Manchester

Books have feelings too

As a self-confessed bookworm and stationery addict I’m always on the look out for unusual and quirky ‘bookish things’, collecting them as some women amass shoes, and with the same ‘you can never have enough’ excitement.

page corners

Stylish and practical

My favourite has to be a good bookmark and I can often be found in the Manchester branch of Waterstones picking up the latest bestseller, browsing for new additions for my collection and having a cheeky brew. It was following my most recent visit that I discovered the absolute gem known as a Page Corner Bookmark 🙂

If, like me you are guilty of folding down the corner of the page when you’re reading, this bookmark offers the perfect solution. It gives the illusion of a folded page while saving both your place and, more importantly, the precious book corners from damage.

bookmark 1

no more bent corners

 

Page Corner Bookmarks come in an assortment of designs, each beautifully finished and embossed with different text. The packaging is trendy yet vintage and would appeal to bookworms old and young alike, making this bookmark an ideal stocking filler for the bibliophile in your life .

Created by an innovative team called ‘that company called if‘ the bookmarks are available to buy in branches of WHSmith’s and Waterstones. Bookworms in the Emerald Isle can find them in selected WHSmith’s stores and Eason’s in Ireland and N. Ireland.

bookmark 2

 

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Making Easter Egg-stra Special Nationwide

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H&T Pawnbrokers has launched a nationwide campaign to collect Easter eggs to donate to local families. Last year they collected a whopping 7,000 eggs and this year they are aiming for 8,000! All eggs donated by the general public will be given as a special Easter treat to children’s charities, food banks and poorly children at local hospitals.

Staff are 'eggstatic' with donations so far

Staff are ‘eggstatic’ with donations so far

In Birmingham over 85 eggs have already been donated by generous members of public; the North London stores have received 120 eggs; in the Manchester area 250 Easter eggs have been collected as well as 13 sensory toys – Their target is to collect at least 300 eggs to donate for a special Easter egg treat this year for children and families in need in the Manchester area.
In Hull over £140 has been pledged to crack 140 (real) eggs over the store manager’s head to raise money for Kids in Crisis! The eggs have been donated by Iceland and the store in the Prospect shopping centre is holding an egg cracking event to raise funds for Kids in Crisis on 4th April.

Local people are asked to drop in Easter eggs at their closest H&T store.

Donations can be made any day up to 1st April 2014. Customers can also donate £1 and H&T staff will buy an Easter egg or a teddy to add to the collection.

“We think Easter is another opportunity for us to support our local communities and give a little smile and a lovely surprise to as many children in need as we can this year.” says John Nichols, CEO H&T Pawnbrokers.

Stores are collecting for the following charities and organisations:

– Children’s wards at North Manchester Hospital, Royal Oldham Hospital, Salford Hospital, Stepping Hill Hospital and Wythenshawe Hospital
– Oakdale Primary school in Hyde
– Wood Street Mission, a charity which helps alleviate the effects of poverty on local children and their families throughout Manchester and Salford
– Stretford Food Bank

The collection is part of a nationwide initiative by H&T Pawnbrokers, the UK’s largest pawnbroking company. Last year H&T pledged to collect 1,000 eggs across the country for children’s charities and hospitals, they egg-ceded their target and collected a whopping 7,000 eggs! This year they would like to beat this and collect 8,000 Easter eggs.

“We think Easter is another opportunity for us to support our local communities and give a little smile and a lovely surprise to as many children in hospital as we can this year. They deserve a treat! A huge thank you to our generous customers.” says Jean Simpson, Area Manager for the North West.

Eggs for local kids can be dropped at any of these collection points:

H&T Pawnbrokers Cheetham Hill: Unit 5, Cheetham Hill Shopping Centre, M8 5EL
H&T Pawnbrokers Oldham: Unit 34, Town Square Shopping Centre, OL1 1HD
Discount Secondhand Jewellery Oldham: Unit 24, Town Square, Spindles Shopping Centre, OL1 1XF
H&T Pawnbrokers Stockport: 109 Princes Street, SK1 1RW
Discount Secondhand Jewellery Salford: 70 Fitzgerald Way, Salford Shopping Centre, M6 5HW
Discount Secondhand Jewellery Hyde: Unit 5, The Mall, Clarendon Square Shopping Centre, SK14 2QT
H&T Pawnbrokers Stretford: Unit 44, Brody Street Mall, Stretford Mall Shopping Centre, M32 9BB
H&T Pawnbrokers Wythenshawe: Unit 1D, Hale Top, Civic Centre, M22 5RN

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Manchester features in New York Times travel list

The New York Times has singled out Manchester as the only UK entry in its highly-esteemed annual list of Places to Go 2015.

