I am Chris Hunt, a professional photographer. Forty years ago, in the mid-1970s, I embarked on a project to document the lives of my neighbours who lived in a small street of terraced houses close to the centre of Manchester in North West England. Having completed the project, I made it into a book but, not knowing how to take it further at that time, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Beeton Grove is a typical working class community, of the kind characterised on television by the long-running soap Coronation Street. I lived in Beeton Grove for a couple of years and got to know a few of my neighbours, which made me curious about the others; what made their lives tick, what kind of jobs, families and thoughts did they have. So I knocked on everyone's door and asked if I could interview and photograph them. Fortunately, only four declined, so I set about my task armed with a tape recorder and Leica camera.
Not surprisingly, everyone had a different story to tell:
There was Marie at number 3, whose father had died when she was just eight months old. She had been brought up by her mother but, because Marie was out of work, they decided to take in a lodger. After only a month, he’d started dating her mother and Marie had to cook his meals. She resented this but she could not afford to move out and was thinking about joining the RAF.
Beatrice, at number 5, left school when just thirteen, to work as a buttonholer with her mother. She married, had 11 children and had lived in the street for 20 years. Beatrice claimed that you could not have a clean home and a happy one, you had to have a bit of muck somewhere.
Bill, living at number 9, had been raised in Ireland by his grandparents. His grandmother smoked a clay pipe and every other word out of her mouth was 'f... this and f... that’; she’d even do it with a preacher present. In 1954, he left Ireland for Manchester looking for work with just £18 in his pocket. He had a variety of jobs but was out of work because of ill health and his family relied on benefits to survive, although he still earned some cash singing in local Irish pubs. His wife, Bobbie, told me they got married in 1956 and she thought that was a foolish thing to do, especially having six kids one after another. Bill had left home twice, once because Bobbie locked him out after he repeatedly came home late at two o’clock in the morning.
These are just a few extracts from the interviews in which my neighbours talked about all sorts of things; trouble with landlords, police, jobs and relationships. Their words and photographs give a rare insight into working class life 40 years ago in a hard Northern industrial city.
Earlier this year, I rediscovered my book and showed it to an established publisher, Bluecoat Press, who immediately saw the value of my work, both for its photographic quality and its importance as social history. They are ready to publish the book as a limited edition hardback of 168 pages (with over 100 photographs) but I need your help to raise additional funding towards the print costs. There are some great rewards on offer and with your backing the book will become a reality.
The book will be 270x290mm landscape, 168pp and casebound. The print run will be limited to 1000 copies.
Risks and challenges
There are no risks. Bluecoat Press is a long-established publisher and is ready to send the book to its printer as soon as the funding target is met.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)