For anyone growing up in south Manchester who wasn’t a resident of the Garden City of Wythenshawe, the place has always come with some considerable baggage.
The local website for Wythenshawe – a place once dubbed the biggest housing estate in Europe – even devotes a special section to its colourful past. This includes tales of “wanton damage by vandals and hooligans” dating back to the 1930s, a demand from neighbouring residents of “posh” suburb Gatley for a Cold War style “barrier” to keep the hordes out, along with endless reports of arson, vandalism and deprivation; leading a local churchman in the late 80s to call the place “the opposite of a community”.
If there was ever a challenge on this planet, redrawing the image of Wythenshawe is it.
And so a modestly-(by marketing standards) budgeted project called “Real Lives Wythenshawe” has begun to do just that. But, as noted by the typically wry north west media news site, How-Do, you can’t call the initiative a “re-brand”; it’s an image campaign.
What comes across from the campaign so far is the great pride the area’s people have for the place and the long overdue need for it to be released from its positioning as neighbourhood pariah. For many people who’ve moved to Wythenshawe from elsewhere – without the pre-conceptions shared by nearby communities – the question seems to be “what’s the big deal?”
But not everyone is impressed with “outsiders” getting involved in Wythenshawe’s business. Forum comments on the local Wythit website suggest “shooting all the fancy consultants”, which doesn’t do much for the stereotype the suburb is trying to shift.
Other local commentators seem to welcome the revamp of Wythenshawe’s image as a good thing, though one adds, ironically, “a few extra police might help!”
As a 10-year-old playing on a park near to Wythenshawe, I got duffed up and had my new leather gloves nicked by some local hardnuts. Maybe, as part of the image refresh, I’ll get my gloves back.