The clock is ticking for the 313 Swintonians buried in the old Unitarian Church next to Swinton Precinct, a site earmarked by developers for a new 24hour ASDA store (see here).
Campaigners are sanguine about their chances of victory, believing the plan's deferment at the last Salford Council planning meeting had more to do with local council and mayoral elections, than with due and proper process. The closeness of councillors and developers is an old story in Salford, as is the destruction of shopping centres and independent businesses for short-term gain and the heady neon lights of faceless supermarket chains. That, though, is a different story.
Yesterday it was all about the families of those interred in the burial ground and the campaigners - not to show their anger and displeasure at those who seek to disturb the eternal rest of the dead for profit, but to remember and respect those who cannot speak for themselves.
The developers GVA/ASDA have accused people in Swinton of not respecting the burial ground, and have used it as justification for the build to come. It was therefore ironic that security guards told the protesters they were unable to have their memorial today because they were trespassing on private land.
Although they later relented and allowed the memorial, it was with the instruction that all items were removed…presumably so no one passing could see it was a burial ground. It has long been one of the arguments of the protesters that how can they show respect to the burial ground, when they are told they are trespassing?
The Circle of Remembrance which security initially wouldn't allow was a simple and dignified affair. A small group of twenty or so people gathered around a cross made of white stones and placed bouquets. Chairwoman of the The Friends of Swinton Unitarian Burial Ground, Gillian Welsh, spoke a few words to thank them for coming, then there was a minutes silence in remembrance.
It's a pity the representatives of the developers who have maligned Swintonions were not there to see how people of the town show respect, or how the relatives cried real tears.
The plans for a 24hour ASDA will be resubmitted to Salford Council Planning committee in the next few weeks where they are expected to be passed; Swinton will then become the Las Vegas of the North, albeit substituting casinos for supermarkets.
* One sombre sub-note was that whilst the memorial was taking place there was an elderly lady waiting for an ambulance, she had slipped in the precinct car park. The ambulance took at least twenty minutes to get to her aid, as it struggled to negotiate its final few metres through traffic in Swinton Hall Road, the proposed service road to the proposed 24hour ASDA.
If you wish to make your voice heard get in contact with The Friends of Swinton Unitarian Burial Ground via Facebook. They will give you any information you need such as who and where to protest, and who to contact if you may have relatives in the burial ground.
Words and Photos by Gareth Lyons