East 1-10: a retrospective

Pat allwoodPat Allwood, from East 4

East Manchester is an area that has seen dramatic changes from Ancoats being the first industrial suburb in the late 18th century onwards to the decline of the whole area in the 1930s as industry dried up, leaving it a no-go zone for many. As a Manchester journalist I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history of this area and have always followed the work of New East Manchester, which was set up in 1999 to develop and regenerate the area.

This massive mission has since seen the City of Manchester stadium and the Velodrome being built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, as well as the sadly de-spiked B of the Bang which is being dismantled as I write.

Last night (June 11) saw the opening of a retrospective of a photography-led magazine, called East, which was produced by photographer Len Grant for New East Manchester. And as a journalist I’ve been familar with Len’s work for many years now as he has charted the rise of Manchester into the amazing city it is today, starting in Hulme which was probably the first time the word regeneration was bandied around the city.
The magazine, East, had 10 issues published from 2005 to now, and featured the real stories of people in East Manchester. This is all quite interesting as it would have been easy for New East Manchester to just publish glossy photos of new houses and shiny new people moving into them. But they didn’t – they asked Len to shoot what he saw and tell the stories of the people who had grown up here.

Chloe_mundy Chloe Mundy, East 9
Now sadly the print version of East has come to an end, but the stories and the images will continue online at www.thisiseast.com. Obviously this is a natural progression as the majority of us are on the internet now but it also means these stories can find their way to anywhere across the globe.

I was asked to advise on the new website (as a Manchester-loving blogger!) so have seen the project from start to finish. And that’s why I enjoyed the launch last night so much, which was full of people who have been featured in the publication, including a lovely gentleman called Norman Gurley, who Len had followed moving into his new house after his old one had been demolished.

The latest article on www.thisiseast.com shows a series of photos witnessing the downfall of the B of the Bang. Love it or hate, it was certainly part of Manchester’s history. Not everyone appreciates art, but if it isn’t pushing boundaries or trying new things then there’s just no point. I loved this grand gesture and even loved hearing everyone’s differing opinions of it, so would like to see it re-sited elsewhere.

Len’s retrospective exhibition called East 1-10 is on at the Sportcity visitor’s centre until July 17, and is open from 9am-4.30pm Monday to Friday. Keep visiting www.thisiseast.com as it will be updated regularly.

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