Manchester

Manchester skyline

The city ranks number 26 out of 52 destinations that the publication considers to be most worthy of travel from the United States. The list is an eclectic combination of lesser-known places as well as those that offer a new reason to visit in 2015.

The Whitworth

The Whitworth

Citing ‘a flurry of cultural openings’ including the Whitworth, HOME and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, the city’s listing suggests that 2015 will be the year that Manchester ‘shows off its sophisticated side’. It also acknowledges the significant number of unique hotels getting ready to open, most notably Hotel Football.

Commenting on the announcement Nick Brooks-Sykes, director of tourism at Marketing Manchester, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to see Manchester being recognised in this way, in what is set to be an exceptional year for cultural tourism. Marketing Manchester has been courting the US market through promotional activities and campaigns for many years so this is a real coup and we hope that it will inspire a new wave of travellers to discover the city.

“In addition to the culturally significant moments described in the listing, Manchester will also enjoy landmark events including the fifth Manchester International Festival, Manchester Pride’s 25th anniversary and a leg of the Rugby World Cup. It’s also the 20th anniversary of the Manchester Arena which Billboard magazine recently recognised as the third busiest music venue in the world.”

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a fantastic

Hotel football taking shape

Hotel football under construction

accolade for Manchester. The combination of sporting, cultural and historical highlights taking place this year ensures that 2015 is set to be exceptional for this northern city. This is certainly reflected in the visitor figures as Manchester is the UK’s 3rd most visited city for international visitors (after London and Edinburgh) and received almost a million visitors (988,000) in 2013.”

A flurry of cultural openings fills the 2015 calendar of this now edgy city, beginning with the completion of the Whitworth, a ₤15-million renovation and expansion of the former Whitworth Art Gallery into its adjoining park with an art garden and sculpture terraces in February. In the spring, the ₤25 million HOME, a film center and theater, will open. Last fall, the Regency-style former home of the 19th-century writer Elizabeth Gaskell, known to her publisher, Charles Dickens, as “Scheherazade,” opened as a visitor attraction. But it’s not all high culture. This soccer stronghold will be home to Hotel Football, opening in March next to the Old Trafford stadium. The hotel, backed by five former Manchester United players, is one of four new boutiques in the pipeline.

To view the list of ’52 places to go in 2015′ click here 🙂

Made in Manchester Awards – Shortlist announced

The Made in Manchester Awards have revealed their shortlist ahead of the award ceremony in February 2015.

Made in Manchester Awards

Made in Manchester Awards

 

The awards celebrate the best of Manchester’s young talent in the financial and professional sectors, recognizing excellence in innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, training and development and leadership.

Spanning 10 categories across the financial and professional sectors and including theMade in Manchester awards Manchester Champion Award, entries will be judged by sector experts in a two-tier competition process; a written entry form and an interview for the shortlisted applicants, to ensure a ‘fair, credible and professional process’.

The award ceremony will take place on Thursday 5 February 2015 at the Hilton Manchester, Deansgate with tickets available for purchase at madeinmanchester.co.uk and a list of 2014 winners can be found here

Sale west through the years

Back in 2004 the Manchester Evening News ran an article about a notorious estate in Sale, titled ‘No-go estate that defied the odds’, going on to say it had been described as ‘an island of deprivation in a sea of affluence.’

 The estate they referred to was Sale West, or the ‘Racecourse Estate’ as it was known back then, with many of the roads named after UK racecourses.

Manor Avenue

Manor Avenue

 

Built amid high optimism in the 1960’s, as part of Manchester regeneration, the Racecourse was constructed on agricultural land and used to move people out of areas surrounding the city centre in questionably named ‘slum clearance programmes.’

This solved a couple of problems for the council hierarchy, or ‘Manchester Mafia’ as they were called by a few in the know.

