Editorial: Have a Bananna

Robbie Gill

Many of you may have used ‘Have a Banana’, the fruit and vegetable stall that has become an intrinsic part of the All Saints campus in its sixteen and a half year stay outside Grosvenor Park. However on Monday morning, instead of managing his stall, proprietor Nick Austin found himself in the Town Hall arguing that the stall should be able to remain in a spot which has been home to street trading since the 1800’s. This was due to a second complaint in successive years from none other than MMU VC John Brooks who wants to take the stall away from the students and customers who visit it every day.

Professor Brooks, in association with the Corridor Manchester board comprising of Manchester City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation trust, raised an objection last year which was rejected after a hearing at the town hall. However unsatisfied at the result, Professor Brooks has lodged a second complaint this year based on aesthetic grounds.

Corridor Manchester, backed by the European Regional Development Fund, is seeking to create a, ‘globally recognised area of originality and creativity,’ and according to Professor Brooks, street trading stalls, ‘Detract from this enhanced urban landscape.’ This is a view which is certainly not representative of the students, who from next year will be paying £8000 per annum. When news of this latest bureaucratic, disconnected attack on student life broke, ‘Have a Banana’ was inundated with messages of support and nearly 3000 people signed the online petition to keep the stall in its current location.

It is purely contradictory for Professor Brooks to give his full support to the idea of a, ‘knowledge economy,’ and the creation of, ‘world class professionals,’ when he is hell bent on removing services from them, the one place from which students can buy cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables. Leaving them only the option of multiple fast food outlets on the other side of the road. ‘Have a Banana’ sells your entire days requirement of fruit and vegetables at a cost of £1, something which cannot be matched at any other outlet. By attempting to remove the stall, Professor Brooks is having a directly negative effect on both the finances and nutrition of the students.

Fortunately Mondays decision had a positive outcome for ‘Have a Banana,’ although the final outcome will not be known until February. However Nick is now wary that he sits on an island where street trading is allowed, surrounded by an area in which it is prohibited and fears the slow ebbing away of his ability to, ‘Peddle fruit to the poor!’ This fear is not unjustified when you look at the rhetoric in Professor Brooks’ complaint. He views Oxford Road being designated an “Additional Prohibited Street” as something ‘Extremely Positive,’ as he seeks to attract new business to the area. Presumably he would not object to the further franchising of Oxford Road which has seen innumerable fast food outlets and supermarkets spring up as long as they ‘benefit the city,’ if by benefit he means make money, regardless of whether or not this is to the detriment of the students

Nick spoke of how he felt sad that he even had to spend time justifying the merits of what any right minded person could only view as something positive. He felt hurt by the objections from Professor Brooks, especially in view of his complaints last year. These feelings were further compounded by the fact that following a meeting on April 20th Nick received assurances from the university that, ‘Going forward we hope to work closely with you to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.’ This is a promise that the university has patently failed to keep, having raised a second complaints six months later.

As students we must now show our support for the stand and for a tradition that was here long before the university. This is a callous attack on a service to the students, further evidence of how misguidedly management are spending the money we are paying to the university. As a payer of fees, which are set to almost treble as of next year, we have a right to say whether our name is put behind these nonsensical campaigns. If Professor Brooks wants to launch an attack on a harmless stall providing good health to the students then so be it, but it should not be masked as something which has come from the university or the students themselves. Whilst the decision has been positive this time we must be vigilant and ensure that this does not happen again next year. Support ‘Have a Banana’ and ensure they are able to continue to provide their excellent service.

Any one who wants to show support for ‘Have a Banana,’ can join the Facebook group, ‘Save the fruit and veg stall again,’ or follow them on Twitter @bananastall.

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