Saturday, August 12, 2006


The Lowry eats up millions of pounds of public money every year but we’re constantly told it’s great for Salford…

So we thought we’d take a closer look…

We follow half a dozen local kids as they attempt to see LS Lowry’s paintings – and get kicked out within two minutes of entering the building…

Then we look at The Lowry’s finances to see who is watching over how the cash is spent…And find all sorts of interesting stuff…


We really, really didn’t set out to trash The Lowry. We were just chatting to a group of lads about Salford and stuff, and we asked if they’d ever been there. `Nah’ they said `They won’t let us in’…

`Don’t be soft’ we said `They’ve got to let you in – it’s a public building, paid for by your parents…of course they’ll let you in…They’re talking all the time about how they want to reach out to `young people in the community’…’

`We won’t last two minutes’ they laughed…

…And so, on a wet Sunday afternoon, six lads from the Whit Lane Estate in Charlestown, with their hoods up - like you do when it’s pouring down - trooped off to The Lowry to see the old man’s pictures…world famous paintings of working class people off similar estates from a bygone era…

We wanted to know how the lads would react to the paintings and to the place itself. Instead we discovered how The Lowry reacted to the lads...

We stuck a hidden microphone on one of them and went in separately with a camera just in case they did get kicked out. The lads walked into the building quietly, looked for signs to the Lowry paintings, got the escalator up to the first floor and started to walk past an information desk into the gallery. They were stopped…They’d been in the building for less than two minutes.

Here’s what the tape picked up, unedited…

Man on desk: You can’t go in

Lad 1: Why? I want to see the pictures

Man on desk: You can’t go in

Lad 2: Why…why can’t we just see the pictures ?
Man on desk: Because I’m not letting you in, that’s why

Lad 2: Why…what have we done ?

Man on desk: I can get security if you want

Lad 3: We’ve not done nothing

Member of the public with his kids: Is this the Lowry show here – can I go in ?

Man on desk: Yes you can go in – just turn in there.
Lad 1: What have we done – we haven’t done nowt
Man on desk: Come on lads
Lad 2: How come we can’t go and see the pictures – what’s so wrong about us ?
Man on desk calls security: I’ve got a group up here
Lad 3: Why can’t we see the pictures ?
Man on desk: Because you can’t – I don’t have to have an argument with you…you just can’t
Lad 1: Give us a reason
Man on desk: I don’t need a reason
Lad 1: All we want to do is see the pictures – give us a reason

Man on desk: I don’t have to give you a reason
Lad 5: Why ? Everyone else is going in…why can’t we ?

Security man comes…: Leave the building
Lad 6: Why ?
Security man 1: Just leave the building will you
Lad 1: Why ?
Security man 1: You’ve been asked nicely
Lad 1: Why have we got to leave ? We haven’t done nowt – we’ve come to watch…
Security man 1: Watch what ?
Lad 1: Whatever’s going on…
Security man 1: There’s nothing going on – it’s all organised activities, not for the public…
Security man 1: ushers them down the escalator

Lad 3: What are you pushing me for ?

Security man 1: I was telling you not to run – just get out the building

Lad 6: Did he grab you ?

Security man 1: I did not grip him I just said do not run

Lad 6: You just grabbed him

Outside, in the entrance to The Lowry two security guards make sure the lads don’t try to get back in. We start asking questions with another hidden microphone…

Why can’t these lads go in ?

Security man 2: Once we have a word with the management I can explain why

Lad 1: I want a complaint form

Lad 2: We just got kicked out for no reason at all…I want a complaint form

Security man 2 : We have to work on orders.
Security man 2: notices we’re taking photos…

Security man 2: Can I point something out – for a start you don’t know what goes on – people like this come in and trash the place, they run around screaming their heads off, annoying the public…

Lad 1: We didn’t do anything

Security man 2: I wasn’t talking to you
Security man 2: We act on orders, that’s all I can tell you. That’s all I’m doing.

A bloke who had seen what went on had been to see the manager to complain that the lads had been kicked out for doing nothing…He comes out of the building…
Bloke: I was taking my sons to see the paintings and as we walked in I was behind this group of lads. As they approached reception they were stopped from going in and there was a little bit of an argument and I heard the management say they couldn’t come in. He said I could go in and then security came along and ejected them which I thought was totally inappropriate.

I went and asked the manager what was going on – he said there was a group of guys with hoods on – I said I was there when they said they’d take their hoods off and he said it doesn’t matter they’re still not coming in… I told him it was a council funded organisation and he explained to me that it was a charity and not a council funded project. He didn’t have any answers…

Basically they were local lads coming in to look at the pictures on Sunday afternoon because they were bored stiff and they were denied access to a facility in Salford which we’ve been told is open to everyone. It’s an absolute disgrace…

Afterwards we chat to the six lads again about their experience at The Lowry…

Josh: I knew they were going to kick us out straight away, because we are a local group.

Would you ever go back ? Carl: No, because it’s rubbish

What did you think about The Lowry’s attitude towards you ?
Kane: It was really bad, just because we had our hoods on.
Rees: They said it wasn’t open to the public and it was.

Do you get treated like that all the time? Rees: It happens everywhere

Do your parents pay council tax that funds The Lowry ? Carl: Yes – they shouldn’t have to pay towards it if we’re not allowed in.
Do you feel like you’re discriminated against ?
Anthony: Yes – just because we wear black…

The six lads head off to find somewhere else to go. The sad thing is that they expected this reaction from The Lowry. And The Lowry - despite all its big statements and statistics about reaching the community - lived down to those expectations. Its image problem amongst ordinary Salfordians continues…

We ask The Lowry to comment about kicking innocent local kids out of the building, plus things like how the company perceives its image in Salford and some details of how it tries to make itself sexy to the local community… The Lowry didn’t seem to be impressed with what they called our `stunt’…

We have talked to the member of the galleries reception staff concerned who told us that he saw an unusually large group of 8 or 9 young people [err, it was actually six] approaching the galleries all wearing clothing which obscured their faces [yep, they’re called hoods – it was pouring down]…He made a judgement call, which was possibly an error, that this situation could be disruptive to other people’s enjoyment of the exhibitions, so asked them to leave the galleries.

“Although it is our policy to welcome everyone into the building, he believed he was acting in the best interests of other visitors to The Lowry gallery. This is an unusual situation as we welcome thousands of visitors every week to our theatres, galleries and to our wide-ranging programme of participatory activities without incident [...there wouldn’t have been an `incident’ if they’d let them in…the `incident’ was created by The Lowry’s staff, we think].”

We were also sent a whole barrage of statistics showing the great work The Lowry does with schools and the community…`70% of participants in The Lowry’s community projects are from Salford’…`4 of the top 10 postcodes of people taking part in community projects are from Salford’…We’re sure this is all fab and true but independent researchers tell a slightly different story…

The General Public Agency (GPA) is a top nob creative consultancy whose clients include the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Just over a year ago they were asked to comment on a major government report called Culture at the Heart of Regeneration - and used The Lowry as an example of how it shouldn’t be done…
The GPA’s response to the government stated `…Statistics (internal Lowry Community and Education Team figures) show that the participants in the Lowry’s subsidised children’s creative workshops are mostly driven in from beyond Salford (from Manchester and the Cheshire market towns)…There are no direct public transport links between the Lowry and Salford centre. This is a powerful indication of the absence of a true commitment to engaging with the local community.’

The local watchdogs in all this, you might expect, would be Salford Council which last year gave the Lowry just over £2.5 million (£677,000 for `outreach services to schools and residents’; £250,000 `annual contribution’ and a one-off grant of £1,576,000 which nobody understands apart from the Council’s accountants who say it didn’t really happen…).

The Council, which gives The Lowry vast amounts of our money, is supposed to check how that money’s being spent though the Lowry Committee. But the public will never know how this is being done because we’re excluded from attending under `section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972…as specified in Paragraph 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act.’ Yeah, whatever…

All we get to know about the incredibly in-depth grilling, lasting a whole 40 minutes (one committee meeting lasted just five minutes), is that the Financial Update and report on community activities are `noted’. And that’s it. That’s your public accountability. So we’ve had to do it ourselves.

Now, we’re not accountants, and forgive us if we’re thick and get everything wrong but we waded through nearly 60 pages of The Lowry’s accounts and found some stuff which we think people might like to know...

First of all, The Lowry has three companies – The Lowry Centre Trust, which is a charity; and two subsidiary companies, The Lowry Centre Limited, which runs its commercial activities, and The Lowry Centre Development Company which sorts out The Lowry’s building. Not one single person who is a director of any of these companies (apart from a couple of councillors who sit on the board of the Trust but more about them later…) actually lives in Salford – they all live in places like Hampshire, London, Bowdon and Plymouth. The Chief Executive and Director of two Lowry companies, Julia Fawcett, lives in Gatley, Cheshire.

