NORTHERN SPIRIT

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Manchester Wondrous Playlist

April 11, 2013 in Blog, MANCHESTER

#DreamingofSummer by @UFO_rockband “Woke up on a Manchester morning …” @NeilMay1

Nick Drake’s Northern Sky. @Emzikles

Station Approach by #Elbow great song is that. @Jim_Adnitt

John Shuttleworth’s “You’re like Manchester” ;-) @chrissycurlz

This Charming Man @JAinscough85

It’s gotta be I Am The Resurrection. Represents the rebirth and reimagining of our beautiful city. @donnaAVP

ooooh…Pounding by Doves. Reminds us of running through Manchester in the rain @monkeywood

Manchester Movements – Working Class Movement Library

January 26, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Ruth and Eddie Frow

Eddie and Ruth Frow were a married couple from modest backgrounds. They shared a life-long passion in documenting the true unsung heroes and heroines (i.e. the workforce) of the industrial changes in the north of England. This has led to a quite remarkable institution – the Working Class Movement Library.

I met with library manager Lynette Cawthra in a room steeped in the history of true local heroes and heroines – the workers whose labours put the epithet of ‘Great’ into Britain. Over a cup of coffee I soaked up the history: a claret and blue banner of the West Ham electricity power suppliers union to one side, a banner of Lenin to the other, and the collection of Clarion chairs. These were from the Clarion Cafe on Manchester’s Market Street – The Clarion was a thriving socialist movement which had clubs, meeting rooms and a newspaper which started in 1891.

Eddie and Ruth got together in the early 1950s, having both been involved in workers’ struggles in their early years. Eddie took part in the Battle of Bexley Square in 1931. This was outside the old Salford Town Hall, when a peaceful demonstration of workers, enraged by government cuts, were set upon by the police and a battle followed which saw Eddie amongst others imprisoned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a shared interest, Eddie and Ruth’s joint collection of political and historical books and pamphlets started small, filling a single bookcase. Their insatiable appetite for both the rare and the more mundane manuscripts soon become apparent though. They would travel the country scouring bookshops in far flung towns, spending happy evenings perusing their purchases and sleeping in their van. The books often became an impromptu mattress. As time went on they moved to a more comfortable and practical solution of a caravan, towed by a Czechoslovakian car – a Skoda.

As married life moved on, their collection in Kings Road in Trafford grew and grew. Their archive of working class history became well known to historians and researchers, students and politicians. Banners and photos, prints and journals took up so much space that in 1987, with council funding and other donations, the collection moved to Jubilee house in Salford.

Plebs Journals

Plebs Journals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of visitors cross its threshold. Researchers, actors, artists, students and even politicians have used it as an important resource to further their understanding of how working class culture shaped Britain today. One week’s visitors included a professor who had come from Japan to research silk weavers’ unions, and a wrestler who needed help with his first writing project, the story of his mother’s growing up in Ancoats. On a visit in 2009, veteran MP Tony Benn called it “one of the greatest educational institutions in Britain”.

Lynette Cawthra says: “Our founders started the Library in their own home, driven by the belief that working people should remember and value their own history. Together they rescued countless items which would have otherwise been lost to the future. In these turbulent times, that history has never been more relevant – and the survival of the Library will depend on the generosity of our supporters”.

The WCML Foyer

The WCML Foyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The collection dates back to 1760 and has 130,000 items, including volumes of the Plebs Journal and board games such as Class Struggle (I had this game myself  in the 1980s). A reading and research room, exhibitions, a room full of commemorative crockery and pottery and a shop full of wonderful books and information published by the North West Labour History Group and the Working Class Movement Library, make it a place of wonder and learning. I could literally feel the history, which led to many hours where I quietly reflected on all the hardships of those Salfordian and Mancunian workers.

Radical Board Game

Radical Board Game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And with that paean to us ordinary and honest hard working folk of the north, my week’s curation has come to an end.

It’s been terrific fun researching and writing for you and I hope you have enjoyed the trips in my time machine – next time around maybe my time machine will be powered by graphene (useful for fast electronic devices). Two Manchester scientists won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for their pioneering work on graphene, which is being pioneered in Manchester as I write.

It’s time for me to hand the creative baton onto Degna Stone in the north-east. My question to her is, “If you were to host a festival to showcase north-eastern culture to the world, who and what would be on the bill?”

Bye!

Avatar of Chrissy Brand

Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.

Manchester Moments – Great Abel

January 25, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Today we climb to the top of probably the most iconic of Manchester’s buildings.

The neo-gothic masterpiece that is the jewel in the crown of Manchester’s 19th century architecture is topped off by the clock tower.  Building of the Town Hall was started in 1868 and almost 20 years and £1 million later it was finished. Alfred Waterhouse’s design was the most practical, if not the most popular, of over 130 designs that entered to win the right to build.

Ever since, it has been the heart of Manchester’s civic pride, a logical end point for demonstrations and rallies. Festivals and markets, sport and music are all held here. In fact, it seems that there is rarely not a cultural event either in place or being set up. Tourists pose outside for photos looking up at the 286 feet (87m) high clock tower.

Once inside, there are amazing mosaics which include the Manchester Bee – the city’s symbol for its industrious work – and statues aplenty, including Roman Governor, Agricola, who founded the original fort of Mamuciam. But it is the clock tower and the bell of Great Abel that I am focussing on here. I went up the clock tower recently, which is only open at certain times of the year, so it was a privilege and one I recommend to all Mancunians and others who are able to climb the claustrophobic spiral staircase.

The bell tower has 23 bells, with the clock bell named Great Abel after Abel Heywood. It first rang in New Year’s Day of 1879 but cracked and had to be replaced. It is inscribed with Heywood’s initials and the Alfred Tennyson line Ring out the false, ring in the true.

The Town Hall Clock Face

The Town Hall Clock Face

Heywood from was from a poor background but rose to great heights. He ran a bookselling business on Oldham Street for many years and was imprisoned in 1832 for four months for refusing to pay a £48 fine stamp duty which would have suppressed mass publishing. He later went onto become Mayor of Manchester twice. His interest in publishing for the masses continued throughout his life. Seeing as there were no affordable travel guides for workers to take advantage of the expanding rail networks, he began to publish a series of Penny Guides, short travel guides that covered such places as Buxton, Bath and the Isle of Wight.

It was decided to recast the bells (apart from Great Abel) in 1937 to commemorate a new King, which proved to be a costly error. The bells were engraved with the title of ‘King Edward VIII’, but Edward then decided to abdicate, so they had to be re-engraved for the King who replaced him, known as George VI (not that many people would ever have seen the engraving).

Guardian Angel

One of the City’s Guardian Angels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The clock face bears the inscription Teach us to number our Days and once you reach the summit and wander around outside you can almost reach out and touch the city’s four guardian angels with hearts of stone. It is quite a moving moment.

The Tower, viewed from outside.

The Tower, Viewed From Outside.

The views on each floor of the tower’s innards are fascinating – the mechanism room and the dial room are steps back in time and ascending the many stairs is not for the faint hearted. Glimpses of the triangular town hall’s design can be seen at certain points, and an ever distant Manchester looms below. On a clear day you can see out to the wonderful countryside surrounding the city, on a gloomy day there is a sense of history and industrial heritage in the air. You can imagine the atmosphere chock a block with soot and pollution in its heyday when the local mills and factories belched out fumes and destroyed the lives of the workforce within, whilst city elders basked in comfort in their palatial and modern Town Hall.

To this day the town hall clock issues forth its evocative chimes on the quarter hour, resounding across the city, although chimes are switched off at 9 p.m. for the night as they disturb residents and hotel visitors within earshot…What would Mr Abel say?

 

Avatar of Chrissy Brand

Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.

A Manchester Movement – Vegetarianism

January 24, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Today we look at a Manchester movement which has a global reach: vegetarianism.

The Vegetarian Society spreads the message of a healthy and cruelty-free lifestyle across the UK and beyond, from its base in Altrincham, just south of Manchester. While avoiding a meat-based diet had been a choice by many for centuries, it was the early 19th century when the genesis of an organised vegetarian movement came together in the UK.

It was at the Christchurch Chapel in Salford’s King Street, just across the River Irwell, which divides the two cities of Salford and Manchester, that Reverend William Cowherd declared in 1807 (nine years before his death) that the congregation should not eat meat. His theory was that eating meat was sinful. At the time, due to economic oppression, the poorest ate cheap cuts of meat that would have done them little good and Cowherd set up free medical services, a library and a soup kitchen to sustain his followers. Being a man of some wealth he was able to fund the building of his Swedenborgian church as well as provide the people of Salford with a printing press and a school.

As more people questioned the morality of killing animals for food, the Cowherdites (as Cowherd’s followers were known) went from strength to strength and Joseph and Mary Brotherton continued the debate which eventually led to the formation of the Vegetarian Society in 1847.

Mary published the first vegetarian cookery book in 1809 and in 19th century Manchester, as today, there were thriving vegetarian restaurants throughout the city and the rest of the country. In the early 20th century, on the site which later became Lewis’s Department Store, there was a large vegetarian restaurant aimed at providing the workers cheap and healthy food.

Vegetarian Society Headquarters

Vegetarian Society Headquarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vegetarian Society is the oldest of its kind in the world and promotes the cause through information packs, talks, cookery demonstrations and other events. Its HQ also houses the Cordon Vert cookery school where professional chefs and ordinary people are taught to cook extraordinary vegetarian food, as well as training hospital caterers and others how to provide nutritious meals without meat.

