NORTHERN SPIRIT

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Sheffield: Out Of The City.

September 28, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

The Plough.

So my week draws to a close. I hope that you have managed to get some sense of Sheffield as a place from these posts, and discover some new music that you love along the way. I have had an absolute blast. I shall close my time as curator of this Wondrous Place by responding to Natalie Bradbury‘s question from last Friday:

“Sheffield is celebrated for its close proximity to the countryside, sitting on the edge of the Peak District. Where do you go when you want to escape the city?”

She’s right you know. From my front door I can walk to the Peak District within about half an hour, and it really is one of the things that has made me fall for this place so much. I used to live slap bang in the middle of Manchester before hopping over the hills, and have exchanged the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Gardens and Market Street for voyages along the Rivelin Valley, jaunts to Bradfield and short train journeys to Grindleford. I have fallen upon two favourite escapes from the city whilst I’ve been living here, both of which revolve around going for a nice long walk, and both of which have a cracking pub at the finish.

My current favourite trip is to go for a walk from Crookes (the lovely bit of Sheffield which I call home, and that is also home to one of the finest delis around in the shape of Urban Pantry), heading towards Manchester along Manchester Road, before diving off the beaten track, and over the hills towards the village of Bradfield. This is a really nice 7 or so mile walk, which takes in hills, villages, loads of blackberries at the moment, and affords an opportunity to visit Sheffield’s independent dairy & ice cream makers Our Cow Molly. After a wander around the Damflask Reservoir you reach The Plough in Lower Bradfield (see the image above), a delightful country pub that serves Bradfield Brewery ale (make sure to try both Plough and Farmers Blonde) and serves terrific food.

The Pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My other go-to escape route is to catch a train from Sheffield Station out to Grindleford, and wander over the hills via Wooden Pole (an actual wooden pole – see the image above) back towards Totley and Dore. Once again, this is a brilliant walk over some patches of beautiful unspoilt scenery, which offers some fantastic views back into the city, and emphasises just how close this kind of countryside is to Sheffield. The alehouse at the end of this walk is The Cricket Inn in Totley. Run under the Thornbridge Brewery banner, this place has some of the best food that I have experienced in Sheffield, and thanks to the Thornbridge link has a great knack of suggesting matched real ales to go with the delights on the plate. Well worth a visit.

Cricket Inn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that, I believe that my work here is done, at least for the time being! This has been a really great experience, and I am hugely thankful to Chris Meads and all at Northern Spirit for inviting me to be part of this hugely interesting and stimulating project. To be placed alongside the other writers involved in ‘A Wondrous Place’ is a real honour, and I hope that we can all provide something close to a picture of what The North means to us. My personal thanks go to the people who have made me feel so welcome in Sheffield since moving over here, and given me the feelings towards the city that mean I can geniunely say I have fallen in love with the place. Of particular note are Dan, Vinnie and Daniel, Pete, Cara, Markie, Kate and everyone else who I call a friend in this great city. Without you lot being so welcoming I would probably still be pining for rain, Hydes Bitter and Eccles Cakes.

Oh, and of course one last Sheffield band for you. I have purposefully saved this one for last, as this song pretty much sums up why I, and most people I know, love the city. I give you Robberie‘s love letter to Sheffield, a song of simple beauty which I could very easily have posted on the first day and left there to do the work for me really…

Next up here are two really exciting poets and writers from Newcastle, whose work I have been pouring over since being introduced to it recently as part of this project. Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell are collaboratively in charge next week and will be inducting the North East into A Wondrous Place. To get them started, I pose this question…

“I’m a real museum geek, and on my last trip to the North East I didn’t have any time to go exploring any museums or galleries. What are your suggestions for the best places to drop into for a bit of a mooch, especially any unexpected gems?”

 

 

Avatar of Dan Feeney

Dan Feeney

Hello there! I'm Dan, a professional Northerner, expert in tea & ale drinking, writer of cultural words, non-league football fan, DJ, museum worker and 2nd hand book addict. The main place you can find my writing online is my blog 'in a town so small' (http://inatownsosmall.wordpress.com), which is inspired by what the idea of 'cities' means. I also run a clubnight/fanzine/record label called Pull Yourself Together (http://www.pullyourselftogetherzine.co.uk), have written for Creative Tourist, Time Out, Nude Magazine and am currently working on a new project called ‘Missing Teeth’ alongside some artists whose work I really love.

Sheffield: City of Landscape and Architecture. Part Three – The Arts Tower

September 27, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Resize Arts Tower Karl

This seems like an apt closing point for our whistle-stop tour of the modernist buildings which set Sheffield apart as a city from everywhere else for me. Once again, we find a building which makes the most of the landscape around it, a theme which you may well have seen developing throughout my posts this week. It just seems that so much of the building that went on in Sheffield during the era that these beautiful buildings were erected was done with such thought for the fact that these were structures which would sit within the City of Sheffield as a whole, not just things which were being plonked down and would speak entirely for themselves. Admittedly, this is one of my pet gripes about a lot of new buildings, which seem to bear very little thought for their surroundings. I’m digressing…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading just out of the city centre, you start walking up the hill towards the University of Sheffield, heading in a Broomhill/Crookes direction. As you round the corner from the University Supertram stop (The Trams Of Sheffield! How have I not shoehorned them into this discussion of the city before now? Digressing again…), passing the bland looking and horribly named ‘Information Commons’, the real star of the University comes into view. The Arts Tower is a thing of profound beauty in my book, a huge concrete grid frame, filled almost entirely by glass which allows light to pour into the building (unlike a number of other University buildings which seem to view light as a resource counterproductive towards academic progress). However, for me it is how these windows reflect the city back out to itself that offers one of the most impressive features of the Arts Tower. This video shows just how much the Arts Tower becomes a part of the landscape, reflecting the day.

Designed by Gollins, Melvin, Ward & Partners in 1961, along with the sumptuous Western Bank Library which is connected by a stunningly simplistic bridge, the Arts Tower is Grade II* listed, and is the highest/tallest (I’m never sure which one of those stats is true) university building in the country. I feel that the tower needs to be read from a distance, before making the most of the approach to it. From across the road (somewhere near-ish The University Arms pub) you get a real sense of the scale of the buidling, and also notice for the first time the fact that the tower doesn’t actually sit on the ground, it is on a stilt like structure which acts to emphasise the concrete grid above it. It is flashes of design like this that really speak to me, in a similar way to the flat roofline of Park Hill which I mentioned earlier in the week. They are the kind of things that on first glance seem very ordinary, even mundane. Yet once you start to pick apart the design and structural features you realise just how much they are adding to the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again I am going to draw an inevitable parallel between Manchester and Sheffield, and once more we see Sheffield maintaining the modernism which saw it find a place on the architectural map. The Arts Tower and Western Bank Library have been protected, maintained, and over recent years genuinely cared for by the University of Sheffield. Switching our gaze to Manchester, the Womersley designed Maths Tower (built 1967-68) has been ripped down from the city’s skyline, and replaced with an oversized tin can. Sheffield is a city which celebrates the 1960s architecture which has become as much a part of the landscape of the city as the seven hills, five rivers and 2.5 million plus trees.

NB – over the course of the past three days I have barely started to scratch the surface of the beautiful architecture of the city. I’ve had no room to look at David Mellor’s Park Lane house in Broomhall, Hallam Tower Hotel (supposedly built to accomodate visitors to the city for the World Cup in 1966), the Grovesnor Hotel and nearby Sheffield Telephone House or any of the raft of new buildings which tip their hat to Sheffield’s architectural upbringing. I would suggest picking up the Pevsner Architectural Guide as a good starting point for further investigation.

Image credits:

Arts Tower Against Blue Sky by karl101

Arts Tower & Western Bank Library by Rob Gunby

Arts Tower art print by Jonathan Wilkinson / We Live Here

To accompany this soaring gesture of beauty and learning, I present today’s Sheffield band – The Sweet Nothings. These guys make the kind of pop songs which make me fall in love with them a bit more every time I see them, and claim to be the city’s best socialist pop group. I would tend to agree with them.

