I saw the film “I Daniel Blake” last night and this morning I wake up to a text from my drumming circle venue taking me to my own Daniel Blake moment.
After a moaning gentrified new Hulme resident has managed to shut down my drumming circle I feel compelled to tell you my Hulme story.
I’ve lived and knocked around Hulme for over 30 years. I moved in 28 years ago next door to my then girlfriend who handed me the keys to the flat from the person moving out. That’s how you moved in back then, that or you kicked a door in of an empty flat. The place for Hulme standards was really decent, empty but decent. I had nothing except my stereo, musical equipment (drum-kit and R5 Roland human rhythm composer drum machine) and a mattress on the floor. I made the place my own painting the living room totally turquoise and adopting the nickname “totally turquoise” from my close friends. I paid rent through housing benefit for 6 months after which I was handed the tenancy. Experienced love, the drugs, the clubs, the party scene, the crime but most of all a sense of community. They used to say once you landed in Hulme you would never leave. Lot’s of great things came from Hulme, artists, clubs, record labels and bands alike. Because hardly anyone paid the rent, you could afford to live there on nothing but your wits. You couldn’t get a taxi into Hulme after dark, no taxi driver would venture in. There was one road in and one road out the other side if you made it that far.
For anybody that doesn’t know Hulme it has been completely flattened and rebuilt twice in the last 55 years. In the late 60’s early 70’s the back to back terrace slums were flattened and Hulme was rebuilt with a series of high rise blocks, 5 story crescents and deck access maisonettes. This lasted just 20 odd years and was again all flattened in the early 90’s to be rebuilt with a mix of social housing, private housing, a massive university complex and student residences, a massive asda and some massive call centre buildings that lay empty for ten years on what was the old Birley school site. There should have been more social housing people complained but got nowhere with the ruthless council back handers going on.
Manchester itself was probably built by Hulme people. With it’s close proximity to the town centre being virtually on the doorstep, we were never shown respect or given the dignity we deserved from its council coffers.
I lived happily at 41, Otterburn Close, just off Boundary lane for 4 years which now houses the site of MMU IT. I played drum kit in bands such as the Desert Wolves, Too much Texas and Trap. I went to Cavendish Campus of the old MMU and studied arts in the communities after I’d had enough of bands folding and being left with nothing other than memories and became a community artist. My first jobs were with Contact theatre on the piccadilly project a homeless theatre, Salford and Stretford probation centres creating music with users there, the Booth centre for homeless at Manchester cathedral and eventually became specialist in my field which is creating community drumming circles and now Holistic therapist gongster.
I was moved out of Hulme to temporary housing in Longsight for a year or so before being shipped back in to my brand new flat on Greenheys lane. All this time I was still struggling the hangover from old Hulme lifestyles, PSV, Factory, The Kitchen and hazy Hacienda days. While i was still at Otterburn the Y-club opened in castlefield and offered people on the dole a £5 fee for the whole week which served me well in on the road to a new life party free. I went every day for a year and was by the end timing my mile a day swim.
I started writing and composing my own songs forming my own band WINTERBURN at Greenheys lane. I had an affair with my singer who had a child I took on age 2. She left her husband and I was able to swap my flat for a house on Reilly street, Hulme after she became pregnant with my our first son. We had another son but after 14 years together she got sick of my selfish ways and threw me out. I lived for the next month on a buddhist monastery in Scotland, Samye Ling near Lockerbie in my van working in their gardens whilst I went on the waggon in my waggon. I lived the next 8 months couch surfing on friends good will, still seeing my kids nearly every day at my Ex’s house before being taken pity on by an amazing woman Heather Titley and given my own two bedroom flat on Jackson Crescent again in Hulme. I was there 10 years now I live on Bold street and have watched the demise of every pub slip into demise and close. The last of which was the Junction pub that was a hotbed of musicianship from the area and an open invite to anyone who wanted to get up and play. Alas this succumbed to the same complaints I received from people on a housing cooperative complex known as the yellow bricks.
Over the 20 years I have been a community artist I have been involved with many ventures in Hulme. In 2002 I was given a grant and acquired a yurt that I took out with my drums many times for free a lot of the time to the garden centre, Manchester permaculture, Z-arts, Bentley (red brick estate) and the Homes/works for change (yellow bricks). For the last 5 years I have been even more outgoing and have been re-engaging in the community at large setting up and being part of many drumming circles in and around Manchester. I setup my first permanent Hulme drumming circle with the help of St Wilfrids enterprise centre. They had a big altar space that wasn’t being used which I saw the potential for and asked if I could try it out. I ended up taking many bookings for them as well as getting involved in fundraising events to help raise cash for their leaking roof. A convivial relationship was forged. I even had my own set of keys. In the summer I would take the group into Hulme park which was adjacent to our building but alas we got a complaint from a tenant of Bentley house who would not come to any compromise even though we knew of each other and I eventually received a letter from the council saying I should seek license if I ever intended playing in the park again. To make my life easier when the weather ever did permit – which let’s face it isn’t very often in this country – we played in the carpark of the enterprise centre which would make it more difficult for complaints as it is, A. still owned by the church and nuns in residence (who by the way loved the drumming and always let on to me and passed on a comments such as “we love this”) and B. not a public space.
This all came to an abrupt end when St Wilfrids got a tenant in one of the units that wanted to work Saturdays and didn’t want the drumming disturbing their work. They pay a lot more than I am able to offer for my two hours and there was no compromise to be had other than changing the day to which the group had all become accustomed. An alternative venue was suggested by John Nancollis one of the shareholders who put us in touch with the garden centre and we moved over there the second week in January 2016.
The garden centre was a brilliant venue with its idyllic gardens, straw bale room and amazing welcoming staff and cafe. We only ever played outside in their gardens about 3 times one of which was an open day but this was enough for someone to get on their high horse and make trouble for us by complaining directly to the council who in turn have threatened the garden centre with revoking any future license to their public events such as Pumpkin days or any other much needed fundraising happenings. And that was that, as they say in the movies. The end of the line. Que sera sera. Till we meet again.
The garden centre had their meeting and told me the drumming must stop altogether. This was my response on their facebook page.
I’d like to thank the garden centre and all their staff Mark Frith, Kenny, Kath, Rachel (and the rest whose names slip me by), Janine James and Lynette from the cafe there for making us all feel welcome. We’ve had such an amazing time and in your idyllic gardens, served with coffee, cake, love and soups gave us peace and made the journey a beautiful time I will always remember as being a very special time in my life. We will miss you and are very sad we have to leave. This is not goodbye just farewell as we would love to continue supporting you in anyway possible. All the best and keep me posted about the over 50’s isolation group funding bid.
Peace, plants and cake people.
To end I’d just like to say even though people may think they wield their powerful, gentrified, undignified, callous wand over you, it seems to me their sense of community or good will towards others has slipped away somewhat. I have seen too much and been through worse and I still want to spread love, peace and harmony through my music, drumming circles, community spirit, gong baths and sound therapy with a good sense of humility.
I know little, earn less but my love bucket is full……