‘Hope. Despair. Miracles.’: Local artist reflects on the realities of Longsight

  • A local artist from Longsight has inspired residents with her work ‘Hope. Despair. Miracles.’
  • Roxana Allison wanted to connect with the community living in Longsight.
  • The project showcases portraits of residents living and making a difference in the area.


A local artist from Longsight has inspired and delighted residents with her honest portrayal of life in Longsight, titled ‘Hope. Despair. Miracles’.

Roxana Allison, who works at Bolton University, moved to Longsight 10 years ago, and was overwhelmed by the problems in the area.

The Mexican- British photographer decided to create a series of stunning portrayals that celebrate the residents of Longsight and their contribution to community life.

Problems in the area

Roxana said: “I never thought I would live here because I didn’t have any ties in the area.

“And normally, sometimes at least for me, that’s what makes me decide whether I want to live somewhere or not.

“So immediately after moving in, I noticed that there were lots of problems in the area. And for a long time, I just complained about them.

“But I also felt that it was quite overwhelming to have to be living through that situation constantly and feeling powerless to resolve it.”

Rubbish and fly tipping

Amongst the issues Roxana encountered were rubbish and fly tipping in alleyways.

At a meeting for councillors, local authorities and residents, Roxana met another local resident who shared her views.

From the series Hope. Despair. Miracles. Juliet Davis-Dufayard, Co-founder of ‘Let’s Keep Growing Together’ (LKGT), 2020. Photo Credit: © Roxana Allison 2024

Hope. Despair. Miracles.

Roxana said: “We were both sick and tired of all the issue with the fly tipping.

“So after a lot of consideration, and talking to other groups, from other places that had done something about it, we decided that we were going to give it a go.

“The horrible alleyway behind our homes turned into this bright space with lots of flowers just overnight that we planted with in partnership with the school.

“And that’s what led me to do Hope, Despair, Miracles, because I thought to myself, we’re surely not the only ones that are doing something positive in the area.

 “I want to connect with those people or at least feel that I’m not alone. And that that we do care”.


Roxana decided to take portraits of residents throughout Longsight at a grassroots level and insisted they couldn’t be tied to any big institutions.

From the series Hope. Despair. Miracles. Jim Lyons (†) and Neil Boyle, Community vegetable patch on Clitheroe Road, 2019. Photo credit: © Roxana Allison 2024

She said: “There’s a massive, wide range of them, and a huge collection, which I couldn’t capture all of those in the project.

“But I feel there’s a good representation of the different, the diversity of them, not only in their backgrounds and identities, but also in the type of work that they do”.

Candid conversations

Roxana also felt it was important to be candid with those involved in the project.

“I had conversations with each and every single person I photographed to make sure they were happy and comfortable and knew where I was coming from, and also my story, my own story of migration” she said.

“I come from Mexico, and I was born in Manchester, but I grew up for most of my life in my in Mexico City.

“The cultural atmosphere of Longsight is very similar to what I’m used to in Mexico City, some of which I love and some of which I also hate.

‘That is so Mexico’

“I see things that I go, Yeah, that is so Mexico.”

Roxana received a positive reaction from both the residents involved in the project, and the wider community.

Roxana said: “The title is revealing as well, those are very strong words.

“I’d like people to perceive Longsight in a different light, with all its issues, I’m not denying them, but I’m also presenting corners of it that otherwise you may not see.

From the series Hope. Despair. Miracles. Nasima Begum, Shireen Sobhani and Safina Islam, 
Ananna – Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation, 2022. Photo Credit: © Roxana Allison 2024

“I’m planning on how to bring the exhibition to Longsight and how to make it accessible to everyone and make them feel that they can walk into a space.”

With support from Manchester City Council, Roxana’s project was made into a 64-page newsprint including portraits, landscapes and written word by participants.

 All texts are in English and Urdu, reflecting Longsight’s large Urdu speaking communities.

‘Hope. Despair. Miracles.’ was exhibited for the first time at Waterside Arts’ Lauriston Gallery until the end of April 2024.