Linked to both these acts of imagination, Appadurai proposes that ‘all locality building has a moment of colonization’ (1996, 183) and that ‘the anxiety that attends many rituals of habitation, occupation, or settlement is a recognition of the implicit violence of all such acts of colonization … an exercise of power over some sort of hostile or recalcitrant environment’ (184). This statement, particularly its latter part, is so apt in its description of my attendant activities of tracking planning applications, reporting pot-holes, filming ruined and derelict properties, posting bin schedules through my neighbours’ letterboxes, organising clean ups, signing up to be a street champion… Given this evidence, it seems beyond doubt that though I may want to extricate myself from a gentrification or regeneration agenda, I am attempting, in small ways, to ‘colonise’ – to ‘exercise’ what power is available to me in order to bend this ‘recalcitrant’ place to my will and that recognition hangs in the space of the research, as something I am consistently either brushing aside or bumping into. The next section of the article addresses these feelings and how they relate to my dual practices, specifically through the related concepts of wildness and ruins/ruination, which allow me to think critically and feelingly through the sets of values, colonising instruments, felt engagements and resultant practices in play here, as a creative practitioner-researcher and resident.

When we first moved to Broughton, my imagination was caught up in dreams of incipient gentrification, fuelled a little by the estate agent who showed us round the house and couldn’t believe that this would not be the next place to ‘turn’. Such imaginings are also reflected in the glossy visualisations of the blocks of flats in gated communities, being built just down the road and their marketing literature, which describes their proximity to ‘trendy Broughton village’, without mentioning the flytipped wasteground just next door.

Brougton and I: a 'structure of feeling'

I am simultaneously excited and saddened by these images – will it really look like this? What will this area be like? Might people really walk and sit by the river on long, lazy summer evenings, sipping drinks and gently chatting?

Why on earth would that be a good thing?

However, Lower Broughton, just down the road, has been redeveloped, following mass clearances of the terraces built for the hugely burgeoning population during the industrial revolution, subsequently characterised as ‘slum’ districts and then systematically demolished from the late 70s onwards. Depicting these localities as ‘slums’, as Lawrence Cassidy (2012) remarks, was ‘used by the authorities’ to justify their demolishing and rebuilding, and speaks of ‘the absent or selective commemoration of particular histories and the exclusion of others’ (185). This ‘selective commemoration’, which presents a tabula rasa4 approach to redevelopment as the only option, also links to considering regeneration in relation to the ‘biological metaphor inherent to the term, with run-down areas seen as sores or cancers requiring regeneration activity to heal the body of the city’ (Furbey in Jones and Evans 2008, 2).

It also reminds me that the imagination of urban planners and developers is just that. As I walk past the endless taglines and tacky visualisations on the hoardings of the mass of new (and some way from affordable) developments in Manchester and Salford, I affectively reconfigure my sense of the locality and its movement, forward or otherwise.

According to the above, I am a gentrifier, though whether the locality is gentrifying is debatable. Equally, my perspective of how it might change is becoming more and more ambivalent, insistently accompanied by a felt sense of the value of what is already here, along with a mistrust of the regeneration agenda that seems so powerfully in force as a narrative across the city of Salford.


Broughton is not currently in the throes of mass redevelopment. In many ways, it is the opposite of the shiny BBC and ITV buildings at MediaCityUK, so often used to characterise modern Salford. Higher Broughton, up the road from where I live, is characterised by large old houses, Victorian terraces and cobbled back lanes, with ‘heritage’ street lighting installed, to complete the picture.

You – A gentrifier? Answer the questions as they are typed

  • Are you a well-educated, creative, privileged middle or high-income earner, student or self-employed by choice?
  • Are you living, working or spending your time in a predominantly immigrant or low-income neighbourhood?
  • Is this neighbourhood changing?
  • Are hip coffee shops, vintage stores or yoga studios replacing the corner shop, the hardware store or the old shoemaker?
  • Are buildings being renovated and longtime residents moving away without anyone really knowing where to?

In case your answers to most of these questions are yes, then accept it: your neighbourhood is gentrifying and you are a gentrifier. (zURBS 2018)

However, if my imagination does not match that of those marketing the new developments that are springing up, just down the road, what makes this imagining (see below) in any way preferable?

The garden centre sits on the edge of the dale. It is open only during the week and seems to be a community space rather than a business. My mind starts filling with ideas of a bucolic yet urban getaway. A community space, yes – but with an artfully dishevelled café – old church pews, school chairs and the like. They would serve home baked goodies, maybe vegetarian in nature, and very good coffee. Likeminded people would gather, after walking through the green spaces of Salford.

Sometimes, when I walk up Lower Broughton Road, right up the hill, to where the streetlights assume their guise of Victoriana and shine warmth onto the chill of the slick cobblestones and it is so quiet and still and settled, sometimes I think that there is nothing that needs to change here – I think it’s all

good as it is.