In the year ended 31st March 2005, the directors took £380,810 in fees and what are called `emoluments’ (benefits, expenses, pension etc) and the highest paid director at the Lowry Centre Ltd got £127,596. The Lowry companies’ last total recorded retained losses stood at £7,677,594.

Salford Council gives its money (£2.5 million last year) to the Lowry Centre Trust but doesn’t formally tell the Lowry how to spend it. It hands the grant over as an `unrestricted fund’, whereas, say, the North West Development Agency gives its grant as a `restricted fund’ which states exactly what the money’s to be spent on. The Council states that £677,000 is specifically for community and education work but the Lowry Trust’s accounts only show £269,000 being spent on the operation of its `community and education’ services. Are we missing something here ?

…Meanwhile, the finances flowing between the three different Lowry companies start to get really complicated (skip this bit if you’re bored), and even the Trust’s trustees seem to be questioning what is going on. It appears that the Trust has given an interest free loan of nearly £77 million to its commercial Development Company and the trustees “are considering the extent to which this loan relates to non-charitable expenditure” (Notes to the Accounts Year ended 31 March 2005). The objects of the charity include promoting the advancement of education and fostering appreciation and knowledge of the arts. And the subsidiaries are expected to fulfil these objectives…

…But The Lowry Development Company has been involved in property speculation, taking a 50% investment in the loss making (as at 31st March 2005) Digital World Centre across the plaza from The Lowry itself. The Development Company has given the Digital World Centre a huge unsecured loan (the balance of which stood at £1,800,000 on March 31st 2005) `which is waived if it is not recovered within two years of full occupancy of the World Digital Centre’.

Unsecured loans ? Interest free loans ? Possibly` waived’ loans ? The Lowry relies on millions and millions of pounds of public money to keep it afloat. We believe it’s right to question The Lowry’s activities. In fact we’d expect the council as our elected representatives to be doing this for us - it’s called democracy, accountability, value for money and stuff like that.

So we asked leader of Salford City Council, John Merry, to explain …

“We nominate three trustees who sit on the board of the Lowry Centre Trust” he beams “But they do have a duty to act in the best interests of The Lowry as a trustee rather than as a normal member of the council.”

In other words, the Council has watchdogs on The Lowry’s board but they act in the best interests of The Lowry rather than Salford people.

The reason the public are excluded from the Lowry Committee meetings, Merry says, is that the information is commercially sensitive and has to be kept from rival theatres but acknowledges that “it is a difficulty”. Instead we have to rely on what he calls “informal briefings…which don’t appear in the minutes”…

”We don’t tell them what to do with the money but they have to account to us how they’ve spent it in terms of community activity so they can’t spend it on, say, cups of tea for themselves…and I’m happy with that” he adds “There is no direct control.”

What about 54% of the total arts budget going to The Lowry while public entertainment gets a mere 0.8% ?

“Yes it is a hell of a lot” he decides “But we do make a substantial contribution to other events – the Triathalon, for example, and November 5th…”

He struggles to think of any more…

“…We actually feel that we get good value for money from The Lowry” he insists “It’s a different sort of money we’re putting in, in the sense that we’re trying to create a prestige venue that is going to reflect back on Salford – and that’s a judgement we’ve had to make in terms of priorities…”

And does he think that Salfordians would agree with those priorities ?

“I think we can possibly talk about how we can improve our community profile, I accept that” he says.

What about the ticket prices ? The Lowry does give discounts for Salford residents for its fringe stuff – but not for the popular shows and concerts, the prices of which are beyond many average household incomes in the City…

“If you subsidise those ticket prices still further then The Lowry would make an even bigger loss…the whole place would go bust” he argues “I think The Lowry would point to a whole host of things they do in terms of community involvement…and one of the other things we’ve done is to actually subsidise things like the Bolshoi Ballet for people from Salford to attend…I understand there were tickets for the Saturday afternoon…that’s been an additional sponsorship, I think £50,000…but the point we’re making is that it promotes the name of Salford as well…what we’re trying to do is promote the idea of culture in the city and it’s not for posh people.”

What about restricting community entrance – like chucking out local kids who have come to see LS Lowry’s paintings ?

“I would say `What’s your evidence ? If you pass on to me your evidence I will take it up with the Chief Executive of The Lowry. That should not happen…But what people should realise is the tremendous positive value of The Lowry for Salford. Are you trying to say that our money is not well spent ?”


The Lowry’s Quays Theatre was chosen as the venue for the world premiere of a major comedy film, Fameless, funded by Charlestown and Kersal NDC and made right in the centre of Salford’s regeneration area, starring many members of the local community. The cast arrived for their big night in a series of limos, dressed in formal evening wear, only to be ushered in via a side door. They were denied access to the main entrance.

“When I arrived at the venue I was really disappointed at the fact that we couldn’t use the front door” recalls Chris Lysaght, star of the film and a pupil at Albion High School “In the limos we all felt like stars, but then when we arrived at The Lowry we were shuffled to the side, which made me feel as though we weren’t as important as we felt.”


Jo, a local mum and her friend, Margaret, wanted to take their sons and a few friends to see The Gruffalo over Easter. They booked two adult tickets and five kids’ tickets.

“The online booking system wasn’t working at all so I had to pay £1.50 per ticket to book over the phone, and even had to pay the fee four times for one family of four ticket, adding £13.50 booking fee to the total bill which was expensive enough to start with” she recalls “It is such a rip off. I asked if I could have a discount as a Salford resident and they said it was only for ‘certain shows’. When I asked what shows, it seemed to boil down to ‘educational activities’ which probably means 10p off a £1 colouring session…

“They even tried to flog me theatre parking at a mere £3.50 per car when everyone knows you can park for free if you buy something from the Shopping Mall. The show only lasted about an hour and cost a fortune. I hate going there…”

Check out the audio slideshow,,1946775,00.html

Friday, August 11, 2006


They loathe Franz Ferdinand so much they’ve actually written a song about executing the Glaswegian rock band. The Permissive Society wear their opinions on their songs. Photo by Karen Mcbride

“I just hate the fact that rock is considered amusing…and everything has to be a parody and pastiche…and that it’s all a joke, because it never was” says Permissive’s songwriter and guitarist, Joe Parkinson “Rock music just has to affect people because that’s what rock music does…”

The Permissives play rock that’s organic, shot through with home town Salford but kissing the world. For an idea of the sound, think The Kinks dunked in the Irwell for a few days and left to dry out in Shaun Ryder’s head. It certainly impressed Madonna and Aerosmith svengali, Seymour Stein, who saw the four-piece band at In The City and asked to be kept in touch.

“He was really into it” says Joe “Live, we’re really energetic and challenging because our singer, Sean, is completely nuts. He likes to break down that divide with the audience. We do get quite a following through our live antics and it’s definitely growing.”

The Permissive’s profile picked up previously when they opened Mick Rock’s photography exhibition at Urbis, and became an on-stage fixture for two weeks at Contact Theatre using their songs as a soundtrack for the anti-play, Grace. The band have also packed out smaller Manc venues like Charlie’s, The Roadhouse and Night and Day. Now they are in the studio making demos, some of which are on line at Check out tracks called Fighting Crime and On The Mend to hear what the Permissives are all about. It’s rock music that affects.

Check for further details.


We asked Permissive Society guitarist and songwriter, Joe Parkinson, to write his thoughts on where Salford’s at…

What would you do to regenerate a city? I mean, how would you start? It’s a tall order and the answers they’re coming up with don’t seem to make sense to me. I think that coming from Salford has influenced me and permeates everything I write because it’s that kind of city.

I don’t think that the Lowry Centre and upside down houses do it justice and it’s going to take more than that to regenerate the place for everybody who lives here. What Salford needs is its pride back and it’s a place people should feel proud of coming from.

The arts should play an important part in how the city is perceived and it has already been the subject of numerous films, plays and songs. From Dirty Old Town to A Taste of Honey it has always been a bittersweet area of the north for creative people to try and capture. That is something to be proud of and if people felt that connection it would benefit everybody.

Music more than anything is at its best when the people making it are trying to make sense of their surroundings and document their lives. Strikes and political unrest created punk, Thatcherism created The Smiths and a plethora of eighties bands were spurred on in opposition to the Iron Lady.

The reason I loved Shaun Ryder so much when I was young was because I recognised the images he conjured up from my own life. The first album, Squirrel and G-man was one of the only things that made living in Swinton bearable; he got pissed off waiting for the same taxi firms I did…`Get no taxi, get no Radio Car…’. He proved you could do it, that you could get out there and make a difference. He made me proud to be me.

I am inclined to enjoy something more if it’s about, from or making a difference to Salford. I love watching the Salford Symphony Orchestra, I love John Cooper Clarke whose words echo every experience I had growing up. Why aren’t his writings on the school syllabus for every child in Salford? Local history and culture fascinated me as a child because I was fortunate enough to have my granddad who evoked wonderful images from the city’s past. That’s what needs to be bestowed upon everyone in every area, a sense of their own history.

