I have become addicted to concrete: hulme crescents
It sounded like a lonely place, Hulme Crescents, crammed full of people who both embraced its hostile structure, and felt trapped inside it. The construction (which was hastily built due to government pressures and spending cuts) led to a number of failures in its structure; flats were susceptible to enormous amounts of mould, infestations and extreme heating bills. A “streets in the sky” type utopian dream for Hulme Crescents that had been drawn up from Victorian ideals were severely damaged by its inability to sustain any sort of safe space for residents who were unable to leave. Deck access was originally a way for each of the flats to be connected in the skies, and to bring a sense of community to modern living but instead increased the ability for criminals to hide within the cracks and crevasses of the buildings, easily scuttling away from the police and into the shadows.
I get a bus past the location in which the crescents would have stood almost every day. It’s hard to imagine the impact it would have had on the landscape although found footage and images give a pretty good sense of its overbearing reign on the land. I remember my old tutor talking about how he would cycle past them to get to the art school, which started my fascination with this ultimately overwhelming fail in modern construction. Through archived footage, resident’s accounts, pictures and uproar and camaraderie surrounding this concrete mass, I feel the weight of it all still present and very much alive.
“I have become addicted to concrete in a big way and find Hulme much like a prison in the sort of security it offers and the fact you can’t get out of the place once you’re in it.” – View From The Crescents
When speaking to a man about his memories of Hulme, he states “my experience was I loved the place and people but I was born in 1974 and grew up a teenager there, there was clubs, pubs, blues to go to. My memories was good although the developers got the design wrong with the flats and some of my friends from other areas of manchester said it was like a ghetto, me being a teenager didn’t see it that way as it had spirit”. This spirit is something you cannot really replicate. It was organic and responsive to energies surrounding these parts, scrubbed away in the regeneration of Hulme.
How do you talk or speak of a structure that isn’t there anymore, or that you’ve never seen? I seek out its energy any time I’m near it. I imagine its towering presence blocking out the sun from neighbouring streets, its colour dark and bleak from the Manchester rain. Much like Park Hill in Sheffield, it was a housing project that isolated many, a way of segregating a large part of society and an attempt to reduce crime, poverty and create more efficient housing communes. How wrong this all was.
“Hulme is like a fungus. It seeps into your spirit and steadily grows and before you know it you’re stuck here and it’s very hard to move away.” – View From The Crescents
It’s kind of like a relative that died before I was born – I feel strangely connected, but with no real or physical memory to latch onto. The crescents live on in many ways – physically through the redesign of Hulme co-op. It has changed its shape into something more personable, more positive – they way it was originally intended to be by those who drew up the plans in the 60s. Many talk and think about the structure as if it were an illusion, a strange mirage that were built and torn down in only one lifetime’s worth of years. Covered up so quickly that the residents could have sworn something was there, but maybe their minds were playing tricks on them.
More reading: View From The Crescents is availble in the Local History section of Manchester Central Library The Great Renovation of Manchester The Hulme Crescents, Manchester: a ‘British Bantustan’ Park Hill, Sheffield A Short History of the Highrise – a multimedia documentary project