I lived in the Hulme crescents for six years. I moved there out of necessity rather than choice – I felt lucky to be able to escape my troubled home life in the north of Manchester and Hulme offered a quick, cheap and easy solution. I’d met some people at a nightclub who lived in one of the crescents and knew that they had a spare room. I remember waking up on my first morning there and feeling so liberated by the peace and tranquility that my new accommodation had to offer; however, six years later I used to sometimes return to my home town and feel equally liberated to sleep at my mum’s tiny house on her sofa and be grateful for the peace that this now had to offer.
Hulme was good for me at first, as I got to know all sorts of interesting and exciting people that I would never have stumbled upon in my home town. I also met middle class people for the first time and they introduced me to many kinds of literature, design, films, art, music, fashion and architecture that I’d never come across before and really loved, and this love has stayed with me. Hulme could make you if you got in with people who might introduce you to new and better ways, but equally it could break you if you got in with the wrong people, and really, with so many people living there, this was quite random. Often people who seemed okay would turn out to be quite crazy and some who you thought were the local nutters would actually be quite okay. This was all very risky for the young and impressionable.
I met the poor locals (rather like myself) and the students, band members and middle class bohemians, many of whom escaped Hulme as soon as they finished university and had nice big houses presented to them. I was sort of stuck there and even had my dad come to live with me until he got his own flat in the crescents. Over time I was subjected to all sorts of horrible experiences: flashers, muggings, burglaries, stalkers…A gang burst in when I was out and looked all over the house leaving my flatmates terrified; someone turned up stabbed once wanting 50p for a taxi; I got stuck in one of the awful lifts and the fire brigade had to come; people used to set fire to the empty flats at night and smoke would travel through air ducts into my flat and wake me up in the night; nutters would ring the bell at 3am… Over time the tranqulity that I’d originally found there was slowly eroded by the cumulative effects of so many incidents and one day I just woke up and realised that nearly all the flats were boarded up and that almost everyone had gone without me noticing. I too had to get out quick and I moved the next day and stayed on a friend’s floor!
I was glad to escape all the urban stress and crime, and also the awful cold and damp of the crescents – I had painted over the mold in in my flat but the council had said that the condensation was the worst they’d ever seen. I was sorry to no longer have that incredibly large and varied community of people on hand though – I always had someone to visit at any time of the night or day in my early years in Hulme. I still dream about living there and it is the actual physicality of the crescents that haunts me the most. I often dream that I can just escape from my top floor flat via a huge bumpy slide, allowing me to avoid the dreaded stairs, lifts and walkways, where you never knew who was lurking. I hope that when I’m old and probably have dementia, that I don’t find myself stuck in the crescents again…
Thanks to Alan Denney for the use of his pictures.