Tuesday, 27 September 2011

True Mancunians, SureStart and Youth Services

Six weeks after the riots, comes news from Manchester City Council (MCC) confirming it will cut funding to the city’s SureStart centres.

With one of the main factors suggested for the cause of the riots being poverty and with rioters coming from high deprivation areas, this is particularly bad news.

But what is Surestart? “Sure Start was part of a Labour government policy to prevent social exclusion, and as such, it was targeted at preschool children and their families in disadvantaged areas. The initiative was the result of a cross cutting review of services for young children chaired by the Treasury. The review's conclusions focused on the importance of the early years for child development, and highlighted the problems of multiple disadvantage for young children, the variation in quality of services for children and families and the need for community-based programmes of early intervention.”

The Labour government eventually devolved responsibility and money for the programme to local councils. This money however, was not ring-fenced and now with the Coalition government budget cuts forced on the Council, MCC has decided to withdraw funding from Manchester SureStart centres.

The Council has done this despite Manchester being named the child poverty capital of Britain, with over 25000 children growing up in ‘severe poverty’. In percentage terms, it is twice the number of neighbours Trafford and Stockport.

On top of this, Manchester has massively cut its youth services provision when the number of young people not in employment, education or training is on the rise. With these actions, the Council is abandoning young people as avenues for employment, further education and higher education for young people are being cut back.

This Council’s attitude has not been to support the people of the city, or to support their services. Its attitude has been to focus on regeneration and business. It can be seen in the comments of Council Leader Richard Leese, in response to a question on whether putting regeneration ahead of services was the right thing to do. It can be seen in the £2 million recent acquisition of land around MCC’s swanky new First Street offices.

This ‘leadership’ does Manchester no favours. With the high levels of deprivation in this city, it is imperative to try and maintain services to the most vulnerable. MCC should be addressing these issues alongside encouraging business development not instead of it.

The Council’s claims that there is ‘no other way’ of progressing should be taken with a bowl of salt. This year it has made drastic decisions on services and jobs which have THEN been followed by ‘consultations’. The Youth services and Surestart cuts have been prime examples of this. The Equality Impact Assessment requirements have happened AFTER cuts have been made. Why?

And of those consultations, have any of the results been made public?

The other side this is about democracy and representation. No Labour Councillor has stood up against the cuts to Manchester Youth and Surestart. Maybe too scared or weak to speak its mind, the body of the local Labour party is one that has forgotten its progressive left roots. The Council spin-doctors in fact even accused the Manchester Save SureStart Mums campaign as ‘hi-jacking’ the issue.

Is this the representation of democracy in Manchester?

The Conservatives and the Labour Council share this in common, both are making a CHOICE to cut essential services in Manchester. And before Labour complain, if they CHOOSE to spend over £2 million on land around their new town hall building instead of putting that money into keeping a some Surestarts open until things turn around, it says more than words.

Hulme Green Party stands against the Council on these cuts. We support the Save SureStart campaigns both locally and nationally.

We stand with the Manchester Coalition Against the Cuts in defending Manchester’s services.

In the wake of the riots, MCC ran the ‘I heart Manchester’ campaign, aimed at getting shoppers back spending money in the city centre. NOT pulling together community spirit, volunteering, supporting local communities in need, their campaign was aimed at shoppers.

Within that intense period, Council spokesman Pat Karney talked about ‘true Mancunians’ supporting the city.

The thing about Manchester, it has a strong history of protest and radical reform.

In keeping with this tradition, the ‘Save Manchester SureStart’ campaigners, Manchester Coalition Against the Cuts, BARAC Manchester, Manchester AntiCuts, Greater Manchester Against the Cuts, the Manchester Unemployed Workers Union, the students of both Manchester University and Metropolitan University and many more, are all closer to the spirit of being ‘True Mancunians’ than any merchandise-heavy shopping campaign by Council fat cats will ever tell us.

Hulme is home to both a SureStart (Martenscroft) , youth facilities and a library. Proctor’s Youth Centre has closed, Hulme Adventure Playground under threat. Our SureStart will be affected with all the other centres in Manchester and Hulme library building is about to be closed.

