It was a weird, polarising place. Residents felt a strong sense of community - more than any other place I've lived and I've travelled to lots of places, worldwide. People who didn't live there would tell you its a no-go zone, full of violence.
By the time I lived there - late 80s - it was an unofficial no-go area for the police who would only venture in when they were forced to. Like when someone had overdosed or the time one of the locals had an argument with his boyfriend and snapped, cutting off his head and hands, putting them in a plastic carrier bag and wandering for hours ending up at a police station in Salford.
The people that lived there were mostly drop-outs without jobs subsisting on welfare, but there were still a few who had grown up and lived there. Since it attracted such a diverse crowd, you were just kind of accepted. Like Paul who dropped out of the Royal northern College of Music due to his mental illness who moved in and would busk outside the chip shop playing classical music on his Cello in the evenings. Such a surreal feeling to hear classical Cello music as you walk around one of the most notorious areas in the city. He'd visit from time to time rambling for hours on end, whether you were in the room with him or not.
Mostly it became known for the drugs and parties towards the end of the 80s, people would set up makeshift recording studios. One was known as The Kitchen and they used to put on parties which became so popular they ended up knocking the walls down between flats to make more room. It became a big part of the underground dance music boom in Manchester - people from all over would brave Hulme to go there to avoid the more mainstream places like the Hacienda.
Then there was Viraj Mendis from Sri Lanka who took sanctuary in the church for 2 years - eventually to be raided by the police to get deported causing a big demonstration where the local ran the police out - literally charging them away down the road, never to return because they just didn't care.
The thing that sticks in my mind though is that people would really look out for each other (like Paul I mentioned) or one time when there was a series of rapes in the area and we'd organised patrols - those with big scary dogs would accompany single women and generally just walk around making their presence felt. It was full of really creative people too - the only place where almost anything you could imagine would be possible because the council had abandoned it - once they stopped collecting rent or maintaining the place there was nothing to stop you taking tools to remodel your flat.