Hulme CommUNITY 

Viraj Mendis campaign

Viraj supporters gather outside PSV - Russell club 1988 - Photo courtesy of Tony Goodhall  

Viraj Mendis protest

Anthony Bailey, A Reporter at Large, - SACRED PLACE- The New Yorker, May 2, 1988, May 2, 1988 Issue

Viraj Mendis, who has been living in sanctuary in the sacristy of the Anglican Church of the Ascension, in the Hulme district of Manchester, England. He has been there for the last 16 months to avoid being deported to his native land, Sri Lanka. Viraj is a 32-year-old atheist & supporter of Britain's minuscule Revolutionary Communist Group. He regards himself not just as in sanctuary but as a political prisoner. Father John Methuen is the rector-or to use the designation he prefers-the parish priest. While Viraj was living in Manchester, between 1984 & 1986, he went to many political & community meetings in the church hall, and was well acquainted with Father John. On Dec. 20, 1986, several hundred people organized a march protesting his deportation which had been decreed by the authorities, in response to his having long overstayed permission to be in Britain as a student. As the procession set off along Royce Road, Viraj ran into the Church of the Ascension. Fearing that the police would stop him, he had told only a few people-Father John among them-what he intended to do. In Sri Lanka, where he grew up, he sided with the underdogs, the Tamils, though l was a member of the Sinhalese, the majority race. He arrived in Britain in Oct., 1973, at 17, to study engineering, & has never gone home. He had to leave school because of financial difficulties & then worked at menial jobs, which radicalized him. Gives history of sanctuaries as sacred places of refuge & tells about Viraj's day-to-day life in the church. Tells how deportation proceedings eventually began. His lawyer argued that Viraj was in danger of death if he was sent back to Sri Lanka. It's hoped that eventually he will be allowed to stay in Britain

Manchester Evening news - September 14, 2004

FORMER political refugee Viraj Mendis, who took refuge in a Manchester church for two years, was back in the city today - with a smile on his face. The last time he was seen at the Church of the Ascension on Stretford Road, Hulme, he was still in his pyjamas as police carried him wrapped in a blanket and screaming "Murderers". But today he put the trauma of that day in 1989 behind him to raise a broad grin and joke: "I've even got a visa." Mr Mendis visit to Manchester today was just to say "hello" and go back to the church where he sheltered in a room measuring 10ft by 15ft. "It is wonderful to be back here, though the memories I have are a mixture of good and bad. It is more good than sad, though, because of the fantastic support I had from many people." "I'm hoping many of the people who supported me when I was at the church in Hulme will come along. It would be great to see them so I could again say thank you for all they did to help me." Mr Mendis was deported as an illegal immigrant after 16 years in the country. He had arrived in 1973 on a 12-month student visa. To defy a High Court deportation order, he took sanctuary in the Church of the Ascension. He had been an outspoken supporter of Sri Lankan Tamils and feared for his life if he returned home. He was given refuge in the church in December 1986 by Fr John Methuen, now the Dean of Ripon, but was arrested there on January 18, 1989, and flown back to Sri Lanka. In June the same year, Mr Mendis married Karen Roberts, one of his Manchester supporters. In 1990 Karen moved to Germany where, after six months, Viraj joined her.


Steve Coogan, Otterburn Close, late 80's - Photo courtesy of Richard Davis© 

Community Charge reggae band, Hulme, early 90's - Photo courtesy of Richard Davis© 

kELzO - Smear 2 graffiti event, Stonyhurst Close, Otterburn estate 1996 - Picture courtesy of Al Baker© 

Lemn Sissay - Hulme crescents - Photo courtesy of Richard Davis© 

Joy Division stood on Hulme Walk bridge, Blanshard Walk and Perryman Close on the left, Otterburn Close on the right, Bonsall street behind and Martenscroft bridge beyond that, Moss Side in the distance. Photo courtesy of Kevin Cummings©

Similar photo taken from Hulme Walk bridge in the 1970's, photo courtesy of Philip Andrews©.

We received this story and photography from from Richard W..., below is what he wrote and we feel it needs to be posted on this page, thanks Richard for allowing us to share your history of living in Hulme...............