I spoke to fellow musician Adam Leishman from a band called Suzuki Method, a Salford-based collective, about the image of Salford and what needs to be done to change and regenerate things.

“I think the whole Salford image is really coming to a head at the moment and needs to be addressed quickly” he said “A lot of bands have proved what a powerful tool music can be in terms of promoting change, and it really has to come from the people of Salford. I mean, the majority of kids in Salford don’t really give a shit about creating or being part of anything challenging musically or artistically, what with `artists’ like 50cent doing the rounds at the minute. I don’t think there’s any sign at the moment of that individuality returning, but it’s sorely needed.”

Recognising and celebrating talent from Salford must be a priority. Mike Leigh, John Cooper Clarke, Albert Finney, Chris Eccleston, Shaun Ryder - the list goes on and every one of them carries a bit of that elusive Salford sprit with them.
It’s not about regenerating a building, turning it into flats, throwing an impenetrable fence around it and attracting people from outside the city to live in a self contained fortress. That creates divisions and problems in communities. Nor is it about how many coffee shops or new shopping centres there can be.

It’s about us regenerating ourselves, our attitudes and being proud that we come from Salford. It’s about fulfilling the future by appreciating the past and the things people have given us to document our times, whether it’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning or The Smiths video, I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish, filmed around the streets of Ordsall. They are our history and we are an artistic city…and we don’t just have the Lowry to tell us that…


Ex Langworthy lad, Christopher Eccleston,
celebrates Salford’s roots, style and struggles…

…We’re talking Salford and its radical roots and Christopher Eccleston’s in full flow about how the spirit of his home city permeates virtually everything he does…

“…even down to making the Doctor, who was traditionally an aristocratic authority figure, sound like someone from Salford…” he explains “I’ve not just gone off and done `entertainment’ – I’ve done Hillsborough…I’ve done Our Friends In The North…I’ve done Second Coming…I’ve done Flesh and Blood…stuff that to a certain extent has a political content and that comes directly from Salford…”
He reflects for a moment…
“…and from a sense that I’ve been fortunate enough to run away with the circus, which is basically what I’ve done, so I’d better put something back…”

Christopher Eccleston might have run away with the circus but he’s taken Salford attitude with him. What he’s putting back is the notion that you can be from here and get to the top without compromising, without having to lose everything that you’re about. In the celeb obsessed world where the only message coming from yer Waynes and Coleens is `SHOP!’, with Christopher Eccleston you get a bit of integrity, a bit of realism. Although seen on tv and film with the likes of Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and an assortment of Daleks, he’s on the same wavelength as the rest of us. And it’s a very, very Salfordian wavelength.

He talks about having the city’s key values instilled into him by his family – a “sense of community”…”covering each other’s backs”…”not taking yourself too seriously”…”good manners”…”hard work” and “a healthy disrespect for authority”…

“…I think all those things I picked up from my parents and they manifest themselves in the community too, which is where expressions like `You can always tell a Salford lad, but you can’t tell him ‘owt’ come from…Dating right back to the Industrial Revolution, Salford’s always been a tough place to live and I think it’s encouraged a sense of community because everybody economically was in the same bracket, and a strong sense of humour sprung up in order to deal with those quite difficult physical conditions.”
Like Liverpool ?
“Yeah but far better” he sneers, adding that there’s no chip on Salfordian shoulders

“…The middle classes call it a chip, yet if we refer to them as having a poker up their arse they get upset. It’s not a chip, it’s just a sense of place and a sense of belonging. I never thought of myself as coming from Manchester, that was somewhere else. Salford was here before Manchester and is a city in its own right that has a distinct flavour to it.”

And, of course, virtually everything that’s credited with coming out of Manchester actually comes from Salford…

“Yeah” he agrees “The relationship between Manchester and Salford is fine as long as they understand that they’re not as important as us. About ten years ago there was an attempt to wipe Salford off the map and absorb it into Manchester. Quite rightly that was opposed and didn’t come about.

“If I say to an American I’m from Salford they’re like `Sa-a-a-lf-u-rd, where’s that ?’ and you have to unfortunately say it’s near Manchester. But when you start reeling the names off…Lowry, Riley, Finney, Leigh…they’re like `Ok’ and then they have this idea that it’s some sort of northern Hampstead…or some bohemian paradise…”

It was Salford’s stars of the big screen who inspired Christopher Eccleston to get into acting and helped to smooth the path to a career that was previously the preserve of the posh…

“When I started telling my family that I was going to be an actor the jokes would come out…`Oh bloody hell, another Albert Finney’…but in the 80s when I was applying for a grant to do acting it was made easier because of all the people who had gone before like Finney and Mike Leigh” he recalls
“Finney is very quick to say he’s from Salford and not Manchester. So that desire to establish an identity and have something to say about the world has always been there in Salford…

“…Sir Ben Kingsley is doing a very unSalfordian thing at the moment by insisting people call him `Sir’…Albert Finney famously turned down a knighthood and said `I would never call anyone `Sir’ myself and I certainly never expect anyone to call me `Sir’…and then you’ve got Ben Kingsley doing that…very odd…I’ll have to check his Salford credentials…”

For Christopher Eccleston there was never any danger of losing his Salford credentials, even though the family moved in the 60s from Langworthy to Little Hulton, technically in Salford but nearer to Bolton.

“I was thinking about this last night” he says “I grew up thinking `We’re not from here’ because of all the talk in the house – my brothers were eight when they left Salford and my mum and dad were in their thirties and there was always a sense that although we were happy there we didn’t quite belong.

“There was a tension between what we Salford people called the `Little Hulton Gobbins’ and what they called the `Salford Overspill’. They were a little bit snobbish about it – so I grew up in this house that was basically Salford in Little
Hulton and when we had to do anything family wise we’d go back to Salford – my mum even took me to the dentist in Salford because she was happier with the dentists there…”

The original Eccleston family home on Blodwell Street off Langworthy Road, where Christopher was born in 1964, is now boarded up and about to be knocked down as part of the Chimney Pot Park makeover…

“To a certain extent it’s inevitable” he says “Salford’s been torn down once before when the `streets in the sky’ (towerblocks) were put up and we’ve seen they didn’t work. I did a drama Our Friends In The North which dealt with all that quite strongly. But it depends on what they replace it with and how mindful they are of the communities living there and what kind of living conditions it’s going to present…”
Err, yuppy houses ?
“Yeah, that’s kind of the idea I’m getting really. That seems to be the way everywhere’s going. I’m not going to get on my soapbox because I don’t know enough about it really but you can’t destroy Salford’s sense of itself. Obviously it’s a tragedy if the communities are pushed out for yuppies and it’s wrong.”

Unlike upwardly mobile creative Mancs, most of whom fled to Brighton once they made it, Christopher Eccleston still lives in Salford - “in Eccles, the posh bit” - and hasn’t forgotten his roots after running away with the circus all the way to Hollywood at one point. He’s put something positive back into the city by narrating Past, Present and Future, a promo DVD about Salford’s internationally acclaimed Working Class Movement Library.

“I’d passed the building many, many times as a youngster without going in but when I found out about the content of the place and the story of the people who built it up it was a revelation to me, I was amazed” he enthuses ”They showed me the film first which I think is a cracking piece of work, and anything that goes to further the interest of the working classes who basically built this country is important to me, so I was happy to help.

“I don’t think enough people know of the Library’s existence and that was one of the ideas behind the film and one of the reasons why I wanted to do the narration” he adds “There couldn’t be a better home for the Library than Salford because Salford embodies the struggle of the working classes, doesn’t it ? It’s witnessed every stage of it, from the filth of the Industrial Revolution down to the destruction in the Eighties by Thatcher and…”
Now the yuppyfication ?
“Now the yuppyfication, yeah…”

Free loan copies of Past Present Future: The Working Class Movement Library DVD, written and directed by John
Crumpton and narrated by Christopher Eccleston, are
currently available from the Working Class Movement Library – contact 0161 736 3601 or e-mail


She may be well known as Veronica in Shameless but MAXINE PEAKE is no poncy actress putting on an accent. Here she writes about how the Working Class Movement Library touches all our lives…

The Working Class Movement Library is a fantastic place with a world famous archive but I worry that even people in Salford don’t know about it. I’ve mentioned it in conversation and a common reply is `What, a Working Class Movement Library…Where’s that ?’ It’s that beautiful black and white imposing building on The Crescent.

The Library contains the history of the struggle of our people and we must never forget that. It’s the history of what made Manchester and Salford the cities they are, built by the toil of the workers. I think people should really be made aware that the Library is there and that they can go and chart their past.

My grandfather was in the Communist Party and he’s still very political – he tells me stories about the struggles and the demonstrations when he was working at Leyland Motors. Maybe I’ve got a slight romanticism about it but people had such a passion then – for their rights, for self education. We should keep alive the notion that we do have power if we use our strength as a unit…But it does seem all too clear we’ve come to the end of an era. People have got very apathetic about politics - which doesn’t surprise me with those who, unfortunately, we’ve got in power.

