Manchester is in a strange city in the geographical sense. It's shape resembles a slightly squashed banana, sandwiched in between the neighbouring Greater Manchester boroughs. The centre is about 3/4 of the way up, leaving a south which is 3 times bigger than the north. In turn this south can be divided into an 'inner south' (down as far as the Mersey Valley) and Wythenshawe.
There are major cultural difference between the different parts of the city too. A look at the spread of Green Party members is revealing; the vast majority are in the centre and south, and 'inner south' at that. I would expect an analysis of members of groups such as Friends of the Earth to be similar. This in no way means that people living in the other areas are any less green or potentially green (Green Party vote levels are not that different across most parts of the city). It is maybe more that people in those areas are less likely to have time or inclination for involvement in a political Party.
Because of this imbalance, we are not always as aware as we should be about what is happening in these other areas, so I would like to do a series of posts highlighting them, starting South of the River (Mersey) with Wythenshawe (including, and at the risk of upsetting people there, Northenden).
Wythenshawe was built as a garden city in the 1930s and was formerly known as the biggest council estate in Europe (we like our superlatives here in Manchester). Over the years it unfortunately acquired a reputation for high unemployment, crime and poor health which it is still struggling to shake off. My wife worked for several years at a school in Benchill (which was officially the most disadvantaged ward in the country until it disappeared in the last boundary changes)and became well-acquainted with the difficulties. National attention was last drawn here when a 'hoodie' pretended to shoot David Cameron.
However there are moves to bring more of a sense of community to the area. The area is the site of a pioneering community radio station (Wythenshawe FM) which was set up in 2000 with the backing of Manchester's Radio Regen project. As well as providing local information, the station has made a point of providing training.
Huge amounts of money have been invested in the area, but the City Council's usual top down, control-freakery approach is less likely to bring dividends than initiatives which are genuinely rooted in the community. The latest such move featured in last week's Guardian (article here); time will tell how successful it proves.
Another avenue being pursued in Northenden is the creation of an urban parish council, which has the support of many groups and individuals in the area, but which the City Council seems determined to strangle at birth (control-freakery again). I will probably return to this in a subsequent blog.
It is interesting to note that the high unemployment has continued in this area, the part of Manchester which includes the Airport, despite the claims of jobs, jobs, jobs every time the authorities want to expand the airport. This conflict between Wythenshawe and its remaining green lungs is highlighted by the campaign to save Rose Cottage - see link here.
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