In the 1990s, a few thousand people lived in and around Manchester city centre. By 2018, this figure had risen to over 50,000. Currently, the estimate is that the population will rise beyond 100,000 by 2025. Absentee landlords and young professionals are flocking to the city, drawn by opportunities to work and study, and the excitement of city life.

Quick to meet demand, developers are creating new homes at an unprecedented rate. Derelict red-brick factories are being revived for contemporary loft living, while throughout the city, vast new developments are springing up, manufactured from steel and glass. Old, industrial Manchester has been supplanted by its 21st Century equivalent – a  towerblock city that could be somewhere on the other side of the world.

As cranes have towered over the city’s skyline, there’s been a visible rise in the number of people sleeping rough on the streets below. Requirements for affordable housing in new developments are often sidestepped, while the waiting list for social housing has swollen to 80,000 across the Greater Manchester region. Those in need of support are pushed out to the peripheries, with a city centre population visibly more affluent and older people conspicuous by their absence…

What’s happened to neighbourliness in this paradox of boom and crisis?

Tenancy explored what it’s like to live in a city negotiating rapid change. It asked how these bright new cities are being shaped – who’s making decisions and who’s benefitting? It examined what new communities are being created, and what might be being lost.

Curated and produced by Quarantine, Tenancy invited artists from the UK and further afield to take up residence in a brand-new property on the border of Manchester and Salford. Some stayed for a series of weekends, others for weeks at a time. Each artist got to know the area and their neighbours, and made work, leaving behind a trace of their time in whatever artform they chose.

Across the year, a series of conversations and other events with neighbours and interested people took place within the house, reflecting critically on the past and debating plans for the future.

Tenancy was part of Meet the Neighbours, a three-year cross-artform project inviting artists into rapidly evolving neighbourhoods in five cities across Europe and North Africa. Co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe programme, Meet the Neighbours took place in Manchester and Salford, UK; Béthune, Lillers & Bruay-la-Bussiere, France; Lublin, Poland; Marrakech, Morocco; and Groningen, Netherlands.

Quarantine was the Lead Partner on Meet the Neighbours, both managing this Creative Europe project and simultaneously delivering Tenancy.

"This fairly conventional set of new-build houses turn out to be one of the most unorthodox theatres I’d ever entered. I came out with a new perspective on things that had been tangling up my brain for a while, but with more questions than ever before."
Lucy Tomlinson, Manchester Confidentials