I look at people like my grandfather who’s fought all his life and now in his later years is living in a society that is probably in a worse state than he ever imagined possible – we may have better technology and easier ways to purchase the so called desired material goods but I believe that the conditions some people are living in have reverted back to Victorian times. There’s been a week of debates recently at the ICA in London about the British working class and its existence. Today, people seem loathe to being given the label, although we’ve developed an underclass that is being viciously ignored.

People just don’t think they’ve got a voice any more. Thatcher would be absolutely delighted with the way we’ve all turned out…this `me culture’. Blair’s taken that on and it’s blossomed. I thought we wouldn’t be stupid enough as a country to let this happen but we have.

The anti war demos gave a glimmer of hope that we might become more politicized, with huge attendances and children skipping school to take part. Hopefully these young people will be the politicians of the future. I remember being their age thinking I would have witnessed some kind of revolution by the time I was 18!

I think the popularity of Paul Abbott’s Shameless is that it has a warmth and a deep rooted humanity against all odds. It’s a portrayal of the working class of today. There’s a sense of hope. No one in Shameless is without hope. The sense of community is very strong and that’s what seems to strike a chord. We’re bombarded with bleak views of the working class and Shameless kicks against that, as it’s based on truth and Paul’s own experiences

There’s fear from the government in this country about that group mentality. In Salford, first the terraced housing went, then the flats went up and now they’re saying `Let’s regenerate again’…I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy to keep the community apart – throughout the years regeneration has been about trying to destroy the heart of the community.

It’s exactly what they’ve done in London – you look at many areas of London that have become flooded with fashionable loft apartments and fiercely overpriced property – the locals are having to move further and further back – they take it all…developers destroy the heart of places…it’s just about money isn’t it ? They don’t care.

I worry about the Working Class Movement Library – that because it is such a beautiful building the developers are going to try to get their hands on it. We must fight for its survival. It should always be there. It’s ridiculous that at some point they were considering closing it down, to turn it, I imagine, into some soulless luxury dwellings.

Between the ages of 19 and 21 I was in the Communist Party and although I’m from Bolton, Salford was the nearest branch and we used to have meetings at the Working Class Movement Library. Then recently Oxfam’s Control Arms campaign got in touch and asked if I would join their petition which is using photographs instead of signatures and anyone can be involved. Oxfam wanted me to choose somewhere locally that meant something to me and it was actually my friend Pawlo who suggested the Library because of my time there. And it brought me back to this incredible place.
Even though the unions and the movements that working people were a part of aren’t what they used to be, we mustn’t forget that struggle. All the literature, pamphlets and banners that the Library contains have to be preserved – it’s part of our history and our future. The more people who are made aware of it, the better…

The Working Class Movement Library, Jubilee House, 51 The Crescent is open Tues, Thurs and Fri 10am-5pm, Wed 10am – 7pm and the third Saturday of each month 10am-5pm.
For further details call 0161 736 3601
Or check out the web site:

...It's Legend Time

Salford’s greatest ever literary export, John Cooper Clarke, comes home with a Beezley bullet… Words Stephen Kingston Photos by Lyndsey Winnington

The sun’s out. And John Cooper Clarke is sat on an upturned plant pot admiring the trees in his best mate/manager’s garden somewhere in deepest Crumpsall.

“I used to think trees were dirty” he ponders “because when I was a kid in Salford you’d climb them and come off filthy, it was like you’d been up a chimney…And even if you got a stretch of park you just had to scrape the grass and there were, like, cinders underneath…it was horrible…”

John Cooper Clarke took that overwhelming sense of grime that skunked up the 70s city and used it to tell the world about the Salford experience. In the process he reinvented poetry. Took it out of its poncy parameters and spat it down the ears of a massive new young audience. Here was a bloke with over spiked hair, shades and leather jacket, getting up at punk gigs, machine-gunning words about stuff that everyone recognised, in an accent that couldn’t be missed. It was funny. It was clever. It was hard edged. And it rhymed.

The ultimate John Cooper Clarke creation was `uneasy, cheesy, greasy, queasy, beastly Beezley Street, a place `where the perishing stink of squalor, impregnates the walls...’ and where everyone’s `common problem is that they’re not someone else’. In line with the times, the poem has been regenerated, is now called Beezley Boulevard, and, fittingly, its first Salford performance will be at The Lowry in September.

“A poetry programme on Radio 4 asked me to do Beezley Street but no-one particularly wants to hear that again” John explains “So I thought I’d re-write it, give it a makeover – like what happens to neighbourhoods. I just tarted the place up.”

The `tarted up’ Beezley Boulevard becomes this sterile pretentious place; an `urban splash art ghetto’, with `pubs where all the regulars are barred’. Basically, every line encapsulates everything that makes normal people puke at the thought of `loft living’ and `urban bases’. Regeneration is reviled as `regime change’. And fiftysomething John Cooper Clarke proves that in the 21st Century he’s still the most potent people’s poet on the planet.

He’s a mega poet who’s now on the school curriculum, in all the Proper Poet books and hey, gets invited to do stuff on Radio 4’s `Bespoken Word’. But the last thing John goes on about is poetry or the poetry circuit…”I did one or two things in libraries and stuff but it’s horrible, it’s not entertainment”. Or what inspires his poetry – “Couldn’t tell ya, if I knew I’d tap into it and do a lot more…” No. When you’re talking John Cooper Clarke you’re talking rock n roll. Full stop. He started off performing in the steaming pits of punk and the sentiments have never changed.

After 20 years of performing the same material – “I think I carried it to a ridiculous degree” - John hooked up again with his old mate, Blue Orchids founder and ex Fall and Nico guitarist, Ricky Goldshaw, who originally got him onto the punk circuit. He’s now handling John’s affairs and things have started to move forward again. It’s like the fun’s coming back. Just before Joe Strummer died they were touring with the Mescalaros, and John’s recently supported The Fall and been a compere for Chuck Berry, of all people, in Spain.

“He was on at the Opera House with Jerry Lee Lewis, we went down and, I don’t know, we sort of hit it off with Chuck somehow” says John “I’m like `Who does he think I am, Ronnie Wood ?’ I’ll be it. In fact we went the full Rolling Stones in Spain and I got into the Keith persona because you’re entitled to wear a bandana there, it being sweaty and that, so we had the time of our lives.

“Chuck is fantastic, great to watch, even when he’s just going through the motions” he adds “It’s a shame that My Ding-a-ling is the high point of his act but he really is great.”
In Ricky’s back garden the duo come on like a quick fire double act, prompting each other with stories of strange Salford characters, mad experiences on the road and exciting plans in the pipeline. Ricky’s piling demos onto the CD player featuring John’s voice ranging all over the place from trance tracks to funked up sonatas and hard rock rhythms. One of them is a forthcoming single called Dead Man’s Shoes, made with Sheffield rockers, Reverend and the Makers, who supported Arctic Monkeys on their last tour. Cooper Clarke can still cut it with the kids.

His work was brought to a new generation last year when someone wrote and performed a biographical play but the pair blocked it going any further than the Kings Arms in Salford. They weren’t impressed.

“It was going to tour around the country but it was rubbish” says Ricky “We tried to talk to them but then we lost our rag and said `take it off, you’re not having the material’...”
“My mum was called Brenda in it…her name was Hilda” John adds “And there was all this explanatory dialogue `Oh he’s been smashing since he’s had TB’. It was an excuse for him to put on a nylon wig and do my stuff…No, I didn’t go and see it…”

Instead, with Ricky’s help, John Cooper Clarke is trying to reinvent himself. There’s the music tracks. And there’s a stack of new poems. But it’s hard.

“I asked someone after The Fall gigs how it was and they said `Just the same as ever’” Ricky recalls “`But they were all new poems’ I said `What do you want, he’s a f***ing poet ?’”
John looks through his rose-tinted shades, smiles with a gob full of golden teeth, and his usual self-depreciating manner changes just a notch…

“It’s a poem. You speak it” he argues “What can you do – stick a brush up your arse and sweep the floor at the same time ?”

With Beezley Boulevard he’s just done the literary equivalent of that…The legend lives on…
John Cooper Clarke plays The Quays Theatre at The Lowry 4th & 5th September
A full archive of John’s work is at

Thursday, August 10, 2006


BBC…BBC ? Don’t mention the BBC in Seedley or Langworthy. Half an hour after the decision was announced to possibly locate the Beeb’s new site on Salford Quays we were in the area. And people fighting the demolition of their houses were almost in tears. “That’s it” they said “They’re going to take our homes.”

Then we got a call from North West Tonight asking editors of the Salford Star to go on the programme talking about how great this would all be for everyone. We politely declined.

No matter what anyone says, the regeneration of Salford is now being perceived by its people as
a battle for the future heart and soul of the city. And its front line flashpoint is Langworthy and Seedley.