- Richard W... ---
Greetings Hulmeoids, I lived at 336 Charles Barry Crescent from 1979 - 1984, from my bedroom window I could see the city centre and the Manchester skyline. The rent was £7.00 per week but we never paid it and just kept stacks of reminders in the draw unopened. I studied Photography at the Poly and got stuff published in City Life magazine along with the great Kevin Cummings. ( His book on Manchester is well worth buying ). My flat mates were from the Fine Art Dept. at Medlock, Paul N.... and Steve B..... who was also in the TA with me, B Company, 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regt. based in Oldham. We caught the 82 Bus outside or flat straight up to Oldham Mumps on Fridays and returned Sundays knackered but ready for ales (Boddingtons) in the pub on the corner The Grants Arms. After a bit, \\\'Knocker\\\' North moved out of 336 Charles Barry back to Bratford and Steve left TA after getting his wings an moved to the US. Brian Turner ( bassist with The Frantic Elevators ) moved in, and Hucknall, Neil Moss and Kevin Williams used to meet up in 336 Charles Barry to rehearse, it was where The Frantic Elevators wrote, \\\'Holding Back the Years\\\' which became a big hit for Mick after he left and set up SIMPLY RED.

The Crescents were a fantastic place and I remember the Moss Side riots too in 1981. I left Hulme for Norfolk in 1984, worked on a holiday camp for a year, then got a job in Fleet Street as a press photographer

Mick Hucknall - Simply Red

Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) playing pool in the Grant's Arms 1982 - Photograph Richard W©

The Frantic Elevators rehearsing in 336 Charles Barry Crescent Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) on the left - Photograph Richard W©  

  Moss Side is ablaize Riots 1981 - Photo courtesy of Richard W©

Around 1987 black paintbrush style graffiti appeared all over Hulme and around the city centre even adorning the front of Central library in St Peters square, it read " The Stone Roses" Picture courtesy of Richard Davis©

Reports from locals suggest that however hard edged the neighbourhood seemed, residents appreciated the extensive creative mix that had settled in the neighbourhood. However, the problems of social and economic decline still continued. The large squatting community set up community newsletters, pirate radio stations, music and firework celebrations, and created a cultural vibrancy about the neighbourhood.

The pirate ship ( Top left pic ) was built late 80's early 90's by local performance group Dogs of Heavan ( aka Hogs of Devon ) and was lit up over near The Eagle pub at a huge outdoor reggae party / rave with hundreds if not thousands in attendance. Top right pic is of the Nautilus ( Captain Nemo's ship ) or the naughtybus as it was known was built over a 3 month period using an old Sherpa van, wood, steel and a lot of hardwork to turn it into this 25ft long ship, the Nautilus was fully functional but was sadly firebombed by local hoodlums and very few photos of it exist completed.  Bottom right is the Phoenix which was burnt at a big street parade to officially open Stretford Rd and the Hulme Arch. Check the Hulme Video page to see this event

Ex-residents also suggest that the community also tried to prevent the City council's destruction of various community assets including the Victorian Turkish baths, and the independent local cinema. The area is seen by many as the powerhouse behind the Manchester music and creative scenes of the eighties, that in turn created a profound influence on the UK and World music and cultural scene. Unfortunately, the lawlessness and lack of community cohesion that went with the change in demographics in the area, meant that it was a no-go area for most outside observers. 1980s increase in rate of decline An increasing drugs, violent crime and prostitution problem in the area stretching on into the 1980s made Hulme increasingly dangerous. Racial and Social tensions in the area culminated in race riots involving the SLP and local youths. Various government initiatives, focused around the nearby Moss Side District Centre, attempted to promote economic growth through job provision, but were deemed by most as unsuccessful. Unemployment remained very high in the neighbourhood, and local residents note that "just saying you were from Hulme or Moss Side gave you a great disadvantage when job hunting. You could not get credit easily either with a Hulme postcode.

    Travellers living in their buses parked - Otterburn Close 1996  

Malarky's food shop, Chichester Rd, ( aka New Birley St ) Hulme, 1996


It's 1989 and everyone is off their tits on E listening to Acid House, the Mondays and the Roses. The Hacienda might be banging, but John Robb says the real action is taking place in The Kitchen, a club made from three box flats knocked together on a Hulme council estate. Everyone is 'on one' and looking baggier (and saggier), no-one seems to get to bed until daylight. It's an endless rat run - blagging guest lists and partying. Good times. The real epicentre of this bacchanalian action is not the Hacienda though, the real raw beat central is just down the road from the legendary club, in the concrete wasteland of the council high rise of Hulme. Rebuilt in the sixties after the biggest demolition in Europe, Hulme is a collection of flats and rat runs built around the notorious crescent flats.

Police patrolling or searching the crescents, early 90's

Ruthless Rap Assassins, Crescents, Hulme early 90's

By the early mid seventies it had swiftly developed into an area of cheap housing for students and skint outsiders. By the mid-eighties it had become a squat central with dog shit and post punk idealism everywhere, full of boarded-up flats and great parties, everything covered in graffiti - from ornate murals to the anarchy symbol, to half crazed magic mushroom inspired slogans; it was a wonderful lunatic place to live.