Firstly, it freed up land that could be used to build luxury homes for the high

Manor Avenue Overspill estate 1964

Manor Avenue Overspill estate 1964

earners willing to pay extortionate rent or sky-high mortgage rates, turning low income generating neighbourhoods into almost instant cash cows. Backed up with a drive in the 90’s to repopulate the ‘new and improved’ city, and with property prices at an all time high, there was some serious money made from people eager to live near the centre.

Sale West signSecondary, and perhaps even more controversially, there were some areas where residents were deemed by the council ‘the least involved with their neighbourhood’ or ‘least accessible for social professionals’. Hulme, Gorton and other parts of East Manchester were targeted, resulting in many families being offered, and accepting ‘a new home on a new estate’, relocating to Sale West.

Supposed to be ‘a jewel in the crown’ of Manchester council’s estate programme, the Racecourse faced problems from the beginning and quickly became a hotbed of crime and antisocial behaviour.

Built as a so-called overspill estate, owned by Manchester but situated in Cheshire, Sale West proved to be anything but the gem anticipated by the council. Residents found themselves feeling detached and cut off from services while violent crime was quickly on the rise.

Manor Ave

By the mid nineties, many of the properties were run down or empty and the
area had become neglected. The only bus on the estate was cancelled as drivers refused to venture there any longer, sick of smashed windows and abuse from the local youths.

The racecourse had developed a terrible reputation but hit an all time low in March 1997, when local shopkeeper, Ian Marshall confronted two robbers in the off licence he ran on West Parade and was shot dead.

Police were under intense pressure to produce a result following criticism of their lack of response to the previous problems on the estate and very quickly David Ashberry was arrested and charged with the murder, later being sentenced to 14 years in prison.

IMG_6245Measuring a lofty 6 foot 4 inches tall, David has always maintained his innocence, a claim backed up by several witnesses at the scene who, when questioned by the police at the time, stated that there were three robbers, all masked and all definitely under 6 foot. He is currently fighting to clear his name and is supported by a group called Freedom, which works with people who claim they have been wrongly convicted.

Informants on the estate at the time spoke about a dark blue car being involved and refuted claims made by police that Ashberry was ‘obsessed with guns and had a shrine to them in his flat.’ These claims turned out to be totally unsubstantiated, no firearms of any description were ever linked to him and Ashberry was eventually convicted on the only evidence they had against him, a statement written by a woman who lived near the scene of the crime.

The murder of local lad Ian was the final straw for many residents and when the council were approached by Irwell Valley in March 2000, offering to buy the troublesome estate from them it was ‘warmly received’ by all involved.

Following Irwell Valley Housing Association success in securing the estate or ‘stock’ as they refer to it, the transfer of Sale West Estate, formally the Racecourse, from Manchester City Council, a long term redevelopment master plan was drafted, including improvements to existing houses, demolition of so called ‘hard to let’ properties and redevelopment of various vacant land sites dotted around the estate.

When Irwell Valley took over Sale West around 80 per cent of properties were considered long term ‘unlettable’ by Manchester City Council, over 70 per cent of residents were dependent on social benefits and vandalism, youth congregating and empty, abandoned properties were the top three priorities highlighted in a local area consultation.

Manor Court

Manor Court

By this time buses and taxis had totally stopped venturing onto the estate, segregating residents and instilling the ‘no-go’ zone mentality further still.

Manchester City Council had allowed the estate to fall to wreck and ruin, merely displacing the problems and never really solving them – at the expense of the residents they offered a ‘fresh start in a great place to live’.

Irwell Valley pioneered a scheme called Gold Service back in 1998 and it had proved to be a great success when implicated in other ‘troublesome’ estates they managed so it was no surprise when they launched it on Sale West soon after acquisition.

The Gold Scheme is a great example of the housing associations entrepreneurialism – developed to ‘aid regeneration of deprived areas into more pleasant places to live’, it focuses on residents rather than housing stock, defining them as local customers and putting their needs first on the regeneration agenda. So far so good.

The concept is that ‘good’ residents are rewarded with additional services and amenities. By providing these ‘perks’ the association tries to increase the involvement of residents and, in doing so, their attachment to the housing association and neighbourhood.

This explicit distinction between good and bad tenants has forced local governments to rethink some of their equality-based housing policies.

The assumption behind the scheme is learning by moral example: seeing the benefits neighbours receive triggers residents to comply with the behavioural rules set by the housing association in order to become eligible for the same rewards. This will not only improve the behaviour of residents but also the reputation of the area to outsiders, this in turn, they hope, will attract new and especially affluent residents to the area. Best garden competition anyone?