Are the Urban Splash upside down houses being built for the current community? Or are they future commuter homes for young professionals working on the Quays ?

£88 million pounds of public and private money is going into Seedley and Langworthy. People’s homes all over the area are being sacrificed. For whose benefit ? Big business or a small community? We check the developments…

Urban Cash

Over £15 million is being poured into the Urban Splash Chimney Pot Park Development in Seedley and Langworthy. Here the Salford Star lifts the roof off the `reinvention of terraced housing’ and asks what Salford is getting for its money…

ast April the Urban Splash `funky’, `upside down’ houses near Chimney Pot Park first came on the market in a blitz of publicity and partying. Ask anyone in Seedley and Langworthy why they didn’t buy one of the `funky’ houses and they’ll tell you – they couldn’t afford one. Simple as that.

Yet when the `reinvention of terraced housing’ scheme was first announced, the impression given was that these houses would be within everyone’s financial reach. Salford MP and government Cabinet Minister, Hazel Blears – who first introduced Urban Splash to the area - said it very loudly three years ago, as she posed for the cameras in Chimney Pot Park alongside Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Urban Splash chief, Tom Bloxham…“These plans” she announced “will create exciting, affordable homes and help boost the regeneration of Seedley and Langworthy.”

Tom Bloxham himself said it, quoting a sales figure of around £50,000 per house…”Urban Splash believes Langworthy can provide affordable well designed contemporary accommodation for local residents.”

In answers to the concerns of residents at the Ordsall and Langworthy Community Committee on 7th December 2004, Ilona Snow Miller of the Regeneration Team reported that “the Urban Splash development…would include affordable properties for local people.”

And, of course, Salford City Council is still trumpeting the project as a key element of the area’s masterplan. Only last month a council press release stated that Urban Splash has begun work to “transform 385 Victorian terraced houses into 349, affordable, contemporary homes in the centre of Langworthy”.

…In yer wildest dreams. When the homes came onto the market in the first phase, the average price was £120,000 plus another £5000 or £10,000 if you had a car to park. This is way above Salford City Council’s own financial definition of an `affordable house’ which is £57,600 – or 3 x £19,200 (the `lower quartile household income’ for the city).
What’s more, according to the new Affordable Housing IN Salford document, the `lower quartile’ income of Weaste and Seedley, the area around the Urban Splash development, is £13,933 – which would make an affordable house for this community in the £42,000 realm. The average price of the Urban Splash houses was almost three times this figure.

Just after the first houses went onto the market, a story broke about Urban Splash keeping houses back for sale to its own staff and existing customers. This was a bit of a red herring. The truth is that very few people in Langworthy and Seedley could afford one, or wanted one. 18 houses were kept back for local people (with a further 12 in reserve). Despite all the hype, only a dozen were bought by local people. The rest were bought by `outsiders’.

Even if local residents could manage to stretch themselves financially, only seven, out of the 108 houses that went on sale, were priced at £99,950. The rest cost up to £146,000. Despite the gleeful announcements of politicians, spin doctors, developers and community workers, houses for sale in the first phase of the Urban Splash scheme could not be described as `affordable homes’ for people living in Seedley and Langworthy. Yet the amount of public money being poured into the scheme is absolutely staggering…

English Partnerships, the government’s regeneration agency, has put in £3.5 million; a further £8.5 million has come from the government’s Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder funds, and the council has chipped in a few million from various pots of money, although no-one seems to know an exact figure. A conservative estimate for the total amount of public money invested in the Urban Splash development would be around £15 million. And it will probably be well over this figure by the end of the project. For what amounts, so far, to twelve houses for local people bought for three times the price that local people can afford.
Also, despite the huge amounts of public money granted, there was nothing in the agreement between the company and its public sector partners to set aside properties for local people.

“We were not obliged to do this” confirms Nathan Cornish, Associate Director Development at Urban Splash “We did this from a genuine desire to offer houses to local people.”

Unlike properties made available to Urban Splash staff, there were no discounts available for local people who bought one of the houses. Urban Splash itself didn’t pay anything for the land it is building on, nor the costs of relocating and compensating the existing residents who lived in the terraced houses on the site; or, apparently, getting that site ready for development. That’s been done through a battery of public funding under titles like `Strategic Site Assembly’, `Strategic Investment’ and `Developer Support’. So what is the company putting into the project ?

“It’s the development expertise” says Bob Osborne, Head of Housing at Salford City Council “They’ve put the scheme together, developed the concept…they’ve got the marketing skills…so there’s a lot of what you would call `intellectual capital’….”

Fifteen million pounds worth ?

“By the end of the contract they will have had £15 million…if you look at that in isolation it looks like a big bit of money but that’s part of a much bigger business plan” he adds “You need to look at the whole business plan for the scheme…”

Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to see the business plan as it’s `commercially sensitive’. Nor are we allowed to see the Development Agreement which sets out the terms under which Urban Splash has to operate because that’s `commercially sensitive’ too. And, as the housing scheme progresses, Urban Splash can draw money from Salford City Council for a percentage of work costs. But we don’t know the percentages, as they too are `commercially sensitive’. Indeed, there’s a lot of `sensitivity’ surrounding the whole project.

We tried to obtain meeting reports and updates on the Urban Splash scheme from Salford City Council website…but found that the reports were either missing from the minutes, `not for publication’ or unavailable as the public was excluded from the session. All we are getting is fragments of a much larger picture – and the more fragments we get, the community get, and some councillors themselves get, the more ugly that picture is looking, despite the fancy Urban Splash graphics and hype.

It took Karen Garrido, a Salford Conservative councillor - yes, there is such a thing - to question what was going on and to expose `Members concerns’ that weren’t included in minutes available to the public. At the Strategy and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee in June she asked that the Committee’s action sheet include “concerns conveyed at the last meeting relating to the increased purchase price of the houses being sold by Urban Splash, which Members felt are too costly for some local people”.

But is this development aimed at `local people’ ? Some clues can be found on the Urban Splash website …`Chimney Pot Park is next door to Salford Quays and round the corner from Manchester’ it squeals. And on a `wish you here’ pop-up postcard of Manchester adds “All the benefits of the big city with the neighbourhood feel”.

Egged on by the website - `spring is just around the corner for this proud area’…`it has community at its heart and soul’…`you’ll be able to get your paper delivered to your house !’ - the media turned the development into a kind of Coronation Street for the chic and shallow.

The `quaint’ northern street names might have been kept and the façades of the `quaint’ terraced houses but behind all the gloss are the stories of the original inhabitants who were cleared from the area on the understanding that their houses were being demolished.

“I know an elderly gentleman who wanted to stay in his property, he’d been there all his life from being a child” says Susan Copeland “He reluctantly moved and was then told they were staying up – he wasn’t happy at all and he’s still not happy.

“I was ousted out of the Urban Splash houses because I lived on Reservoir Street” she adds “I got a Homeswap and was moved out of mine into another one. I’m not happy when I look what they are selling them for and how much they gave me. I got £9000 for my house, I got a valuation on my new one of £27,000, and I’ve got a balancing charge against the house of £18,000. If I sell my new one I have to pay that back…where’s the swap ? There is no swap.

“I was never given the option to go back to the area” Susan explains “I wouldn’t have gone anyway at those prices. “

It’s a sentiment echoed all around Langworthy Road…

“I used to live in Laburnum Street where the Urban Splash site is, and I had to get out” says Jacqueline Booth “Had they said `We’re going to do them up, would you like to move back in ?’ I would have said `Yes’. But they didn’t, they got other people in. Affordable housing ? I think it’s a load of codswallop.”

Meanwhile, as the first phase houses were being marketed, posh people’s property pages were urging their readers to get in on the scheme… “Some homes are going for as little as £100,000, whilst the premium plots are a mere £146,000, which is low for a two bedroom property in the Manchester area” slavered

So, is it a question of the public purse subsidising houses for yuppies ? In November 2000 the Daily Telegraph exposed Urban Splash, revealing that the company got up to 40% of the costs of some of its major developments from grant aid, and in particular from the government funded Partnership Investment Programme. The scheme was subsequently outlawed by the EEC because it gave private companies an unfair advantage. “In short” concluded the article “public money provided the developer with his profit…with surprisingly few conditions attached.”

At the Regeneration Scrutiny Committee meeting, Councillor Karen Garrido, also asked that another minute which was left out about the cost of Urban Splash properties should be also be included…“Tighter controls on developers need to be implemented to curtail such issues.”

Salford City Council insists that there is “a commitment to affordable housing” but “details of the scheme have still to be finalised”. In other words public money has already been poured into the project, 30% of the houses have been sold, work is well underway on site…and they are still discussing it ?

Surely before committing millions of pounds to the Chimney Pot Park development someone, somewhere should have had cast iron guarantees of how many affordable units there would be, at what cost and exact details of how the scheme would work.

