Artistic Ardwick

Being involved in local volunteer groups over the last few years, I’ve been aware of so many organisations, each making their own contribution to my local neighbourhood of Brunswick, on the southern side of Ardwick. So, it came as a surprise to learn of another side of the neighbourhood – its artistic side.

Yes, I’d heard of one group and had a short conversation with one of its members, and there was this artist who lived close by, but a chat with neighbour Gareth lifted the veil from my eyes and revealed a hotbed of creativity.

But wait – this is inner-city suburbia, not Bohemia.I’ve got it on good authority from Puccini that you’ve got to be on a hilltop in Paris, in a designated artistic quarter, without two sous to rub together to be artistic.

Just in case it might be what an ex-president calls “fake news”, Charles Aznavour corroborated this by incessantly singing La Bohème – and he got a State funeral and send-off at Les Invalides two years ago for his artistry.

So where do the artistic murmurations in Brunswick reverberate from? Seemingly from on high. Gareth described how, within just the four high rise blocks of the neighbourhood, he has come across a number of artists – some of whom have joined in his new artistic grouping, the Ardwick Artistic Network. Just looking around the website it seems so avant-garde to the eyes that it makes my crude interrogation “is it a painting, a song or a book?” seem just like that – crude.

On Grosvenor Street, the link with our industrial past – the mill – hosts Pool Arts. This organisation describes itself as “a work of art in its own right”. Why wouldn’t you think so, when it includes “writers, photographers, textile and fashion artists, craftspeople and a DJ as well as contemporary visual artists”?

Nipping across the nearby dual carriageway, as is necessary to avoid collisions with vehicles much speedier and weightier than oneself, you may happen across the Cakebread Workshop. Here is some tactile artistry, where crafts are promoted and you can learn to weave a basket or tile over an object to produce some wonderful work.

Martin (left) at the Cakebread Workshop, an artists’ studios and hands-on workshop

Trying to get more down to earth, and for me that means pushing worms out of the way, I was wondering what local initiatives fan the flames of artistic flare-ups from their ignition.

It only needed a glance at the local community hub, Brunswick Church, to see various activities meant to highlight people’s ways of expressing themselves. The M13 Youth Project has youngsters singing, broadcasting and generally rapping their way around the area.

The Mothers and Toddlers group get children to start their artistic journey, with parents joining in the fun. Just Life had people in temporary accommodation showing their creativity in friendly craft workshops.

A short walk away, or longer if you’ve got short legs , is the Young People’s Centre. This is where an adventure playground lets youngsters express themselves physically and challenge themselves to their physical limits.

Weighing-in in the opposite corner are the older ladies at their Sheung Lok Wellbeing Centre. They stretch their bodies and their minds and enjoy social creativity.

Yes, there is plenty of scope to get creative in the neighbourhood with this review of local groups.

Maybe not as much as someone who was born here and then went on to create new national boundaries for several European countries after the First World War – David Lloyd George – but that’s history.

Mind you, history is all around the area, be it the legacy in stone of the industrial revolution, or the legacy of a local storyteller, Elizabeth Gaskell. From her home in Plymouth Grove during the 1850s, she gave us an insight into Cranford, an imaginary country setting in which Judi Dench interpreted a local neighbourhood gossip in the BBC TV series in 2007.