That being so, we have our own campaign. If a decision to cut services hurts the most vulnerable in our communities, it doesn’t matter if it comes from right-wing government or ‘left’-wing Council.

I “heart” Manchester Surestart – Don’t Cut It

I “heart” Mcr Libraries – Keep Them Open

I “heart” Hulme (of course)


If anyone wants to use the logos included in this post in a positive way, for a positive cause, go ahead.

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Friday, 23 September 2011

Well, I 'heart' Manchester too…

The ‘I Y Manchester’ logo is everywhere you look in Manchester City Centre - posters, bus stops, bags, clothing, mugs, even baby-grows.

The campaign, on the surface, is a call for unity after the shocking riots of August 9th, a call for the community spirit that led100’s of people to help with the clean-up the morning after.

The notion was great but there is something wrong.

The under-current of the campaign is sour, with a proportion of the city irritated and aggrieved by it.

There are a few of reasons for this but one of the most prominent is the naked attempt to get the local population to spend money, to the backdrop of unprecedented cuts to local services and an increasingly poor economic environment.

The excellent article ‘I YCorporate Manchester’, in the Manchester Mule points out that “with an initial 20 per cent drop in visitors to the centre the Saturday after the disturbances, [Richard] Leese told businesses he needed their help in “getting the message out that Manchester is open for business as usual””.

Of the campaign, Manchester City Council’s Head of Communications Mark Lawrence wrote “ There are a number of events and initiatives going on in the city to encourage people to come into the centre and make the most of the shops, restaurants and bars and show their love for Manchester ”. This was supported by free parking, free tram transport, and ‘spectacular’ outdoor events (including a ‘Manchester Moment’).

Running alongside ‘IYManchester’ has been the lower profile, ‘Shop a Looter’ campaign by the Greater Manchester Police, aimed at tracking down the individuals involved in the rioting.

Following the government's lead, the Council took a tough stance with the rioters, the legal system intent on heavily prosecuting those involved, those in council property threatened with eviction and bans from the city centre.

The Council’s angry tone in response to the riots not only condemned the law breakers in strong terms, it constructed in new terms, the idea of the ‘real’ and the ‘true’ Mancunian.

Pat Karney, council spokesman spoke several times in the absence of Council Leader Richard Leese, saying “We want to send out a strong message that Manchester’s business community is standing together and those that disrespect our city are not welcome and will not be allowed to enjoy it” and in an interview references ‘normal working people’ and ‘thuggish kids’.

There has been no strong lead from the Council on the causes of the riots in Manchester and what it aims to do about it.

Whether or not you are ‘True/Real Manc’ or not, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, how you see yourself described or find yourself defined depends on your social and financial situation.

The Council’s decision to lay off thousands of its staff at the beginning of the year was a blow to the city.

The Mule article states ‘Unemployment in the North West rose 13 per cent in the last three months’, with the source of that information also stating that this increase ‘compared with 1.8 per cent nationally’.

The North West, including Manchester, is being hit hard on the employment front.

In addition, cuts to funding from the Coalition government forced the Council to make controversial decisions about its staffing and services. It moved to cut 2000 staff, and withdrew funding to services like advice centres, youth services and Sure Start. Those moves, coupled with cuts to national support programmes (Job Centres, Connexions, NHS etc) have severely eroded the social safety net for the unemployed, those on low income and those who expect to be made redundant in the coming year.

This is important as Manchester already has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country (4th most deprived). The city constantly features in these national indices.

All this indicates that many more people in Manchester are moving towards low income and the poverty line than is publicly admitted.

In light of this however Manchester City Council priorities seem misplaced. In fact it makes great play of the investment coming into the city with the development of Eastlands football complex, the renovation of the Town Hall, its new First Street offices and the NOMA development, while unapologetically cutting back on support services (which not all Councils have done). Council Leader Richard Leese, when asked by MULE editor Richard Goulding whether it would be more sensible to spend money on services like Sure Start and social services rather than continue investment in large regeneration projects he replied: “If you want to create Manchester as the welfare capital of the world that’s a good route to go down.” This is an amazing stance given that Manchester is currently the child poverty capital of England.