 

 

Avatar of Dan Feeney

Dan Feeney

Hello there! I'm Dan, a professional Northerner, expert in tea & ale drinking, writer of cultural words, non-league football fan, DJ, museum worker and 2nd hand book addict. The main place you can find my writing online is my blog 'in a town so small' (http://inatownsosmall.wordpress.com), which is inspired by what the idea of 'cities' means. I also run a clubnight/fanzine/record label called Pull Yourself Together (http://www.pullyourselftogetherzine.co.uk), have written for Creative Tourist, Time Out, Nude Magazine and am currently working on a new project called ‘Missing Teeth’ alongside some artists whose work I really love.

Sheffield: City of Landscape and Architecture. Part Two – Castle Market

September 26, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Castle Market Resize

Moving down from Park Hill and into the city centre proper, another piece of functional modernism rises out of the site of Sheffield Castle, the oft-threatened but still holding on Castle Market. Planned and commissioned under the stewardship of City Architect J. Lewis Womersley, and built over the course of 1960-65, Castle Market is functional modernism at its finest in my eyes. The exterior of the building doesn’t try to make any grand statements, instead placing an office block of Mondrian-esque straight-lines atop a system of walkways and bridges, with the market itself becoming part of the undulating landscape of Sheffield in much the same way that Park Hill does on the other side of the valley.

The interior is where my interest in this building is sparked, by the straight lines, multiple levels, labyrinth like hustle and bustle, formica tables charged with milky cups of tea and some quite beautiful faded glamour. The frankly stunning cantileverd stairs which connect the market to the gallery are a joy to behold. Whilst other cities would see their market places shoehorned into bog standard boxed Arndale complexes (indeed, Wormersley himself had a hand in the design of Manchester’s in the early 1970s), Castle Market is very much a building which is designed with the market place in mind.

Market units fit perfectly into the building’s straight lines, with natural breaks in ‘genre’ occurring within the different floors of the building – each of which opens out onto a different part of the hill which the building is set within – a point which I found mighty confusing on my first few visits, but have come to view as one of the finest parts of the design! It is hard to capture just how well the 1960s design and ethos have been preserved here in words, but it is important to note that this is not preservation for aesthetics cause – Castle Market still exists in the form it does because of the people who use the building. It is a hugely effective market place, still loved by stall holders and customers alike. Construction is now underway across the city on The Moor for a new Sheffield Market; on one level this could provide the kind of shot in the arm that has seen Manchester’s new Arndale Market become a forward thinking place of exchange once more, but you can’t help but feel that a piece of Sheffield’s history, community and identity would be lost by moving a single one of these traders out of Castle Market. Give me a choice between this building or a regen heavy pedestrian route to the Victoria Docks, I think it is pretty clear which would be my choice to represent Sheffield.

Image credits:
Keycutters image of Castle Market – evissa
Castle Market exterior image – Sheffield Libraries and Archives

To accompany the mixed experiences of Castle Market I have selected possibly the most interesting band in Sheffield at the moment, whose blend of afrobeat, drone, loops and feedback tick pretty much every box that I have to tick. Blood Sport are rightly being talked up by a lot of people locally, and are making the kind of music that you would expect from a Battles/Fools Gold crossover. Last time I saw them was at Sheffield’s annual music for all festival Tramlines, with far more people than surely should have been packed into a room crammed together and moving as one to the band’s hypnotic sounds.

Avatar of Dan Feeney

Dan Feeney

Hello there! I'm Dan, a professional Northerner, expert in tea & ale drinking, writer of cultural words, non-league football fan, DJ, museum worker and 2nd hand book addict. The main place you can find my writing online is my blog 'in a town so small' (http://inatownsosmall.wordpress.com), which is inspired by what the idea of 'cities' means. I also run a clubnight/fanzine/record label called Pull Yourself Together (http://www.pullyourselftogetherzine.co.uk), have written for Creative Tourist, Time Out, Nude Magazine and am currently working on a new project called ‘Missing Teeth’ alongside some artists whose work I really love.

Sheffield: City of Landscape and Architecture. Part One – Park Hill.

September 25, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Resize Park Hill 3

“Sheffield was once an extremely architecturally important place.”

Owen Hatherley, A Guide To The New Ruins of Great Britain.

Recently a friend came to visit me in Sheffield, spending a prolonged period of time in the city for the first time. Having spent a couple of days seeing bits and pieces of the place, he declared, “It’s a bit weird isn’t it? It just doesn’t feel like anywhere else.” Some cities would take the hump at this kind of protestation, but I personally feel that my friend captured a lot of what I want to highlight about Sheffield. Having spent the best part of a decade living in, and loving, the look and feel of Manchester, all of a sudden Sheffield was something very different in architectural terms – a real hodgepodge mixture of sleek, and in some places not-quite-so-sleek, 1950-60s modernism, coupled with odd elements of new blandness, flashes of civic grandeur, and hidden areas of cobbled streets (now suitably cleaned down to host the inevitable footsteps of solicitors and moneymen). The element of this mix which jumped out to me, and can’t fail to capture the eye and the imagination when on my daily walk down the hill from Crookes towards the train station, is the impact of architectural Modernism on the shape, style and outlook of Sheffield as a city. Like no other place I know, Sheffield is a city in debt to Mies van der Rohe, Fritz Lang, Le Corbusier and Alphaville-era Godard, with straight line, concrete and wood counterbalancing the rise and fall of the hills and valleys, creating a style which is very much part of the landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overlooking the city from its lofty perch above the train station is the structure which, to me at least, defines just what sets Sheffield out architecturally, the brutalist masterpiece of Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith’s Park Hill. Built at a time when Modernist approaches to social housing were being investigated, and in some places failing already due to a distinct lack of the social/community side of life, Park Hill’s streets in the sky were a triumph, giving communities a home in a building which has endured in a manner which one expects the hastily assembled ‘executive’ housing of the 90s/00s property boom to fail. The largest listed building in Europe sees five-ish arcs of 4 to 13 story flats slot beautifully into their surroundings, cast in concrete balustrades.

It is this fitting into the landscape which has always struck me as the most impressive part of Park Hill’s design; take yourself over the road from the station and look back up at Park Hill, and you’ll see that the roofline of the entire estate is absolutely flat, despite the fact that it ranges in height throughout. This respect of its surroundings means that Park Hill makes the most of the natural makeup of the city, and in doing so becomes integral to the identity of the place. I’m not going to use this piece to re-spark the debate around the Urban Splash-ing of the building, which I have already written about here, instead highlighting the fact that this fantastic piece of architecture still encapsulates what this city is, and endures as a monument to a form of urban and social planning which has utterly disappeared in other places. Where the Hulme Crescents last only as a memory of streets in the sky living in Manchester, lives still revolve around Park Hill in Sheffield. People who moved here when the estate first opened are still in their communities, and whilst the pubs and amenities may have been disappearing over time, the spirit of Park Hill remains; and it remains very much a part of Sheffield.

- – - -

Today’s musical accompaniment comes from Algiers. Some of you, though I sadly fear nowhere near enough of you, may know the work of a band called Dartz! who were fairly popular in the mid to late-00s. Well, Algiers is a new duo, including one of said now defunct band. I really like the angular nature of songwriting which underpins these guys, and they are a load of fun to watch live too.

Avatar of Dan Feeney

Dan Feeney

Hello there! I'm Dan, a professional Northerner, expert in tea & ale drinking, writer of cultural words, non-league football fan, DJ, museum worker and 2nd hand book addict. The main place you can find my writing online is my blog 'in a town so small' (http://inatownsosmall.wordpress.com), which is inspired by what the idea of 'cities' means. I also run a clubnight/fanzine/record label called Pull Yourself Together (http://www.pullyourselftogetherzine.co.uk), have written for Creative Tourist, Time Out, Nude Magazine and am currently working on a new project called ‘Missing Teeth’ alongside some artists whose work I really love.

Sheffield: An Introduction. Or, My Love Letter To The North.

September 24, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Resize Sheffield Profile

Hello hello, this is Sheffield calling. I’d like to be able to make some grand statement here about how much a part of the Sheffo landscape I am myself, bleeding Henderson Relish and whatnot, but I must confess early on that I am a fairly newcomer to the city. Having lived in the North West all my life I upped sticks about a year ago, crossing to the dark side of the hills, and experiencing something close to mild panic about being a Lancastrian in White Rose territory. Not just being in Yorkshire mind, but Sheffield: The People’s Republic of South Yorkshire. Yet they accepted me, with something close to open arms. And do you know what, I have totally fallen for this city.