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It’s no coincidence that the new, private houses were built around Sale West around eight years after Irwell Valley took over either. The association believes that ‘middle-class groups will only feel at home in deprived neighbourhoods when the behaviour of antisocial residents has changed’.

First they addressed these issues using the Gold Service system and then, when they felt the time was right the new houses went up creating a new revenue source offering ‘housing specifically designed and priced for middle class families’.

Another strategy employed by Irwell Valley to create ‘a pleasant place to live’ is attracting the right kind of people to buy the properties, people who can serve a as good role models to the other residents, interesting fact – employees of the city council and social services were given priority when the new houses were released for sale.

Sale West is definitely more than a ‘pleasant place to live’ today, but how much of that is really down to Irwell Valley and their almost Orwellian strategies to build a better society

watching us watching you

watching us watching you?

That is not to say that they haven’t assisted; the money spent on housing has gone some way to make them more habitable, although many are still plagued with damp and mould that Irwell Valley are slow to respond to, to say the least.

Gardens are generally neat and tidy, the Gold Service embraced by 90 per cent of residents and antisocial behaviour reports are at an all time low.

This is despite the fact that Irwell Valley has slowly but surely reduced the ‘extra’ services they offered at the start of their take over. They opened the Phoenix Centre in Sale, providing training, help with interviews and access to educational funds – open only to those residents who had achieved Gold BUS STOPService status with the association. This closed in 2005, not long after they withdrew the very successful estate Rangers they had employed to help with both anti social behaviour and general maintenance of properties, gardens and communal areas.

The ones really responsible for all these changes and more are the people who live on Sale West. The ones that have a sense of pride in their community and will go the extra mile to make sure it’s a great place to live, because for them, pleasant just isn’t enough.

The future of Sale West is again in the balance, this time from the threat of budget cuts severing many of the amenities they still have. The library,

Coppice library

Coppice library

community centre and youth club all face closure as Trafford council attempts to make massive savings, seemingly at the expense of those already under increasing pressure.

Fortunately, Sale West is a
community that gains its strength from the people who live there, becoming the desirable place to live Manchester city council first envisaged when it was built; not from schemes and incentives that are dangled carrot-like in order to get them to comply however, but rather from the determination of many to make a change and that’s something that no amount of budget cuts can ever take away.

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Photographs taken by Kim K Photography. All are subject to copyright and may not be reproduced or used without permission and correct attribution 🙂

 

The edited version of this article first appeared in Sale West Voice Magazine

 

 

 

KATY B AND BECKY HILL RAISE THE ROOF @ THE ACADEMY

There’s countless ways to warm your cockles in Manchester on a cold Saturday night in October, my personal favourite would be a tough call between a spicy curry from Ziya in Rusholme or standing directly under the sub-woofer at the Academy while it pumps out a little drum and base.

Who better to push said woofers to the limits than dubstep princess Kathleen Brien, better known as Katy B?

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Got the ticket n t-shirt, all ready to go…

Relatively new on the scene, Becky Hill played as the support act – and what an act she gave, kicking off the night with some great new material from her upcoming debut album as well as the smash hit of the summer ‘Gecko’ with Overdrive.

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Becky Hill was sassy n pitch perfect

Pitch perfect vocals, sassy swagger and unfaltering cheekiness first seen during her stint on The Voice UK, Hill had the crowd jumping along to her impressive solo set.

And then came the headliner, the opening riff of ‘Hot Like Fire’ burst through the amps, sending the crowd soaring to their feet. A medley of recent hits and ‘5am’ made the atmosphere explode, setting the bar incredibly high for the rest of the evening

The crowd were enthralled as she belted out club classic ‘Easy Please Me’, showcasing her vocal talents further before bringing it down for the ever popular ‘Crying For No Reason’ followed by a heart-rending and emotive performance of ‘Everything’, which she dedicated to her older brother Andrew, who sadly passed away in September following a tragic accident.

The Academy took on a night club vibe

The Academy took on a night club vibe

 

The pace soon picked up again and by the time the backbeats of ‘Aaliyah’ were rolling, the Academy was in full swing once again. A kaleidoscope of Lasers and strobe effects gave a real nightclub feel whilst the crowd danced along to ‘Easy Please Me’, showing their obvious delight as she mixed it with Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo-Wop (that thing)’.

