Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Regeneration Manchester - 30 years of storytelling by Len Grant

Pic from Len Grant!

This bundle of gloriousness arrived yesterday. It's the new book by Manchester photographer and artist Len Grant, designed by a former collaborator of mine, Alan Ward of Axis Design. With those two involved, it was always going to be quality. But there is a richness and a warmth that has exceeded my expectations.

I attended the launch over the summer, virtually of course, and immediately signed up to crowdfund the printing of it, so got an early subscribers copy with my name listed as a subscriber in the back, alongside lots of friends, and Len signed a personal message too.

This work is so important. Manchester's renewal and regeneration is an ever changing story. There will be other books that concentrate on the architecture, heritage and design. There will be others that take a critical view of the politics of it all. In some ways, the recent TV show Manctopia tried to blend the wider context of housing policy into one narrative, especially where it collided with the real lives of displaced and uprooted people. And featured some real idiots.

Len attempts to do something much better. He's telling the visual and emotional story of a changing city with all its complexities, and trying to do so with the people involved at all levels. Nothing is ever as simplistic as the all powerful "they" doing change to the little people. But the other important thing to bear in mind is that this is like a compilation album of Len's work over 30 years. He has the full range of stories and images representing a changing city to present, but he's also a big part of the story himself.

Len's work has featured in such a huge range of books and exhibitions (and, ahem, magazines) that he's already made his impression on how the cities of Manchester and Salford feel about their new spaces and buildings. I've enjoyed reading and absorbing this remarkable book today, I can heartily recommend it as a perfect present for anyone with an interest in the city, in photography, or just in the stories of how lives and places change.

Published by University of Manchester Press, the book is available here.

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