When the fine folks at ‘Northern Spirit’ approached me to write about what Sheffield means to me it gave me a timely chance to recap on what my feelings for the place were, and where they have come from. Shifting from the city centre bustle of Manchester (where I had been based for the best part of decade), here I found myself in a city which has four trees per person, green space, hills, valleys, the Peak District, modernist beauty, pop music, art and ale. Lots of ale. All of these things are facets of city living which mean a lot to me, and having spent a year getting to know some wonderful people, who have shared the city which they care about so much with me, I can honestly say that I love this city. Sheffield has very much become home, and no that doesn’t mean that I have turned my back on the North West – it is more that I have a broader appreciation of just how blooming great The North is.

With that, I’ll get on with telling you just what Sheffield means to me, and how it represents itself through two of the things which are inescapable wherever you go in the city – the landscape and the architecture which has been sited within it. I’m no architect or urban planner, the following week is an account of someone who just loves walking around city centres and getting wrapped up in the way that space is used. If you enjoy these posts then wander over to my blog in a town so small for more words on Sheffield, Manchester, Cardiff, Portsmouth, and anywhere else that I’ve been moved by the way that space, building and people combine to form a sense of place.

Oh, and before I get started, HUGE thanks to Natalie Bradbury for her terrific foody trip around the Greater Manchester region last week. Admittedly there were a huge number of meaty treats which she missed out by necessity, but some of those recipes looked terrific, and will be making their way into my kitchen soon enough!

I’m also going to be using this week to introduce you to some of my favourite new bands from Sheffield. So you might want to start each of my blogs by popping to the bottom of the page, hitting play, and then dashing back up to the top to start reading. To kick things off, may I present Oxo Foxo. Here we have some of the most interesting music coming from one woman in the city, all of this is a series of pedals and loops and brilliance. Take this as the starting point of realising that there is way more interesting music being made in Sheffield than ‘The Reverend’ and his bunch.

 

 

 

Avatar of Dan Feeney

Dan Feeney

Hello there! I'm Dan, a professional Northerner, expert in tea & ale drinking, writer of cultural words, non-league football fan, DJ, museum worker and 2nd hand book addict. The main place you can find my writing online is my blog 'in a town so small' (http://inatownsosmall.wordpress.com), which is inspired by what the idea of 'cities' means. I also run a clubnight/fanzine/record label called Pull Yourself Together (http://www.pullyourselftogetherzine.co.uk), have written for Creative Tourist, Time Out, Nude Magazine and am currently working on a new project called ‘Missing Teeth’ alongside some artists whose work I really love.

A Taste of the North – Further Reading/Eating, Thanks and Goodbye

September 21, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Food Zines Resize

It is here that I am going to try and answer the question that last week’s guest curator Amy Roberts posed me:

‘As an absolute book and zine nerd, I was wondering if you had any cool recommendations of zine / book stores in Manchester, and also which local zines I should be keeping my eyes peeled for?’

I am broadening the remit to include any self-published material, as two of the best independent publications I have come across recently have been food and recipe-based, if not strictly zines.

If reading about food has made you hungry, or made you rare to get outside and pick your own, I recommend getting hold of Your City is a Public Orchard, a beautifully illustrated foraging guide and recipe book hand-made by Textbook Studio earlier this year (Textbook are currently working on a second run; email hello@textbookstudio.co.uk to find out how to get a copy).

Textbook Studio are based in Hotspur House, an amazing, warren-like former printing premises in central Manchester. Hotspur is a hotbed of creative activity: is also home to ethical design practice Ultimate Holding Company, Manchester Municipal Design Corporation (designers of the modernist magazine and publishers of their own excellent culture zine, Things Happen), Manchester’s essential alternative newspaper Mule, and several artists’ studios.

Members of Manchester Municipal Design Corporation, who make the zine Things Happen, as well as members of Textbook Studio.

At last year’s Manchester Artists’ Book Fair, held in the Holden Gallery at the nearby Manchester School of Art, I picked up a letterpress pamphlet called Random Recipes, published by Oldham’s Incline Press. It contains recipes, including instructions for making seasonal favourites sloe gin and damson jam, warmly introduced with regional anecdotes. This year’s Manchester Artists’ Book Fair will be held on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 October. Manchester Print Fair, meanwhile, takes place on Saturday 27 October at 2022 in the city’s Northern Quarter. For all your other zine and self-publishing needs, be sure to check out the Good Grief! online shop, and visit Salford Zine Library, which recently acquired a cosy new home at Nexus Art Cafe in Manchester city centre.

I have been inspired to write about food by the books of DJ and writer Stuart Maconie, whose affectionate odes to British culture can’t help but make you want to get out exploring this country and its varied food traditions.

For more traditional northern food, including recipes for parched peas, flapjacks, Lancashire hotpot and much more, order your free recipe leaflet A Taste of Modern History online.

Finally, I can’t write about food without mentioning my favourite ever pub, the Globe in Glossop, a country town on the edge of the Greater Manchester region in the attractively-named Dark Peak. Although it doesn’t make a song and dance about it, the Globe is a vegan establishment, and its astonishingly good value meals include a warming Lancashire ‘Not Pot’. Wash it down with an impressive selection of ciders and perry, or mulled wine in the winter.

Thanks to Chris Meads for talking me into taking part in this project when I thought I had already exhausted the blogging format and had nothing new to write about Manchester.

Thanks to Daniel Fogarty for the loan of his camera and company on the Worsley-Eccles walk (and indulging my long-held ambition of visiting Barton swing bridge!), Nija Dalal for her photos of blackberry buns at the Shrieking Violet birthday party and Alice Kelly for the Wurlitzer photos, taken during our trip the museum.

Up next is Dan Feeney from Sheffield, who I know from Manchester’s indie discos and alternative gigs; for several years, Dan was a key player on the Manchester indie scene, co-publishing the zine Pull Yourself Together with Hannah Bayfield and putting on some of the city’s best gigs and indie nights under the same name.

My question for Dan is:

Sheffield is celebrated for its close proximity to the countryside, sitting on the edge of the Peak District. Where do you go when you want to escape the city?’

 

Avatar of Natalie Bradbury

Natalie Bradbury

I am a Manchester-based journalist and writer. I edit the Shrieking Violet blog and fanzine, a free print and online art and culture magazine. I enjoy collaborating with artists, designers, writers and organisations to produce one-off publications and organise events, from film screenings to the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention.www.theshriekingviolets.blogspot.co.ukCreative Tourist Top 25 Arts & Culture Blog Winner; Best Arts and Culture Blog at the 2011 Manchester Blog Awardswww.issuu.com/natalieroseviolet

A Taste of The North – Blackberry Buns

September 20, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Blackberry Bush Resize

You rumbled me. There is nothing particularly northern about buns (or, indeed, blackberries). But I am of firm belief that both bun-making and blackberry-picking should play a key part in any British child’s formative years, whether they are growing up in the countryside or in the city, and that this enjoyment should continue well into adulthood. Contrary to what you might think, inner-city Manchester during the late-summer months is as good a place as anywhere to find blackberries, as the bramble bush will grow wherever the wind and birds spread its seeds: next to train tracks and at tram stops; at the edge of building sites or empty plots of land; around the sides of parks; along canal towpaths and riverbanks; and at the bottom of your garden if you are lucky enough to have one.

Note: the term ‘bun’ has gone out of fashion quicker than you can say ‘monstrously oversized muffin’ or ‘overpriced artisan cupcake’, but I am sticking to ‘bun’ as it is how I have always known small cakes (I find the expression ‘fairy cake’ just about acceptable, if a little twee; it brings to mind those fussy little cakes that bear ‘wings’ embedded in butter cream).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made these blackberry buns for the Shrieking Violet fanzine‘s third birthday party at the start of August, which took place at Atelier[zero], a pop-up alternative Olympic Village at Piccadilly Basin in Manchester city centre featuring, appropriately for a birthday party, a ball pool and rowing boats. A friend of mine commented that the cakes were far lighter than the vegan cake she is used to; I attribute this to chilling the mixture in the fridge, which made it really light and airy.

