornerhouse Publications for £10.

Unique Broadband

Posted by editor on March 26, 2010 under Business, training and employment, Community

When New Deal for Communities set up in 1999, few homes had computers and even fewer had access to the internet. Ten years on and, as NDC draws to a close, Len Grant takes a look at the broadband legacy left by the regeneration programme.

Let’s get one thing straight. Eastserve is not what is was. The local internet service provider – set up in 2002 by New Deal for Communities to provide residents with computers, training and broadband connection – is now effectively split in two.

There’s the bit that still provides lots of community information and support for local residents, much of it compiled by local people themselves, which is online at Then there’s the technical side – Eastserve Broadband – that continues to provide a competitive broadband service to hundreds of east Manchester homes and businesses using an innovative wireless network.

Although separate, both Eastserves are between them offering the same – if not more – than the previously combined service.

Keith Tongue: "No land line, no contract, no worries."

Keith Tongue: "No land line, no contract, no worries."

But it’s the broadband side I’m off to investigate for It’s twelve months to the day – give or take – that Beverley Hughes MP cut a ribbon outside Eastserve’s Ashton Old Road’s offices to mark the beginning of a partnership between private telecoms company, Symera and Manchester City Council.

It’s all part of what the regeneration people would call an exit strategy: they’ve used public money to set up and run a much-needed service to local residents and once it’s up and running they encourage others to get involved as the original funding comes to an end. At Eastserve it was Symera who saw an opportunity to get in at ground level in east Manchester.

“It’s not been a totally seamless transition,” admits Eastserve’s Keith Tonge. “It’s one thing to operate with ample public funds and another to make the books balance as a going concern.” With a view to the long term, Eastserve has trimmed its overheads – shedding staff and moving to smaller premises – to concentrate on their key business of providing a reliable, cost effective broadband service to residents and small businesses.

Keith, who has years of experience in the telecommunications industry, is now gearing up for a big push for new business. Although broadband operators are falling over each other to get new customers, Keith is confident the wireless hardware installed across east Manchester gives them a big advantage.

“Most other services come down the telephone line,” he explains, “and you can only get so much down it. But in this area we have 75 ‘access points’ on top of key buildings which relay the connection direct to the little square receiver we attach to each home, so we don’t use the local telephone system at all.”

This means customers can get online without the need of an expensive landline. There are no contracts either, but there is a one-off connection fee to cover the cost of installing the hardware. “We can reduce the connection fee depending on how customers pay us,” explains Keith, “and it’s even something the Manchester Credit Union will consider a loan towards if necessary.”

There’s a big marketing campaign starting soon and Keith is confident he’ll add hundreds of new customers over the coming months. “The beauty of Eastserve is we’re local: if there’s a problem there is no faceless call centre to negotiate, customers can talk to us right here in Openshaw.”

Using the same technology Symera can adapt the service for business customers: “We can use the local network to relay security camera pictures and other digital information,” says Keith. “We’re just beginning to take advantage of this state-of-the-art infrastructure that’s only fitted in this part of Manchester.”

More information on the broadband packages and other Symera packages available from Eastserve here, or call them direct on 230 6346.


Gorton 100 Book (and more)

Posted by editor on March 18, 2010 under Community

Few in east Manchester will have missed the Gorton 100 celebrations last year when the whole community came together for a series of events to mark Gorton becoming a part of the City of Manchester…

… or, as Gortonians say, the City of Manchester becoming part of Gorton! Now there is a new book that records the 12 months of passion and pride as well as some of the achievements of the last 100 years.

Out on the 27th March: the Gorton 100 celebration book

Out on the 27th March: the Gorton 100 celebration book

The book – Gorton 100: Best Viewed from Within – is an 80-page pictorial account of the area’s historical features such as Belle Vue, Crossley Motors and Beyer Peacock as well as capturing the people of Gorton at play during the centenary celebrations.

Some highlights include images of the K1 steam engine, the first Beyer-Garratt produced by Bayer Peacock, being transported from the Museum of Science and Industry to its birthplace in Gorton… and then cheered by former employees of the engine works. Brilliant.

Childhood recollections have also been recorded. This is from Maria Koudellas as she recalls her wartime evacuation to Macclesfield. “A hot meal waited for us and for afters was the most delicious creamy rice pudding I have ever tasted. ‘Made from a beaten fresh egg,’ said Mrs Johnson. Then it was bath and bed, what bliss. Coming from a small two-up, two-down in West Gorton, no bathroom, two boys and two girls sleeping in the same bedroom, I thought I was in heaven.”

The book will be launched on 27th March at Gorton Market from 12-2pm with a host of free entertainment including Manchester’s own exciting, colourful band of drummers and dancers, Bloco Novo, the multi-skilled street entertainers, Curious Eyebrow, and the foot-stomping sounds of Dr Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band.

Also available, at £5, by calling Gorton 100 committee member Rose Cusack on 0161 231 3532.

The book, and many of the events, was made possible by generous funding from many organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, New East Manchester and Manchester City Football Club.

And here’s a ‘shout-out’ for anyone who lives, works, studies (or just visits) Gorton…

The ‘Gorton Heart’ Facebook group is at and is for all to share local and family history; highlight educational achievements and opportunities; showcase Gorton arts – from Gorton Visual Arts and Gorton Voice to music, dance and literature. Find out what’s on at the cinema or when the local pub quiz nights or karaoke evenings are taking place and explore local opportunities for training and personal development.

The Facebook group is an opportunity to promote any local event to the whole community.

Hidden Gem

Posted by editor on March 15, 2010 under Art, sport and leisure, Community, Education and health

Len Grant accepts an invitation to take a tour around Clayton Hall.

Clayton Hall: once home to the Byron family and  the Chetham brothers

Clayton Hall: once home to the Byron family and the Chetham brothers

East Manchester continues to amaze me. The diversity of what goes on here and the commitment of local people is astonishing. This last week I found myself taking photographs in Clayton Hall, the 16th century ‘moated’ hall concealed in the middle of the unassuming Clayton Park. Each of four rooms are now decked out in the late Victorian style to give visitors a real taste of history in east Manchester’s most notable historic building.

Come and see the sunken cold store, dining room, kitchen and outside wash house

Come and see the sunken cold store, dining room, kitchen and outside wash house

Yes, I’ve seen this sort of thing before in National Trust properties and in museums run by local councils. But here in Clayton – with the trams lines being re-laid outside on Ashton New Road – this piece of historical restoration has not been put on by a team of full-time curators but by local volunteers from the Friends of Clayton Park.

Over the last couple of years these dedicated volunteers have sympathetically renovated four previously empty rooms into what is now a cultural high spot and an invaluable learning resource for local schools.

Small grants have paid for some of the items – the kitchen range was bought from ebay – but others have been donated by friends and relatives and, since the displays have been open to the public, from visitors supportive of the Friends’ work.

Experience a Victorian kitchen: no fridge or microwave here!

Experience a Victorian kitchen: no fridge or microwave here!

The Grade 2 listed hall is open to the public every third Saturday of the month between 1–4pm (so that’s this Saturday, 20th March) and children are particularly welcome. There’s an ID quiz so youngsters can identify items in each room and plenty of hands-on activities from helping out in the kitchen to ‘ironing’ clothes in the wash house.

As a backdrop to the National Curriculum the Friends are keen to encourage more schools to book visits and use the hall as a teaching resource.

To contact the Friends email or ring Manchester Leisure on 0161 231 3090.

The Friends of Clayton Park website