Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Fairly regularly someone will ask me why I have chosen, for the last 11 years, to live in one of Manchester’s roughest areas. The honest answer is exceedingly dull and can kind of be summarised by saying that I think that where you chose to live is one of the most political actions you probably ever make in life.

That said, all the good intentions in the world probably aren’t going to make that decision sustainable in the long term if you don’t also love the area.

Often therefore, if I don’t want to go into a long and tedious social justice related explanation as to why I favor my little corner of this city, I’ll simply reply, “because here I like my neighbours”.

Of course even that half-answer needs a lot of unpacking. On one level it’s about my immediate neighbours and the communal aspects of life on our close (united in adversity as one neighbour once put it). On another level it’s about the wider neighbourhood, the diversity of the population, the spirit and character of the place and people – its personality.

It’s hard to define all that in words – where would one start or end? One aspect is that it has a subversive underside. This is a neighbourhood that blocks off roads with child-decorated wheely bins, until the council relents and commits to thought-out traffic calming. It’s an area where age-old graffiti stating “Love And Peace Is What We Need” (sentiment taking precedence over grammar), battles with gang tags and where some wag once daubed “Free Ian Brown!” (who returned the compliment by naming one of his recent songs M13). Here green guerrillas plant trees on brown field sites in a bid to protect open space from inappropriate development and car adverts regularly survive less than a week before the local band of adbusters subverts them.

Tonight I catch sight of a new example. In fact, in future, when people ask me why I live here, I may simply answer “because when someone puts up a divisive, negative electioneering, fear-mongering turd of a billboard in this neighbourhood, this is what happens:

And in answer to the adverts tagline question: No, Mr Howard; I’m glad to say that on the whole round here, people aren’t thinking what you and your odious little chums are.

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