I picked the blackberries one lunch hour from some bramble bushes at the edge of Angel Meadow, one of the few parks in Manchester city centre, conveniently using my empty lunchbox to store them. Once the site of a plague-pit surrounded by the Manchester slums denounced by Engels in his classic industrial age critique Condition of the Working Class, Angel Meadow is now a gently undulating urban oasis in the shadow of the Co-operative Group’s brand new headquarters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shrieking Violet Birthday Buns

Ingredients:

110g flour

110g butter or vegan margarine

65g sugar

2 tsp baking powder

No Egg equivalent to 2 eggs

125g blackberries, washed

Bun cases

 

Method:

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter together with the sugar.

In a smaller bowl, mix the No Egg with water according to the instructions, then stir into the butter and sugar mixture and ensure it’s well mixed in. Stir in the baking powder then sieve in the flour and stir.

Get your willpower ready and place the mixture in the fridge for an hour.

Place bun cases in a bun tin or two (this will help them hold their shape whilst cooking) and put a spoonful of the mixture into each bun case, topping up if there is any left over. Distribute the blackberries evenly between each case.

Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees celsius.

If desired, decorate with edible glitter or any other toppings of your choosing. The cookware stall on the Arndale Market in Manchester sells a huge range of coloured, shiny and novelty-patterned bun and muffin cases, plus edible glitter and sugar cake toppings in every shape you can imagine. If skull and cross bones cake cases are your thing, try Oklahoma cafe and gift shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Eat warm or cold.

 

Avatar of Natalie Bradbury

Natalie Bradbury

I am a Manchester-based journalist and writer. I edit the Shrieking Violet blog and fanzine, a free print and online art and culture magazine. I enjoy collaborating with artists, designers, writers and organisations to produce one-off publications and organise events, from film screenings to the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention.www.theshriekingviolets.blogspot.co.ukCreative Tourist Top 25 Arts & Culture Blog Winner; Best Arts and Culture Blog at the 2011 Manchester Blog Awardswww.issuu.com/natalieroseviolet

A Taste of The North – Eccles Cakes

September 18, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

ECCLES CAKES COOKING RESIZE

The first time I visited Eccles, I asked an acquaintance of mine who lives in the town what he recommended I do whilst I was there. “Get the bus straight back to Manchester,” was his reply.

Okay, I’m not going to lie to you. Once part of Lancashire, now subsumed into the urban sprawl of Greater Manchester and technically classed as part of Salford, Eccles is not the most glamorous location in the area. But, like most places, Eccles has things to recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First off, how many suburbs have their own organ museum – and a Wurlitzer one at that? In 2002, the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust, which rescues Wurlitzers from cinemas and theatres that have closed down and are at risk of demolition, bought a former Sunday school in the Peel Green area of Eccles. Today, it is open as a museum on Fridays (and the first Saturday of each month) and holds weekly Wednesday afternoon organ concerts in its 80-seat auditorium, which recreates the velveteen décor and genteel atmosphere of a 1930s cinema. Ask the organist nicely and they might even let you have a go…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, the thing for which Eccles is best-known is its Eccles cakes, a heady mix of dried fruit and spices, encased in flaky, crunchy, sugared pastry. I had my first taste of Eccles cake at a cafe on the main shopping street; make sure you don’t visit Eccles without tasting one!

A suggestion for working up an appetite for your Eccles cake: from Manchester city centre, get the bus to picturesque Worsley village and make your way to the Bridgewater Canal, opened by the Duke of the Bridgewater in 1761 to carry coal. The canal is a sight in itself, tinted a distinctive orange colour by iron in the local rock. Follow the towpath until you get to Eccles, keeping an eye out for geese, brightly painted barges and some local landmarks such as Monton lighthouse, a canal-side folly built a few years ago by a local man. Whilst you are in the area, you really should visit the Barton Swing Aqueduct at nearby Barton-upon-Irwell, a breathtaking feat of Victorian engineering, where the Bridgewater Canal crosses the wide Manchester Ship Canal in parallel with a wide swing bridge for cars (look out for the location in Tony Richardson’s 1961 film adaption of A Taste of Honey, filmed in the days when big ships still sailed down the Ship Canal).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternatively, for Eccles cakes without the adventure, you can make your own at home. I was inspired by Robert Owen Brown, chef at the celebrated Mark Addy gastropub on the banks of the River Irwell in Salford, which serves traditional northern grub with a twist. Owen Brown demonstrated his Eccles cakes recipe in the unlikely setting of the town hall at this year’s Manchester Histories Festival (he also showed how to prepare a pig’s head; thankfully I missed that part!).

 

The Shrieking Violet Eccles Cakes Recipe:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 block puff pastry, defrosted (as Robert Owen Brown said, who’s got time to make puff pastry from scratch? Ready-made is fine.)

1 pack currants

1 orange

50g butter or vegan margarine

150g sugar

A pinch of nutmeg, grated

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Method:

Melt the butter in a pan. Mix in the sugar and currants and grate in the rind of the orange (taking care not to grate your fingers!). Stir in the nutmeg and cinnamon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry. Cut out into circles or divide up using a method of your choice (I cut mine in four, opting for larger, non-circular Eccles cakes).

Place the filling in the middle of each section of pastry, making sure it is divided up equally. Wet the edges of the pastry and fold over to enclose the mixture (I folded mine into triangles). Press the edges down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transfer the cakes to a baking tray and press down lightly on the surface. Make a cross in the top with a sharp knife.

Coat with a little milk and sprinkle a little extra sugar on top.

Cook at 180 degrees celsius for 15 minutes or so.

Serve warm. Owen Brown serves his with Lancashire cheese; I recommend a good dollop of custard. Leftovers keep for a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Natalie Bradbury

Natalie Bradbury

I am a Manchester-based journalist and writer. I edit the Shrieking Violet blog and fanzine, a free print and online art and culture magazine. I enjoy collaborating with artists, designers, writers and organisations to produce one-off publications and organise events, from film screenings to the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention.www.theshriekingviolets.blogspot.co.ukCreative Tourist Top 25 Arts & Culture Blog Winner; Best Arts and Culture Blog at the 2011 Manchester Blog Awardswww.issuu.com/natalieroseviolet

A Taste of The North – Introduction

September 17, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Smaller Hollands Pies

I’m not a native of the north. In fact, I have only lived in Manchester for seven years. But I am in thrall to the towns and cities of the north; their grand buildings, their culture and traditions, their landscape (moors and mountains are so much more dramatic than the landscape of the south!) and, increasingly, their food. Food is very important to me – I make sure to include a recipe in each issue of my fanzine, the Shrieking Violet – and I am a passionate advocate of the benefits of cooking your own meals (it should be both healthier and cheaper to do so). I rarely get the chance to write about food, however, so I will be using this blog as a chance to share some of my favourite northern food experiences.

Since I have lived in Manchester, I have been playing in Manchester School of Samba, which went through a phase of being invited to the Reebok Stadium to entertain the Bolton Wanderers fans before the game and at half-time. For some of the other drummers, the perks of the gig were free football tickets. Mine was as many free Hollands Pies (from nearby Accrington in Lancashire) as you could eat. Cheese and onion, if you’re asking.

Unfortunately, as a vegetarian I am going to have to gloss over Bury’s famous black pudding, hearty staple Lancashire hot pot and the novel, but entirely-appropriate, ‘Manchester egg’, a recent invention which wraps pickled egg in black pudding before adding the standard sausage meat and breadcrumbs. However, in Preston, I have been able to enjoy local delicacy butter pie (as the name suggests, it largely comprises pastry, crumbled potato and lashings of butter), a foodstuff so deliciously simple it makes you wonder why it is not as popular elsewhere, and parched peas, the ideal street food for anyone who prefers their snacks stewed, salty and vinegary and eaten with a small spoon.

