Renowned regeneration photographer Len Grant introduces a gallery of images from his new book, From the Ground Up, charting the New Islington development in east Manchester.
A journalist interviewing me about this latest book astutely commented, "You're more of an anthropologist nowadays than a photographer, aren't you?"
I suppose there's something in that although anthropologist conjures up images of hacking through a jungle to study some lost tribe or other. There are no lost tribes in Manchester's Ancoats and even the concrete jungles are fast disappearing, but certainly the way that the photographs and interviews are intertwined in From The Ground Up makes me some sort of contemporary story-teller.
Whatever the tag I get given, this book tells the story of creating a new place, and the residents who are the pioneers in that place. It's about people's experiences of regeneration.
New Islington was the old name for a street in Ancoats, itself tagged as the world's first industrial suburb. Now it's the new name for the Millennium Community Programme that the lead developer, Urban Splash, say will transform what was one of the worst estates in Manchester into one of the best places to live in the city.
There'll be 1,700 new homes, a water park, a school, health centre and hundreds of new residents yet to come. With maverick architect Will Alsop as its master planner New Islington will become a showpiece for some of the most exciting residential design in the North West. Already I've spotted groups of Dutch planners and designers taking in New Islington as part of their 'Architravel' coach tours, a bizarre sight indeed.
I've followed the New Islington journey since the beginning: vocal residents expressing their opinions during consultations in the local pub. I've followed their progress of choosing their own architects for their new homes and followed them, several years later, as they've moved into this architectural wonderland. Their houses must be the most photographed in the city. Whoever's first to open their front room as a café will make a killing!
- From The Ground Up: New Islington 2001-2007, by Len Grant. Published by Len Grant Photography on behalf of The New Islington Client Group. ISBN 978-0-9526720-5-0, priced £13.00. Distributed by Cornerhouse Publications, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5NH. tel: +44 (0) 161 200 1503. fax: +44 (0) 161 200 1504. email: firstname.lastname@example.org . www.cornerhouse.org/books.