They run National Vegetarian Week each year (Monday 20 May – Sunday 26 May 2013) to raise the profile of vegetarian issues, alongside campaigns like Butcher’s Cat and Silent but Deadly. As a vegetarian of 30+ years I can vouch for the benefits of avoiding meat, both on moral and health grounds.

Everyone has their own reasons for becoming veggie and today’s movement is a far cry for that envisaged by the Manchester and Salford chapels of 200 years ago. But I imagine the Cowherders would be impressed and would agree with the reasoning.

Cordon Vert

Cordon Vert School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarianism is better for animals. Around two million land animals are slaughtered every day in the UK alone, just so that people can eat their flesh. It’s also more sustainable. Growing grains and pulses to feed to animals is much less efficient than eating them ourselves. The livestock industry uses huge amounts of land, water and fossil fuels, while producing 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

Manchester has long epitomised the wonderful variety of vegetarian spirit and culinary: the mouth-watering delights of the two stylish restaurants named 1847 (in the city centre and in Chorlton cum Hardy); On the Eighth Day serving wholesome food and quality products in its café and shop on Oxford Road in Manchester since 1970; Earth Café next to the Buddhist Centre in the Northern Quarter – a lunchtime stop to brighten any day, as is the bohemian Oklahoma opposite it; the elegance of Greens in Didsbury for over 20 years; plus the two Greenhouses – one in Rusholme that opened in 1983 and sadly closed in 2012 when owner Robin retired, and the other, separate Greenhouse on Oxford Road in Altrincham which again is a great lunchtime stop.

1847

1847

 

 

Avatar of Chrissy Brand

Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.

Manchester Music Moments – A Man Of A 1,000 Gigs

January 23, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

David Ecker - Man of a Thousand Gigs

Going to gigs invariably starts in your teenage years but it doesn’t have to stop when you hit 30 years old. Unsurprisingly a city of Manchester’s size (and popular musical pedigree) has a choice of gigs pretty much every night of the year.

Someone who has seen many a band, and many a venue, rise, fall, reform and break up is Dave Eckersley from Springhead (see image above). An avid gig-goer since the 1960s, Dave can regale you with musical tales all evening long.

He was there for a famous occasion in 1964 when the blues and gospel train came to south Manchester. Wilbraham Road station was renamed Chorltonville – (itself actually a lovely area of Chorlton) whose name was thought to lend itself to the feel of the southern States of the USA. Muddy Waters, Cousin Joe Pleasants and others performed on the platform and with the audience grouped on the other, a storm rolled in and a legendary musical Manchester moment unfolded. Granada TV’s Travelling Eye filmed it for posterity.

Dave was also a regular at other Manchester 1960s hangouts. The famous Twisted Wheel club and coffee house opened on Brazennose Street in 1963 and was where many a blues act performed, including a young Georgie Fame. Other musical Mancunians to grace the venue included John Mayall, Elkie Brooks, Spencer Davis Group, Alexis Horner, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, The Dakotas and Freddie and the Dreamers. The Twisted Wheel moved to 6 Whitworth Street three years later until it closed in 1971. The building at 6 Whitworth Street is disgracefully due to be demolished in 2013 (to make way for yet another hotel).

The Twisted Wheel

The Twisted Wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Twisted Wheel northern soul concept will not die, however, and has been holding regular nights since a revival in 1999. In 2013 Twisted Wheel has regular nights in Manchester at NQ Live on Tib Street and a radio show on North Manchester FM 106.6 on Thursday evenings.

The Oasis Club was another 1960s Northern Beat coffee and dance club (nothing to do with a certain Manchester band who named themselves after a cafe at Manchester City’s Maine Road stadium). Oasis evolved into Rubens club in 1972 on Lloyd Street (one of the owners went on to run Slack Alice’s with George Best). The clubs may be long gone but the favoured pubs to meet in remain nearby – The Old Nags Head and The Rising Sun.

The Rising Sun

The Rising Sun

The Old Nag's Head

The Old Nag’s Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave recalls that the bands wouldn’t come on stage until 11 p.m. or midnight and after the gigs, “…We would sleep in Piccadilly Gardens – it was all grassed over then – waiting for the buses to start running again in the morning. When you woke up there’d be hundreds of people there having all crashed out.”

There’s probably not a music venue in the region that Dave hasn’t frequented at some point or other. From seeing Family play at a club in Oldham in the late 1960s through to the obvious venues of today such as Old Trafford, The Ritz, Apollo and the MEN Arena. He remembers the Electric Light Orchestra descending on stage in a giant space ship in the 1970s, bands at the Free Trade Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham and Bury Met to name but a few.

If I had a time machine I would have liked to have joined Dave at a 1967 gig at the Palace Theatre, where Jimi Hendrix headlined, Pink Floyd played “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and other acts the bill included The Move, Amen Corner, The Nice, Outer Limits and Eire Apparent. In 2010 Classic Rock magazine described it as the best bill ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d also like to know if the rumoured Pink Floyd free gig at dawn on Granby Row in the late 1960s did ever take place? Or maybe it’s best left as a mystery in Manchester music mythology.

Even in his autumn years, Dave’s still a regular gig-goer, be it to see the likes of Mostly Autumn at the Academy, the Enid at Band On the Wall, or up and coming acts at his local pub in Lees. He’s truly a north-west man of a thousand gigs.

Avatar of Chrissy Brand

Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.

A Manchester Moment – Elizabeth Raffald, Businesswoman of the Year 1773?

January 22, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Elizabeth Raffald

We start the trip in my time machine and pull up in Manchester of the 1760s. To put this into historical context, 1762 was the year in which the Bridgewater Canal opened, to carry coal from Worsley into Manchester, which was at that time developing fast from the remnants of a medieval town into the world’s first industrial city. James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny in 1765 which helped the cotton and weaving industries’ mechanised outputs. The population of Manchester was 24,386 by 1774.

The time machine has brought us here to look at a woman whose business acumen would have stood her in good stead in the 21st century, let alone the 18th. Were she alive today she would surely win a Mancunian businesswoman of the year award for her many successful entrepreneurial and community based ventures (and adventures).

Elizabeth Raffald was born Elizabeth Whitaker in 1733 (and died in 1781) but crammed much into her six decades of life which was spent mostly in the north-west.

Elizabeth is famed for her cookbook entitled The Experienced English Housekeeper: For the Use and Ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks & Co which was published in 1769, but this was just one of her enterprises.The cookery book was based partially upon her experiences as housekeeper at glorious Arley Hall near Northwich in Cheshire. Arley Hall was the stately home of the privileged Warburton family – Peter and Elizabeth.

Arley Hall

Arley Hall

Arley Hall Servants' Bells.

Arley Hall Servants’ Bells.

 

 

 

Elizabeth married the head gardener at Arley Hall, and took his surname. Aged 30, Elizabeth and husband John moved into Manchester where she became a successful businesswoman, running a delicatessen shop in Fennell Street, while John became a florist selling seeds and flowers at a market stall. They also ran the nearby Bull’s Head pub during 1769 while John’s family later ran a Stockport pub on Millgate. (This was the Arden Arms which was built in 1815 on the site of a market garden run by John and Elizabeth and remains to this day).

In 1770 Elizabeth moved across the River Irwell to become landlady at the King’s Head Inn in Chapel Street, Salford. She established a post office in the King’s Head, and rented stage coaches which operated between Manchester and London. By 1771 she was part of a team who founded the first newspaper in Salford (titled ‘Prescott’s Journal’) and later became a joint owner of the Harrop’s Mercury newspaper.

Pub On Exchange Square

Pub On Exchange Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her final years John had become Master of the Manchester Coffee Exchange House and Elizabeth provided the catering. Anyone assuming that the coffee house explosion in the city is a 21st Century phenomenon should think again,

The Raffald couple somehow found time to have nine daughters (or possibly 16 children – the truth is patchy). Elizabeth also wrote a book on midwifery and opened the first registry office in Manchester, which allowed servants to get married. She even ran an employment agency for servants and could speak French.

As for her recipes, she was the first to document how to make icing and, all told, her ground -breaking book consisted of 900 recipes all based on her own trial and error. Having read some of the book there are some horrific recipes, and far too many are meat-based, including those which involve the cooking  of turtles and hares.

But we shall look at a reaction to carnivorous diets in a Manchester Movement later this week. She is even credited with inventing the forerunner to the Eccles cake with her recipe for ‘sweet patties’ containing the ingredients which are used in the famous Eccles cakes. (See also Natalie Bradbury‘s posts on Manchester food).

The Old Foodie website is among many to quote Elizabeth Raffald recipes, and this one for Snowballs looks worth a try: “Pare five large baking apples, take out the cores with a scoop, fill the holes with orange or quince marmalade. Then make a little good hot paste and roll your apples in it, and make your crust of an equal thickness and put them in a dripping pan. Bake them in a moderate oven. When you take them out make icing for them the same way as for the plum cake, and ice them all over with it about a quarter of an inch thick. Set them a good distance from the fire till they are hardened, but take care you don’t let them brown. Put one in the middle of a china dish and the other four round it. Garnish them with green sprigs and small flowers.”

Her grave is in Stockport Parish Church and a blue plaque is dedicated to her in Exchange Square Manchester. It reads: ‘Cookery book author and publisher of the first Manchester trade directory. Established a cookery school, shop and domestic agency near this site.’

An inspirational Mancunian.

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Chrissy Brand

Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.

Introduction to ‘Manchester Movements and Manchester Moments’.

