New Islington has great sourdough and thousands of happy residents - but some people from the 'real Ancoats' feel like they are being looked down on
I do think there's some truth in what Nicola and Cyranne have observed about the middle classes. The gap between working and middle class has never seemed so big, and it's not just about having money - but also about speech, clothes, leisure activities, aspirations etc. I grew up in a working class household but was educated to middle class standards. On some occasions when I have met middle class people for the first time, they hear the flat northern vowels in my accent and are prepared to be patronising - until they realise that there are certain topics where my knowledge is superior to theirs. Then their attitude changes and becomes more respectful.
I don't think there's any other country in the world that has a class system so polarised as in the UK - except perhaps India with its caste system. That's why it's so hard to create environments where the two classes mingle and socialise. Since architects and town planners tend to be middle class, it's not something they think about.
I often join discussion threads in the Guardian - and the snobbery of some of the commenters 'below the line' is staggering. The insults they come up with directed at working class people would not be tolerated if they were directed at ethnic minorities.
Interesting article. I'm a 50-plusser living in Ancoats. I feel the issues addressed are not so much an indication of disrespect for the people who have lived her for a long time, but more an illustration of how the younger generation generally are living their lives now, less connected to their local community.
Ancoats is perhaps the most stark example because of the new builds, but you see the same tensions across Manchester. It's arguably a three-way collision in Levenshulme: the white working class, often with Irish heritage, the broad Asian community (for want of a better term, though this is itself a fairly diverse group), and what the French call 'Les BoBos' (bourgeois, boheme). Outside of Facebook it's all pretty friendly, but the tensions around the LTN have to be understood in that light. And it's always quite visible - especially on a Saturday night. One group in the Talleyrand or Station Hop, another in the Union or the Levenshulme, and a third in the Nawaab or King Karahi.
This speaks to me. I haven't worked in Ancoats since I was a junior doctor in Ancoats Hospital in the 70s (oh, the memories!), but I spent 24 years as a GP on the west side of Hulme at City Road Surgery (now part of Cornbrook Medical Centre) and I watched the changes over the years. Hulme City Challenge was in full swing when I started there, which did lead to big changes, but though the east side of Hulme became steadily more "studenty", on the whole, the neighborhood remained very mixed. But after the Urban Splash development around the Potato Wharf area started, a new kind of resident started to appear in the waiting room - very like the New Islington ones you describe - and I had a strong sense that they only ever encountered any long term Hulme residents in the waiting room. Where it would probably not occur to them to get into conversation with the other patients waiting. And it's quite likely that the longer-established locals thought then ignorant (in the Manchester sense) though I don't know for sure. The waiting room was a chatty place, so they may have got drawn in, though I somehow doubt it.
I do like the balance of this piece, thank you.
This is an excellent article, and a good reminder of why The Mill is needed.
I have mixed views on the underlying issue. I grew up in a very poor family in Chorlton-on-Medlock in the 1950's, but went to Cambridge and became a chartered accountant.
If I lived in New Islington, I would have next to nothing in common with the "old Ancoats" residents mentioned in the article, and cannot see why I would want to socialise with them as opposed to socialising with the kind of New Islington residents described in the article.
We just need to be realistic about this, instead of seeking to create an artificial sense of guilt.
I appreciate this isn't the point of the peice, but I think New Islington was the original Victorian-era name for the area, rather than a new name designed to attract graduates and young professionals.
Also, I'm sure I read somewhere that it was one of the places ice-cream was introduced to England due to a large Italian immigrant community at the time. I wonder what happened to that community?
An excellent piece. Interesting and Informative
True to my experience as a laptop-using, sourdough-eating transplant into Ancoats/New Islington. I'm not sure how more interaction could be encouraged, more community spaces seems intuitive, but what and how exactly. I'm watching the Ancoats Dispensary flats go up and will be surprised if by completion the developers haven't wriggled their way out of actually keeping their word on affordable housing.
I steer clear of any local Facebook groups now but they definitely harden divides. I called the most vocal contingent on the one for my old building "the curtain-twitchers" as they were always complaining about people doing innocuous things and threatening to call the police. One of the worst supposed "crimes" was that they spotted a woman they thought was suspicious because she had a unibrow..
