A few years back it felt like Manchester city centre was changing exponentially, writes Len Grant. Certainly I’d come across parts of town that had been totally transformed since my last visit. New buildings, and sometimes whole districts, were springing up almost overnight.
Now, it seems, its the turn of east Manchester. There are neighbourhoods I haven’t visited for several weeks that are now almost unrecognisable. New public buildings are preparing to open; construction sites are crawling with yellow-vested works and dumper trucks; there’s a buzz about the place which seems at odds with economic forecasts.
For this ‘back to school’ progress report, I’ve included some highlights from a whistle-stop photographic tour of east Manchester.
This is the East Manchester Academy, whose progress East has been following for the past 18 months. On Monday it opens its doors to 203 Year 7 pupils, the first cohort of a long-awaited secondary school for the area. The Academy’s Principal, Guy Hutchence, calls them the ‘pioneers’, the ones who will set the standard for the years to come. Check out East next week where we will feature the historic first day of the Academy. Beswick Library shares the same building and opens to the public a week later on the 13th.
Over in Miles Platting this is the brand new Park View Community School which moves from its Victorian building on Nelson Street to its new home on Varley Street.
Up Oldham Road the Greater Manchester Police 240,000 sq ft Force Headquarters is nearing completion at Central Park. The steel frame in the background is the £35 million Divisional Headquarters which, when complete in 2011, will house those officers currently stationed in Beswick at Grey Mare Lane.
Across east Manchester the most visible construction activity is the laying of the Metrolink tracks that will take trams from the city centre to Droylsden. This Phase 3 extension work sees trams running along the main roads, as well as through new tunnels and across new bridges, taking in New Islington, Holt Town and Sportcity.
Here’s the beginnings of the £24 million BMX Centre, part of the National Cycling Centre. Built right alongside the Manchester Velodrome, it will eventually seat 2000 spectators and become the home of the British Cycling Federation.
Some of the biggest changes in east Manchester are currently happening in Openshaw. Morrisons will be the cornerstone in a £40 million retail development including other stores, offices, a car park for nearly 700 cars and a new piece of public art. This week hundreds of local people are being interviewed for positions at the store.
Further down Ashton Old Road, yet another housing development is progressing to fulfill the ambition of more new homes in east Manchester. This is The Key, a development of houses and apartments for sale or shared ownership. Visit www.thekeyeastmanchester.co.uk.
Last week East reported on the messy antics at the Wonderful World of Play at Clayton’s Sure Start Children’s Centre. This week the Over 50s Luncheon Club comes under the spotlight.
The Lunchoen Club: getting out for a hot meal, a game of bingo and a good chat
Over 50s at the Children’s Centre? Surely there’s been a mistake. Not so, explains the Head of Centre, Karen Camm. “Yes, we’re focussed on increasing children’s attainment and getting parents trained and back into work so we’re essentially a hub of services for children and families. And, as such, we’re an intergenerational resource: everyone uses the library, the café, it all mingles together.”
Karen sees the benefit of getting not just mums and tots, but the whole family using the centre. “It has a ripple effect,” she says, “grandparents coming for one event might pick up information about another and pass it on. The Luncheon Club is very much an add-on for our overall ‘think family’ strategy”.
Led by the voluntary group 4CT, the Tuesday Luncheon Club has been going for longer than any of its current members can remember. Clayton resident Sandra Webb has been a volunteer since 1994: “It used to be run by Clayton Community Association [a forerunner to 4CT],” she recalls, “who had their base in an old community centre in Clayton Park and before that in an old butchers shop on Ashton Old Road.”
Today the eight or so regular members are finishing off their steak pie dinner before having a few games of bingo with Sandra calling out the numbers. “Oh yes, they pay for their own dinner and make a small contribution towards the bingo prizes and any trips out we can afford,” she says.
When there’s enough in the ‘kitty’ the group will hire a ‘charabanc’ and enjoy a day trip to the coast. Last time it was a meal out at a Blackpool hotel followed by entertainment and no doubt a sing-along on the way home. “We just go out and have a good time, don’t we?” says Sandra to the bingo players.
A hot meal, a few games of bingo and a good chat. For many of the Luncheon Club this is a social lifeline. “If they didn’t come here,” says Sandra, “they wouldn’t go anywhere.”
The Luncheon Club meets on Tuesdays from 11-2.30. New members are always welcome. Drop in or call 219 6177 for more details.
In the first of a two-part look at what’s on offer at Clayton’s Sure Start Children’s Centre Len Grant heads for a popular play session with a difference.
Cornflakes spill out of a paddling pool; red paint is splattered with rollers and toothbrushes; pasta is shovelled out of a plastic tub with wooden spoons. It sounds like a parent’s worst nightmare but this is the weekly Wonderful World of Play at Clayton Sure Start Children’s Centre and the kids love it.