January 21, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Every city, be it north, south, east or west, is surely made up of the sum of its parts plus an added ingredient that’s made from aspiration, inspiration and perspiration. Architecture, culture, infrastructure all play their part in a city’s stature, but it is the spirit of the people who live there that can make a city great or fearsome, lively or desolate. Some people lead, others inspire, many are exploited and some watch from the sidelines.

So what is it that makes Manchester Manchester? Certainly its industrial heritage shaped the city’s politics and attitude. Factory owners and other privileged Victorian gentlemen may have headed the world’s first industrial city which came to be known as Cottonopolis – but it was built on the back of the workers. Through exploitation rose resistance and protest movements which took on their own momentum.

In my week’s curation of ‘A Wondrous Place’ I’m hoping to bottle some of that Mancunian spirit and present it under the banner of Manchester Movements and Manchester Moments. Join me as we journey from a Georgian businesswoman to a veteran gig goer, via a city landmark and two global institutions that came to fruition from the people and are for the people.

I must also credit and give equal billing to Manchester’s oft-overlooked neighbour – the city of Salford, ever a short stroll away over the River Irwell. At least three of my posts have strong Salfordian connections. The two cities have such an overlapping history, geography and culture and yet proudly remain distinct entities. I’ll not be the first (nor last) blogger to struggle for a satisfying solution to the two cities scenario.

There are many moving and notable examples that I could have chosen but have omitted, e.g. The Peterloo Massacre (which led to the formation of The Guardian newspaper) and the Suffragette Movement. Indeed, Manchester should surely also be known as Suffragette City, alongside its other epithets of Mamucium, Mancunia, Mamecestre, Warehouse City, Cottonopolis, Madchester and Rainy City.

So do join me tomorrow for the first trip in the time machine I have especially rented for the week – don’t be late!

But before we set off I need to answer a question from last week’s excellent curator Sid Fletcher, who asks:

“Chrissy, you’ve experienced living both in London and now Manchester… What sells Manchester to you over the capital?” I love both cities for different reasons – London for its quantity of landmarks and galleries. Manchester has its own galleries and landmarks too, admittedly fewer. But the smaller size of Manchester means that it is more manageable, quicker to travel around and also cheaper to live in than the capital. I find there are more opportunities here, you can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. The city is small enough for you to be a part of it, to live, work and socialise and become a local in communities and areas, such as the Northern Quarter, Chinatown, etc. Unlike London, Manchester is surrounded by such diverse, dramatic and accessible countryside too – to get away from it all when you need to – the Cheshire Ring Canals, Peak District, Lake District and north Wales.

 

Avatar of Chrissy Brand

Chrissy Brand

Chrissy originally comes from north-west London but has spent over half of her life in Manchester. Her passion for many aspects of the city and its surrounding countryside is such that she posts about it every day at the Mancunian Wave blog (see web link below). Formerly at the BBC World Service, Chrissy now works at the RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) and is also a freelance writer. She writes two monthly columns for Radio User magazine, and co-authored the 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends (Tomsett & Brand, Dewi Lewis Media, Heaton Moor). She is general editor for the British DX Club's monthly journal Communication and also a guest blogger at 4 Manchester Women and Smitten By Britain, as well as writing a blog on aspects of radio, called DX International. In her spare time you will probably find her walking the towpaths of the Cheshire Ring Canal network or enjoying a caffeine fix in a Northern Quarter cafe.

The World in the City

January 10, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

TIME-OUT-MANC

Way back in 2007, during the Labour Party conference, Time Out published its first magazine guide for Manchester. For a Time Out devotee like me it was nothing short of thrilling to see our city’s listings rendered in that time-honoured typeface. The magazine was a one-off print run ahead of the full launch for Time Out Manchester scheduled for the following year. Here’s Time Out founder, Tony Elliott, talking about his grand plan for Manchester:

As you’ve probably realised by now, the funding never happened and the grand plan fell through, leaving the single issue as a sad (and possibly collectible) reminder that Manchester was perhaps not the global city you thought it was.

But I’m still in love with the idea of the global city. It’s a concept that takes Manchester out of potentially restricting contexts like the ‘North’, or alternatively puts something of the North of England on a global platform. Yes of course there are things that handicap the city when compared to places like Tokyo, Istanbul, New York and other Time Out cities (size, chain outlets allowed to run rampant, badly run and overpriced transport etc.) but culturally I believe we can hold our heads up with the best on the world stage.

So, for my last post (and thank you for having me!) here’s a whistle-stop cultural run-down of things to see and do just to prove that if you look for it, the world is right here in the city…

The Whitworth Gallery shows the work of Aisha Kalid from Lahore, Pakistan…

The Ritz puts on a gig by Kendrick Lamar from California…

Head to The Lowry to experience the Moscow State Circus …

Sankeys hosts DJ Laidback Luke from the Netherlands…

The Apollo, Ardwick hosts Sigur Ros from Reykjavík, Iceland…

The Palace Theatre stages Don Quixote by the Sofia National Ballet from Bulgaria…

Dreams Without Frontiers at Manchester City Art Gallery includes works by Kelley Walker from the USA and Cyprien Gaillard from France…

“The story and the mythologies of Manchester’s music are now part of a much bigger world of ideas and artistic activity.” Dave Haslam, 2012

 

Thanks for reading! The next guest blogger will be Sid Fletcher from Sheffield, author of the Tower Block Metal blog.

Hi Sid, tell us about some of the most thrilling or awe inspiring or mysterious locations in your home town or city…?

Bye!

Avatar of Greg Thorpe

Greg Thorpe

Greg was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. He has lived in Manchester since 1996. He works in publishing by day and the rest of the time is a fiction writer, DJ, club promoter and blogger (http://manhattanchester.blogspot.co.uk). He is currently writing a comic novel about Shakespearean culture as part of an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University (http://theshakespearegirlnovel.tumblr.com). He currently lives in a flat with round windows in a converted warehouse, halfway between The Cornerhouse and Canal Street.

Manchester: In Residents

January 9, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

The hated Piccadilly Wall

When I was nine I wanted be a writer, or an ‘author’ as we used to say before that particular Americanism took over. As with other childhood dreams (play guitar on Top Of The Pops, attend Rydell High, become an X-Man) nothing came of it, then grown-up things like University, relationships, work and partying took over.

Then I came back to the idea, wrote a short novel that was never published, then a longer novel that was never published. It became frustrating writing things that nobody would ever read, so I decided to start a blog where I could put all the stuff that wasn’t fiction, and hopefully people might even see it…

In April 2008 I started Manhattanchester, the name a fantasy hybrid of Manhattan, the place I dreamed of being, and Manchester, the place I lived and loved. I wrote about my life in Manchester and my obsession with New York and anything else that seemed interesting, kind of like an online diary.

 

 

My desire to write fiction surfaced again so I signed up to the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. The course proved demanding, especially while working full time, but I didn’t want to let Manhattanchester fall by the wayside. The solution was something I’d had on the backburner for a while; an idea to interview residents of Manchester with a list of twelve questions:

  1. What’s your name?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Where do you live?
  4. Tell us the story of how you ended up in Manchester.
  5. What’s great about this city?
  6. What’s not so great?
  7. Do you have a favourite Manchester building?
  8. Do you have a favourite Mancunian?
  9. What’s your favourite pub/bar/club/restaurant/park/venue?
  10. What do you think is missing from Manchester?
  11. If I was Mayor for a day I would …
  12. Who else would you like to nominate to answer this questionnaire?

This effectively turned me from blogger into editor, a huge labour-saving device. Luckily for me, the responses to my questionnaire proved to be fascinating, beautifully expressed, funny, curmudgeonly and endlessly entertaining. Over the last year it’s become one of the most interesting and widely read things on my blog. (And if anyone is reading who would like to be interviewed, please do get in touch! greg_mcr@yahoo.co.uk).

The best thing about the ‘Manchester: In Residents’ series is that it showcases the breadth of people and activity going on in the city, and because it’s independent and unsponsored it lets people bitch and kvetch as much as they praise and admire. To date I have interviewed journalists, legal secretaries, publishers, photographers, academics, actors, DJs, curators, PhD students, designers, musicians and booksellers. Each time I read a new submission my excitement about Manchester, and sometimes my impatience with it too, is fully revived.

Here are some random highlights:

There are three major theatres right on our doorstep, which means whenever a show I want to see is on tour, I don’t have to travel miles out of the city to see it. I can go enjoy the West End’s finest without having to walk more than half an hour

For a city of over two million people, there are not enough visible hot single straight men and those that disagree should make themselves known. 

There aren’t many places I can’t get to on my bike. Social circles are easily maintained, simply because no one has to travel longer than thirty minutes to find you.

Canal Street. I’m not one for banging on about ‘the good old days’ but it seems eternally stuck in 2001, which is so sad as it was once a pioneer in Manchester culture. It’s dated, dangerous (and not in a good way) and refuses to move forward in its ideology.

I remember the punks that used to hang around the entrance to the underground Arndale Market, and I remember the Northern Quarter when it was just fabric shops and disused buildings.

love the way it’s quite easy to start a new club night, or open a new store, or make a little niche for yourself up here.

Bohemian Grove, Urbis Gardens, Piccadilly Gardens, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, MMU, the Star and Garter, Soup Kitchen, Cord, Chorlton Green, Mint Lounge, Kraak, Common, 2022NQ…

I’m interested in the fact this series is called ‘Residents’ – the kind of peripatetic feel of the city (despite strong ties) is one of its strengths. There are people from around the world here doing fun, crazy, challenging and innovative things. It is also a problem, maybe. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of ‘proper’ Mancs I know well and I’m not sure that I have any real sense of the city – its sprawl, its horror, its violence. 