P.S. Completely beside the point but if you want hipster sourdough don't neglect Companio on Radium Street, also has the friendliest owners and staff
Long retired from working as a community and youth worker amongst other things. Simply investing in new buildings doesn’t create new communities despite what the hoarding may depict. Investment in community development for the first years is to me one of the ways forward. Learning about the important social history of the area. What was it like working in a card room? Activities that bring people together. Family, music, food, art.
Finally, I have yet to find a definition for affordable housing in the land of inequality.
Social integration is a lot more difficult to plan-in than to plan-out. Across the city, in Hulme, is perhaps another (more mature) example. The third iteration of Hulme has faults too, but there’s a sort of seamless interface across Chorlton Road, & across Princess Road into Chorlton-on-Medlock, & into Whalley Range. Low-rise housing around Hulme Park, the retention of the established Red Bricks community, the re-established Stretford Road as a clear High Street. There is even (beware) a student campus & student flats in the mix, achieved with some trepidation. Also, & importantly, there are impressive minority communities living, worshipping, schooling & growing up in areas that meld without much help from planners. Maybe we forget that the Hulme City Challenge & the ensuing Hulme Development Guide are notable successes. Not perfect, but with virtues that probably outnumber vices.
A piece of journalistic colour indeed but not .more revelatory than say Elisabeth Gaskell writing about the coming of strangers and new money in North and South or Cranford. Manchester and the North has always had a propensity to ask "Where are you from?" where London and the South asks instead"What do you do?".I haven't visited New Islington but social regeneration usually means displacement of one community in favour of another so the storyline chimes true enough.
Great article; gives a real sense of the difficulties in having a truly diverse neighbourhood. It will be good to keep in touch with this in the months and years ahead. I really hope this can work for all the people living in this interesting area.
Fantastic piece Joshi, beautifully written. Sadly, with no simple answers.
I first came across the thermocline when I was reading - of all things - Tom Clancy novels. Submarines can use the thermocline to make themselves harder to find in the ocean; the abrupt nature of the change makes it hard for sonar to penetrate down to them, and so they become more easily concealed.
Like lots of articles on gentrification, the thermocline here is doing that as well. One side of that divide is revealed - the side where the sonar is sounding away. It returns useful information and engages with the world. But the other side is only very dimly seen, and we don't really hear much about this. Lots of stories of gentrification problematise it - those middle-class types, with their strange haircuts and their fancy coffee, who turn up and change everything. I am always left wondering; where else were they meant to go? In a country so very short of housing (see the prices, rents, rate of household formation, etc), MCC at least managed to get the pace of unit construction up towards what the country actually needs to have a liveable housing market. They built lots of units close to a city centre, and so pulled in a whole set of younger graduates who wanted that sort of space to live and grow up in. They've built a community of their own - it's clear from the Census data maps that there's a very different community in the redeveloped areas (see, for example, the percentage of locals who are LGBT compared to the national average).
Yet the thermocline keeps all that faintly mysterious. You're in Pollen, but are you in that community? It's far from unique to this piece - and it does do a very good job of understanding the other side of that, which is no less legitimate or interesting. But like so many pieces of its type, it reduces the new to the problem. Younger folks facing a rigged housing market, a broken jobs market, a creaking climate, and more. What are their fears, hopes, dreams? Why are they there in their own words, and where do they want to go after? What is their ideal community? With that gradient obscuring the sonar, all remains unsaid and unrevealled.
Are there any examples we can look at where a city has grown so quickly, where there has been a huge scale apartment blocks to house the relatively successful twenty somethings, built in a wasteland next to the city centre. Is there any similar ‘filling of the donut’ as you might call it. I doubt it.
There’s sure to be a wave of New Islingtoners looking for a house to raise a family in. Where will they go? Prestwich, Monton are both places that have found favour, Levenshulme and Stretford too. Where next? Middleton, Failsworth, Blackley? Or will they head to one of the 100,000s of new homes of the GM housing plan?
I’d love to see a piece investigating the expectations and aspirations of the New Islingtoners as they grow a little bit less young.
Brilliant piece Joshi.Honest, thorough and thought provoking. One of The Mills best to date .