“For the children it’s all about getting messy, interacting with others and learning through play,” explains Amanda Shore, the Children’s Centre Teacher. “For the adults it’s an opportunity to meet other parents and get informal advice from half a dozen health-related agencies and for us it’s a chance to demonstrate how children can learn from play without expensive toys.”
Kayleigh Smith and her 19 month-old son, Cole have travelled this morning from Ancoats. “Yes, we have to get a bus to be here but it’s worth the effort because he enjoys being with other children and getting messy. He doesn’t get much chance of that at home.”
“I’ve put our pans in a low cupboard in our kitchen,” says Carla Stevens, mother of three year-old Roman. “It means he can just take them out whenever he wants and it keeps him busy whilst I’m cooking.”
Carla has been coming to the Wonderful World of Play since Roman was a baby and isn’t about to stop any time soon. With her five day-old daughter in her arms she has many more sessions ahead of her. “I was here last week, heavily pregnant,” she explains, “gave birth over the weekend and am back again now. I haven’t missed a week!”
"My daughter was born on Sunday and I'm back here today...
Whilst their children are covering themselves in paint and foam the parents and carers get informal advice from different agencies who join in each week.
“We have health workers, speech and language therapists, dental nurses – a string of specialists who might not be consulted formally but who become part of the play session and ‘filter’ information in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere,” says Amanda.
When the dental nurse pays a visit there are toothbrushes in the paint pots and minty-smelly ‘goo’ to play with. When the fire service comes, not only do the children get to try on the helmets but the parents learn they can get their fire alarms tested for free.
“For an a hour and a half the adults get to ask questions of the specialist but also chat to each other,” continues Amanda. “This social interaction is crucial for many new mums.”
“Before having Liam I’d always worked full-time,” says Clayton resident, Claire Tomkison, “so it was a real shock to finish work and start maternity leave. I felt quite lonely and isolated and the weeks seem to drag on forever. I came down here to see what was going on and just started getting to know people. Once Liam arrived I signed up for every course going. I don’t know what I’d have done without the Children’s Centre.
“Some baby and toddler sessions are quite structured but here you get to talk to other mums and I always find it interesting to see what Liam gets up to when he’s playing with the friends he’s made. It just shows that you don’t need expensive toys… our children will learn from anything.”
The Wonderful World of Play is on Fridays between 10 and 11.30. Phone 219 6177 or call in for more information.
Clayton Sure Start Children’s Centre, North Road, Clayton.
Revisit East in the next week for more about the Children’s Centre.
After the Commonwealth Games of 2002 it will arguably be the single most important factor in east Manchester’s economic revival. But, for the time being, it’s all roadworks and dumper trucks. Len Grant sets off to take a look at the progress of Metrolink.
Clutching their red hard hats, two young men are waiting on Ashton New Road, as their bus negotiates the temporary traffic lights.
“Will you be using the Metrolink when it’s finished?” I ask.
“Does it go near college?” asks one, the distinctive hard hats being tell-tale signs that these lads are on a construction course at The Manchester College.
“Not this line, no.”
“Then I won’t,” he says.
“I’m from Newton Heath,” says his mate, “so they’ll be no good for me.” I put his right about the Oldham line and his local stop at Central Park. He’s almost impressed.
Today I am on a journey of discovery. Lately I’ve been diverted and (very briefly) delayed driving around east Manchester as work on the new Metrolink track continues. So this afternoon I’ve parked my car near Clayton Hall and, with camera and tape recorder in hand, decide to follow the track into the city centre.
I’m near Gate 69 as an old black and white photograph comes to mind. It’s a picture I’ve seen of this part of Clayton taken maybe a century ago with trams making their way to and from Ashton. History now repeats itself although, for the time being, this line will only reach Droylsden.
Alongside the fencing I attempt to engage a construction manager in conversation. “It’s more complicated that I’d imagined,” I say after I’ve told him I’m taking images on behalf of the local regeneration company. “You’ve got all the drainage and other utilities to think about,” he says. “It’s not just a case of laying the track.” I’m very unfair to this man, putting him on the spot for an impromptu interview. “I’ve got to get on,” he says, taking the card I offer him. “I’ll get our PR people to call you.”
The line sweeps behind the Little Gem Hand Car Wash and appears to hit a brick wall, literally. Maybe this is one of the sites yet to be compulsory purchased. Staff from the nearby MOT garage have already relocated to Clayton Bridge, says a sign.
Now at Gate 61 (how did I miss 68-62?) I can see there is much activity around the Ashton Canal. A new bridge is being built to take the trams over the canal before they cross the main road. There’ll be a stop between here and Asda called Sportcity: Velodrome. Outside the superstore I stop Mark and Joanne who are happy to talk into my tape recorder. Read more of this article »