Opening the Archive Thinking about collections

‘Not to do things to local people, nor for local people, but with them’: The Hulme Feasibility Study

By Jo Robson

Our archivist Jo Robson reflects on our Hulme Study collection

The Hulme Feasibility Study was undertaken between 1987 and 1990 to formulate proposals with a view to improving the environmental, commercial, employment and social conditions in Hulme and the Moss Side District Centre areas of Manchester.  Professor Valerie Karn of the University of Salford was appointed as an independent chair to the Supervisory group.  The Hulme Study Archive held at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre is made up of the papers collected by Valerie Karn during her time as Chair of the group.

The Study was innovative in its management which was tri-partite being jointly supervised by The Department of the Environment, Manchester City Council and tenants representatives.  The aim of the Study was to provide an independent account of the social, physical and economic conditions on the estate.  In addition it aimed to identify opportunities for improvements and recommend short and long term strategies which the three parties could use to develop an action plan for the area.

Three documents from the study showing housing options

Valerie described the aims of the project in a letter to the Manchester Evening News in July 1988:

The key aim of the study, to which all three parties have committed themselves, is “not to do things to local people, nor for local people but with them.” Co-operative working will not be easy but our common purpose is to devise a strategy which will remedy the past mistakes in design, construction and management which blight the daily lives of today’s Hulme residents.

I have recently revised and updated the catalogue which has included standardising date formats, arranging material chronologically and expanding existing descriptions.  This improved catalogue is now ready to be added to various online catalogues which will hopefully stimulate interest.  For interested researchers the best place to begin would be with the correspondence (GB3228.3/9/1-106) and minutes (GB3228.3/8/1-77) which will help to give an overall feel for the collection, Valerie and her role.  The remainder of the archive is a collection of various documents relating to the Study grouped together by the organisations that produced them, the Hulme Tenants, Manchester City Council or the Department of the Environment.

Two booklets on the development of Hulme Estates and the funding options

I found that even thought I never met Valerie I developed huge respect for her and how she handled her role.  She was able to navigate the different agendas and politics of the three groups and bringing about a positive outcome to the project.  She did not seem to overly favour any of the groups but helped them to overcome differences of approach to facilitate communication.  In one instance she chaired a meeting between the Minister and the tenant representatives.  In a letter to Valerie the Minister expressed how impressed he was with the representatives, their opinions and their presentation to him.  A testament to her success as Chair of the Hulme Feasibility Study was its successful completion and its crucial role as the foundation for the Hulme City Challenge, which was formed in 1990 to implement proposals set out by the study.

Manchester Central Library has a number of publications relating to the Study and the work of Hulme City Challenge that would complement the archive collection.

Three brochures on housing and environment, one red, one yellow and one green

While I was reviewing the collection it was the one year anniversary of the awful Grenfell Tower disaster.  The relationships between local communities, local authority and Central Government are once again in the spot light with Phase One of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry ongoing.  This prompted me to consider the wider impact of the Hulme Feasibility Study.

What has the lasting impact of the Study been?  If nothing else the Hulme Feasibility Study shows us that to obtain the positive change desired engagement of local communities is vital.  As Valerie says it is ‘not to do things to local people, nor for local people but with them’ that makes the difference.


By aiucentre

An open access library specialising in the study of race, ethnicity and migration. Part of the University of Manchester and based at Manchester Central Library.

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