Making Our Mark in Miles Platting and Ancoats

Making Our Mark in Miles Platting and Ancoats

Residents from Miles Platting and Ancoats have relived their memories from a Manchester gone by with a creative project to help bring the local community together.

The ‘Making our Mark’ project, commissioned by housing provider Jigsaw Homes Group and delivered by artist Len Grant, saw residents retrace local landmarks and retell stories from their youth to create a meaningful piece of artwork reflecting Manchester’s working-class roots.

As the landscape of both Ancoats and Miles Platting has changed drastically over the last 20 years, many residents feel as though their heritage has been lost alongside the community spaces that once brought people together.

The project has aimed to redress this loss by working with several community groups to create a collaborative print detailing different buildings, memories and experiences of local residents.

From March to May 2023, workshops were set up at Miles Platting Library, the Church of the Apostles coffee morning, Many Hands Craft Collective and Miles Platting Community Grocer for around 24 attendees to trace and paint iconic landmarks from the past.

“I helped with the windows” said Gladys who has lived in Ancoats for 46 years. “I painted them yellow with little curtains and they reminded me of the old houses here, especially the way windows used to have a net with long curtains at the side.”

The colours used in the paintings were chosen to reflect the buildings’ purpose and evoke specific memories. As it was discovered that the former textile mill Victoria Mill used to have a sweet wholesaler next door, shades of lime green, pink, yellow and orange were used to represent the jelly rings, pear drops, and barley sugar that residents used to buy from there.

Steven has lived in Miles Platting all his life and shared many stories from his childhood which inspired the painting.

“I started attending workshops at Miles Platting Library and talked about what it was like growing up in Manchester in the 1970’s,” he said. “There was an old dye works called Manox which used to make blue dye and sometimes pigeons would accidentally get inside so you’d see them flying around afterwards dyed bright blue.

“I brought in photos to show exactly what life used to look like and it felt good to be able to reminisce on the past and put this into the project.”

Gemma Bennett, Neighbourhood Engagement Officer at Jigsaw Homes North, oversaw the Making our Mark project which took place weekly with two-hour sessions over three months.

She said: “While our residents have had the chance to enjoy the nostalgia of reflecting on times passed, this project was also an important way to bring local people together.

“People of different ages, neighbourhoods and community groups were able to meet and share their stories and different experiences of Manchester. Through the power of art, we’ve tackled social isolation in the community head on with residents making new connections with each other.”

Different landmarks including The Playhouse theatre, the Half Moon pub and the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary were painted and artist Len Grant has used these to create a three-meter-wide mural.

This is now displayed in the Ancoats Primary Care Centre on Old Mill Street, New Islington.