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New Collection Announcement: ‘Images of Hulme in the 80s and 90s’

Photographs depicting Hulme; the people, buildings and landscape, taken by Richard Davis.

The Visual Collections Department are pleased to announce the exciting acquisition of Richard Davis’ Images of Hulme 1980 – 90.  Many of these photographs have been on display recently in an exhibition at Refuge, Oxford Road, Manchester, in conjunction with the British Culture Archive. Details and descriptions of these images can now be found on Library Search and the photographs are available to see in our Reading Room via appointment.

Self portrait of Richard Davis, May 1990. Ref: VPH.229.13

This collection has expanded our growing portfolio of social documentary photography based within the North West and Richard’s prints will be joining those of acclaimed photographer Martin Parr and Mark Warner on our shelves.  Like Parr, Richard was initially drawn to Manchester as a student, where, as had Parr and Warner, he studied photography at Manchester Metropolitan University, (formerly Manchester Polytechnic), arriving in September 1988. During his studies he lived in the notorious area of Hulme, renowned for its brutalist architecture and as an area of social deprivation.

Robert Adams Crescent, March 1991. Ref: VPH.229.4

Hulme had been described to the student Richard as ‘A dangerous, lawless place to be avoided[i] and it was the gung-ho attitude of youth that led to him living there and creating this remarkable collection of photographs.  They detail the socially and politically charged times of 1980s inner city Manchester and captured the mood and spirit of life on the fringes of Thatcher’s Britain[ii].   Richard recalls:

“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, ex-students & the unemployed – the kind of people mainstream society seemed to reject”.[iii]

Spiral Staircase, January 1989

The photographs reflect this in their diverse range of subject matter – these include stark images of the Crescents, (an area of deck-access blocks of flats) and walkways, the street furniture and vehicles, which all now serve as an historical record of the changing landscape.  The Crescents were knocked down during the 1990s.

 The photographs record the changing demographic of Hulme’s community in a series of captivating portraits; there was mention of a ‘Hume look’ as more young Mancunian bohemians moved into the area.  By the 80s Hulme had an art house cinema, The Aaben (VPH.229.33 & 34) and a nightclub, The PSV, (VPH.229.31 & 32), which was the site that launched a club night by Factory Records’ Alan Erasmus and Tony Wilson. The area provided a catalysis for a new wave of musicians, artists, comedians and poets, which also coincided with the advent of Madchester.  [Madchester was a musical and cultural scene that developed in Manchester in the late 1980s].

Clare, Benny and Marie, March 1991. Ref: VpH.229.2

We’re thrilled to have this stunning collection of images.  They are a wonderful addition to the Visual Collections and have interest for academic researchers and also have great appeal to our wider Manchester community.  Any enquiries about the collection can be directed to the curator at anne.anderton@manchester.ac.uk

With thanks to Richard Davis for the images and for all his help in the cataloguing process.

All images copyright of Richard Davis.


[i] https://britishculturearchive.co.uk/richard-davis/

[ii] https://britishculturearchive.co.uk/richard-davis/

[iii] https://britishculturearchive.co.uk/richard-davis/

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