The council is unintentionally bringing these differences to the fore with its ‘I Y Manchester’ campaign.

Maybe it is no coincidence that a significant proportion of those arrested in the riots come from areas of high deprivation. A significant number of those arrested were young people, whose avenues for employment, further education and higher education are being curtailed at the same time as their support services.

As the numbers of unemployed grow in Manchester, and the services that normally support those in need dwindle, the implied line that defines who are ‘good and bad’ Mancunians will get closer for a lot of people.

Commenting on these issues Hulme activist Deyika Nzeribe said “The ‘I Y Manchester’ campaign has been a huge disappointment. Instead of using all that energy to pull the city together, to support the people, defend services and yes, support business, it has just been used to encouraging people to shop. And its not a lack of leadership from the Council, they just care more for its businesses and buildings than its citizens. They act and think like 1980s Tories these days.

Manchester isn’t just a place, it’s a people. We pull together. Mancunian. Union isn’t in the name but it should be.

I seriously wonder how much this ‘I Y ’ operation has cost.

And as for ‘shop a looter’, that campaign really gets under my skin. They should have found a way of calling for information on and the arrest of looters without using a guy in a ‘hoodie’. It just adds to the demonization of our young people. They are our young people. Whoever thought of that campaign, whoever signed off on it, is causing bad feeling on top of a bad situation. They should re-do it or get rid of it.”

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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Manchester Hackademia Festival: Wednesday 14th to 20th September

The first ever Hackademia Festival is launching in Manchester and will run from Wednesday 14th to Tuesday 20th of September.

Though ‘hacking’ has commonly a negative connotation to do with breaking into computers, a little digging reveals mainly levels of meaning.

According to the Urban Dictionary,

Hack - 1. To program a computer in a clever, virtuosic, and wizardly manner. Ordinary computer jockeys merely write programs; hacking is the domain of digital poets. Hacking is a subtle and arguably mystical art, equal parts wit and technical ability, that is rarely appreciated by non-hackers. See hacker.

Hacker – 3. An individual capable of solving complex non-intuitive problems in a seemingly intuitive manner. The processes and techniques used are not necessarily methodical to the observer, but yet achieve results significantly and consistently faster than known experience would predict. A hacker is not defined in terms of intention or purpose, but rather by the talented single-mindedness of method. A hacker is not a hack. Hackers are not limited to computer hacking.

Academia – ‘is a collective term for the scientific and cultural community engaged in higher education and peer-reviewed research, taken as a whole." -Wikipedia

Why 'Hackademia'?

The majority of hackers make positive ideas and experiences happen from hacking things up and making them into other things....and right now this can mean some positive solutions.

Manchester Business School and MMU are allowing themselves to be 'hacked' them – developing positive relationships and dialogue and using some of their spaces. It create a spirit of openness and sharing and to make sure people who sometimes don't see the 'establishments' get an opportunity to share their ideas.

Amongst the main themes of the festival will be

· Community Empowerment

· Ethical Enterprise

· HackLabs

· EcoLabs

· PermaCulture

· Women and Innovation

The thinking behind the festival comes from hackerspace and free and open culture with people contributing for free, sharing ideas and the costs, if any are minimal. Much of the inspiration for the festival also comes from work in developing countries where people can achieve by making something out of nothing.

Organiser Vicky Sinclair says, “The recent riots showed that there are social problems that are not being addressed and that greater opportunities need to be made available not just for young people, but those out of work, with disability issues, migrations issues...the list goes on. At this time, soaring unemployment rates, uncertainty about education and provision for teens or people with worklessness, the festival is seeking to prove that great things are possible with a bit of knowledge sharing.”

Where and when?

Main dates: Wednesday 14th to Tuesday 20th September 2011.

Venues: It will be based mostly in Hulme, but also in venues in the city centre and on oxford road, including the universities who are opening their doors to the community and budding new local ideas creators who might not otherwise have a chance to work in these institutions.


