For two or three years now I’ve been pursuing my Manchester Wild Flowers project. I find the juxtaposition between wild life flowers and urban squalor diseased but fascinating: the life of nature exists, thrives, survives, irrespective of concrete. This is where I started the project. Back here again, I found this astonishing beauty surrounded by industry and decay.

This is Moss Side – a notorious drug, gun, gang violence part of Manchester. Eighteen months ago a young man had his throat cut. A few years ago a colleague told me a tale about a man who walked into a Moss Side pub and started talking with a woman. Move away, another man said. He objected. Move away, the man said again, pulling back his jacket to reveal a gun.

I myself was nearly attacked a few years ago when I stopped briefly for fast food. It was the same story. “Do you know them” the first thug said, concerning two young ladies at the place in question who were pretending they did know me: because they were being stalked and hassled with sexual intent by Somalian thugs who then aimed their hostility towards me. Like animals on a prairie you want to mate, and if you can’t do that you want to release your aggression with violence against male competition.

Another colleague told me she used to live at Moss Side, witnessed a murder, and explained how she and everyone else was terrified into silence. They know where you live.

Another time, driving through Moss Side, a man opened his van door and broke my mirror. “Sorry” he said then proceeded to deny and lie about his responsibility. A police car passed and I requested their assistance. It was disturbing. A small crowd gathered with blind hostility toward me and the police. An elderly man, a random stranger with tribal territorial intent, started to berate me. He had no idea what had happened. He just didn’t like me there, didn’t like me. Thank you I said, thank you, then blanked him. One of the officers made a further interesting remark. Noting the assembled group he referred to them as “your friends” with reference to the man who had broken my mirror. They weren’t his friends. They were just hanging around the street with perpetual latent resentment. I find it hugely symbolic seeing beauty like this in the heart of corrosion and ugliness.


Manchester Wild Flowers: Moss Side Thistles

Tuesday July 12, 2016