Similar to parched peas, steaming black peas are one of the best ways of warming up on bonfire night, especially when they’re served in a cup from a stall that’s slowly sinking into the quagmire that is Manchester’s Heaton Park on 5 November. Sticking with peas (yes, peas have truly become one of the loves of my life since I have lived up north), I have had the best chips and mushy peas of my life in late-night Sheffield.

Visiting a superb stall on Macclesfield market in Cheshire on a snowy day earlier this year, I was delighted to find a Bakewell tart that was more like a spongy, lightly almond-flavoured closed crust pie than the usual white-iced, cherry-topped supermarket version, to which it bears little resemblance. It was at Macclesfield market also that I encountered Derbyshire oatcakes (a marginally fatter version of the better-known Staffordshire oatcakes) and pikelets (a slightly sweeter take on the oatcake) for the first time. For anyone who has grown up with crumpets and pancakes, they combine the best features of both; light, flat, airy and spongy, and edible in combination with almost anything, savoury or sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Greater Manchester region (and sticking with the pastry theme!), our best-known dessert is the Eccles cake. I have been attempting to recreate some of my favourite northern foods at home, giving butter pie, parched peas and mushy peas a go so far. In my next post, I will share my recent experiences of making Eccles cakes.

 

Avatar of Natalie Bradbury

Natalie Bradbury

I am a Manchester-based journalist and writer. I edit the Shrieking Violet blog and fanzine, a free print and online art and culture magazine. I enjoy collaborating with artists, designers, writers and organisations to produce one-off publications and organise events, from film screenings to the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention.www.theshriekingviolets.blogspot.co.ukCreative Tourist Top 25 Arts & Culture Blog Winner; Best Arts and Culture Blog at the 2011 Manchester Blog Awardswww.issuu.com/natalieroseviolet

Tales from Coopers Townhouse Part 5: Time.

September 14, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

Resize Busstop

“Time is the longest distance between two places”  Tennessee Williams.

Separated by miles and a timescale that rendered them each a stranger to the other, they had responded aggressively and as though connected by an unseen force, in a manner that sought to lose time altogether.

Marina, waking up Thursday morning to the realisation that she may never rid her life and her home of the man she had wasted so many years trying to love, had escaped to a lost weekend of booze and forgetfulness – something she never did. Kenny, merely drifting through the monotony of the job he’d held for twenty odd years, had also decided from Thursday morning to escape into a shifting new reality. One that was drunk and continually absent from memory.

In this manner their lives were dreamlike and questionable, they barely existed, conversations and scenarios remembered doubtfully as though they may have been sleeping the whole time. And when they did sleep, it was only to awake once more and to continue merging the territory of sleep into their waking lives.

On Saturday at 2:45 pm, both Kenny and Marina found themselves stood across the bar from each other in Coopers, a pub that neither had ever visited, but upon hearing a majestically addled rendition of ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ coming out the place, both were reminded of their youth and of a love that had escaped them, and were immediately drawn in.

At once, they were frozen – their eyes locked as though the retinas were waltzing with those of the person before them. For an instant Kenny actually believed that time had stopped, and grabbing the barmaid by the arm (who may or may not have been totally frozen), uttered, nervously, Mate, that woman there – she was my sweetheart when I was a lad. Look at her! Look at her face. Marina.

The barmaid wriggled her arm free from Kenny’s grasp and looked down the bar at Marina, who was squinting in their direction, and, smiling, whispered Why don’t you go talk to her then? ‘Stead of chatting on to me about her, like.

Narr, I can’t – I mean, it’s been years. What if it’s not her? Maybe she’s changed? Married? I can’t – look at the state of me, love. I’ve been on it since Thursday. Even me socks probably hum of ale…

The barmaid took another look at Marina, and sensing that she would also not approach Kenny, suggested Listen, did you two have a song when you were courtin’? Something you’d always listen to together?

Aye. We had a few, like.

Well, get up and sing it to her. Nothing good ever came out of just staring at someone from across a bar. Imagine what kind of a film ‘Casablanca’ would have been if Bogart and Bergman spent the whole time just bloody gawping at each other.

Alright, Kenny replied, adjusting his pants and brushing his t-shirt down, I’ll do it.

He walked up to the front of the room and put in his song request – David Bowie’s rendition of ‘Wild Is The Wind’, a song that Marina used to love, and that he tolerated for her sake. Personally, he always thought that Bowie was a bit too weird for his tastes. The things you do for love, he thought nervously, and downed his drink.

The song began and he mumbled his way through the first verse, but upon noticing Marina’s face light up, he picked up courage and started belting it out, Like the leaf clings to the tree, oh my darling cling to me! For we’re like creatures of the wind, and wild is the wind…wild is the wind.  The rest of the drinkers in the pub became animated at his conviction, and began cheering him on – through his voice breaking at the high notes and through his inability to time the line where the music drops out and leaves the vocals open and vulnerable.

Marina approached the front of the pub before Kenny had even finished the song, and flipping through the songbook found her choice, and put in her request. She wasn’t ready to speak to him, yet. There was too much to say. There was nowhere to start.

Without even looking at him, she took the mic, and waited for the song to begin. Kenny went back to the bar and ordered another glass of Aussie White, perplexed as to the situation he found himself in.

The song started, piano dancing down into Marina’s vocal entry Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest, nobody does it half as good as you! Baby you’re the best… She felt embarrassed at the song choice. It was too earnest, too open, the lyrics took on new meaning appropriated to the way her life was right now and she felt as though everyone in the place could see straight into her like an x-ray. This was never a good song, she thought to herself, damningly. Sentimental crap, probably scared the poor bastard off for life now.

But it didn’t. They continued in this way, back and forth, communicating only through song. When Kenny sang ‘Yesterday’ to her, she sang ‘Jolene’ to him, when he responded with ‘If You Leave Me Now’ by Chicago (the crowd howling encouragingly as he proudly failed every high note he attempted), she replied with ‘Rhiannon’ by Fleetwood Mac, looking lost as to how they could continue from here as the song faded out into silence.

A thunderstorm had erupted outside, somewhere around the time that Marina was pleading I’m begging of you, please don’t take my man in the midst of ‘Jolene’. She stood now at the bar cradling her drink. Kenny – in complete silence – came up beside her, and took hold of her hand. They looked at the novelty clock in front of them, with the numbers printed in reverse and Marina prayed that something would change. That she could start over. Kenny tightened his grip around her hand and gestured his head towards the door.

They walked through the pub together, Kenny noticing once more that it was as though time had actually paused again, as though somebody was holding open an unseen curtain for them with which they could leave the stage totally unseen.

They came out into the street, noticing the rain and the dark clouds still spilling out across the city, but that the buildings were different. They had reformed into the Liverpool of the 70’s – of the old haunts and the old skyline. Kenny and Marina didn’t dare to question any of it. Of the rewinding and the erasure and of the lost weekend losing them both now, to each other.

 

Photography by Pete McConnell.

 

Well, folks, it’s been swell, but this is the end of my week here. To wrap things up, last week’s guest curator (the amazing Missy Tassles – seriously go check out her week in the archives, and have a look at her website too. It’s all kinds of wonderful!) asked me:

Where’s the best place in Liverpool to mooch about for secondhand and vintage tat with friends then and get a great big (veggie) fry up breakfast and mug of tea?

Missy

X

If you’re around Liverpool city center then I’d seriously recommend Curious Orange in Grand Central on Renshaw Street. It’s a fabulous and eclectic little store that sells a terrific mix of affordable second hand gear, amazing costume wear, and beautiful vintage pieces – it also always has some great music in there to try clothes on / get silly to. Following this I’d recommend going to Mello Mello on Slater Street – they do the best veggie and vegan food in the city (and a helluva fry up), as well as a fine selection of teas (and real strong coffee)!

Outside of the city center I’m a massive fan of Aigburth Road charity stores – in particular the Animal Rescue store, which is always ace for a good mooch and full of hidden treasures and absolute bargains, followed by a nice veggie fry up just down the road at the Green Days Cafe on Lark Lane.

 

Next week’s guest curator is Natalie Bradbury from Manchester, creator of the brilliant blog and fanzine The Shrieking Violet.

My question for Natalie is:

As an absolute book and zine nerd, I was wondering if you had any cool recommendations of zine / book stores in Manchester, and also which local zines I should be keeping my eyes peeled for?

