Pilgrimage to Oldham

That is the kind of heading that would make most people skip past the ensuing post….

I lived in Oldham from 1987-1999. I grew to like the place: slightly shabby North Western town, close to Manchester and close to the hills, ethnically diverse, social problems etc but it seeped into you.

Last week I went back to the centre. Now I don’t know the history of what went on/what has happened and I know there is huge investment is pushing a tram through the town (although I miss the loss of the massive bridge at the charmingly named ‘Mumps’ end of town which proclaimed ‘Oldham-home of the tubigrip bandage’), but the place I knew seems even shabbier; more hopeless than before.

I remember the ‘new’ shopping centre when it was built: a couple of big stores came into town and others filled the spaces around. The centre would never quite ‘buzz’, but it seemed Ok. Several years later when I return, I counted around a 25% vacancy rate and more pawnbrokers/pound shops/charity shops than I remember and a whole arcade empty, where there once were shops.

If our new national religion is shopping- buying stuff to define ourselves & give us meaning, then this place truly is ‘Ichabod’ (an Old Testament word meaning ‘the glory of the Lord has departed’). I don’t like to post stuff that is this bleak, but we left in a hurry.

Maybe it woke me up to what we could all do with waking up to; shopping, shopping, shopping won’t get us out of this crisis; but what will?