Katy was supported throughout the gig by a group of 4 backing dancers who, to be fair, deserve a mention of their own. Beautiful and perfectly in step with the star, they helped take the show up to another level, giving an almost arena like feel to what was really quite a small venue. Along with the stunning lights and laser action it was a feast for the senses that had the crowd mesmerized from the outset.

The stand-out track of the night, and possibly Katy’s best track to date, was ‘Still”- taken from her latest album she belted it out in fabulous style, managing to sound fantastic while busting some moves that Britney could only dream of. Amazing.

There is definitely something endearing, almost wholesome about Katy, a bit like a Blue Peter presenter crossed with a modern day Judy Garland, with her infectious smile and bouncing auburn curls – although I doubt Ms. Garland ever had backing dancers and breaking beats like this songstress.

Endearing and sweet yet with powerful vocals

Endearing and sweet yet with powerful vocals

Growing up in Peckham, Katy attended the BRIT school and has been singing since the age of thirteen, her first audiences being classmates that were wowed by her musical abilities and talent back then.

Emerging from the underground, growing in confidence and talent, Katy exploded onto the dubstep scene; and could often be found increasing her fan base on the nightclub circuit in London as she worked on several collaborations, guesting on numerous well-known tracks. ‘Tell Me’ is perhaps one of her best known hits from this time – DJ NG’s song with Katy’s unique vocal twist makes it still as much of a floor filler today as it was back then.

The crowd were jumping

The crowd were jumping

Inevitably, as all good things must, the show began to wind down as Katy finished her set with the song that saw her rise to fame, ‘On A Mission’, much to the delight of the now sweaty looking crowd.

Thanking everyone for coming, Katy was met with yet more cheers before she briefly left the stage, returning for a 3-song encore starting with ‘Emotions’ before moving onto ‘Perfect Stranger’ and ending on the absolute classic ‘Lights On’.

There was not one person in the venue standing still by this point and everyone was singing along and throwing their best moves on fellow Katy B fans as the show came to a close.

It was a pleasure to see two young ladies doing what they love, and doing it incredibly well. The performance from both was brilliant; full of energy and incredibly uplifting, taking over the charts and the ears of the British public one track at a time, both have increasingly bright futures.

Expect to see more from Miss Hill...

Expect to see more from Miss Hill…

Expect to see much more of Katy B in the future, judging by her performance at the Academy she is a force to be reckoned with, and despite the timely gap between her first two albums – Katy B’s mission has only just begun. Leading into her third album, she has the lungs to put the wind up chart heavyweights Rihanna, Beyonce and Jessie J.

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…and of course, Katy herself 🙂

 

 

 

Is the government housing scheme all it seems?

A new scheme offering 100,000 first time buyers in the UK new homes with a 20% discount has been announced by the Prime Minister as part of a drive to ‘help people onto the housing market’

Starter home initiative will be rolled out early next year

Starter home initiative will be rolled out early next year

 

Aspiring homeowners will be asked to register their interest in buying via the Starter Home Initiative from the start of next year, an initiative that has been developed to help what some have dubbed ‘Britain’s housing crisis’.

A large part of the project involves a change to the planning system, ‘freeing under used or unviable brownfield land from planning costs and levies in return for a below market value sale price on the homes built on the site’.

Under section 106 developers are obliged to pay money towards ensuring adequate infrastructure for the community. No S106 liabilities means no responsibility to ensure this happens, the land could be bought and developed without suitable access to transport, education, open spaces and libraries that the payments are intended to fund.

David Cameron rolled out the same rhetoric we have come to expect, saying: “Hardworking young people want to plan for the future and enjoy the security of being able to own their own home’, appearing to overlook the 85,000 homeless people on social housing waiting lists in Manchester alone. There may be a need for ‘affordable starter homes’ but the need for affordable social housing is far more pressing.

The reality is that this scheme is not going to increase housing availability, nor improve affordability. Similar schemes in the past have done little more than transfer lots of taxpayer cash into developers’ pockets without really increasing output or decreasing the costs charged for housing. There is no long-term benefit or gain for society from this scheme, unlike real investment in social housing that sees new homes built, rented at rates people can afford and let to families on a perpetual basis.

Is this really nothing more than Cameron’s idea of trying to ‘buy’ election votes?

