Hulme 1980s–90s Richard Davis
I grew up in Birmingham and left school at 16 in 1982 with no real qualifications and no idea what to do. I spent a few years on various worthless schemes, but mostly I was signing on. It was whilst on the dole my interest in photography really began. I got involved with the Birmingham Trades Council ‘Centre For The Unemployed’ and was encouraged to go out and photograph things that caught my eye out on the streets as well as the many political demonstrations around that time in the Midlands.
They had a darkroom at the centre which I really took too and it wasn’t long before I was teaching basic photography and darkroom skills to other unemployed people. I loved it and a life long love of photography began. Someone at the centre suggested I should look at getting a qualification in photography and before I knew it I was accepted onto a course at Manchester Polytechnic which began in September, 1988.
I’d always loved Manchester music so I didn’t need any persuasion in leaving Birmingham for a new life up north! On day one at the Poly we were all advised not to go into Hulme, a neighbouring district to where the Poly was sited. A dangerous, lawless place to be avoided we were told! So obviously the next day I decided to explore Hulme, see for myself. I never did like anyone telling me what I should or shouldn’t do.
Little did I know at the time this place would play a massive role and shape my life for many years to come. I took to Hulme straight away, how could you not, it was just so damn photogenic and so very different from anywhere I’d seen before. A lot of it was derelict, whilst what was occupied tended to consist of a diverse mix of artists, musicians, drop-outs, ex-students & the unemployed, the kind of people mainstream society seemed to reject.
It also had the most amazing creative spirit and sense of community, and for a lot of people a real source of inspiration and get up and go energy. I quickly made friends with various comedians, poets, musicians etc and word got out I had a camera and knew how to use it, it was that easy.
I moved into a squat in one of the four big crescents in Hulme and quickly turned it into a darkroom and studio. Ended up staying for about 5 years and although there was no plan, I managed to document life in Hulme over that time.
What's interesting years later is looking back at these Images and everything you see is no longer there, the whole area gone, completely bulldozed. A new Hulme grew up in the mid to late 1990's with better housing & normal facilities, families moved back into the area, but you know what ........ I really miss the old place, it was totally unique!