Capturing the history of the area you grew up in is something few people think to do, until those landmarks of their childhood have already disappeared forever.
However, Jason Clarke and his contributors at The Urban Collective are aiming to change that by documenting landmarks of social history across Greater Manchester. As a team, they create video blogs, which are then posted on their social media, to be shared with more than 8,000 followers.
Jason, known as Clarkey to those who follow his work, is a lifelong Salford resident, who has watched the city change around him for the past 30 years.
“I was born in Hope Hospital, and my mum lived in Sutton Flats back in the day before they got demolished, so pretty much I’ve been in and around Salford all my life.
“To me, it’s just Salford, but when you go and see the drastic change in places like the High Street estate, then those kinds of changes, you notice. But it’s only when you start looking through old pictures that you actually realise what has actually disappeared, and it’s an awful lot.”
Watch the full video blog for yourself here:
The Urban Collective’s latest video blog sees them take a tour of the former site of the Hanky Park High Street estate in Pendleton, which is soon due to be redeveloped, before heading to the site of the recently closed Mocha Parade shops in Lower Broughton, which now lie derelict.
Jason only has fleeting personal memories of Mocha Parade from his own childhood. However, for many local residents and shopkeepers, the blog is a last goodbye to a place that was at the centre of their lives.
“We like to capture these places, because it’s people’s heritage, and with the changes that are going on at the minute, it’s more important than ever.
“The councils won’t bother going round and taking any photos or anything. I had a lady message me after the film had gone out, and she said she was devastated it had all closed, because she won’t have anywhere to go shopping or anything. She was in her 80s, so having something like that on your doorstep is ideal really.”
The film exploring Mocha Parade is the latest in a series of films published by the Urban Collective, which feature abandoned buildings and derelict sites from across Greater Manchester.
But, as Jason explains, their project is not just about traditional urban exploring, which is done simply for the thrill of accessing abandoned spaces: “People call it urban exploring, but I put a different twist on it – I like putting the old sound effects in and the echoes of the past. Fundamentally, I like to do the buildings and places that were important to people in a community respect, like the old pubs, housing estates and places like that.
“The odd time we’ll go and so something grand and far-out, like the old St Joseph’s Seminary in Wigan, which looks like Hogwarts out of Harry Potter, the scale of it is another level, and when you’re inside a place like that, it’s like time stands still.”
Whilst he is passionate about preserving memories of the Salford he knew and loved, Jason also acknowledges that the redevelopment in areas like MediaCityUK has brought benefits for the people in the area.
“If you look at the state of Mocha Parade now in the video, it is probably for the better in the long run. It was nice back in the 1970s, but not anymore!
“Regeneration of areas like Mocha Parade brings jobs to the area and gives people a good outlook when they see something new out of the window. The issue is things like all the supermarkets that are cropping up on the edges of town and sucking the life out of small businesses; but when it’s something that people can get involved with and make their mark on, then that is a good thing.
“It looks well smart around MediaCity now. But I’m glad they’ve kept the old art gallery, because I used to go there as a kid. So, it’s more little things like that we need to keep, because that’s where our heritage lives.”
The video also features cameo appearances from the children of one of Jason’s team. For them, it is important that their children are aware of the history that is right on their doorstep.
“Kids need that. When I was a kid, I was sliding down bin chutes out of third-floor windows, exploring abandoned buildings, and kids don’t do any of that these days – they just sit there on their phones.
“When you look at Manchester and the way that’s changed over the years, there is some social cleansing going on with the dispersal of people who are seen as ‘undesirable’. I had someone in my comments saying ‘It looks really rough there’ – and to look at it, it does look rough. But most of the people from there are salt-of-the-earth characters, so the kids need to know that that perception of “people from around here” is just a façade.”
Preserving the legacy of Salford’s working-class heritage for future generations is what motivates Jason and his team to keep persevering with their work, even during the pandemic.
“Every time I venture out onto the outskirts of Salford, I see the ever-looming presence of the Manchester skyline just edging it’s way ever-closer. So that’s why we do what we do. Our job is to get out there and record stuff before it’s gone – so as soon as I’m done, I’m off out!”