Most people would not associate coal with Manchester nor art with the working classes. Go to the Miners Club in Moston, then, and have your prejudices shattered.
A coal mine was opened in Moston in the 1850s and around it a housing estate (called the Miners’ Estate) and a bath house for the miners was built by the Coal Board. People followed the work and it became a thriving area.
But the pit was closed in 1950, so if you wanted to work as a miner you had to travel to East Manchester. The former bath house re-opened as a social club, but closed in the 1990s.
Two years ago local resident Louis Beckett, his parents and friends decided to create a community centre in the old building for the people from the Miners’ Estate.
Louis wanted a centre that would not just be a place to watch a band and have a drink but also :
Remind younger people of their history in this area. And through the cinema bring the community together .
The cinema was built by volunteers from across North Manchester and has gone from strength to strength. Recent films have varied from Ken Loach’s Spirit of 45 to the latest Snoop Dog. Local groups can rent the cinema and they offer free showings when they can afford it.
The centre is very much a work in progress. On the outside it looks like a derelict building which has been fenced as if to keep the public out, but inside it’s a friendly place with a café run by Joe, Louis’ dad, and a centre that is buzzing with activity. There is a function room that can be rented for everything from 18th birthdays to Ska nights, while local organisations such as drama groups, a residents group and FC United use the centre for their activities.
Louis wants to put on a music and arts festival this year to showcase some of his own artwork as well as that of the locals. Like cinema, he feels that art is seen as a middle class pursuit:
I have a deep passion for art but could never afford to take it up as a career.
Louis came from a family of builders and was encouraged to get a trade as a young man, even though he attended Manchester High School of Art and Mancat College. He became a fabrication engineer, but his real passion was for painting, drawing and sculpting. Ironically, as the engineering industry followed the mining industry into decline, he could spend more time producing his art work.
I decided to exhibit in local pubs, putting on bands as well as more paintings. One night I sold 12 pieces of work!
He hopes that the art festival will give the opportunity to local people to exhibit their work and provide a more complex view of what it means to be working class.
The centre is still being renovated and all the money that is made goes back into improvements . It is heartening to see that in one of the poorest areas of Manchester a group of people have got together to try and improve their lives and those of their neighbourhood and offer more than just cheap drink and food. For me it confirms my view that if things are to change for working class people in Britain it is down to them to get out there and organise it. For further information about how you can support it go the small Cinema website. For a short clip about Moston Pit with Lou and Paul Kelly go here
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