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Not out of the woods yet: the ‘shameful’ poverty

Retiring Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, warns against complacency in Greater Manchester

Published on July 20th 2009.


Not out of the woods yet: the ‘shameful’ poverty

The 'interesting' Church of England’s Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, has retired.

“The levels of poverty and deprivation in north Manchester remain a shameful open wound on our city’s life. Across Greater Manchester there is a great deal more that needs to be done to eliminate the canker of racism.”

He has been one of the more outspoken officers of the established church of the United Kingdom for several years. He believes that the Church has more than a spiritual function: that it must look at the underlying morality of the country. It must also highlight problems which undermine the physical well-being of the UK flock whatever their creed or colour. All these aspects of life are intertwined after all.

For many the Church may seem an irrelevance: Lowe and his Bishop of Manchester boss, Nigel McCulloch, believe the Church should still play a central role in influencing national life. For them, given the inequalities in Britain, there is still a Mission with a capital M.

You can spot this evangelical zeal in the title of the office Lowe has occupied since 2006: that of the C of E’s Bishop for Urban Life and Faith.

His typically outspoken retirement statement about Manchester is bound to provoke argument – and was no doubt intended to do so.

The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe

“A lot has changed,” he says. “Ten years in the history of the Diocese of Manchester and the cities of Manchester and Salford has seen physical transformation of an extraordinary scale.

'Manchester and Salford, physical transformation of an extraordinary scale’

“The aftermath of the IRA bomb has led to a moderately successful regeneration of Manchester city centre. East Manchester, although not quite the promised land, is certainly renewed, and the dreadful Beetham Tower casts its shadow over the urban skyline. Salford Quays promises to be one of the most exciting developments in the North West with the Lowry, the Imperial War Museum and now the Media City complex combining to provide a stunning contemporary focus.”

“But some things haven’t changed,” he continues. “The levels of poverty and deprivation in north Manchester remain a shameful open wound on our city’s life. Across Greater Manchester there is a great deal more that needs to be done to eliminate the canker of racism and to develop genuinely open dialogue and relationships between the different communities.”

The last paragraph is hard to argue with. The increasing self-segregation of communities from each other is alarming. We never want the type of extreme situation found in certain North American cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, where ethnic groups often live in urban islands with little to do with the neighbouring urban island. This impoverishes citizenship and poisons city life.

It’s also true that many Manchester districts remain at the top, or near the top, of the worst health and educational indices. Why must Greater Manchester so frequently occupy such a lowly position?

The seemingly intractable problems of education, health, poverty, employment, crime and community integration are the big issues for all of UK’s big cities.

Lowe’s architectural comments are less welcome, especially his predictable blast against Beetham Tower. These seem trite in comparison to his points about poverty.

Still such a forthright thinker as the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe will be missed in Manchester. Whilst we should emphasise the positive recent developments in Greater Manchester’s history, it’s as well to do so with the note of caution that the Bishop so often supplied. What is clear is much remains to be done.

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

hungryJuly 20th 2009.

Enjoyed the feast then Cas?

CasJuly 20th 2009.

I see your point Hungry. However when I was younger and couldn't really afford it, I used to give the same guy who begged outside spar piccadilly £10 every Friday. After about 3 months of this I saw him at the Trafford Centre with his family! With all the charities and mugs like me about, I don't think many people actually go hungry nowadays.

east lancsJuly 20th 2009.

I'm trying to get my usual anti-religion snipe in, but can't. The man speaks sense. It's a shame our elected representatives and MCC will undoubtedly trot out some figures to contradict his (entirely accurate) observations.

EditorialJuly 20th 2009.

We always try to mix the humorous with the serious. Check out our News and Comment section and you'll see in the last month we've run with the problems in Didsbury, exclusive interviews with the Chief Constable and with the Director of Metrolink, Nick Griffin's BNP European triumph and water taxis....to name but a few. Are you saying you'd like more of this?

GordoJuly 20th 2009.

Hungry, I hope you tripped the tramp up.

DrakeJuly 20th 2009.

What an excellent article, and fairly brave (?) of you to post ManCon--I'm often critical so I shall doff my hat in your general direction. The morning after the final day of an amazing International Festival we could all be basking in all that meejah attention, but there are real, serious, issues in this city (and on a downer, all that glowing attention might distract from some of the grim realities).

hungryJuly 20th 2009.

Haha! that's not what I'm saying AD! I'm not some big charity crusader or anything, it was just a thought. I'm not saying we could solve all the poverty issues with 2000 dinners, I'm not sure how we could solve the issues. I was just having a Monday morning muse.

CasJuly 20th 2009.

Oh come on hungry!

ADJuly 20th 2009.

Hungry is right none of us should do anything fun or enjoyable and certainly nothing free fun and enjoyable untill were living in a utopia!

hungryJuly 20th 2009.

I went past the International Festival Pavillion yesterday and saw two thousand free meals being handed out, generally to people who looked (to me at least) as if they could perfectly afford to pay for them. I wonder how many people in our fair city went hungry last night.... just a thought.

hungryJuly 20th 2009.

Little free food giveaway? 2000 people being given four courses? Hardly little! As I said, it was just a thought that struck me. After I passed the pavillion (admittedly a little jealous I wasn't getting my lunch for nothing) I was asked for some change by a wet-through tramp. Now before you start screaming at me, I know it's impractical to feed 2000 homeless people, I just wonder whether any good came out of it, whether any money was raised, whether anybody thought how lucky they were to be getting a free lunch or whether 2000 people are in work this morning bragging to their colleagues about the fact their dinner was gratis.

DrakeJuly 20th 2009.

I would. I doubt others would though...judging by the number of comments your 'hard news' stories get! There's a different edge to this story though--we all know crime and transport are serious ishoos, but Manchester shares those problems with all other cities. It shares its level of poverty with very few, and certainly shares its mix of hugely successful core city with painfully poor outer boroughs with possibly only Glasgow that I can think of in the extremes at both ends. Nice to see that in all the bigging up of the city that you do (and rightly), some underlying real hard problems don't get missed. So, yes, I'd like to see ManCon campaign for council, corporates, public bodies to do more to tackle poverty across the city. It might save a few lives, and thats a bit more important than the latest Tesco-in-Chorlton shenanigans.

AnonymousJuly 20th 2009.

Ah water taxis - that's where I've seen the pic of Salford. It's really not that great a shot Editorial. So is this guy just having a whinge on his way out of the job? Couldn't he have done a touch more to sort it whilst he was in office, made this statement last year or summink?

CasJuly 20th 2009.

No, I just think we could put a downer spin on anything. And this little free food giveaway seem a nice little exciting thing!

hungryJuly 20th 2009.

Great arguement that Cas, the tramp I saw yesterday did look like he was looking to buy a new tv now I come to think of it. I'm sorry that your charitable donations were thrown back in your face but it's terribly naive to say that not many people go hungry nowadays.

AnonymousJuly 20th 2009.

Drake, i second that, kudos to mancon for giving coverage to a serious issue. Regardless of how much irreverence the editorial remit normally asks for, its essential to also communicate the more serious issues which not only affect us all, but issues which we can all work towards solving as a community.

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