The area around Chapel Street doesn’t reveal its gems easily; it really makes you work for them. 

Dear Manchester, your theatre’s rubbish…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Dee, from ‘Manchester: In Residents’: ‘I remember having just visited and saying to my husband, ‘Why aren’t we living here?’ So we moved here…’

 

I have yet to do the questionnaire myself, but I will, sometime in 2013. In the meantime, I will respond to the previous guest curator Kenn Taylor’s question, ‘What hidden gem in Manchester would you recommend?’ It’s a toughie, not because there is a dearth of things to talk about, but because we are lucky in this city to have a plethora of bloggers and online listings to root out everything old and new that’s worth experiencing. They’re all nicely filling the gap where I still think a hearty, comprehensive and beautifully-designed listings magazine could and should be! (More of that in my next and final post). But as for Manchester tips I would say: try the eggs cocotte at Thyme Out in West Didsbury; try the guest ales at The Molly House on Richmond Street; try any small gig at Islington Mill; try anything with paneer in from The Spice Kitchen in Rusholme; try coming to either one of my parties at Kraak, Off The Hook for RnB and hip-hop, or Drunk At Vogue for disco; try cycling around the unfinished urban vision that is Ancoats; try finding a hidden gem, and be sure to tell me when you do…

Featured image: the hated Piccadilly Wall, learn more from ‘Manchester: In Residents’ here.

 

Avatar of Greg Thorpe

Greg Thorpe

Greg was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. He has lived in Manchester since 1996. He works in publishing by day and the rest of the time is a fiction writer, DJ, club promoter and blogger (http://manhattanchester.blogspot.co.uk). He is currently writing a comic novel about Shakespearean culture as part of an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University (http://theshakespearegirlnovel.tumblr.com). He currently lives in a flat with round windows in a converted warehouse, halfway between The Cornerhouse and Canal Street.

The Northern Diaspora

January 8, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Moz-Gregg

Northerners outside the North are often coerced into being somehow more Northern than their stay-at-home counterparts. We can all think of famous people who are, to quote Flic Everett, ‘professionally Northern’. Comedians, usually. But, as Victoria Wood pointed out, the majority of successful British comedians have come from the North. Why is that? What does it mean? Is there a Northern ‘sensibility’? And if we want to dispel clichés about the North but still hold onto the notion of a ‘sensibility’, aren’t we having our parkin and eating it too?

Part of the problem is what we attribute to ‘Northernness’. For instance, let’s say you have a mate from the same town as you who spins a wonderful yarn down the pub. He’s just a funny guy. That’s his personality. Transplant him as the only Northerner to an office in London and at some point you can bet his humour will be attributed to his being from the North. Context is everything. A Geordie friend of mine is repeatedly told that, contrary to his own lived experience, the North East is an exceptionally friendly place. When he moved to Stretford in Manchester he was weekly accosted by Mancunians in the Stretford Arndale who engaged him in amiable chatter until his shopping trips became social outings in themselves. He was told by other residents of Manchester that Stretford could no way be as friendly as he described… A Scouse friend talks of the special dispensation she has in London: she’s not Northern, she’s just ‘Scouse’. I guess because Northerners say ‘ee by gum’ and not ‘ah ey la’… Another friend from Billingham would scoff whenever I mentioned that I was from the North. As far as she’s concerned, Blackpool is practically the Midlands. If a Northern diaspora exists it would have to be premised on some kind of shared experience. I would suggest that such a thing does not exist, but what does exist is a shared position of being interpreted as Northern, and that’s something that happens to you whether you like it or not.

One of my very favourite ‘ex-pat’ anecdotes is told by Morrissey regarding his friendship with Alan Bennett. For a while the two Northerners (Manchester and Leeds respectively) were resident in Camden, North London at the same time, just a few streets away from one another. They struck up a friendship based on Morrissey’s adoration of Bennett’s work, and Bennett’s utter ignorance of who Morrissey was. Interviewed by Time Out Morrissey was asked if he thought that Bennett ‘voiced a particular type of Northern-ness’, to which Morrissey replied:

Yes, it’s largely the sodden gloom of the North – the walled-in lack-of-choice North that, really, he loves. The family is a battle-ground and every character trembles on the edge of confession. Sex is on everybody’s mind, but nobody says anything. This, I think, is Alan himself.’

Alan Bennett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a lovely description, and certainly accurate for some of Bennett’s writing, but it’s also written by a very successful non-resident of the North about another, suggesting that distance is what’s needed to turn a keen eye to the North, or anywhere. It also contains the kitchen-sink blueprint that’s been awfully hard to shake off for subsequent generations. In order to sell the North back to Northerners it probably helps not to live there anymore. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than someone who moves away from their hometown and spends their lives explaining how life was better ‘back home’. Having grown up in a family that could be classified as part of a deeply unsentimental Irish diaspora, I quote: ‘If you like it so much, go back there.’

I’d like to finish with another Morrissey/Bennett exchange. When asked if Bennett was a good neighbour, Morrissey replied:

Well, he didn’t turn up with steaming broth or anything like that… I would ask him about the daily obituary columns. I remember one day I knocked on his door and he opened it and I said ‘Peggy Mount’s dead’, and he said, ‘Oh, good – come in.’

Is that Northern? Is it camp? Or is it just really bloody funny…?

 

Avatar of Greg Thorpe

Greg Thorpe

Greg was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. He has lived in Manchester since 1996. He works in publishing by day and the rest of the time is a fiction writer, DJ, club promoter and blogger (http://manhattanchester.blogspot.co.uk). He is currently writing a comic novel about Shakespearean culture as part of an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University (http://theshakespearegirlnovel.tumblr.com). He currently lives in a flat with round windows in a converted warehouse, halfway between The Cornerhouse and Canal Street.

‘Where you’re from…’ or, ‘Where ya from..?’

January 7, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Tower-Gregg-T

The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown said, ‘It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at’, which has since been quoted ad nauseum in … well, in articles like this mainly. Ian, I love you, but I think you’re wrong. On a small, populous island like ours, where you’re from has a good deal of cultural currency. And while it’s certainly healthy not to get caught up in regional identity to the detriment of personal voice, sometimes, if you’re Northern, that’s not always an option.

You might have guessed from the opening quote that I’ll be mainly focusing on Manchester during my guest blog posts, but hopefully the things I’ll say will have some resonance for ideas about ‘the North’ generally. Just as so many ideas about ‘the South’ are reduced to a vague idea of social privilege, the Thames Estuary and its concomitant dull accent, ideas about the North are… well you know what they are, which is probably why you’re reading this post.

So by way of an introduction, and to challenge remaining notions that there is a definitive North; where am I from, and where am I at?

Good questions.

I was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man. Most people born there were born in the Jane Crookall Maternity Hospital. That’s true for me and also true for the Bee Gees, more of whom later. Not to blind you with geography, but the Isle of Man’s a funny one. Being an island, it’s not part of Great Britain, though I have a British passport, nor is it part of the UK, and hence not part of the EU either. It’s a ‘Crown Dependency’, a phrase that makes a Republican like me balk, but it’s not as ‘dependent’ as all that; the island looks a hardy little bugger sitting out there, equidistant between England and Ireland. That’s a little psychogeographical tick that I like about being Manx-by-birth: my Mum is from Dublin and my Dad is from Blackpool. The Isle Of Man sits in the centre of a neat little triangular trajectory between those places. I also like the spoken homonym, ‘I love man’, as said in my accent at least.

The Isle of Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I digress. Because the Isle Of Man is not mainland, I am not Northern by birth, but by adoption. I grew up in Blackpool. (Another psychogeographical link: the Viking name ‘Dubh Linn’ translates as ‘Black Pool’). I’m not a true ‘sand grown ‘un’, as I wasn’t born in Blackpool, but from the age of one-and-a-bit, to eighteen, I lived on the Fylde Coast, either Blackpool town centre, or Poulton-le-Fylde. Just as you don’t really know that you’re a Northerner until you travel out of the North, you don’t really know what kind of Northerner you are until you go elsewhere in the North.

Generalisations about The North make little sense to people who live here. The generic Northern accent employed to indicate somebody is from ‘up North’ is some weird conflation of Yorkshire and Lancashire. You are assumed to be working class too. In the heyday of Britpop, the media interpretation of Oasis was configured entirely around their Northernness, which was conflated precisely with being working class. You only had to pick up the NME and see one of Liam’s ‘fuck’s transcribed as ‘fook’ to realise who was writing the music press and who they were writing it for. Newsflash: ‘fuck’ is spelled ‘fuck’ and is pronounced ‘fuck’ too, thank you.

I digress again. Blackpool is about as representative as Lancashire and the rest of the North as London is of the Cotswolds. The population is transient, the work seasonal, it’s statistically deprived and psychogeographically resplendent, and to be honest, a massive ball-ache to grow up in. From twelve onwards I got into films and music and grown-up books, and the idea of a life away from Blackpool arrived in my head. In unconscious defiance of Billy Liar I configured this new life around two places, and neither one of them was London (though also in defiance of Northern stereotypes, I would rank that city as one of humanity’s greatest achievements). The two places were New York, and Manchester. My obsession with both was eventually manifested in the name of my blog, Manhattanchester. The idea that someone in the North might want to run away to someplace else in the North seems as radical now as it ever did.

