Six months after Grenfell, four-fifths of residents are still homeless. That’s 80% of survivors who will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation. Nationally, 128,000 children who will do the same. That is barely surviving. 2017 has been plagued by a drastic rise in British inequality; the rise of in-work poverty, zero-hour contracts and a tragedy that highlighted the silencing of marginalised voices. It’s a year where an age of social security is just a distant memory.

This week, Leslie Thomas QC echoed working class people’s dismay at their lack of representation in corridors of power. Whilst representing the victims of Grenfell, he encouraged the room to look at their diversity. He asked them to look at the lawyers representing the corporate partners and highlighted their homogeneity. White and middle class. He then went on to ask who in the room had lived in social housing. Who had grown up in a tower block or on a council estate? Because that really does matter, those who are making decisions don’t have that lived experience, and sadly the most affected are the least likely to get a seat at the decision making table.  

Manchester has heavily invested in the regeneration of its council estates over the years.  The journey of social housing in the city is often synonymous with slum clearances, the creation of Europe’s largest council estate, and the biggest failure of a social housing project that the country has seen – Hulme Crescents.  But conversations about regeneration shouldn’t just focus on the negatives - living conditions have improved and rightly so: housing isn’t a luxury, it’s a fundamental human right. Regeneration is important for living standards, especially across pockets of Manchester with increasing poverty rates, but what price are we willing to pay? Community.

East-Manchester has been flooded with regeneration money since the Commonwealth games in 2002. The area has some of Manchester’s most working class communities, and is rich with industrial history and heritage. New plans to regenerate the Grey Mere Lane estate have sparked residents’ fear of displacement, a sense of uncertainty and again – a longing for social security.

This fear is so much worse, when you have so much working class pride in knowing your neighbours and have created your identity around everything you’ve ever known: your estate. Housing providers (and government) are determined that social housing shouldn’t be viewed as a home for life, but should merely be a stepping stone on to the property ladder. What if a home for life means a sense of security, community and belonging? What if power play means that you have to uproot and start again because suddenly a redeveloped, inner city estate with good house prices becomes gold dust for the middle classes?

Working Class Heroes is a RECLAIM project that focuses on working class heritage within rapidly changing communities in Manchester. It investigates the idea that the lifeblood of estates is community and identity and how that can change drastically when your surroundings do the same. We have interviewed residents and representatives from Hulme and Ancoats who can tell you first hand that it is a continuous battle. One interviewee, from Ancoats, spoke of a friend who received notice of compulsory purchase and was forcibly moved out to Openshaw:

“They thought they’d created a home for life, they knew their neighbours and the area very well. They were happy – then they were forced to leave. They are still grieving”


Is it right to suggest that people are at risk of losing their homes, just because of who they are and where they are from? When power is concentrated in to fewer hands, without lived experience, tragedy ensues, just like Grenfell and just like these evictions.

Here in Manchester we have a skyline of cranes and new build luxury tower blocks. Plastered everywhere just north of the centre is the slogan ‘Putting the soul back in to Manchester’. But who really creates a city’s soul? It’s time to start putting people before profit, and remember the working class heroes who helped create our city’s buzz.