The council even had to remove its affordability clause from the agreement with Urban Splash so that work could commence on site because they hadn’t `finalised’ it. But it didn’t stop them approving `public sector draw down arrangements’ (ie public funding) at the same time.

Meanwhile, plans for 25 or 50 `affordable units’ funded by the Housing Corporation and managed by Manchester Methodist Housing Association have been scrapped. We are, however, assured by all parties that details of affordable houses are going to be released very shortly - with figures varying all over the place.

Urban Splash told us “At least 50 of the remaining houses will be made available though an `affordable’ [their inverted commas not ours] option which usually involves shared ownership/shared equity marketed and managed through an appointed social landlord.”

If there are 50 `affordable homes’ on the site out of the total 349, this is nowhere near the council’s own statement in its Affordable Housing IN Salford document that a “minimum of 20% of all new housing developments should be affordable” with “an aspirational target of 25%”.

Salford Council leader, John Merry says “There is a requirement for a number of units to be sold as affordable housing and Urban Splash are working with the city council, English Partnerships and Great Places Housing Group to make homes available to first time buyers through a shared equity scheme.” A spokesman added that the scheme will be funded by English Partnerships (which has already committed £3.5 million to the scheme) but doesn’t represent any “new” money.

But is it going to be funded by yet more public money and is Urban Splash putting any of its own resources into affordable housing on the site ?

“This scheme doesn’t really have anything to do with Urban Splash” a spokesperson for English Partnerships informed us “It is an English Partnerships initiative giving access to would-be owner occupiers who currently could not afford to get a foot on the property ladder.

“Agreements have yet to be made as to the number of homes” she added “so funding cannot yet be confirmed. But it is separate from the £3.5 million.”

So what are people in Seedley and Langworthy getting for the £15million plus that has eaten up so much of their regeneration budget ? Perhaps 50 `affordable homes’, if they’re lucky ? This would work out at over £300,000 per `affordable home’ in subsidies from the public.

Why are we doing this ? Why are we pumping public money into a private company to build homes that people who are from the area cannot afford ?

When pushed, Bob Osborne, Salford’s Head of Housing, finally reveals some sort of truth…

“It’s never been about affordable housing, per se” he admits “It’s been about rebuilding the community…”

`Rebuilding the community’ at these prices means losing the old community. And Salford City Council’s public statements now appear even more hollow…

”349, affordable, contemporary homes in the centre of Langworthy”.

Meanwhile, Tom Bloxham, Chairman of Urban Splash, says that “It’s good business to do regeneration.”

Not so good for the former residents who are standing on the outside, looking in on the `reinvention’ of their ex homes…

Carol Newbury and niece, Stacy
I’m Not A Millionaire !
I didn’t buy an Urban Splash house because I’m not a millionaire. I think that the houses are really good and I’d love one. But affordable ? I don’t think so, not for me anyway. Lots of people around here are on the social or in one parent families – a few could afford it maybe but not many.

Susan Copeland and Emma
It’s Not Good For The People They Got Rid Of…
I think the Urban Splash development is good for the area but not necessarily for the people they got rid of. I go to the meetings so I know £15million of public money went into it. I think it could have been better spent elsewhere and if Tom Bloxham wanted to invest in this area he should have done so himself.

Diane Edmunds
Did I buy an Urban Splash house ? No, I can’t afford one…£15million of public money gone into them ? There would be wouldn’t there, it’s always into things like that. People think it’s ridiculous – they’d rather have the money spent on council houses and things for the kids around the area, like sports facilities.

Jacqueline Booth
A Smack In The face
No I didn’t buy an Urban Splash house – it’s too much money if you live around here. It’s a bit of a smack in the face for all the people who have lived around here. They’ve pulled all the houses down and built these so no-one here can afford them. I think they’re for yuppies coming from the Quays, and the BBC will just make it worse, honestly. Where are we supposed to go ?


t’s complicated, very complicated…”hideously complicated”
according to Bob Osborne, Salford City Council’s Head of Housing And secret. But we’re going to try and unravel why those first phase Urban Splash houses cost so much. If we get it wrong, we apologise. But, hell, you only get one life so…shall we have a go ?

OK. When you question the public sector partners of Urban Splash – Salford City Council, English Partnerships and Housing Market Renewal – about the vast sums of public money that have gone into the Langworthy housing project they argue that when the
properties are sold they get a `return’ on their `investment’.

In other words, there’s a lot of public money going into the scheme but at the end of it a lot will come back into the public pot to be reinvested in other projects. Or, as Bob Osborne explains in an e-mail…

“The overages from the scheme will be split pro-rata dependent on the initial investment. City Council resources which are recycled back can be utilised further to invest in the area.”

And as English Partnerships explained…

“When the properties are sold, the total receipts are divided
between the public sector and Urban Splash, through a pre-agreed formula, based on the original investment contributions.”

The formula - or `sophisticated overage scheme’ - is `commercially sensitive’ so they won’t tell us what it is. However, we have
managed to get hold of a similar secret `overage scheme’ that is being used on the Kersal Heights development…it’s an
arrangement based on “a split of super profits”. `Overage’ is defined as “returns to the developer over and above that forecast in the development appraisal accompanying the detailed Development proposal notice…”

In other words, the partners don’t get a straight split on the profits made from the scheme but from the `super profits’, which seem to be profits over and above what they all agreed Urban Splash might make in the first place. So, unless the scheme makes `super profits’ nothing comes back to the public purse. Does that sound right ?

Sounds right to us. And it doesn’t seem to fit with any concepts of `affordable housing’ which would explain a very strange statement by John Merry, Lead Member of
Salford City Council…

“Some public funding went into the construction of these homes” he understates “and there is therefore a requirement by all partners that the homes be sold at market value in order to get good value out of public money invested in the scheme.”

The first 30% of houses that were sold from the Urban Splash scheme were definitely sold at market value. But surely the whole point of public money going into housing schemes is to provide homes to those in need at less than `market value’ so they can afford them, otherwise what’s the point ? To provide `super profits’ ?


By John Yendall who owns the newsagent on Langworthy Road.

When the Urban Splash scheme was first announced I thought `At last, great, they’re doing something for the area…how fantastic’. And then two years on from that…oh it’s all changed…

he first houses have already been sold to their staff, the cheapest one is just short of £100k, and how many have been bought by speculators and private landlords ? I’m sure there was a rule that they couldn’t buy to rent – that seemed to go out of the window…`We must make sure that the houses are accessible for the disabled’ – the kitchens are upstairs. Everything they’ve said, they appear to have contradicted.

Thousands of people were led to believe that the Urban Splash scheme was affordable houses for local people. It’s there in black and white. How have they been able to go back on that… because the cheapest house in the first phase was £99,950 rising to over £140,000, plus £5,000 or £10,000 if you want a car park ?

I don’t understand why a private company is receiving public money – if they were turning round and saying `We’re receiving public money but the houses are going to be £50,000 and you’ve got to live in the area to get one’ then fine, at least people in this community would benefit from that. But they can’t receive public money and say the houses are £120,000 and sell them to outsiders – what about the public money ?

If I was another property company I would be extremely unhappy about them being given public money – why aren’t they going to banks like any other private company and paying interest rates ? The difference, they’ll say, is that they’re doing it for the community. How can that be true ?

When the prices were first announced people were coming into my shop disappointed, every other customer was making comments like `What a con’…`What a sham’…`I knew it was too good to be true’…`What happened to the affordable houses ?’...just general comments like that…

And when they actually went on sale I’ve never seen so many police around the place, there were people coming from all over the country. I know because they were coming in the shop buying papers.

As for bringing prosperity to the community, I don’t think so. It will be a community within a community. We’ve just found out that they want to build luxury flats with coffee shops and boutiques at the front of the site. That just tells you the type of person they want to live here – boutiques and coffee shops. Enough said. It’s not called Langworthy Rd any more it’s called `Langworthy Village’.

They can use all the fancy educated words they want but for me it’s social engineering. In 10 years time, when that BBC is set up, there’ll be BBC employees over there in the Urban Splash housing. I think that it will be a completely different community on its own. We’re Salford residents who have lived here all our lives and basically they don’t want us. It’s going to be an extension of Salford Quays…

The Quays is taking over the lot, it’s spreading very slowly but it’s spreading. They can’t say `You...You…and You… we don’t want your type in the area’, No. But they can knock your house down so you can’t stay in the area – it’s as simple as that.

Loads of people have already gone. Some have gone through Homeswap but I don’t know where the people they swapped with have gone – they’ve just gone.

As a resident of Langworthy, and having spoken to a lot of residents in Langworthy, we don’t want flower baskets…We don’t want the council printing its own propaganda magazines once a month with someone on the front with a basket of flowers…we don’t want that…no-one wants it, believe me… yes, when it’s all finished…But to gate off the alleys and fill them with flowers…we’re just tinkering. What people have got to remember is £70 million, and all they’ve got to shout about is bringing Urban Splash in, and filling up flower baskets and hanging them on lampposts…It needs investigating.

