Arjun Appadurai (2012) describes locality as a ‘structure of feeling’1 (181) rather than a spatial structure, and from this perspective, Broughton, in Salford manifests as a strongly contradictory ‘structure of feeling’ for me, as a resident there for three years. Never have I felt such an investment and interest in my locality, alongside disappointment and occasionally despair. Never have I felt so embedded in a place, while also feeling like an outsider. Never have I felt so much and so little at home in a locality. This article attempts to enact elements of this structure of feeling, through combining critical writing with snippets of text, video material, images and song, which are part of how it feels and happens for me.

‘It’s cowboy country up there’:

Ruination and Ruinenlust

in the wilds of Broughton


Record of reports made to Salford City Council

Click the image to see the reports in more detail

It also considers the dual practices that have emerged from this nexus of feelings. One set of activities circle around my desire to fight the incipient ‘ruination’ that is embodied (for me) in Broughton’s littered streets, overflowing bins and the increase in properties being let out as houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs). To be clear, an alternative narrative of the locality would point to a decrease in anti-social behaviour in recent years, the positive effects of new housing developments and the numerous ways in which the locality has changed for the better. All narratives, I understand, are contested and indeed my own feelings are similarly contested, as I also feel a real value in and connection to this place, which is rich in architectural and natural beauty, which is green and quiet and, at times, quite bewitching. Perhaps because of this felt attachment to the area, I fight against its ‘ruination’, as I perceive it. This is enacted in a number of ways, but mainly through my role as a street champion, a voluntary position created by Salford City Council for ‘committed local people’ who wish to ‘make a positive difference in the community’ by ‘helping to tackle environmental concerns around the city’ (Salford City Council, n.d.).

You’ve moved there? You’re brave - it’s cowboy country up there


The old-fashioned lamp on the corner throws its shard of the past

Onto the bricks and cobbles, while the sirens wail beyond.

No hobnail boots and tobacco smoke, blue and grey –

just the signs to-let

And the drift of nature over walls and steps.