For further information, please call 0161 820 6492 11am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

Updates will be found on www.hackademia.org.uk. and its agenda pages.


"Our partners come from Manchester Youth Village, MMU, St Wilfrid's Enterprise Centre, the Council, Manchester Business School, Envirolution, Manchester Youth Elements, Manchester Youth Voices, the Eco Health Clinic, Madlab to the EU and beyond. All giving time for free and that was far from the whole list of people who feel it is time to show how we can make legal, communal spaces open to all age groups to help inspire and realise new ideas and relationships. We will be linking up via webstreaming for people to talk to people about culture and ideas in places as distant from each other as the Amazon to Indonesia."

How to be involved?

"We are calling on local people and anybody who is interested to come along and deliver, participate in workshops, cook, watch films and generally to meet people and experience ideas that you might not have envisaged! We need some help with art materials, getting fabric, masks (for workshops), any spare food, assistance with community cooking and some stewards for activities. We also need help with promotion and telling people about this exciting free festival. Also if you know anyone who can assist us in getting some free food for our entrepreneur business lunch day (who we can promote) this would be amazing! And we also need some bayonet light bulbs (energy saving ones!) for the launch events at a new community venue in Hulme!"

Budding or existing local entrepreneurs are invited to come to our enterprise incubator and troubleshooting workshops (we only have limited spaces left) please email vickysinclair@gmail.com

Planning meetings at ArcSpace, St Wilfrid's Enterprise Centre, Royce Road, Hulme, M15 5BJ

Wednesday 7th - 4pm
Saturday 10th - 1pm to 4pm
Thursday 15th - 12pm to 5pm

If you would like to contibute an idea or some time please contact:

Press contact:

Vicky Sinclair

Telephone: ArcSpace 0161 820 6492, (11.30 am to 4.30pm mon to fri, no voicemails)

Email: Vickysinclair@gmail.com

Skype: victoria.sinclair23

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Hulme and Moss Side Market: End of an Era

September 11th seems to be the global ‘bad news’ day.

While most people will consider this the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers attack, more locally, it spells the end of Hulme and Moss Side market in its current form.

September 11th is the date most of the traders at Moss Side Market have been given to quit their units by the building’s landlord, Geraud.

Geraud, who have run the market since 2001, will radically alter the internal structure of the building, with the majority of the space (currently 70 business units) becoming discount store ‘B&M’ and 8 Hulme High Street-facing shop fronts. Additionally there are plans for an outdoor structure to be built to accommodate some of the traders.

Plans for this changes became public over the summer, when worried traders set-up a facebook group to highlight their concerns.

The market, originally Moss Side market, was historically based at the old Moss Side Precinct. When that building was demolished the market temporarily based in the ‘Hot Pot’ pub before being relaunched in 2001 at its current location on the Hulme High Street.

Since then, the market has struggled with lack of take up of units and disappointing customer numbers, which has led to losses for Gerauds.

The traders have responded to these points by accusing the landlord of not understanding the community (it was initially relaunched as a ‘continental’ market with ‘lots of cheese’ before it was changed to reflect Hulme and Moss Sides more multi-ethnic community) the market was based in, the lack of promotion of the market (requests to the Council for help with this met with no response) and high costs .

Former trader Sally Wright, commenting on the recent years of the market, charged that the landlord had allowed the market to run down, making it unattractive for new businesses to set up. They also asked if it was even legal for the building to be changed into a supermarket and shops. It was pointed out that the land has a covenant on it, which means it has to be used as a traditional market.

The Hulme and Moss Side market has been a focal point of the community, a recognition of which is reflected in a covenant being granted.

Candy Kintu, 27, who runs the Candy Scents stall, said: "Everybody’s absolutely gutted about what Groupe Geraud are doing.

"It’s all about money for them – but it will tear our community apart. There has been a market here for decades and it’s one of the things that keeps the Hulme community connected."

Recent news and interviews with traders indicated that 7 businesses will take up the new shop fronts being built.

The rest of the traders were uncertain about what would happen next. Some thought that they may be able to move their businesses outdoors, others not.

When asked about the future one trader commented, ‘What future?’.

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