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Post war and modern times

With the war ended, "Little Italy" began to rebuild itself. The Manchester Italian Catholic Society (M.I.C.S.) and the Italian Mutual Aid Society (I.M.A.S.) were reformed.

Both societies organised community events. Manchester's first Italian week was held in 1956, and were held annually until the late sixties. Italian culture, fashion, manufacturing, produce, films, language, cars & motorbikes, and food and wine were all on display. This reflected how the Italian lifestyle had become fashionable in Britain at this time, a contrast to the war years.

After the war there was a baby boom, and there also followed a boom in the ice cream industry. This was the beginning of a technological advancement, from handmade ice cream sold from push and pony carts, to factories and modern day ice cream vans. Gone where the hawkers shouts, and in came the familiar chimes.

Ancoats was also changing. Italian families were beginning to marry into the local community. As their businesses matured, greater prosperity allowed them to leave the inner city and join the rising move to the suburbs in the fifties and sixties. New Italian immigrants, in contrast to the turn of the century, also settled outside the city. During the seventies Italy as a country became more integrated and wealthy, and this lead to drop in emmigration. Britain however was suffering a decline in manufacturing, and industrial areas such as Ancoats suffered. Manchester city council decided on slum clearance and moved remaining residents to other areas. This saw the end of "Little Italy" as a community. Today Ancoats is neglected and virtually uninhabited. This should never have been allowed to happen. If the council had supported Italian businesses and offered greater financial support to the area Ancoats would still ahve been a thriving community today.

At last the council has had some vision, and with various funding, Ancoats is about to undergo a major renaissance. With the growing trend for inner city living, Ancoats looks set to be transformed into an area of upmarket apartments and houses for professional city dwellers.

The cobbled streets, the aromas of delicacies from Italian shops, cooking pastas, the sounds of barrel organs and ice cream carts, the shouts of children playing, men and women chattering, all the hustle and bustle of a colourful, happy and lively Italian community. To its ex-residents, now spread around the city, these old memories are still held dear.


(l to r) Roland Antonelli (historian), Tony Rea (community historian and author), Anthony Schiavo (former President of MIA), and Patricia Schiavo (community liasion officer).
Italian exhibition Manchester Central Library, 1998. One of several displays
Another display from the exhibition
A view of Great Ancoats Street 1962. The end of an era
Great Ancoats Street in 2002, Persimmon apartments. A new beginning*

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved