Hulme Community Research Project: Hidden Voices

Hulme is an area full of history and memories. Ask a long time resident to tell you about the area and they’re likely to smile, look off into the distance and say: “Aaah Hulme! back in the day…”

Poverty, squalor and crime characterised the area for many during the 80s and 90s – particularly those who didn’t live there. But it was also a place associated with thriving underground culture, creativity and community.

It was tales of the now demolished crescent flats and the prevailing anarchic spirit that that drew me to Hulme and  ‘the Redbricks’ (aka Bentley Estate) in the early 2002s.  By the time I arrived of course, the ‘old Hulme’, was long gone and the crushing of alternative culture  and the gentrification of the area was bemoaned by many Redbricks residents. I had the distinct feeling that I had just missed the moment. Despite this, for me, it was a time of youthful possibilities, of parties, music, my first forays into political activism, and of being part of an active community for the first time. Leaf Street Community Garden, the Affewe pub, community meals at ‘People’s Kitchen and protesting at the G8 in Gleneagles Scotland. These are some of my memories of Hulme and of the Redbricks in particular.

But what does Hulme mean to other people who live there? As with all communities, the stories and the memories are as diverse as the people that live there. ‘Hidden Voices’ is a community research project coordinated by the GAP Unit  and funded by MMU’s Community Audit and Evaluation Centre, which was developed by local Hulme residents in response to the building of the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) Birley Fields campus in the area. As Hulme  has developed to accommodate the huge influx of predominantly young students, there is a feeling amongst some residents that the experiences of older people are being overlooked. This project therefore aims to bring to light the experiences and aspirations of older people in Hulme, to gather information on the  impact of the presence of the new MMU building on older people and to use this information to bring about community development and positive change in the area.

Training in Community Research
A group of 9 local people from South Manchester were trained in community research over 10 sessions which ran from October 2014 to January 2015. The sessions focused on understanding the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, research ethics and the difference between community research and action research as compared to more traditional and academic forms of research. Sessions involved lots of participatory group work and the trainee community researchers were able to learn and develop their skills in a fun and supportive environment.

The group decided to gather data community data using focus groups and spent time devising appropriate research  questions and developing their facilitation skills for conducting focus groups using role play.

The community researchers carried out four focus groups in Hulme. They consisted of a group of older people from the local mosque, a group from a local community centre, one from a high-rise block in the area and one from a weekly Bingo group.

Following on the focus groups, the community researchers spent time analysing the findings and preparing to present the research findings to academic staff, local community members and voluntary sector organisations at the Birley Fields campus on 5th February 2015. Local community organisations, NGOs and MMU staff were all invited to attend the event along with the research participants and the community researcher’s family and friends. The event was well-attended by a diverse audience, many of whom had never been inside the the new MMU building.

The final Hidden Voices report will be published shortly. However in the meantime, the following poem written by Community Researcher Pauline Omoboye which kicked off the presentation MMU captures the research findings and the training process and the research findings perfectly!

Welcome to our presentation

I hope you enjoy the day

The reason we are present here

Is because we have something to say

 

We began researching weeks ago

To find the voices of Hulme

And realised very early on

We hadn’t come too soon

 

The nine of us we gathered

Researched and we found

That older people’s opinions

Had somehow gone underground

 

Although they had lived in Hulme for many years

Witnesses the ups and downs

Even welcomed many changes

But felt their voices made no sounds

 

So we held a series of focus groups

Invited local people to attend

They came armed with their voices

Their community to defend

 

They told us they welcomed younger people

Buildings old and new

Magnificent architecture

Places like MMU.

 

So please ensure you hear them

Because already places have gone

CAB, green spaces

Local pubs (yes more than one)

 

These people are part of a generation

Who sit behind closed doors

Feeling isolated

But what they want is more

 

More services, more policing

More community, more respect

Share their life experience

Open up and reflect

 

So I thank you for attending

Ask questions, take a look

Feel free to view our findings

And sign our visitors book.