Whoever’s given them the cash needs to know where it’s going and what’s happening. I’m so frustrated because I don’t know where the money has gone.
They need to get a team of forensic accountants to scrutinise the accounts, I think there’d be some interesting findings. This shop received £50,000 of improvements – it’s had a new front, double glazing, been pointed and had a new roof which is apparently the cheapest Spanish slate you can possibly buy. I could personally get it done for less than £20k. If that is the case I know where all the money’s going. And they accepted a guarantee of 12 months for a new roof. It’s usually 10 years absolute minimum, I couldn’t believe it.

I don’t want to be negative all the time - a lot of people are very happy that they’ve had work done on their properties but they’re not happy with the quality of the work.

Where else has the money gone ? Well, we’ve had four sets of plans for Langworthy Rd, they’ve acted on none of them – and the people who draw up those plans don’t come cheap. We’ve had plans for the parking at the back of our shops – they’re not doing the parking at the back of the shops… They’ve put speed bumps on Nansen Street because the residents asked for them years ago. By the time they put them in the houses were knocked down and it’s now going to be a school playground so they’re going to have to rip them out again.

I watched them put new edgings and pavements around a house, then a fortnight later drive a 40 ton digger over it and knock the house down on it. So there’s your money.

They say the money’s run out but just look around and tell me they’re competent, they’ve done nothing. If those people can go home at night thinking they’ve done a good job we’ve got a serious problem.

I’ve seen what private money can do – it was seven months from knocking down the Ambassador picture house to building and selling lovely flats – seven months – we’re over eight years and we’ve got nothing…empty crofts where houses used to stand with knee high rails.

All we get is strategies, consultants, auditors and solicitors…and everybody’s had enough.

They keep asking us what we want. If someone’s saying to me after eight years and over £70m spent `we want to know what you want’ it’s beyond belief. It’s frightening. We were talking to a woman a few weeks ago who said `We had one of these meetings 12 years ago’…12 years…

After all this time they still want to know what residents want – somebody help us because they’ve lost the plot down here.

And if anyone from Broughton reads this, God help you because they’ve made a complete mess of this and they’re going to do the same to you.

I’ll be like `have you heard about this …And people are going `Oh what now ?’ They’re browbeaten. They’ve done a good job on the residents of Langworthy because they’re fed up and not interested any more. And that’s exactly what they want.

Recently we went to a meeting as traders and residents of Langworthy Rd and when we first got there we saw the meeting lists and we thought `hold on it’s not for us this’…They’d changed our area. That’s how much we know after eight years – we don’t even know where we live…whether we’re Seedley South, North, East or West…They gave us no official notification of the meeting, it was only because someone told me about it that I knew. It’s their job to communicate with residents and they’ve failed miserably on a simple thing like that.

I think they’ve got a master plan for the area and it’s going to be put in place. They want to make you feel like you’ve got a voice and that you matter. You don’t. What matters is big business and big money. They’re not interested in us. Simple as that.

But I believe that people have got to keep fighting.


Money. So much money showered on Langworthy and Seedley. The place should have pavements of gold lined with Dick Whittington and black cats. So much money, that everyone seems to have lost count.

In the last seven years alone the area’s had something like £13.8 million from the SRB; nearly £9 million from Pathfinder; over £17 million from the private sector; £4.2 million from ERDF, NWDA and a load of other agencies with initials. Plus the council’s occasionally stuck its hand in its pocket. Langworthy and Seedley has probably had around £50 million, although no-one seems to know an exact figure, there’s so much money cascading in from different pots. With another massive wad coming in the near future, the council puts the total figure at near-on £88million. That’s £88,000,000. Everyone should be delighted. But they’re not.

Maybe it was pure coincidence that local people we spoke to talked either of chaos, confusion, incompetence or corruption. No-one knew where all the money had gone. And no-one was impressed with attempts to regenerate the place. We found businesses going to the wall, kids cautioned by the police for playing out, families fighting to save their homes, school mergers that no-one wants, and old people sad and sidelined by Salford’s attempt at a brave new world.

A stroll down Langworthy Road, taking in the back streets, reveals continued dereliction, tinned up houses and lots and lots and lots of placards, posters and banners barracking the council. No-one seems to know what’s going on. Everyone’s fed up. And nothing seems to be happening.

Of course, everyone thinks the place has improved from what it was before. But most question the agenda and motives behind that improvement. The so-called `community-led masterplan’ is seriously struggling for support.

My Kids Can’t Go Out…

I haven’t really got a problem with the housing in Langworthy. I like my house, but my kids can’t go out to play. Since they’ve brought dispersal orders to the area my seven year old son has been told off by a Community Police Officer for being on the street – at 4pm. And my daughter went into a shop to get a kebab and the real police walked in and gave her a warning – if she can’t go into a kebab shop what can she do ?

If they see kids on the street they get a police caution, and if you get two cautions a letter goes out to the parents. I think it’s their way of trying to protect us from youths but I don’t need protection. For me they’re targeting the wrong kids, picking on 12 and 13 year olds and splitting them up if they’re in groups. But a girl got raped in Walkden at 10pm so I’m not having my daughter walking around on her own. Now it’s either that or she sits on the computer all day.

I’ve got to throw her out now because she won’t go out, and if she does, she gets thrown back in. You can’t win – they want our kids to be prisoners in their own homes.
Rachel Morrison

The Landlord – why isn’t the council listening to residents ?

Our firm manages several properties around Nansen Street and is keen that the community is able to continue living together, in their own homes, as they have done for a generation or more. We think it is unfair to uproot a community and support the Seedley South Residents Committee in their efforts to save their streets from demolition in the regeneration scheme.

We’ve had insurance agents and surveyors come and see the houses and they’ve all remarked that there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re ideal for first time buyers and there’s no reason on earth why they should come down. They should be improved. You can’t just suddenly destroy a community. We do not understand why the council seems not to be listening to the residents in this regard.
David Neumann, Mayfair Management

GOING…GOING…ALMOST GONE – the schools, the bowling green, the social club and four unique houses…by the residents of Derby Road off Liverpool Street

I moved from Nelson St, which was featured on tv in Neighbourhood From Hell, and I’m still paying off £40,000 negative equity. We had to get out because we’d put up with it for ten years while the council did nothing. We’d lived here for five years and the next thing we knew was that the council want to put up a new school and pull down these houses, plus the Conservative Club with its bowling green.

The club has 400 members and it’s their focal point, their lives. And these houses are unique in that they are all individually designed, and less than thirty years old. You’d never find another four houses like these. A few of us have been to every meeting at the four schools and everybody wants their schools to stay as they are – they don’t want one massive school. But whether Salford council listens to them you’ll never know.

If they pull our houses down we’ll get nothing for them and, I presume, we’d have to leave Langworthy to get somewhere we can afford. They’re totally not interested in you as a person. The council is ruining Salford. I wanted to end my life here because I’m linked with the church and everything. I’m not going anywhere – I will come out of here in a box.
Paul Farrell

They said to us that if they take the four houses and the existing school they still won’t have enough land to build the new big school. But if they’re going to take all this and they’ve not got enough for the school it doesn’t make sense – why take it ? We think they are trying to put apartments here.

In a couple of years we could lose our house, the school might get built as a little two storey thing and then they could put up flats. They put them in everywhere

We’re never going to get something like we’ve got now and why should we anyway because we’ve all worked hard. We’re not in our twenties, we’re in our fifties so how can we go and get a mortgage to find something like we’ve got now ? I think it’s disgraceful.
Anne Heaton

Hair 2 day gone tomorrow ?

The council argues that the Seedley and Langworthy regeneration is good for local businesses – here one local business woman, Ruth Critchley of Hair 2 on Liverpool Street, begs to differ…

The regeneration of Seedley South will end up closing my business for the simple reason that there’s hardly anyone left in the area. Nearly all my regulars have moved and the houses boarded up or demolished.

Employed at my salon are myself, my daughter and another stylist. There’s also a nail technician and a beautician – so there’s three businesses in one shop possibly put out of work because there aren’t enough customers to keep us going. My business will not hold out until they sort the place out – nobody will give us a bank loan because I can’t guarantee to pay it back. And I can’t have an overdraft for the same reason. Yet I’m still paying business rates.

Even when the area is finished it looks like they’re bringing money people in, and they’re not going to be going to a little hairdressers on the corner of the street, they’ll be going up town where they work…

The original council plan was to turn our shop into houses and move us, with a 60-40 equity split on a new property. I still think that’s what they’ll do, even though no-one agrees with it. For a start I know I couldn’t even get a mortgage on 40% of what the property will be worth for the simple reason that I haven’t got any equity anywhere else. I’ve got nothing in the bank because I’ve used it to keep this business afloat, and that will be gone. Plus I don’t owe anything on my property, it’s paid for in cash, so why should I get into debt when I don’t want to move ? I don’t know where they’re going to move us to because there isn’t anywhere really is there ?