Cameron offers the same old rhetoric….

When Thatcher sold off council houses in her own bid to do the same it led to the largest shortage of social housing ever, with thousands of homeless paying the price.

The government’s denial of the role of social housing in ensuring our economic needs to be met is both short sighted and self-defeating. The current housing policies are not sustainable, as was shown by the role it played in the economic crash five years ago.

It could be an attempt by the government to delay the UK housing market from collapse. The UK is the highest indebted EU country with an ageing, pension-less population and the younger generation strapped up with increasing student debt, estimated at £44,000 each from 2015. This latest “Starter Home Scheme’ is very similar to other shared ownership schemes – we’ve had ‘buy to rent’, ‘help to buy’, ‘rent to buy’ and now ‘buy for votes’ – short term and perhaps locally they seem like a good idea but from a long term macro economic perspective the raw perspective the raw price goes up to compensate.

We do need an increase in housing stock but I’m not sure this scheme will give us that. If it were really about lowering prices then surely an idea would be to bring down all housing costs by 20%. We don’t need discounted houses, or ‘affordable builds’ – just simply more homes.

We need more affordable housing for all

We need more affordable housing for all

The Quays Mail

Here is Quays Mail – a student newspaper I helped create as part of our final year project. Go team 🙂

“Police claims are nothing more than a smear campaign” says Justice for Grainger team

It’s two years since Anthony Grainger was murdered by a police marksman using a sub-machine gun, in March 2012 – unarmed and shot at close range, Anthony was hit in the chest with the bullet entering both his heart and lungs as he sat with two friends in a parked car.

The Justice 4 Grainger Campaign is still going strong

The Justice 4 Grainger Campaign is still going strong

Both the other occupants, along with a third person, were tried and later cleared of plotting a robbery.

The family of Anthony have always maintained his innocence, claiming that he was murdered, in what has been termed ‘The memory stick killing‘ and have set up a campaign, Justice for Grainger, in a bid to clear his name and uncover the truth.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report into the shooting of Anthony back in 2013 was ‘highly critical’ of Greater Manchester Police, stating that police ‘intelligence’ was flawed when the firearms officer shot the unarmed dad-of-two.

Wesley Ahmed, of the Justice 4 Grainger campaign was horrified when the Manchester Evening News ran a story this week claiming that he and other campaigners had ‘put a £50,000 bounty on the heads of firearms cops‘ – an apparently unsubstantiated claim by Greater Manchester Police.

Wesley totally refutes the 'slanderous' claims made by GMP

Wesley refutes claims made by GMP

In response to these claims Wesley has released the following statement:

“The Justice for Grainger campaign completely refutes the empty allegation by GMP that it is somehow implicated in a threat to the life of GMP firearms officers and condemns the Manchester Evening News for the sensationalist and uncritical coverage of the claims made in court.

 

“The fact that the police made their baseless claims during a case that has no connection to the killing of Anthony makes their actions even more repugnant.

“The December 9, 2014 edition of the Manchester Evening News carried a front page splash, complete with massive typeset and hard hitting, inflammatory headline: “£50,000 BOUNTY TO KILL POLICE” and underneath “Fears firearms officers could be targeted  by criminal gangs

Anthony Grainger

Anthony Grainger

over deaths of Jordan Begley and Anthony Grainger.”

“The actual article, on page five of the newspaper actually stated that this was only a ‘police claim’ before going on to quote the fraudulent claims of GMP with no critical examination.

“The claim is unsubstantiated and unproven. If this threat was real why have GMP not arrested anyone in the two years since they first made them. It is clearly an attempt to smear the Justice 4 Grainger Campaign and those associated with it, as well as giving the court an excuse for refusing to name the police officers involved in the killing of both Jordan Begley and Anthony Grainger.

“There is no evidence at all, two internal GMP memos between staff that talk of ‘rumour’ do not constitute evidence.

“Our fight is about justice and nothing more.”

Here is a video where Wesley tries to find balance with the MEN story.

What’s next for troubled Corrie star Michael Le Vell?

 

As Michael Le Vell hits the headlines yet again, and after spending a day in court during his trial, I take a nostalgic look back at his time on Coronation Street as Kevin Webster, and forward to what the coming year has in store for him…

Michael Le Vell court case

Growing up in the 80’s, when we had only 4 channels on TV to choose from and plastic Jellybean shoes were supposedly cool, I have fond memories of sitting down with my Mum to watch Coronation Street of an evening.

