The Resourceful and Resilient Communities of North Manchester

Contribution to Virtual #CheethamFest 2020 by Kadija Ollow

Cheetham Hill has always been a resilient community at the forefront of campaigning for change and advocacy work, as seen through our archives.

Cheetham Hill Advice Centre Collection

The Cheetham Hill Advice Centre (CHAC) collection contains a multitude of documents and records relating to the Advice Centre, which was established in 1977 and to this day provides confidential, free help, advice and support on a wide range of subjects to local residents.

Image: Page of 1979-1980 annual report showing the services offered by CHAC – Cheetham Hill Advice Centre Collection (GB3228.78/1/2/1)

This page outlines the types of free legal advice that was on offer, as well as key information such as opening times and contact details. To our modern eye, used to the slick graphics easily produced by anyone with digital confidence and some software, this may seem a little basic, but to those in need it would have represented a lifeline.

The collection contains over 30 Annual Reports, created for each financial year. As well as showing CHAC’s activities, resources and who was involved, they also act as a lens through which to view the community, showing the types of legal issues that were most challenging at various points in time.

The 1979-1980 Annual Report highlights legislation put to Parliament that year, and how it may have affected the local community – and therefore the work of CHAC – when they became law. We see that CHAC employed a Research Worker to monitor proposed legislation and actual changes, as well as take part in local and national campaigns in response. CHAC clearly valued research as an integral part of campaign work.

Image: Page from 1979-1980 annual report showing research undertaken on Government PoliciesCheetham Hill Advice Centre Collection (GB3228.78/1/2/1)

Time to Reflect

During this lockdown period we have seen legislation hastily developed and put in place in response to COVID-19.

Some things to think about:

  • If you could put in place any piece of legislation right now, what would it be? Would it be in response to COVID-19 or something completely different? Would it have local, national or international impact?
  • If you were to set up a new community resource for your local community, what would it be? Would it be aimed at the welfare of your community, or perhaps a new business? Maybe a space of some kind? How do you think it could work, at a time of social distance?

Time to get Creative

  • Use your creative skills to create a flyer for your new community resource. Think about how you would advertise today and appeal to the community.
  • How would you reach the people who might need it most? Would it be paper or digital (or both)? Cheetham Hill residents speak a wealth of different languages – could you use these? How else could you make it accessible to everyone?

The Steve Cohen Collection and the GMIAU

Neighbours to Cheetham Hill and a few steps further North of Manchester is Crumpsall, home to the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU).

The AIU RACE Centre’s first official archive collection was in fact donated by Steve Cohen, an immigration lawyer at South Manchester Law Centre and Director of the GMIAU for over 30 years. He was politically opposed to immigration controls and was active in many anti-deportation and immigration rights campaigns in Manchester and nationally. Much like CHAC, despite a hostile climate, harsh cuts to legal aid and decades of funding cuts, the GMIAU still operates from Crumpsall today, offering free legal advice to those who need it.

Image: Poster for a MCR demonstration against racism and immigration laws – Steve Cohen Collection (GB3228.28)

The Steve Cohen Collection consists of documents and records from around 70 different anti-deportation and immigration rights campaigns fought in Greater Manchester. From its contents we can see that Cohen and his peers contributed to the local community not only through legal advice but also by organising events and activities aimed at building compassionate communities. The flyer pictured below, for example, was for an event organised by Bill Williams, Steve Cohen and Ruth Abraham in 1988 at The Manchester Jewish Museum.

Image: Poster for an American Jewish Sanctuary Movement for Refugees event in ManchesterSteve Cohen Collection (GB3228.28)

Time to Reflect

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to live differently and has highlighted many (previously unaddressed) important issues. Questions such as the right to equal and fair access to healthcare, space and safety have been forced onto the agenda. The disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities is stark. Looking at archives like the Cohen collection offers the opportunity to use community history to inspire us now.

Some things to think about:

  • What was the first campaign you can remember or were involved with that had an impact on you? Was it a fund-raising campaign or a political issue? Maybe a community issue?
  • What would you say is the most important issue to campaign for right now? Why?
  • If you were to run a campaign, what kind of event would you organise and who would you involve?

Time to get Creative

  • Design a poster for your event. Make it as colourful, creative and hard-hitting as you want. The more powerful the better!

We hope this dip into our archives has shown you the great advocacy and campaign work that has been happening in North Manchester for decades. We also hope it has inspired you to look at to your own community, here and now, and explore what could be different.

COVID-19 Collecting

One way of doing this is contributing to our COVID-19 Collecting project.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. We want to ensure this is captured for future researchers, educators and commentators and that our collective national history represents all of our communities.

To do this we are launching a campaign to collect stories from Greater Manchester’s BAME communities. You can read more about this project here.

We’d love to hear about your experiences, reflections and responses to eating during this time – and to see the event posters and community resource flyers you create from after reading this post!

Please send us any videos, photos, newspaper articles, blogs, screenshots, creative projects, journals, diaries… anything you think tells the story of you and your community during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that many of the donations will be sent digitally, but please keep hold of any physical creations to add to the archive once we reopen!

Digital submissions can be emailed to [email protected] (please include your full name and contact details). For more information and submission guidelines, please visit our website and follow us on social media @aiucentre.