Cheers in advance, Natalie!

 

THANK YOUS:

I’d like to thank all the staff and customers of Coopers Townhouse – particularly to it’s owner, Maria – for being so welcoming, helpful and warm. As well as to Pete McConnell who joined me on several trips to the pub (and bought me one or two pints – thanks pal!) and was a total superstar photographer. I couldn’t have done this project without any of them. Also a big thanks to Chris Meads for inviting me to get involved in the first place and being super lovely, and also to Matt for being a total cheerleader / buying me sweets/ being generally boss. A final massive thank you goes out to everyone who’s been reading this weeks content – it’s a pleasure to have an audience, and much appreciated.

Cheers x

 

Avatar of Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts

Starting out life writing overly emotional vignettes of teenage turmoil in countless shame inducing diaries, I now write vignettes of grown up turmoil mostly inspired by the horrors (and splendours) of everyday life. You can often find me around Liverpool playing guitar (badly) or dancing (stupendously).This is my blog: - 'I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster': http://inksam.tumblr.com

Tales from Coopers Townhouse Part 4: John

September 13, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

Resize Jon Amy

To be perfectly honest, I was a little scared of coming in here the first time, I ashamedly tell John, – a seasoned regular of Coopers, who casually sauntered his way over to our table for a bit of a brief, curious chat.

He scrunches his face up in disbelief and shakes his head at the idea, before taking a sip of his pint and exclaiming, proudly, Nah, it’s not like that here. Anyone’s welcome – you can come in and there’s no judgement. No-one cares how you’re dressed, or anythin’ like that.

There’s a brief quizzical look in his eyes as he stares at me following this statement that seems to quietly suggest that he’s assessing my appearance – the all black ensemble, the threadbare oversized band t-shirt, the tattoos, the bandana – with pride at the truth of his own words. That, no – I mightn’t look like the stereotypical punter for this kind of place, but little does it matter, girl. You’re welcome, whenever.

Which is lovely, considering that I once got laughed out of the toilets of a bar on Lark Lane for not wearing a frock, high heels and more layers of make up than Liz Taylor had husbands.

He continues, You know, like, you got all those trendy bars in this city don’t yer? And you walk in an’people look you up and down and make a judgement on yer. You always get those women – I like to say about them that if they were a cake they’d eat themselves, which is true, innit – those women who’ve spent most their wages on a dress and have spent an entire day getting ready, and they expect everyone else to live up to their standards. They look down their noses at yer. I hate that. There’s no need. See, like, the women in ‘ere? Dead easy to talk to. Proper sound.

As he says this, the owner of the pub Maria, cranes her head out from behind the bar and yells, Eh you! I’ve told you before, you’re bloody barred! at John, who remains calm as if he’s heard it all before, and gives her a polite gesture to piss off.

I mean it! She continues, completely deadpan so I start to sweat a little, Get out!

She retains a straight face for a while before completely crumbling into a cacophony of giggles, and disappearing back behind the bar.

See what I mean, girl? John grins, taking another swig of his drink before we start talking about the city centre and it’s surrounding areas – of the gentrification that has been going on for a while, and the impact this has had on small businesses, and the character of Liverpool as a whole.

That’s the problem now, he sighs, Places popping up that aren’t authentic. Those trendy bars, like – there’s nothing to them. No atmosphere, no character. But people don’t care about places like that the way that people do with places like this – everyone looks after everyone else in here. It’s a proper family, like.

He sighs, sadly, and finishes his drink before stating These sorts of pubs are dying, love, and it’s a real shame cos you won’t find many places like this in the city centre.

He has a quick stretch before standing up, Well, that’s me done for me now, love. Pleasure talking to yer! Might see yer around.

And off he pops. As he’s leaving a man has taken over singing duties at the front of the pub, and is finishing the first verse of the Irish singalong favourite ‘The Wild Rover’ whilst a small attentive and gleeful crowd cheers him on – not a judgement in sight.

…and I’ve spent all my money on whiskey and beer, and now I’m returning with gold in great store…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography by Pete McConnell.

Avatar of Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts

Starting out life writing overly emotional vignettes of teenage turmoil in countless shame inducing diaries, I now write vignettes of grown up turmoil mostly inspired by the horrors (and splendours) of everyday life. You can often find me around Liverpool playing guitar (badly) or dancing (stupendously).This is my blog: - 'I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster': http://inksam.tumblr.com

Tales from Coopers Townhouse Part 3: I Want To Believe

September 12, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

Reduced Barfly

The whole place stopped for a moment when she walked in, which is strange for this place – usually nobody takes too much notice or gives much of a damn of how anyone looks or anything like that.

We were sat opposite the bar, and I swear Jerry nearly dropped his drink – we were practically scooping his jaw off the floor the entire time.

She was this immense, statuesque, never-ending woman with legs that looked the same height as most people. Just skin and bone, she was wearing some kind of a vintage prom dress that hung off her frame, practically baring her tiny breasts. Her head, I should add, was completely bald. That’s what threw most people – you don’t often see that on a woman, like. Her skin was as pale and white as a seashell, so that it was practically translucent.

She stayed by the door for a while with this fussy but vacant expression, like a computer with a glitch, her bare legs locked into a pair of complex, strappy heels that resembled little black straight jackets for her feet.

No-one spoke. A man walked out of the toilet and re-entered the room, pausing with mild panic as to the whys of the atmosphere, yelling, What the flamin’ hell’s up with everybody? before getting shushed by Auld Roger in the corner who pointed him towards the woman at the door. He uttered in a small voice, Oh, right, before sitting back down.

The room began to come alive again as she started to move – an action that looked like somebody walking an animal that was far larger than they were, as though her limbs were totally separate from her body and they were taking her out for a walk. She took stumbling, shaky strides looking for all the world as though she’d just woken up in this body and this outfit, and had how no idea how it worked yet. Like she’d just popped into a body shop and said I’ll try that one please! and was now taking it out for a test drive.

She walked past everyone and the bar as if upon a wet catwalk, dragging herself along completely oblivious to us all gawping at her, but at the same time examining us in some way that couldn’t exactly be read by her expression.

She stopped when she reached the end of the room and turned back around, swinging her leg out like Basil Fawlty insulting Ze Germans, and walked back the way she came.

The barmaid, a little sick of the spectacle and suspicious as hell, called out You having a drink, love? to which the woman stopped at the bar and nodded, pulling a handful of change out of an unseen pocket (I still dread to think where she was stashing that) and getting a pint.

And then – swear to God – she picked up that pint, and in one quick gulp downed the entire thing, wiped her mouth and then started dragging herself back out of the pub again. The door banged behind her and we saw her enormous silhouette slope past the window outside.

The barmaid stared into the empty pint glass, and looked around at us all. Jerry shrugged his shoulders at her and got up to go the toilet.

Everyone got on with their conversations and as the music resumed you could hear people speculating about the woman. A lot of She looks like she’s been on it since last night, probably not even been home yet!  and God love her, that girl looked like she needed a pan of scouse down her.

When Jerry got back he offered his own opinion of the situation – An alien, he told us with absolute certainty, before taking a swig of his pint and rolling himself a ciggie.

Seriously, he continued, I’ve done a lot of reading on this and seen a lot of documentaries and shows about it as well and that woman most definitely was an alien. Did you ever watch that Battlestar Gallactica? Wouldn’t surprise me if space aliens were making themselves look like humans now – you know, to infiltrate us.

The barmaid, overhearing the conversation, offered this pearl of wisdom which only seemed to encourage Jerry even more, You know what, love, it could have well been an alien, but she could have also just been rotten drunk. The fact that it’s hard to tell speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

I was sat there again today with Jerry. He was wearing an ‘I Want To Believe’ t-shirt which probably fit him fine back in the ‘90s but was looking a little tight on him now, and he had with him a small video camera with which he hoped to ‘Procure substaintial evidence as to the existence of extra terrestrial life’.

The barmaid told him that he’d stand a better chance of capturing that round Concert Square, before pouring us another round.