Snuggled on the sofa we would debate the story line and we each had our favourite character – I was always torn between Bet Lynch and her amazing earrings and Kevin Webster, the friendly and *hunky mechanic. *I was 10 at the time, cut me some slack eh.

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Kevin Webster

Around the same time, and unbeknown to me, Michael was becoming well known as a gay icon, allegedly receiving sacks of fan mail on a daily basis. This all came to an end with the departure of his infamous facial hair, although he still remained popular with the ladies and was a permanent feature of The Street.

Off screen Michael married his co-star, Janette Beverley in 1986, they went on to have two children and spent 25 years together before separating in 2011.

This was also the year things started to go wrong for Michael in a very public way, he faced allegations of 19 sexual offences and, although the Crown Prosecution Service later dropped the charges due to “insufficient evidence” the stress clearly took its toll.

Friends of Michael say that this was when he started to drink heavily, often “propping up the bar” in the local pub near his home in Hale, though he did remain a popular character on the much loved soap.

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Michael and his family

In 2013 the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed the decision made previously in relation to the allegations and authorized Greater Manchester Police to charge Michael with all 19 offences once again.

ITV reacted by writing Kevin Webster out of the storyline with the promise of his return – once proceedings against Michael had finished.

Held at Manchester Crown Court, the case attracted media attention on a massive scale. Every day Michael arrived at the hearing to be greeted by numerous flashing cameras and eager press looking for an exclusive quote or statement.

Michael appeared stressed during the trial

Michael appeared stressed during the trial

Supported by friends he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights; it would be foolish to think that the stress of such a high profile case didn’t affect him in a big way, despite him being eventually found not guilty on all charges.

Leaving court on the day of the verdict, a relieved Michael said he was taking some time out – possibly somewhere abroad, and that he would be back on the cobbles soon, much to the delight of his many supporters.

After a break of six months Michael made his return as Kevin in an explosive storyline that saw him getting into fisticuffs with the neighbours as he arrived with his suitcase in hand. Then he was gone again…

Here is the infamous scene…:)

New scandal now surrounds Michael and his personal life, he’s admitted to using Cocaine during the trial, at what he says was his “lowest ebb” and Corrie bosses have given him just three months to turn his life around or risk being written out permanently.

As if this wasn’t enough for the shame-faced star, his ex-girlfriend, Blanca, has added her own fuel to the fire by alleging that Michael “enticed her into having sex with him and another man after he had drunk 12 pints and snorted Cocaine.”

Now, while I am not defending him in any way, I would question why this story has surfaced now, and if it is actually humanly possible to entice anyone to do anything after allegedly consuming so much alcohol then topping it off with some class A drugs?

At the end of the day Michael is a guy who is having a tough time and it would be nice to see him get the space and privacy he needs to get back on track.

Who hasn't made mistakes?

Who hasn’t made mistakes?

Who hasn’t got drunk and made a bad decision or done something they really would rather people didn’t know. He was found innocent of any wrongdoing in a court of law and the rest is little more than tickle tackle.

I reckon the future for Michael is bright, although I’m not sure the same can be said for Kevin, after all, the Corrie scriptwriters are known for their bumpy storylines, who knows what they have in store for his return this time around.

There is speculation that Michael is currently in rehab although this has, so far, been unconfirmed. A friend of the star said: “Michael knows he has to sort his life out and is determined to do that. Coronation Street bosses have been incredibly supportive. They know Mike went through hell with his trial and that the stress has led to problems in his personal life, which have to be resolved. All anyone wants on the show is Mike back, in good health.”

Michael looking relaxed

Michael looking relaxed

Wherever Michael may be at the moment I hope that he is getting the support he so obviously needs and deserves. People are quick to remember the negatives and forget the positive – in my opinion he is not a bad person, as certain media sources would have you believe, more a good person that has made some bad decisions. Only time will tell if he can bounce back again but I really do believe he will.

 

Michael may have made mistakes and, in hindsight, that moustache was a bit too YMCA, even for the 80’s, but at the end of the day he’s a Manchester bloke that will be remembered long after the Rovers has served its last Hot Pot.

 

This article first appeared as an exclusive in the April edition of Within Magazine…

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