But I’m not going without a fight. The family have put so much into this place, when we moved in it was a shell and we’ve virtually rebuilt it ourselves. There’s no way we’re going to walk away from it all.

In the meantime, they’re not letting anyone know what’s happening. And I’m not getting any help from anywhere. John Merry came to see me but I think the same of the council as before – they’ve made their minds up about what they want to do and unfortunately we’re stood in the way causing a problem for them. They don’t really give a toss about anyone. I think they just want Salford people out and there’ll be no Salford people here soon –how big do they want Manchester to be?


What do people think about what’s going on in Seedley and Langworthy ? We popped into the friendly Ashley Brook pub on Liverpool Street and chatted to a random selection of regulars…

“People driving through Langworthy and Seedley will think `Oh what a great regeneration, what a wonderful place’. And if you go in a rectangle along Liverpool Street, up Langworthy Road and go along Lower Seedley Road and all the way down Seedley Park Road, you’ll see that they did up all those outside houses. They’ve spent millions where it’s all within sight. But they’ve neglected the streets inside. It stinks.

Where I live in Grange Street. And that, and the one next to it, have been left out. All we wanted was what everyone else has got, double glazing and a front door. Nothing more. And they’ve turned around and said you can’t have that now, the council’s run out of money. I’m reluctant to spend on my house because you see all the money that’s gone into the area for other home owners like myself. The difference is that no-one can see the front of our house, so we didn’t get a penny.”
Phil Howard

“I’ve lived on Knutsford Street in my own house for 19 years in the regeneration area. I’m badly disabled and applied for a grant to repair my home in January 2000. It was approved then the council ran out of money. Instead they told me I could have a loan which I don’t have to pay back until I die or sell the house. I don’t want that. In my street there are around 17 houses and 15 have been done up for homeswaps or private landlords. My roof’s leaking, all my windows are leaking and they refuse to do it.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I’m on fixed income and they can’t put a roof on or new windows but they can do it for homeswaps and private landlords. I think it stinks because when they showed us the scale model for the area at the Cornerstone in 2000 they told us there’d be unlimited grants. And now they’ve done a complete u-turn.“
Mike Bell

“They don’t want us here – we are like the centre of London now aren’t we ? They want to push us out and get other people in. It’s like living in a country village where people buy second homes and the price goes up and the children from that village can’t afford to buy their own houses. That’s what’s happening here. They’re ripping the heart out of this community with what they are doing. They ripped the heart out of Salford by turning it into motorway, and now they’re ripping the heart out of Seedley and Langworthy by putting in business people who want to commute from A to B because it’s easier for them. I think the BBC should f** off to Manchester and let them have the problem. So my children can have affordable houses to live in.

“The people from the Cornerstone and the SALI shop who are saying `We’re the good fairies’ and `What a good job we’re doing for this area’ are just the devil’s disciples and they don’t realise it – they are doing the dirty work for the council.”
Leo Thorpe

“The first thing they did was knock the library down – it was the most beautiful building you’ve ever seen - and they knocked it down and put up another building that cost £5million. There was nothing wrong with it but some builder must have said `Right we’ll have a few bob out of this’. They put this awful community centre up but there was a beautiful one there already. Then we had people from Altrincham coming down to tell us what was wrong with the area and they were getting huge fees. The money they’ve spent. And they did that before any house was touched. And then there’s Urban Splash – he’s making a fortune out of that – the kids will run riot…”
Ernie Bell

“Real people who live in Salford on £12 - £15,000 will not be able to live in the area. The council are trying to get rid of people from the Salford area. When the BBC gets developed, this side of the Quays is where people will live. Have a guess who won’t be here? People who actually live in Salford now. Langworthy’s a joke and it’s been going on for 15 years.”
Tony `Two Pints’


Walk along the back streets off Langworthy Road, right opposite the glitzy Urban Splash site, and it’s another world. Row after row of tinned up houses…and anti demolition posters in virtually every window of homes that are still occupied. In the face of the Pathfinder bulldozers these families are fighting for their future…

Stephen and Kerry Plaister, from Kara Street
We’ve lived here for 16 years and we want to stay, that’s why we’re campaigning. We’ve got two daughters aged 14, and 9. They’re embarrassed about the conditions around here and they hear their parents argue about it. In winter time it’s absolutely freezing, being next door to empty tinned up houses. We have to leave the fire on all night because it’s so damp which is a health and safety issue, and the gas and electric bill are shocking. All my youngest child has ever known is this and I feel embarrassed about it too.

But I can’t move. I like my house, I like the community, I like my principles, so I’ll stick it out to the end. And I may end up out of pocket with my marriage falling apart but it’s my house, I’m going to stay here and fight tooth and nail to keep this community. They’re good people. I bought this house not for an investment but as something you pass down the line to your children. The housing market has trebled for me. But from the day I moved in I had no intention of moving out. I’m Salford born, I’m not far from my mother, and I class the community as my friends – they’re of the same feelings.

12 years ago we heard that there may be regeneration but it’s kicked in over the last nine years. At first we thought it would be brilliant, you could see the deterioration. And you can now see that the area’s been done up but we seem to be in this little pocket that’s out of the way of the Langworthy corridor, so we think there may be a hidden agenda. I think that with the BBC and Urban Splash taking off across the road, maybe they’ll do the same over here. That’s what I personally think.

We’ve got written assurances from Hazel Blears that the houses will be staying up, we’ve got an e-mail saying that they would come under block improvements in two to three years - that was sent in Aug 2002 so if you look at the timescale that would be about now – nothing’s come of it.

Six years ago they starting tinning up houses…acquired by Salford City Council. A few weeks ago I was in the back entry and staff came to borrow keys to tin up number 27. When I asked him why they were tinning it up he said the council had acquired it for demolition. We‘ve set a group up now to work side by side with the council to come up with ideas for this area but you’ve got one of their own employees saying that the houses have been acquired for demolition.

I’ve got a breakdown of the monies they’ve got for the Langworthy and Seedley area this year and it states that money’s there to acquire properties from residents if they want to move out of the area. So it frightens me that maybe they’re going to put you in a position where they’re bullying you out of your house. It seems to me that they’re trying to socially cleanse the area. I’ve seen hundreds of people go from around here and I don’t even know where they’ve gone – I’ve no idea.

The only good thing that’s coming out of all this is that we are starting a residents group. We’re a tight community now, all looking out for each other, all trying to go forward and beat the demolition. “

Kevin and Karen Ainsworth, from Nansen St
Karen: “There used to be drug dealing, drinking, fighting and it was a rat run for cars around here. So at first everyone supported the council when they said it was a development area…But since then they’ve spent, we’ve been told, £75 million, and all they’ve done is split up the community.”

Kevin: “We’ve seen the affects – a lot of mental illness and depression. There’s an old lady called Edna who they moved out of Harmsworth St and put in a homeswap in somewhere else. The poor old girl still comes around here looking at the bedroom windows saying `I can’t get in my house’ and neighbours are taking her back saying `You live here now Edna, you live in Langsam St’. `But it’s not my house’ she says – and she’s still walking around – she came round the other week and fell over, broke her arm. It’s awful.

“But at first it all seemed fine. In 2002 they showed us plans with the houses re-modelled and recreation areas, and everyone was happy. They said it would take some time so we all sat back and waited. And then nothing happened until they came out with another plan. We all went to have a look and all our houses had been demolished.“

Karen: “I looked and my house wasn’t there – it was a pocket park. There were a lot of old people who were really upset. We got a petition up and I said ‘What happens to me if you pull my house down?’ They said `You can go to one of these new builds here…we’ll say yours is worth £50,000 and that new one’s worth £100,000…we’ll give you £50,000 and you can have one of these nice new houses with a garden – you won’t have to pay anything until you sell your house’.

“I said `Are you for real or what – do you think I’m stupid ? Why would I want to move out of a house that we’ve paid for and done up for that ?’ Everyone went mad so we got those plans overturned. But Ardner Street residents didn’t fight and their houses were up for demolition. They came up with plans for new builds with Ardner Street as a park but our houses were staying. And then the money ran out, so all the houses they’d bought and boarded up they couldn’t afford to do anything with. You’ve got to question why and the only thing that we can think of is that they don’t want us here – that they want these demolished to build new houses. I think it’s all linked up to the BBC and Urban Splash.”

Kevin: “There’s nothing wrong with my house. There’s nothing wrong with these houses. A lot of people around here said `Oh we know what will happen’, but you walk around the streets now and you’ll see all the `Save Our Houses stickers. We’ve formed the Seedley South Residents Group and our community is getting stronger by the day.”

Karen: “They’re going to have to do something because those people in the Urban Splash site are not going to appreciate looking over at boarded houses. So we’ll either be flattened before then, or whatever, but we’re not going to make it easy for them because we’ve got nowhere else to go.”