 

Photography by Pete McConnell

Avatar of Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts

Starting out life writing overly emotional vignettes of teenage turmoil in countless shame inducing diaries, I now write vignettes of grown up turmoil mostly inspired by the horrors (and splendours) of everyday life. You can often find me around Liverpool playing guitar (badly) or dancing (stupendously).This is my blog: - 'I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster': http://inksam.tumblr.com

Tales from Coopers Townhouse Part 2: Hail To The King.

September 11, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

Resized Scouse Elvis

She shaved it all off, Baz – every single strand of hair.

Adam pulled his baseball cap up off his head and angled his scalp at Barry, who was nursing a pint and straining to keep a smirk off his face.

Ah, lad. That’s a shame, that. Real shame. How did she manage to get the whole head?

Dropped a sleeping pill in me drink, didn’t she? Crafty sod. Just woke up this mornin’ and -

Adam paused and quickly wiped what felt like a sudden rush of tears from out of the corner of his eyes, and in a flimsy voice, that broke at key emotional words, continued,

– Sorry, lad – allergies– and yeah, just woke up and there was her lady bic razors next to me face, and shaving foam everywhere, and me hair Barry, lad! Just everywhere under me head – she’d taken me quiff and pinned it up on the wall like a bloody trophy!

Ah, flippin’ell, eh? Don’t you hate it when that happens?

It’s not funny, Barry. You need to take me seriously on this – this is me livelihood we’re talking about here.

I know, Adam, lad. It’s alright. I’m here listening to yer, aren’t I? Just reckon you’re more upset about losing your hair than you are about losing your wife, like, s’all.

Realising that he was right, Adam took a large swig of his drink and replied Nah, like. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gutted about me hair an’that, but I’m devastated about our Lisa. Proper messed everything up, haven’t I? I can’t lose her, Barry. I can’t—

Barry nodded, he checked the time on his phone – it was 11.45 in the morning, everyone else was due in anytime soon. He looked up at the sign that read ‘Scouse Elvis – Wednesday lunchtimes’ with sneaky glee. Today was Wednesday.

You should just consider yourself lucky that it was only your hair that she lopped off, that’s all I’m saying, Barry continued, sniggering, I mean, she’s put up with a lot off you hasn’t she? I mean, first off you’re hardly rakin’ it in as an Elvis impersonator are yer? And then there’s all that stuff with that woman you were seen with after that show – -

Nothing happened, though, I swear! She was just a fan, like.

- -Ha! A fan!? Barry lad, you’re an impersonator, not the man himself, so stop pissing around, eh? And then you spend a massive chunk of your savings – which, let’s face it, Lisa earned didn’t she? She’s the one with three bloody jobs trying to make ends meet – and you’re wasting it on a bloody shiny jumpsuit? Who are yer? Elton bloody John?

That was an investment! Come on, don’t be tight Baz – I’m a professional! I was building up a strong fan base – regular paying clients. This is me dream we’re talking about! I was going somewhere!

Adam took his hat off again, and forlornly stroked his unadorned head.  He looked up from his pint, just as four more of his mates burst into the pub unannounced.

There he is! The bloody King hast’fallen from his throne, fellas! Heheh – how’s yer scalp feelin’, mate? Chirped Danny, making a pint action with his hand at Tony ahead of him, who nodded and headed straight to the bar to get a round in.

Alright, Danny. What’re yis’all doin’ here? Adam asked, startled. He stared at Barry who was grinning knowingly from behind his near empty pint.

We’ve got a confession to make, lad, Barry chuckled, wiping tears away from his eyes, as though his laughs had built up to such an extent that they were now escaping through his eye sockets.

Yeah, sorry Adam, lad – you left us with no choice! Laughed Chris, who had just sat down next to him, and was giving his baldhead a friendly pat.

What?! What is it? Don’t tell me- -you wouldn’t! Adam stared in horror at his mates who were all vibrant with a collective humour.

We would! Danny continued, absolutely howling, We would and we bloody did! Consider this an intervention – Lisa got rid of your hair, and we’re doing the rest.

Yeah, you were turning into a right nobhead. We had to do something! Chris smirked.

We’ve got you a job, lad. Full time with Tony there, at the bar, just helping out on the site. You start on Monday, but today we drink and – -

At that moment Scouse Elvis entered from the back of the room, dressed in a navy fringed jumpsuit and winking as he went.

- -Ah, right on cue! What timing! See, this is how you do it, Adam, lad. Scouse Elvis. Watch and learn.

Tony returned with a tray full of pints and took a seat.

You can’t do this! You can’t just tell me what I can and can’t do! You rotten sods, you’ll ruin everyth- -

Eh! Listen –  you’ve got two kids at home and a very, very patient but pissed off wife. It’s time to change, lad. So shut up, and drink your drink. This is happening – end of!

And at that, Barry turned himself away from the table and to face Scouse Elvis who had just fired up the song and grabbed the mic.

This one goes out to our mate Adam in the corner over there, cheer up lad! Could be worse!

Well, since my baybeeee left me! I found a new place to dwell! It’s down at the end of a lah-onely street called heart-break ho-tel…uh-huh…yerrr make me so lonely, baybeeee…

A couple of his mates had thrown their arms around Adam and were swaying away to the music, singing loudly along with the song, whilst he grimaced despairingly and thought to himself about Elvis. Nobody ever dared to intervene against that crazy bastard. Not one person. He looked around at his mates, he touched the lack of hair on his head, he watched Scouse Elvis pulling down his jumpsuit to expose a nipple, and he realised I am not The King. The King is dead.

 

Photography by Pete McConnell.

 

Avatar of Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts

Starting out life writing overly emotional vignettes of teenage turmoil in countless shame inducing diaries, I now write vignettes of grown up turmoil mostly inspired by the horrors (and splendours) of everyday life. You can often find me around Liverpool playing guitar (badly) or dancing (stupendously).This is my blog: - 'I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster': http://inksam.tumblr.com

Tales from Coopers Townhouse Part 1: Maria

September 10, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, LIVERPOOL, Wondrous Cities

Resize Coopers Crowd

Everyone in Liverpool knows of Coopers Townhouse. Situated just outside of one of the main doorways next to Clayton Square, and opposite the entrance to Central Station, few could miss it. By all accounts it presents itself as an all day party – a pub that apparently doesn’t do downtime, or even quiet chats – Coopers is an original Liverpool character, one that is characterised most readily by it’s perpetual homemade soundtrack of loud, uproarious karaoke.

In my mind, the place is representative of so many wonderful idiosyncrasies that are so precise to the city and in my opinion, worth celebrating.

Becoming almost regularly mythologised amongst people who in all likelihood have never been in it, I was left with an abundance of curiosity about the pub that has resulted in this project. For the rest of the week I’ll be posting short stories inspired by Coopers and interviews with staff and punters alike.

All photography for this week’s project was done by the supremely talented Pete McConnell.

Hope you enjoy it,

Amy Roberts.

 

Photography by Pete McConnell.

 

“You lookin’ for me, love?” asks Maria Hodges – the owner of Coopers Townhouse – with a massive smile on her face.

I nod and introduce myself and tell her about the project I’m working on, and for some reason I’m full on expecting a response somewhere along the lines of ‘You want to write? About this place? About us?! GET OUTTAAA MAH PUBBB,’ which is most definitely the result of growing up watching too many soaps, and being regularly scared out of my own living room by the mere onscreen presence of Peggy Mitchell.

Thankfully Maria isn’t of the Peggy Mitchell ilk, and is more than happy to oblige myself and Pete (armed and ready with his camera) with having a good old snoop around the place, getting to know some of the regulars and grabbing a quick interview.

She speaks in a singsong Scouse accent that regularly devolves into the kind of infectious dirty cackle that would likely make a sailor blush.

“I think the thing is with this place is that it’s not plastic, you know? It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an alehouse, like”, Maria starts in explaining the mass appeal of the place, “I mean it’s a family run business – and we’ve had it for 23 years now – so we’ve got a lot of regulars. Everyone’s part of the family, like. We even put food on for the customers – no charge. We just all look out for each other”.

The place definitely has the feel of being sat in someone’s living room at a family party. There’s a great easy going, good time vibe to the place and you get the idea that nobody could ever be lonely in it.

