I'm lost and I'm slightly scared. Surrounded by tower blocks, half empty shops and boarded up buildings my thoughts are "Crikey, I hope this is not it !". I'm cycling out of Manchester towards Oldham in search of "Limehurst Estate" - the area I have been commissioned to work in on a new arts project. I stop and ask a passer by and they tell me "I'm miles away, I am in completely the wrong place". I'm sort of relieved. Twenty minutes later I pass Moston train station, I find my bearings and ten minutes later I cycle along Hollinwood Cemetery and find the library at the centre of the Limehurst Estate. My initial impression of the estate strikes me that it is a quiet, clean and fairly well kept place. I think "This looks fine, I'm not going to get mugged with my camera" and after a quick cup of tea on a park bench I decide to try and meet someone from the area. I spot a man sat outside a bungalow soaking up the sun and approach him resting my bike on his railings."Hiya, sorry to bother you. My name is Adrian Barber and I'm a photographer who's been commissioned to work in this area on a community magazine. The idea is in the beginning I'm the driving force behind it, but eventually residents will take ownership of it and publish their own articles without me." He gets up out of his chair and comes to speak to me, "You want to speak to Jean next door, she's lived here since they were built, there's nothing she doesn't know about this area, she'll tell you a few stories."
Jean answers the door, "If your selling anything I'm not interested, if it's to do with religion I'm not interested." I laugh and tell Jean about my role and the community magazine. She invites me in with a smile, "Come in love...This house was built at the beginning of the fifties because I was married in 1955 and I brought my first child through here when they were building this estate. It was just fields and farms before that. The fields started from Ninth Avenue and came down this way. This was all fields then.
I was born in Hollinwood though. I used to live near Albert Pierrepoint who was the Hangman for England. He lived in a pub called “Help the Poor Struggler” at the bottom of Hollinwood - that's a photo of it in the Oldham Chron'. It was just across the road from us, my dad used to go in there. They made a movie about Albert Pierrepoint and I think Timothy Spall played him. He hung a lot of German war criminals Pierrepoint and he hung the last woman to be hung in England who was called Ruth Ellis. I just sent a book down to my grandson all about that. I was born on the main road near the pub just before you go down the little road and under the bridge to Moston railway station.
I worked in the cotton mill on Limeside Road where all the bungalows are now, it was called Fox Mill. Most of the women on Limeside estate worked in that mill. I worked in the ring room. There was different rooms and sections for different parts of the process, the ring room spun the cotton finer. I worked in that mill until I had my first child. You could walk out of one job and straight into another at that time, if you got fed up with the gaffer or how he was running it you'd just be “Right I'm going! Give me my cards”. All the men worked at Bardley pit at the end of coal pit lane. There was a pit on Oak Road and Hollins Road as well - the old colliery. If you go in the library up at Oldham you'll find lots about this area in the old newspapers.
We'd always get paid on a Thursday and go up to the market in Oldham and us girls would get a new pair of earrings and go dancing on Saturday night. Doing the jitterbug and jiving. It was great. There was a pub on every corner in those days in Oldham. They'd have piano's going and people would get up and give a song. Then the jukeboxes came in of course and that was it. It was good, but it's not good any more is it ? If you go in a pub now you can guarantee folk will end up fighting before they come out, especially those wine bars up in Oldham. It's not the same no more...
When I leave Jean's house I see a girl stood on the corner with her dog and I ask her name "It's Clare". I ask Clare if it's true about what Jean had just said to me. "I just stay in me, mind you I don't drink, I'm boring me, I'm just stood here waiting for my sister, she's meant to be coming up with her three kids. I've a son myself, he's brilliant but there is nothing for entertainment around here though. Especially for the kids and at the moment they are just loitering around because there is nothing for them to do so they just get up to mischief." I tell her about Cath Ford another community artist who will be working on the project in tandem with me. "Cath is doing the tactile arts side of things, you know, painting, drawing that sort of thing - she's brilliant. There is a launch event soon called "Feast" where she'll be doing a badge making workshop, you should come down. I've not got all the details yet, but I think it's on the 9th April so if you join this Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/Limehurst-Life-118021328585338/ ) I'll put a link to it and you can come down.