Friday, February 15, 2013

The real Harpurhey


Really, don’t bother watching The Estate set in Harpurhey on BBC3, it sounds exploitative and boring, the worst kind of poverty porn. It’s one of those TV programmes that seeks to portray the people of a poor area as freaks for the entertainment and amusement of the rest of us. In the process it upsets the locals and frustrates those who agreed to appear when they come out of it badly. Frankly it sounds exploitative and boring.

If you are interested in understanding the tough north Manchester neighbourhood then may I suggest instead that you take a trip to the Factory Youth Zone.

I went there this week and had a good look round with energetic fundraiser Claire Griffiiths and the CEO Paul Bird.

Up on the wall is plastered the mission statement of the Zone - “Somewhere to go, something to do, someone to talk to.” The three things the kids wanted from the new facility when it opened, following the lead of Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

The sports, social and education facilities are top notch, but it’s the passion and commitment of the volunteers and the enthusiasm of the kids that really set me alight. I think they’ve struck a remarkably successful balance between learning and leisure. Yes, there’s table tennis tables, which we all remember from our youth clubs, but also some incredible courses and projects. Plenty of business people have been through the Zone to talk to the kids about what it’s like in the world of work.

The Zone is our charity this year and we’re going to be doing a few things that bridge entrepreneurship of young Mancunians with the community of Downtown. Please get in touch if you’d like to help us.

On a totally different theme, another story that has loomed large with me this week has been the resignation of the Pope. If you’ve ever been to Rome, you’ll know what I mean when I say it feels like the global headquarters of a major international corporation. A real company town. One of the many ways in which the Roman Catholic church differs from corporations however is that it’s CEO tends to die on the job, rather than gracefully retire.

It annoys me that football managers refuse to resign as they seek a big payout, so many business leaders stay on too long in search of that payoff and the stubborn desire to build a legacy. I have rather a lot of admiration for those who genuinely step to one side and get out of the way of their successor – Sir Terry Leahy did it. Tony Blair wanted to, but was grumpily pushed out. So you have to rather admire Pope Benedict’s precedent-setting move to retire the Papacy. He sees the enormity of the task of leading such a complex organization and is restating what is expected of the role in future years.

It was Enoch Powell who said all political careers end in failure. I suspect that history will be rather kinder to Joseph Ratzinger.

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