I have now lived in Manchester sixteen years, and while I might’ve grown up in Blackpool, I did my real growing up in this city. My forthcoming posts will try to sing up my reasons for being here and for staying here, and hopefully in the process I will contribute to a greater project to dismantle hackneyed notions of the North, though if one of those clichés is that Northerners are too passionate about their bit of the North, I might just leave that one intact.

Oh, and I said I’d come back to the Bee Gees, didn’t I? Not only was I born in the same hospital as them, but one of the houses I lived in in Chorlton was on Oswald Road, right opposite their old school. There’s no point to be made, it’s just really cool, isn’t it…?

 

Avatar of Greg Thorpe

Greg Thorpe

Greg was born in Douglas on the Isle of Man and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. He has lived in Manchester since 1996. He works in publishing by day and the rest of the time is a fiction writer, DJ, club promoter and blogger (http://manhattanchester.blogspot.co.uk). He is currently writing a comic novel about Shakespearean culture as part of an MA in Novel Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University (http://theshakespearegirlnovel.tumblr.com). He currently lives in a flat with round windows in a converted warehouse, halfway between The Cornerhouse and Canal Street.

Twenty Minutes to Hide

December 21, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities, XMAS SPECIAL

Hayley xmas image 4

Creative challenge: “You’re a fugitive in your home city – you’ve got 20 mins to hide. Where do you go and why?”

I’m sure that among the collection of complicated minds that are my fellow Wondrous Place curators, I’m not alone when I confess that large chunks of my time are taken up by re-imagining my life as a story. My train of thought that was brought into the world with the sole purpose of deciding which crisps to buy eventually becomes a detective story – it takes only a minute or two for my thoughts to wind up here in my internal mystery, this imaginary film that my life becomes functions like a screensaver for my brain when its attention to the mundane has timed out.

Sometimes detective, other times fugitive, the scenario is still the same but what of the setting? Where in Manchester does my story pan out? Is it in the hidden rooms of an Oxford Road hotel where I chase my leads, or is it along the tow paths of the Rochdale Canal where it becomes lonely and its most ugly that I encounter my assailant?

Today I am a fugitive and I have twenty minutes to find a hide out, and I already know where to go. I start out on the canal, in those parts of it between the cafe culture of Canal Street and the yuppy culture of Castlefield; the parts where only three things decide to settle – crisp packets, used condoms and the burly blue heron that sits one-legged on the corner of Deansgate, the gatekeeper of the detritus. There’s nowhere to hide here.

Where I go is a limbo; a wasteland; an island. My island can be reached within minutes from here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I leave the canal, cross a small car park and head for the hole in the iron fence. What surrounds me is a strip of railway arches. Some retain a sort of privacy with the remnants of old facades, and in the gloom of these particular arches I am cold to the bone, but the pathway linking each new geometric arc of brick and vanquished industry is lined with thick grass – greener than anywhere else in the city, a miniature meadowland. And finding the guts to walk further into the belly of the railway line, I find myself in brightly decorated caverns whose curved ceilings are pierced with angular reveals of sunlight.

There’s a unicorn down here, no, really. It’s bright pink, and if he’s gone unnoticed for so long then I’m sure that I will too. Beyond him, his graffitied form, there’s a curtain of blue and green – sky and grass, a gateway to the water and to an open stretch of land that is the island itself.

A pathway, broken up by weeds looking like the destroyed yellow brick road, leads along the water away from the city. I know where it leads to, but it’s more than my life’s worth to tell you…

All images by Hayley Flynn.

Avatar of Hayley Flynn

Hayley Flynn

Hayley is the creator of 'Skyliner' (theskyliner.org), a Manchester-born blog that is dedicated to the pursuit of rare and fascinating art, architecture and histories. A lover of opening closed doors, microfilm, and architectural drawings. She fled the confines of an office job to work in the arts and spend more time exploring the secrets of cities, Hayley and is now a tour guide, location scout and researcher but above all things - a professional dilettante.

Words & Fixtures #5: Rags to Bitches

November 23, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Gallery of Costume

A couple of posts ago, I touched on Manchester’s current paper art, and as we head south out of town towards Fallowfield, let’s peek inside the gorgeous Whitworth Art Gallery, where there’s an outstanding archive of wallpaper. There is also a number of Wardle Pattern Books containing more than 1,700 pages of patterns for fabric by the designer associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris and Liberty.

A little further along Europe’s busiest bus route is the vast Platt Fields Park, overlooked by the Modernist beauty that is the Toast Rack (complete with Fried Egg) and the 1930s Art Deco delight that is Appleby Lodge, designed by the same architect as the soon-to-be-defunct Cornerhouse and once home to Sir John Barbirolli, conductor of the Halle Orchestra (and honoured with a blue plaque – gosh, perhaps I am a plaque collector, after all!).

Platt Fields is also home to the Gallery of Costume, reopened in 2010 after a complete overhaul, and already mentioned on A Wondrous Place by Pete Collins. On top of a well-curated permanent collection of outfits and accessories through the eras, there is a button exhibition (no good for the koumpounophobists among you, I’m afraid), a timeline contextualising the Gallery by reminding us of Manchester’s importance in textile manufacture, and changing shows; right now, dresses made of paper.

“A good specimen is one which is not only in sound condition and of nice quality, but which embodies the features of its period in an entirely representative way” – fashion writer Doris Langley Moore on collecting.

There are get-ups that belonged to the likes of Jerry Hall and Audrey Hepburn – in the latter’s case, a 1967 fuchsia button-through belted frock designed for the film star and fashion icon by Givenchy.

Audrey Hepburn’s Dress from the Gallery of Costume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few writer connections, too. There’s a trademark Roberto Cavalli leopard-print number worn by Julia Roitfeld, daughter of Carine, editor of Paris Vogue until last year. There’s a wool suit owned by art and fashion historian and writer – and Lord Byron scholar – Doris Langley Moore, who had so many clothes, she kept them in her large house while she herself had to move to a small flat. There’s an evening dress created in the mid-1930s by Edward Molyneux, who mingled in the same circles as Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward, no less. (By the way, the title of this post references a former vintage shop in the Northern Quarter; it’s not a reflection on the people mentioned!)

Mode Magazine – one of the Gallery of Costume’s extensive collection of fashion journals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The building, which itself is most pleasant – a Grade 2 listed Georgian manor – also houses a comprehensive fashion journal library containing glossy magazines and periodicals dating back more than 100 years. Some are displayed alongside the actual garments shown in the spreads, while the complete collection is available to view by appointment. As a former fashion magazine journo, I’m making that appointment. But for now, I’m not far from home, so I’m off to kick back and have a well-deserved pre-dinner sherry.

……….

Thank you for reading! I hope this guide to Manchester’s literature and libraries has been as interesting for you to digest as it has been for me to put together, and I hope it might inspire you to pop a poetry night in your diary or pick up a book by a Manchester-based author. Obviously it’s not comprehensive, and there are plenty of people and places I’ve not had chance to mention (how about alternative depositories such as the virtual Rainy City Stories, for example, or the Salford Zine Library, where fellow contributor Natalie Bradbury’s The Shrieking Violet is one of the tomes?), but perhaps it can be a starting point. Thank you, too, to the people who have answered my questions and provided photographs (particularly Gareth Hacking for his original images of the Portico Library, more of which can be seen on Creative Tourist). Finally, a big thank you to Chris Meads for giving me the opportunity to explore my city further – it really is a wondrous place!

I hand the baton on to Kenn Taylor, and my question for him is: “Which Liverpool literary figure and library would you point us towards?”

Bye!

 

Avatar of Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor, press officer and digital marketeer for Manchester Literature Festival and The Literateur literary magazine. Her award-winning blog, 'Words & Fixtures' (http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.co.uk) is about language, literature, arts and culture.

Words & Fixtures #4: Magic Buzzes

November 22, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Chethams marxengelsselectedworks

There seems to be no getting away from Anthony Burgess in Manchester and, en route to our next port of call, we’ll just drop down to Cross Street and stop for a quick jar or two in Mister Thomas’s Chop House, just shy of the splendid Royal Exchange Theatre. Mister Thomas’s was a favourite watering hole of Burgess, who, in his memoirs, talks of ‘hard-headed magnates and cotton brokers gorging red meat in chophouses’. Social commentator Friedrich Engels was also a regular, as he was at the library at Chetham’s School of Music. Here, legend has it, he met Karl Marx and the pair went on to write The Communist Manifesto together.

“If you want to blame any one place for the creation of communism, blame Manchester” – journalist Ed Glinert

Much of this information I picked up on the recent Boho Literary Tour, a regular fixture on the programme of the annual Manchester Literature Festival. The tour was led by Manchester Walks organiser Ed Glinert, who founded City Life, an “alternative” news, arts and listings magazine published between December 1983 and December 2005 which spawned such talents as yours truly. Ed isn’t the only tour guide in Manchester – there are loads, covering subjects as wide-ranging as music and sewers, and there are also lots of leftfield organisations encouraging the fine art of flaneurism (try the Loiterers’ Resistance Movement, Manchester Modernist Society, Northern Quarter Stories, Ancoats Peeps and Skyliner – whose Hayley Flynn has already curated A Wondrous Place). But I digress…

Like John Rylands, Chets is a fine example of the juxtaposition of old and new architecture, with sandstone Medieval buildings linked to brand-new structures by almost futuristic glass walkways that reflect the weird and wonderful Urbis whose shadow the school lives in. It’s a working school, but members of the public can go to free lunchtime concerts (I’d also recommend the RNCM ones at the delightful St Ann’s Church) and visit the library, as well a kept secret as the Portico. I’d had the delight of sitting in the properly atmospheric Baronial Hall for last year’s Manchester Fiction Prize Gala, but I’d never been to the library until I came to research this piece – and it really is worth a trip. After ringing a bell, a heavily studded door creaks open and you’re directed up a flight of stairs to an L-shaped, vaulted-ceilinged, lead-glassed, book-lined gallery, with individual ‘gated’ booths and a separate room at one end dominated by an enormous fireplace. There’s a 17th-century printing press and a display about the Brothers Grimm, and the comments book says it all: references to Hogwarts crop up umpteen times. Well, it is pretty magical!