I think back to some of the family parties I went to as a kid, and how at a particular time in the night (right around my bedtime) the booze would be flowing and everyone would be up singing. It’s a tradition that’s died out a little, or at the very least changed – becoming less of a communal everyone in the area is invited to just a select group of mates causing havoc in someone’s flat, and singing Destiny’s Child tunes at 4 in the morning until someone passes out or the police come knocking.

Coopers is very much of the old school, all inclusive singalong. If nothing else it’s probably most renowned by local shoppers for having karaoke blasting out at all hours of the day. I ask Maria about the karaoke and she replies,

“See, it’s actually not meant to be just karaoke,” she corrects me, laughing, “We have a bunch of really great singers who come in and perform for the audience, ‘cos we love to have live music on. But we also invite people up to sing, and if people do want to get up and do a song then we’re not going to stop them. That’s just the way it is. Obviously we get some awful singers, but that’s just part of the charm.”

As she says this someone starts singing ‘Dock Of The Bay’ at the front of the pub –

“See! That’s my daughter singing now! Hasn’t she got a helluva voice?”

And she does – an amazing voice, in fact – soft and evocative, she has the whole pub captivated. The crowd gets louder and more vibrant as the songs go on, cheering and clapping along to the music, totally at home.

Before I let her get back to the bar, Maria finishes by saying, simply, “Fact is, your life could be falling apart and you can come in here and you’re sure to find something that’ll make you smile.”

Which you get the feeing is no exaggeration, and a sentiment that Peggy Mitchell could’ve learnt from.

Photography by Pete McConnell.

 

 

Avatar of Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts

Starting out life writing overly emotional vignettes of teenage turmoil in countless shame inducing diaries, I now write vignettes of grown up turmoil mostly inspired by the horrors (and splendours) of everyday life. You can often find me around Liverpool playing guitar (badly) or dancing (stupendously).This is my blog: - 'I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster': http://inksam.tumblr.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: Places – Castle Market Part Four

September 8, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Places_castle4_600 (NEW)

This is my final post featuring excerpts from a one-off comic book I produced with my friend Elodie G., combining our experiences and memories of Castle Market in Sheffield – a landmark destined for closure in coming years.  A proper old-fashioned indoor market with fantastic variety and kitsch charm, we wanted to capture something of it and its social history whilst it still stands.

 

Thanks so much to Chris at Northern Spirit for all his help and inviting me to have a turn at curating A Wondrous Space – it’s a great project with a warm heart, it’s an honour to have some of my doodles included.  Thanks also to the cast of characters who have featured throughout my life and my cartoons so far – it’s all of you and our own stories that build our picture of the world around us that I find inspiring.  I have many creatively inspirational friends, some who have been especially inspiring, encouraging and supportive of projects I’ve worked on over the years and I’d like to add special mention to a select few (in no particular order) – Rob Richardson, Jim Connolly, Anjan Sarkar, Elodie G, Jack Straker, Paul Dorrington, Lizzie Biscuits, Andy Jupp and Julie Cooper at Charity Shop DJ, Adrian Flanagan, Mark Wainwright  – here’s to future adventures! And, of course, Mr Tassles, Little Tassles and my parents for putting up with my ongoing shenanigans.

Chris: Thank you Missy for such beautiful posts – a fantastic start for the space. Do visit Missy’s site.

Next week we’re really pleased to welcome Amy Roberts from Liverpool to A Wondrous Space. We love Amy’s blog I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster - vignettes of grown-up turmoil mostly inspired by the horrors (and splendours) of everyday life. 

But first, let’s have a bit of cross-regional conversation…

Missy: My question for Amy…

Where’s the best place in Liverpool to mooch about for secondhand and vintage tat with friends then get a great big (veggie) fry up breakfast and mug of tea?

Missy x

Amy will respond to Missy’s question next week…

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: Places – Castle Market Part Three

September 7, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Places_castle3_600 (NEW)

This is another excerpt from a one-off comic book I produced with my friend Elodie G., combining our experiences and memories of Castle Market in Sheffield – a landmark destined for closure in coming years.  A proper old-fashioned indoor market with fantastic variety and kitsch charm, we wanted to capture something of it and its social history whilst it still stands.

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: Places – Castle Market Part Two

September 7, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Places_castle2_600 (NEW)

These current posts feature excerpts from a one-off comic book I produced with my friend Elodie G., combining our experiences and memories of Castle Market in Sheffield – a landmark destined for closure in coming years.  A proper old-fashioned indoor market with fantastic variety and kitsch charm, we wanted to capture something of it and its social history whilst it still stands.

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: Places – Castle Market Part One

September 6, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

PLaces_Castle1_600 (NEW)

My next posts feature excerpts from a one-off comic book I produced with my friend Elodie G., combining our experiences and memories of Castle Market in Sheffield – a landmark destined for closure in coming years.  A proper old-fashioned indoor market with fantastic variety and kitsch charm, we wanted to capture something of it and its social history whilst it still stands.

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: Places – Part Two

September 6, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Places_Showroom_600w FINAL NEW

Sheffield’s arthouse cinema, the Showroom.  A lovely place, it’s had ups and downs over the years yet is still standing – it retains a relaxed atmosphere, host to many an interesting event including the International Documentary Festival, the Sensoria festival, and Showcomotion children’s festival amongst others… go forth and become a member of your local independent cinema!

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: Places – Part One

September 5, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

Places_rivelin_600 (NEW)

Rivelin Valley

Somewhere I used to go occasionally as a child and could only remember snatches of, since living nearer, it’s somewhere I’ve become more familiar with.  It’s such a pretty place, full of wildlife, streams, waterfalls and parts that look like a fairytale kingdom (when not full of people tearing past on bikes or walking their dogs, that is!).  I love that I can walk for twenty minutes in one direction from my house and be in the city centre…

…twenty minutes in the opposite direction finds you here…

The Hole In The Road

 

The Hole in the Road.

All long-term Sheffielders remember this concrete oddity – equally loved and hated, it was a peculiar, unique feature in Sheffield City Centre, filled in to make way for the coming of the Supertram.  Dark, smelly, but full of character and, of course, the infamous fish…

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: People – Part Two

September 4, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

I walk around a lot in my home town of Sheffield, and living in one place for a while you get to recognise some local characters.  There are two or three interesting looking people who stand out to me, here is one of them…

That One Guy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who frequents cinemas in Sheffield will recognise Dr. Shaw.  I since found out more about him (e.g. his first name is Clifford!), and he curated a week of film programming recently at The Showroom cinema because of his local legendary status.

Dr. Shaw

 

Crookes Co-op…

Whoever you are, whatever your status in life, local shops remain a staple of our daily lives.  Something we’re all familiar with but easily overlooked – here are a few more of the local stars of my everyday life.

Crookes Co-Op

 

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com

Missy’s Cartoon Sheffield: People – Part One

September 3, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, SHEFFIELD, Wondrous Cities

I think it’s not until a bit later in life when we realise what a big influence on us our Grandparents are, if we’re lucky enough to have known them.  Many of the things that are part of me now and shaped who I am I can now see came directly from my grandparents.  I was fortunate to have both sets nearby and helped form strong impressions of my local surroundings – William and Lillian in Sheffield, Clifford and Edith in Chesterfield.  Three of the four served in WW2 – William was a mechanic in the RAF and travelled the world, with many stories and retained a love of mechanics, motorbikes and tinkering, Lillian was a radar operator for a time and Clifford was a soldier at Dunkirk (also later a mechanic).  Having left his piano accordion behind on the beach, Cliff was lucky enough to be rescued after spending five hours keeping himself afloat in the sea.  What follows are some of my more sensory childhood impressions of them.

Grandad William

Nan-Nan Lillian

Granny Edith

Grandad Clifford

Missy’s Grandparents

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Missy Tassles

Missy Tassles

Based in Sheffield, I love film, comics, everything kitsch, weird, 1950s-60s, horror, sci-fi, and creative projects: playing music, sewing, painting, occasional DJ-ing. Creative focus at present is on my indie art-rock band Flying Wing and I doodle cartoon diary blog posts inbetween other stuff.www.missytassles.wordpress.com www.flying-wing.co.uk www.thegirlnextdoortou.wordpress.com