Food and Drink is Served

Posted by editor on October 4, 2010 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

East Manchester’s Food and Drink Fringe Festival has now kicked off! There are 20 mouth-watering events this month across the area. Len Grant calls in at a community centre in Newton Heath to see one of the first.

Billy Jones, left, amongst the Over 50s Forum enjoying the Fringe workshop

I’d intended to drop in at The Stirling Centre in Newton Heath and take a few snaps of the very first event of the 2010 East Manchester Food and Drink Fringe Festival. Sure enough tables were being laid out for the Fringe’s ‘How Does Your Garden Grow’ workshop but there was already a flurry of activity across the hall as members from the Over 50s Forum were busy painting plant pots. I wasn’t expecting two events for the price of one!

Liz Lomas from the Forum explained: “Every year the city council’s Valuing Older People programme puts on a fortnightly Full of Life Festival to celebrate older people and encourage more participation in the community. One of the themes this year is ‘Grub and Gossip’ and that’s what going on here. We’ve got herbs and seedlings and packets of seeds which will go into the plant pots once they’re painted.

Esther Parnell: "The last time I painted was with the grandkids!"

There was plenty of gossip going on as the pots were decorated: “The last time I did anything like this it was colouring-in with the grandkids,” said Esther Parnell as she added another petal to the red rose she was painting on her ceramic pot. The grub came in the form of a splendid buffet provided by Liz’s colleague, Brenda Austen.

Once the pots were filled with compost and seedlings and the participants had had their fill of sandwiches and mini sausage rolls, it was time to turn to the Fringe Festival event staged by community artist, Michele Hawthorne.

“We were looking for something relatively easy and yet creative to make,” says Michele, opening bags of laurel, rhododendron, conifer and holly branches out onto the table. “We’ve got some plant pots with wooden stems already prepared and we’re encouraging people to use their imaginations and create a living decoration that should stay alive for several weeks.”

This group don’t need much encouragement and within minutes the table was full of green-fingered enthusiasts.

Community artist, Michele Hawthorne, gives some tips to Forum member Caroline Crerar

Caroline Coates, the Cultural Regeneration Officer from New East Manchester is here too. She’s responsible for putting many of the Fringe events together over here in east Manchester. I ask her what she’s looking forward to most in the weeks ahead. “There are 20 events during October and it’s hard to highlight just a couple but I think the cooking demonstration with locally grown food at Emerge’s Learning Garden (next to Smithfield Market) on the 9th will be fun. And then there’s the World Food Event staged by Adactus Housing on the 30th at Miles Platting Library. Here local residents will be cooking food form all over the world, so that should be amazing to watch… and amazing to taste!”

See the Food and Drink website: http://www.foodanddrinkfestival.com/events/east-manchester/
See east Manchester’s what’s on listings: http://www.east-manchester.com/whats-happening/index.htm

Agents of Change

Posted by editor on May 17, 2010 under Art, sport and leisure, Business, training and employment

Len Grant re-visits The Sharp Project to record the finishing touches to a stunning artwork by an internationally-renowned group of ‘graffiti-artists’.

In a previous life this aircraft hanger of a building stored microwaves, TVs, copies and printers for Sharp, the multi-national electronics corporation and one-time sponsor of Newton Heath’s most famous sons, Manchester United. Now it’s The Sharp Project, where shipping containers provide accommodation for fledging media companies and cavernous spaces lots of scope for TV drama sets.

Last week The Sharp Project on Thorp Road was ‘invaded’ by a graffiti-art group who, for three days, painted and spayed an immense mural across a warehouse wall that may once have been stacked high with video cassette recorders.

Agents of Change, a collective of artists who, like a disparate rock band, come together to produce spectacular artworks before dispersing across the world to do their own projects. One member of the group, Remi, has sandwiched Newton Heath into a travel itinerary that includes San Francisco, New York and Madrid.

Their last project together, ‘The Ghostvillage Project’ involved changing an abandoned concrete village, built for but never lived in by oil workers and their families in Scotland, into an innovative art gallery.

This current project was part of last week’s FutureEverything Festival.

See the Agents of Change website.
See the Sharp Project website.

FC United: Welcome Home

Posted by editor on May 4, 2010 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

FC United of Manchester, the anti-Glazer protest club, are set to move back to their spiritual roots.

The Ten Acre Lane Sports Complex: a homecoming for FC United

Back in 1878, the year that football referees first started using whistles, the workers of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway would play their home matches on North Road, opposite the carriage and wagon works where the players toiled together during the day.

Their team – Newton Heath (L and YR) Football Club – played in a strip of gold and green and subsequently joined the newly-formed football league in 1892 and, a decade later, were renamed Manchester United.

The rest, you might say, is history and to continue the clichés, history does have a habit of repeating itself. So, only last month, FC United of Manchester, the anti-Glazer club set up in 2005, announced its intention to move back to its ancestral home in Newton Heath. Backed by Manchester City Council and New East Manchester the supporter-owned club plans to develop a rundown sports centre into a 5000-capacity stadium with community sports facilities alongside.

See FC United of Manchester’s website

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.