Avatar of Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor, press officer and digital marketeer for Manchester Literature Festival and The Literateur literary magazine. Her award-winning blog, 'Words & Fixtures' (http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.co.uk) is about language, literature, arts and culture.

Words & Fixtures #3: Secret Society

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

Image Credit: Gareth Hacking www.garethhacking.co.uk

While seeking out Anthony Burgess’s blue plaque on campus, I stumbled across another – appropriately on the building that houses Manchester University Press. As I snapped it as an aide-memoire (I’m getting on a bit), the security guard asked if I collect plaques, which curiously means that living amongst us are plaque collectors. This particular one is for Peter Mark Roget, he of the thesaurus, pleasing me no end, dictionary aficionado that I am. Turns out Roget was one of the secretaries of our next library, the hidden gem that is the Portico, described when it first made its mark on the local landscape as “the most refined little building in Manchester”.

For your delight and delectation, here’s a poem by another famous librarian, and a famous Northerner to boot, Philip Larkin.

Library Ode

New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books,too,
Old eyes renew;
So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.

 

Portico Library Window – Gareth Hacking www.garethhacking.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contrary to popular belief, the Portico Library is open to everyone, every day except Sunday, and you can browse the regular craft shows and art exhibitions (currently Clare Allan’s ‘Burnt Wood and Paper’, echoing a theme being explored at Manchester Art Gallery just down the way) and even take tea and cake beneath its lovely dome, which is rather civilised. Well, I suppose you’d expect nothing less of a space which includes a section with the moniker ‘Polite Literature’ and boasts links to regular ‘Coketown’ visitor Charles Dickens and local literary lady Elizabeth Gaskell. These days, it counts among its members the likes of Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, whose partner Emma Jane Unsworth has made it onto the shortlist for the Portico Prize for Literature which is awarded tomorrow. The wide-ranging shortlist this year includes fresh talent, such as Manchester resident Joe Stretch, and famous names, such as Jeanette Winterson, who’s just taken up post as professor of creative writing at the University’s Centre for New Writing. To bring us full circle, in 1989 the gong went to one Anthony Burgess…

Both Portico Library images: Gareth Hacking www.garethhacking.co.uk

Avatar of Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor, press officer and digital marketeer for Manchester Literature Festival and The Literateur literary magazine. Her award-winning blog, 'Words & Fixtures' (http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.co.uk) is about language, literature, arts and culture.

Words & Fixtures #2: Proud Mancunians

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

Image Credit: International Anthony Burgess Foundation - http://www.anthonyburgess.org/

Cross the road from City Library, pass the white block capitals of The Avenue (which, at certain angles, spells out HEAVEN) and stand in awe of the cathedral-like splendour of John Rylands Library, a sandstone edifice complete with gargoyles, rose windows and some brilliant Crappers (literally) in the basement. These days, you enter through a bright white extension, all glass and steel, that weaves into the old structure and appears to have given the place a new lease of life, if the buzzing little café and bookshop are anything to go by. The original building was dreamed up by Enriqueta Rylands, who wanted to remember her industrialist (and philanthropist) husband John, Manchester’s first-ever multi-millionaire, and to try and regenerate the slum-filled area. It took 10 years to build and opened on 1 January 1900. Take the lift to the third floor, and you’ll find the beautiful wood-panelled and book-adorned Historic Reading Room, where you can work away at your latest masterpiece (or read a comic; we don’t judge) or take in one of the changing exhibitions.

On show until 27 January is a display, curated by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (itself worth ferretting out on Cambridge Street for its collection of rare manuscripts and typewriters), celebrating 50 years since the publication of local literary hero Anthony Burgess’s most famous work, ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Burgess was born and bred in Manchester, living in Harpurhey and Moss Side, and studying at Xaverian College in Victoria Park then the University of Manchester. Here a blue plaque has just been inaugurated, on the Faculty of Arts’ Samuel Alexander. The Rylands exhibition is an interesting insight into both the man about Manchester, and the reasons for writing a novel so brimming with ‘ultraviolence’. It includes correspondence with Stanley Kubrick, who directed and ultimately imposed a ban on the movie version, photographs from the film and newspaper clippings outlining the appalling criminal activity that was bubbling through the cracks of 1960s Britain.

“I am proud to be a Mancunian” – Anthony Burgess in his autobiography, Little Wilson And Big God (1987)

Image Credit: International Anthony Burgess Foundation – http://www.anthonyburgess.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which leads me on to the question I was posed by previous curator Missy Tassles: “What in, or about, Manchester inspires you, or has surprised you or has restored your faith in humanity?” The riots during August 2011 shocked the city, and the public outcry at the anti-social behaviour of a handful of individuals was heard loud and clear. Everyone pulled together to get the place cleared up and back on its feet, in a not dissimilar way (though obviously to a lesser extent) to after the IRA bomb in 1996, when I lived five miles from the centre and we could still hear the bang and see the smoke. There’s something wonderfully warm in the Mancunian spirit that helps us get through times of tragedy and toil and that makes living here so enjoyable on a day-to-day basis.

 

Avatar of Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor, press officer and digital marketeer for Manchester Literature Festival and The Literateur literary magazine. Her award-winning blog, 'Words & Fixtures' (http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.co.uk) is about language, literature, arts and culture.

Words & Fixtures #1: Central and the City

November 19, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Elisabeth House foyer with Central Library

The mists of time shroud the exact date of my arrival in Manchester to study, and after stopping  a while, I departed for a sojourn in the big smoke before being drawn back to the rainy city coming up for a decade ago. Manchester has an appeal to me for many reasons, not least because it’s big enough to support a feeling of cosmopolitanism; small enough to offer a sense of community. Since returning, I’ve become involved in various groups and activities, helping organise green festivals in Chorlton (where else?), joining the monthly bike ride Critical Mass, tagging along on psychogeography derives, taking part in a 24-hour performance art project and doing all sorts of other cool things in various cool places with loads of different cool people.

My main thing, however, is getting immersed in the burgeoning literary scene, which has really taken off this last 12 months or so. You can’t swing a cat for the amount of spoken word nights, author readings and creative writing workshops there are these days; often two or more brilliant events clash and I have to play rock paper scissors in order to decide which one to grace with my inimitable presence. I like to listen and learn from other poets and proseurs, and I also like to write and perform my own micro stories, or flash fiction. I work for Manchester Literature Festival and The Literateur online literary magazine, and I’ve been churning out an arts blog, Words & Fixtures, since 2008. I’ve decided therefore to take this opportunity as guest curator of A Wondrous Place to look at the city’s words and fixtures: literature and libraries.

“The health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries”  - scientist and writer Carl Sagan

Libraries are on topic right now and there’s been a lot in the media about our public libraries being under threat while the Culture, Media & Sport select committee has just published a report on the subject. Meanwhile Manchester’s main reference and reading establishment, the amazingly imposing Central Library (pictured here in an artist’s impression of the under-construction One St Peter’s Square), is currently closed to undergo a complete overhaul, due to reopen in 2014. The temporary City lending library is crammed into Elliot House on Deansgate (lovely stained glass and awesome wallpaper, though, so definitely worth a looksee if you’re passing), the collection is squirrelled away somewhere in a Cheshire salt mine and the future of Library Walks is uncertain, but STOP! Let’s not get disheartened, dear reader – I’m going to take you on a tour of some of the alternative book depositories the residents of Cottonopolis are lucky enough to have access to and explore some of the colourful wordy types this place has produced. There will be mystery! There will be history! There may even be drinks if you promise to keep quiet and don’t run in the corridors…

 

Avatar of Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor, press officer and digital marketeer for Manchester Literature Festival and The Literateur literary magazine. Her award-winning blog, 'Words & Fixtures' (http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.co.uk) is about language, literature, arts and culture.

The Senses of Manchester – TOUCH

October 26, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize wall

So, we reach the last day, the last post. A post about the sense of touch and feel.

Manchester feels like edges.

Some of the edges that are warm and nice to feel. Run your fingers over them, push your face into them. Snuggle up.

Some of the edges are a bit sharp. A bit rough. But you get used to them. It really wouldn’t be the same here without them, so don’t go wishing they weren’t here.

Manchester feels like the edge of a wall. The edge of a wall in Piccadilly Gardens.  Or, to put it a slightly different way, Manchester feels like the edge of the bony shoulders of an upset old man whilst you look at the wall in Piccadilly gardens. Let me explain.

In 2002, a brand new Piccadilly Gardens was unveiled, featuring a controversial concrete wall designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. A few days after the wall was unveiled I stood there admiring it. I liked it a lot. l I touched it. Let my fingers drift over the cold stone. I walked around it. I smiled.

An old man in threadbare trousers and a black blazer stumbled over to me, and fixed me with a steel gaze. “This is horrible,” he said.
“I like it” I replied. “I think it’s good.”  Those words were also what my wife and I jokingly said to each other about the disease SARS. Although I think we actually ripped it off from someone else, but there you go.

