Built in 1945 (building work was started by German prisoners of war) and named after a farm demolished to make way for the ambitious project, the Kirkholt Estate is one of the largest housing estates in the UK. Geographically the estate is a steep maze of streets and infamous ginnels giving way to rural spaces in its upper reaches; culturally it’s a proud community constantly battling decline and notoriety. So what do the unusually high proportion of young people who live there think of the estate that they call home?
words mariah bhatti
photography jonny boxall
I have lived in Kirkholt all my life, born and bred. When I was growing up we were the only Asian family on the estate and we did face racism at school but not on our estate. But so much has changed in recent years. It’s a much more diverse community now and the community still works together continually to improve reality for all, and recreate the safe and loving atmosphere which attracted people to the beautiful estate in the first place.
My granddad Haji Khadam Bhatti moved to the estate 42 ago. He used to work in Oldham and was drawn to Kirkholt by the lively atmosphere, well-built houses, the varied shops, and friendly neighbourhood. He doesn’t think much of the new houses and is sad at the destruction of the shopping area and the demolition of houses and flats contributing to the housing crisis. But we have settled a big family on a massive estate and our neighbours have become dear friends. My dad Anees Bhatti, says it was, and still is, a great place to live and mum Shazia loves the mannerisms of Kirkholt residents and their welcoming attitudes.
So, a community thriving with diversity and culture hidden amongst a forever growing society. A local community centre bursting with life – a gym, a dance floor and more. A youth club, the Youth Zone – singing, dancing young people, not causing trouble or messing around, just having fun and laughing like clowns. Tenacious Youth, run by Kirkholt Community Church, ever so resilient, providing activities for young people. Junior wardens, KPlay, The Well – all there for residents to take advantage of. Well, that’s the way it was..
A dark cloud covers the entire estate now. But glimmers of hope still remain. Rochdale Youth Service has been granted a small amount to fund youth projects. The park has been refurbished – a skatepark for kids to use, BMX bikes, skateboards, scooters all zooming down the ramps. Local people of all ages enjoy the Kirky Kitchen at St Thomas’s church. Instead of paying for what you eat and drink, Kirky Kitchen charges per minute for the time you spend in the café. It’s 3p per minute for ages 13+, 2p for ages 5-12, and under 5s are free, like the delicious food made by local people. What’s not to love?
Residents help to run Rochdale Help the Homeless, a charity run purely on donations and the generosity of the public. Hundreds of people have been helped, those that central and local government tend to dismiss. Homelessness is a real issue in Rochdale and one we must face up to.
Young people on Kirkholt have plenty of other ideas for improving our estate. “Something to do in our holidays – cinema trips, sports activities, days out.” “A bike shop, recycling and reusing old bikes and spare parts to make new bikes for people on the estate to use.” “Music and art clubs for every age group, especially teens – a way to interact and share emotions.”
It’s time to make a positive difference which will change people’s lives for the better.