Chemist, Clopton Walk, Hulme early 90's

Punx Picnic, early 90's, the Eagle pub, Hulme crescents.

" Proud to Deviate ", Clopton Walk shops, Hulme 80's

The Crescents once the council had given up on them

Student girl inspects a burnt out stolen car below one of the Hulme Crescents, early 90's

Stolen car crashed and dumped outside the Zion Centre, Hulme, Hulme 1990

It seemed like every band in the city had done time there, the cops left it alone and the pubs were full of drugs. It was a magnet for every crazy, every loon, every counterculture inclined freak in the north of England and beyond. By the time of acid house the structure of the area had totally decayed and it was a boom time for the party mob. Before house music became the staple of wine bars and overpriced DJs, it was the soundtrack to wild squat parties and guerrilla clubs just setting up where the fuck they liked. Hulme was perfect for this. A concrete wilderness with no control, a virtually independent freak scene run by the freaks for the freaks. No wonder it got a little crazy in there. On a Saturday night when you finally went to bed you could hear the boom-boom-boom of loads of sound systems blasting out from all over the estate. The epicentre of all the action was a club called The Kitchen. Three flats way up on the third floor of the Crescents, which had been knocked clumsily with a pick axe into one super-squat-club. The Kitchen was box flats three stories high in the middle of a concrete wilderness - the real heart of Manchester acid house culture. It may have been a ten minute walk from the Hacienda but it may as well have been a million miles away. In the Kitchen was minimum lighting. Want a bigger club? Well get a big fucking hammer and knock the walls through to next door... and that's what they did. There was a massive sound system in the front room - the downstairs kitchen had been turned into a bar selling Red Stripe, and the whole block seemed to ooze spliff. Not that it matters because every one is E'd up - gonzoid-eyed and scrunched-up faces leering into the dark haze. Careful as you wander around that staircase that sort of goes to the second floor. 
The wall joining the flats together had been removed and the floor seemed to have gone as well. There were a couple light bulbs as well blinking in the murk. The music is booming acid house circa 1989, you can hear it all over the estate - it's like a beacon to every leering crazy in town and the glass strewn car park is chokka full of beat-up cars arriving through the night from all over the north of England. A couple of years in and there are already acid house veterans; crevasse faced all night people with tales to tell. Here?s one car load just back from the Blackburn all-nighters, giving the cops the slip and chasing the music all over the beaten up ex-cotton towns of mid Lancs. A whole bunch of heads have just arrived from The Hacienda, a ten minute walk down the road, cutting through the dimly lit subways and the gonzoid graffiti, and up the piss-stained flights of stairs in the feral Hulme crescents to the Kitchen party. They're looking for a 48-hour rave and are dancing around like loons, and they've not even got into the party yet. The corridor outside the flat is full of the sort of people who curse daylight, milling about buying drugs, popping E's or just doing Bez style bug eyed dancing on their own in small circles - oblivious to the music - oblivious to everything apart from the tactile pulse of the ecstasy. The cops don't come here. The cops haven't come here for years. This is a no go zone.  

Hulme kids posing in front of one of kELzO's paintings on Otterburn Close 1996 and Anti police sentiment painted over near the White Horse pub and Hulme library, early 90's

A party central. A concrete maze perfect for crime and even better for mental parties run under their own rules. "Leave 'em to it" sniff the local cops who prefer to stay in their concrete fortress station just up the road. The whole area is full of travellers' buses, dogs-on-a-rope types, junkies, squatters, freaks, outsiders - its also full of ex-cons, muggers and mini gangsters, but you can't have everything can you? In the summer it feels like the last stand of the party culture - a never ending chemical high in the winter- and it dies off as everyone drifts into smack and starts moaning about the weather. For a couple of glorious summers though, it was the real acid house party in Manchester, when the whole area seemed to pulse to the ghetto BPM and party like one mad shitfaced bastard. Of course it couldn't last and the bulldozers moved in in the mid nineties - these days it's all yuppie flats and wine bars full of shaven-headed thugs; the party is pretty well over even though some of the freaks remain. The days when Hulme M15 was a byword for party action are long gone. The yuppie scum have pushed up the house prices and the Hulme soundtrack is more likley to be Dido than mad crazy drug music. Welcome to the 21st century. 


More photo collections from Hulme in the 1990's

Hulme and Moss Side 1992 - 2002