“No. It’s awful,” he said, vehemently. He began to shake a little. “How long,” he continued, his mouth foaming slightly, like a rabid vole, “How long will it be until this wall is all around Manchester?”

He beat his puny fists against my chest for a moment and let out a low sob “How long will it be until they use the wall to keep us all trapped in here?”

I’m a bit socially awkward. I didn’t really know how to answer him. I felt a bit like giving him a hug, but I only put one arm around him, like I was helping him across a road or into a taxi because he was a bit drunk.

We stood there for a few seconds before looking at each other awkwardly and then walking off in opposite directions.

Even if he was talking metaphorically though, he was wrong. I’ve never felt that Manchester is a city that has barriers up to people coming or going. Everyone is welcome.

(Guess what?) Manchester feels like my City. (Join in now…) Because it is.

——————-

Today is my final post. It’s been a blast. Thank you to everybody who has looked at my ramblings. I really hope you’ve got something out of it, and I very much appreciate you taking the time to read. Thank you very much to Chris Meads for asking me to be involved. He is a man amongst men.  Thank you also to all the previous Guest Curators. I’ve enjoyed each and every post and I’m sure I will from those to come in subsequent weeks too.

Last week’s curator Jonathan Greenbank asked me: “Using the other cities’ Liver Buildings, Coles Corner and the Tyne Bridge as reference points, where are the most romantic places in Manchester?”

And my answer would be:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not a cop out answer. It’s not.

My question for next week’s contributor Michael Duckett, writer of the marvellous Zine-it-Yourself blog, is this: “If you could bottle up the senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and sound of Tyne & Wear and sell it as a fine wine (or beer!”) what would you call it and why?”

Bye!

 

Avatar of Pete Collins

Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at http://partywithoutme.posterous.com

The Senses of Manchester – SMELL

October 25, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Deer

Smell. Regularly voted the sense that people would feel the least worried about losing.*

*(in a poll just conducted in my head).

Right, let’s get something out of the way before we get started. Yes, I know that the bit of Tib Street nearest to Market Street smells of wee. This is not what this post is about. I expect there are lots of cities and towns and villages that have areas that smell of wee. Don’t tell me what area that is in your city or town or village. I don’t want to know. I don’t keep that kind of information in a big book of wee.  Although you all now think that I do.

Other things I am not going to say Manchester smells of: Buses. Beards. Rain. Pigeons. Muno from “Yo Gabba Gabba”. That table over there.

With that out of the way, here’s something that might surprise you:

Manchester smells of parks. That might seem a bit strange, especially to those of you who believe that Manchester should have more green spaces (and I don’t disagree with you there). Certainly there’s no massive area to compare with anything like London’s Hyde Park, for example. But where does in the a major UK City? An immense part of my childhood was spent in Platt Fields. My uncle Charles told me that the mannequins in Platt Hall come to life and chase you (to clarify, he told me this while I was a child, not just last week or anything). The thought of that still makes me shiver. Brrrr. And it was only a shortish journey to Cheshire’s Lyme Park or Dunham Massey. Which one had the deer? I forget.

Yeah, we were always off in parks when I was a kid.

Manchester smells of biscuits being baked. It is always a pleasure to drive down Stockport Road past the McVities factory with the car windows open and take it all in. Similarly it smells like breakfast cereal, with the Kelloggs factory out near Trafford Park. Similarly again, it used to smell of jam with the Robertson’s factory in Droylsden, but this sadly closed down a few years ago.

Manchester smells of Freedom. The freedom to try. The freedom to create something that will make like minded people take notice.

Manchester also smells of coffee. So much coffee. Everywhere. Rivers of the stuff. I can’t take any more coffee. Stop with all the coffee now.

There has even been a ‘Manchester Smellwalk’ tour, conducted by Manchester University’s Dr Victoria Henshaw. I hope you don’t think I’m too lazy by linking to her Great Smells of Manchester graphic

I suppose I should probably say that Manchester smells like my City. Because it is.

 

Avatar of Pete Collins

Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at http://partywithoutme.posterous.com

The Senses of Manchester – SIGHT

October 24, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Sirens

No prizes for guessing that Day Three is about the sense of Sight. Because it says it in the title just above this. That would be a very undemanding competition.

What does Manchester look like..?

…well, that’s not really an easy question. To borrow some gubbins from a wedding custom, some of it looks old, some of it looks new, some of it looks borrowed. Some of it is certainly blue. Which, let’s face it, is better than red (bye bye half my readership…)

…and some of it looks like Godzilla sat down on it for a while. Maybe had a little disco nap before going off to fight a giant mutant cockroach from Warrington.

It happens.

William Gibson started his debut novel ‘Neuromancer’ by writing that ‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’ Substitute the word ‘port’ for Manchester and you’re mostly there. It might be grey, but it’s our grey and I’m very fond of it.

I used to always prefer the look of Manchester when it rained and was getting slightly dark, being able to watch reflected neon in puddles before they’re splashed by a bus. It was beautiful. But I was wrong. Manchester is best in the sunshine, when you can sit down in Piccadilly Gardens or St Anne’s Square and just watch the world go by. I love to people watch. Love to see the amazing characters pass. I enjoy making stories up about those people, where they are going, what they are doing, what ridiculous items they’re carrying in their bags. What their favourite swear word is. All that sort of thing.

Manchester looks like my puzzled face reflected back from the dazzling windows of new buildings. There’s a place for new buildings, though some are much better than others. The shine, the sparkle, the bright lights. I suppose that if I ever lose my sense of direction then the Beetham Tower will draw me home, calling like a Siren on the rocks (see image above).

Don’t get me wrong, I do like some new buildings. I love the future, I love innovation and shininess. I like chairs that look space age. But…

Manchester looks like old buildings, and abandoned buildings and empty streets. These are my absolute favourites. There’s an immense allure in an old mill that you can catch in it’s empty, vacant state before it’s picked up and turned into yet more (near) city centre flats, or a potholed road with a big rusty gate at one end and not a person in sight.

A lot of my favourite album covers feature empty buildings and empty streets, and if they happen to be in Manchester then even better. I’m just an empty street and building kind of person, and I won’t apologise for that. One old, semi-abandoned building in particular, the old Fire Station on London Road, is the biggest object of my fascination in this city. I don’t want to see it turned into a hotel or to just rot away without marveling at the interior, and I don’t know anyone else who does. I need to get in, need to experience standing in the yard, seeing the gas meter testing station inside. Need to see the rooms, which I believe are beginning to resemble the inside of rooms in the abandoned city of Pripyat near Chernobyl. This is certainly relevant to my interests.

This building, more than any other in Manchester, is my Wondrous Place (see what I did there?). Or at least it would be if I could get inside.

Maybe.

One.

Day.

You can probably guess what I’m going to write next:
Manchester looks like my City. Because it is.

Avatar of Pete Collins

Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at http://partywithoutme.posterous.com

The Senses of Manchester: TASTE

October 23, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Vimto Statue resize

Day Two, and we’re onto the Sense of Taste.

If you haven’t already (and you haven’t really got an excuse if you haven’t), you should first go and read Natalie Bradbury’s curation week about the Taste of the North.

I’ll wait patiently.

Make sure you come back though….

…Hello again!

Manchester tastes of rain. Yes, the rain had to make an appearance at some point in my posts. It might as well be now, we can’t ignore it. Open your mouth and drink it. It’s not that bad really. You’ll enjoy it. Go on. Open wide. Wider.

Do not drink from puddles though. That is just odd.

Consequently, Manchester tastes of Umbrellas. Umbrellas accidentally shoved into your mouth while you’re trying to taste the rain.  That is not quite as pleasant as tasting the rain itself, but a necessary evil when you’re waiting for precipitation to fall into your face hole.

Manchester tastes of Vimto. The fruit drink that kicks any other fruit drink square in the cubes. And I love the wooden sculpture of a bottle of it on Granby Row next to UMIST, near the site where Vimto was first produced (see image above).

Come to think of it, Vimto rain would really be quite something, even for just a few hours. I should write to the Council. Start a Twitter campaign. Hang a flag out of my car window. We can make this happen.

Hot Vimto, though, is an aberration. I don’t want that as a drink OR as rain thank you very much.

I must advise you that, just like drinking from puddles, it is not a good idea to try and drink from a giant wooden sculpture of a Vimto bottle either. Although I think I know why the nearby statue of Archimedes is really straining to get out of the bath..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester (well, Salford really) tastes like honey (thank you Shelagh…)

Manchester tastes of feathers. And if you don’t know why, pick up a copy of Jeff Noon’s ‘Vurt’.

Manchester tastes like my City. Because it is.

 

Avatar of Pete Collins

Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at http://partywithoutme.posterous.com

The Senses of Manchester: SOUND

October 22, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Tannoy

Is this on? Is it my turn now?

Yes. Yes it is.  Hello from Manchester!

Unlike a few of my fellow Wondrous Placers from previous weeks, I have not moved to my city from elsewhere.  I did not choose it. I was born here, and despite some attempts I have never fully escaped for any great length of time. And it really is a Wondrous Place, despite my escape attempts. It’s a place I have immense love and hate for.  It’s a place that stimulates all of your senses. Which is very lucky, as my posts are all linked by the five senses. Phew!

I always liked the Sensory homunculus. It looked a bit like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I added a Mancunian twist. You can choose a different famous Mancunian face if you like. I’m not precious like that.

Somewhat surprisingly for someone who writes and draws what might be loosely described as a music blog, when I talk about the Sound of Manchester it’s not the bands or the tunes that I think define the sounds of city. There’ll be no eulogising about the same old bands, or name dropping new ones in this post.

