JUNE 21st, THE LONGEST DAY, 2015

TIB ST AT DAWN

JUNE 21st, THE LONGEST DAY, 2015

The Longest Day began with me dancing on a table with my flatmate’s girlfriend. He’d been out with her to some do, and they’d come in full of wine and had woken me up, demanding that I get my shoes on and go out with them. We compromised by dancing in the flat and so, when I left to photograph at just after 2.30am, my spirits were as high as a buzzard circling a freshly seeded field.

Freshbites on Oldham Street was stuffed with Mancunians seeking solace in chicken kebabs, pizzas and chips, and young girls lay slumped in bus shelters, their minds shot by shots. Outside the Tiki bar in Stevenson Square a young lad announced he thought my photographing was weird and that he wanted to smash my cameras.

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I retreated away from the crowds that were lost in drink into dark streets. Blue sky was rising in the east and the last night of extending light was nearly over. From this moment on, subtle as an airborne virus, winter would begin to arrive.

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JERSEY STREET, ANCOATS, MANCHESTER 6.33AM

jersey street ancoats in manchester

JERSEY STREET, ANCOATS 6.33AM

There’s a sense of growing affection for Ancoats. No longer do people scurry from doorway to cab, fearful of being mugged, or “taxed” as I recently heard a Glaswegian refer to it. Ancoats is maybe the best of Manchester’s efforts to reinvent itself. The area used to pulse with endeavour, power and anger but now, whilst it still gives sanctuary to its ghosts, it increasingly neutralises their presence.

Soon the streets around the dark brick buildings, glowing blood red in the familiar rain, will be no more threatening than a heritage park. Restaurants and cafes will open, apartments will prick the aspirational thumbs of young Mancs and the sinister spectre of industrial poverty will have been washed forever from the pavements. I like that the developers have decided to retain the old mills and warehouses. A city needs its heart kept alive and, on this wet morning, the spirit of Manchester glistened across the dark shadows.

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OLD MILL STREET, NEW ISLINGTON, ANCOATS 4.16AM

old mill street ancoats

OLD MILL STREET, NEW ISLINGTON, ANCOATS 4.16AM

I’ve recently returned from North Carolina where people were astonished to hear, over an honest glass of Moonshine, that Manchester’s economic fortunes were so badly affected by the American Civil war. I told them about the statue of Abraham Lincoln, and the principled boycott of southern cotton that led to real hardship in the city.

I also met a man who’d been part of the team that developed GPS mapping, who now ran an orchard in the Blue Ridge mountains, and who was a font of tales about the gold rush that happened in the nearby valleys and rivers.

Back in New Islington, in Ancoats, I felt a sense of gold rush and hardship. Back in the day Urban Splash rode into town high on spirit and with ambitions as grand as a cowboy’s buckle but, just a decade on, the tumbleweed and dust is as obvious as the lone chimney amongst the fancily named new apartment blocks, after an American bank shot down the world economy. And again Manchester felt the effects.

This morning, young men are returning home after a long night in the city, a piercing alarm on a refuse truck will not be silenced, and the wind gusts in from the West down the open street.

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CHATLEY STREET, CHEETHAM HILL, MANCHESTER 5.26AM

cheetham hill, manchester

CHATLEY STREET, CHEETHAM HILL 5.26AM

I’ve always wondered what was in the minds of the Victorian men that designed, and then constructed, the strange phallic tower that rises up from the centre of Strangeways Prison. Maybe the architect, Alfred Waterhouse, was obsessed with reminding the incarcerated criminals within of their weakness and powerlessness.

Today, the surrounding streets see men slope past in their shiny cars, looking for women that will gratify their needs at a price that can never satisfy either of them. If they saw beyond the rising lump in their trousers they’d notice old businesses, now decayed, where other men strove for a lifetime to prove their worth through trading garments and goods with the world.

I’ve never felt uneasy during my project, but the time spent photographing here at dawn caused me to shrink and seek to protect myself. Cars slowed unnecessarily, headlights bright and threatening, and hooded youths whisked past far too close on their bikes. Around me are gone to seed buildings peddling wholesale items destined for the cheaper end of retail. Chatleys is clearly very eager to let big men know all is not lost.

Cheetham Hill is next on the council’s ambitious list to be regenerated, and that will no doubt bring another happy ending.

COPYRIGHT BELONGS TO SIMON BUCKLEY PHOTOGRAPHER. NOT TO BE USED FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN OR TO BE PRINTED. ALL USEAGE MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED.

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TO BUY A LIMITED EDITION PRINT OF THIS IMAGE CLICK HERE

SEE MANCHESTER AT DAWN WITHOUT HAVING TO GET UP…

£150 + p&p

This is a special limited edition print from the Not Quite Light project and is available for sale. Only 50 prints will be produced from each image. Each print will be signed, numbered and presented with documentation guaranteeing the limited edition. Text from the blog will also accompany the image.

The work is printed on archive Giclee paper at 20×16 inches, and I work with a local printer to ensure high standards of print quality.

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