I hear the sighs of relief. Yay!
(And those of exasperation too. Sorry!).

Manchester is the sound of differing accents.

I’m not just talking about the amazing diversity of cultures and races within Manchester. No, what I mean here is the accents of locals from North Manchester, East Manchester, South Manchester. All different (Don’t bring West Manchester into it though. That’s Salford, home of the Salfordian Clan, fiercely proud of their own city, and they don’t like to be confused with us Mancs).

And it brings about the debate about what to call Chip Sandwich from a Chippy (In case you’re wondering, the proper answer is “Chip Barm”).

Really. Don’t shake your head.

I grew up in South Manchester. Despite spending the last 8 years living in East Manchester (about as far as you can go east and for it still to be Manchester, before you drop the edge of the earth – because no one really believes Tameside actually exists, do they? It’s a story made up to scare young children), I still get accused of being a “Posh Manc”. In fact, as a girl from London whom I met recently put it:  “Are you sure you’re from Manchester? I can understand what you’re saying.” That surely ranks as one of the most absurdly back handed compliments ever.

What else? Well…

Manchester sounds like someone putting their hands over the ears and shouting “la la la la la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la la” any time anyone says that there is a better city anywhere else, ever. It is an annoying trait, but I’ll admit to it doing it sometimes if the City is criticised by non-Mancs (even if I agree with them).

Manchester sounds like planes taking off. My parents used to take my brother and I to Manchester Airport when were were young, just to watch. Maybe have a cake. I liked the old dangling chandeliers in Terminal one. They looked like a giant had had a massive cold and that was what had fallen out of his nose.

My Grandad was one of the people who installed them, you know. And he made the lovely old wooden bar at the Briton’s Protection pub too.

Manchester sounds like hundreds of tannoys following you down the street, poking you in the back and then screaming in your face “Metrolink apologies that there is a delay of at least 12 minutes”. (See the image at the top of this post) It’s a strangely reassuring noise, and something that will always remind me of home.

Manchester sounds like the broken 3 stringed guitar of the Market Street busker who changed his name by deed poll to Marc Bolan. I miss him.

Manchester sounds like my City. Because it is.

 

Avatar of Pete Collins

Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at http://partywithoutme.posterous.com

Cottonopolis: Above and Beneath

October 13, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Cotton

The Cottonopolis City Planning Department (formerly the City of Manchester) is nestled in amongst the rooftop offices of Sunlight House, besides the Clock Face. Joseph Sunlight, head of the department, takes a seat in the window and looks out onto the city.

Between the skyscrapers are a series of elevated walkways that connect one building to another. In the Manchester 1945 Plan these walkways were put forward as a Le Corbuisier inspired method of segregating vehicles and people – and they were approved in the Oxford Road district. You can see a few which remain to this day as well as the ghosts of old connections between the first floors of neighbouring buildings.

The Royal Northern College of Music has almost removed all traces of its own walkway now but if you look across to the Business School you can clearly see the space where the connecting walkway once attached to it. There are examples all over Manchester today of elevated thinking, though not always complementing each other. Imagine for a moment all of these walkways spanning Oxford Road, taking pedestrians from site to site without the bother of traffic, then think of that greying arm draped around the South of the city – Mancunian Way. Where does that fit in to all of this? A motorway in the heart of the city that runs parallel to the walkways and at that same first floor height.

Another example of this sky-high future can be spotted over at the Mercure Hotel, formerly the Piccadilly Hotel. If you take a look at the building which sits on a podium above the street-level shops, you’ll notice that the original entrance is found up there on the first floor too. Bernard Sunley built this hotel with the vehicular future in mind, reasoning that everyone would arrive by car by the ’60s and no doubt taking inspiration from that lofty Mancunian Way. Sunley didn’t provide a pedestrian way into the building, the only way in was by the concrete car ramp.

These roads aren’t prevalent in Cottonopolis but they do exist, cars are still necessary in Sunlight’s future, but it’s the public transport that makes the city so successful. Sometime after this fanatical road building, a plan was proposed for Manchester’s own underground network. The Picc-Vic line was actually some way to being approved and when the Arndale Centre was built the foundations were made with this tube network in mind, so there’s a cavern underneath the Arndale, right below Topshop, and it’s a ghost station for a line that was never to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tube network would eventually stretch right out to the suburbs of the city and stations were planned at Royal Exchange and St Peters, with a rather lovely reimagining of Albert Square that saw the cobbles outside the Town Hall replaced with a landscaped forecourt. In Cottonopolis, Sunlight saw to it that these plans were approved and by 1973 an extensive underground of high speed trains delivered the public across their rainy city.

Image by Andy Vine

 

I was asked by last week’s guest curators Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell:

Manchester is often regarded as England’s second city. In what ways of you think it might deserve this title?

My answer is really a combination of all the things I’ve covered this week when reimagining the city. It has vision and its the home of many firsts, but when you take a look at who the pioneers of the city have been and who the lovers of the city are, then more often than not these Mancunians transpire to be not Mancunians at all. People choose to live here. They make their most important discoveries here. They want to give something to Manchester and are happy to be referenced as children of the city. I think it’s really this that makes it so important to me and deserving of that title. People adopt the city as their own; refer to themselves as Mancunians not simply a resident of Manchester. A city is as great as its people.

Thank you to Chris Meads for helping put all of this together, and to the wonderful Andy Vine who supplied artwork for this piece. I’m really looking forward to the rest of ‘A Wondrous Place’, and my question for next week’s guest curator Jonathan Greenbank is:

Liverpool is a city born of the success of its port. What does the water mean to you?

BYE!

 

Avatar of Hayley Flynn

Hayley Flynn

Hayley is the creator of 'Skyliner' (theskyliner.org), a Manchester-born blog that is dedicated to the pursuit of rare and fascinating art, architecture and histories. A lover of opening closed doors, microfilm, and architectural drawings. She fled the confines of an office job to work in the arts and spend more time exploring the secrets of cities, Hayley and is now a tour guide, location scout and researcher but above all things - a professional dilettante.

Cottonopolis: Horse Powered

October 11, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

ResizePostcard

Yesterday we looked at Sunlight House, its creator Joseph Sunlight, and his plans to extend his Quay Street building with the addition of a 40-storey clock tower.  Now we continue to imagine the city with Sunlight at the helm of the city’s planning department, and what that might mean for Manchester’s skyline today.

In Sunlight’s Manchester it’s not all about sculpting the skyline into the future but also retaining the landmarks that fit in with this: his noir-novel of a city.

From these imaginary floors of the Sunlight House clock tower, in a room besides the giant clock face, Joseph Sunlight regards his city and gazes down the curve of Quay Street until it meets with the start of Oxford Street. Just beyond the curve that heads Southbound along the cultural and educational mile, a sign mounted high above a building catches his eye. It’s a circular sign, flanked by sculpted horses, and it seems to float independently of the building. It glistens and rotates and advertises the site below as Manchester’s Hippodrome.

 

The building was always theatrical, not only in function but in form, and the 54 feet wide proscenium arch, the very bones of the building, was moveable – it was a theatre with a sliding roof. Built to house circus performances with room for 100 horses, a variety theatre and, later, to screen films, the hippodrome didn’t limit itself to the confines of a regular theatre and housed a giant tank that could hold 70,000 gallons of water purpose built for ‘water spectaculars’.

‘A Foot to a Fathom of Water at the Touch of a Lever!’

The Hippodrome was an ornate but sturdy type of a building that fit perfectly into Sunlight’s world with its decorative but timeless style. It looked every bit at home in Sunlight’s Manchester of the future, the stony-white Chicago-inspired skyline with streets lined by great modern tributes to architecture, and inspirational updates to the relics of industrial wealth beyond just the mill conversions of today’s city.

In Cottonopolis – Sunlight’s Manchester – the Hippodrome remains. It morphs into a future version of itself and the circular sign comes to life; lights up; rotates. His Manchester is not purely new vision, but it’s a place bound together with the iconic structures of the past.

Manchester Hippodrome existed in Manchester between 1904 and 1935, when it then was rebuilt and became the Gaumont theatre, later Rotters Nightclub until it ended its life in demolition in 1990 to eventually be resurrected as a multi-storey car park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image: Old Photos UK)

 

Avatar of Hayley Flynn

Hayley Flynn

Hayley is the creator of 'Skyliner' (theskyliner.org), a Manchester-born blog that is dedicated to the pursuit of rare and fascinating art, architecture and histories. A lover of opening closed doors, microfilm, and architectural drawings. She fled the confines of an office job to work in the arts and spend more time exploring the secrets of cities, Hayley and is now a tour guide, location scout and researcher but above all things - a professional dilettante.

Cottonopolis: Sunlight in the Rain

October 10, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Sunlight Stephen Richards

Joseph Sunlight was born in Russia but came to Manchester with his family in pursuit of a fortune wrapped in cotton, and Joseph grew up to become a prolific architect, soon becoming one of the city’s wealthiest citizens. When he died in 1979 he was the city’s biggest taxpayer. By proxy we owe a lot to Joseph Sunlight, but it’s likely that most residents don’t know who he is.

Joseph Sunlight had a vision for Manchester, one that’s evident in his art deco creation Sunlight House, on Quay Street (see the image above by Stephen Richards). The white Portland stone building stands proud on a street of unremarkable neighbours.

In 1932, at the time of being built, Sunlight House was the tallest building in the city and the first skyscraper in the North of England. Erected during the ’30s depression, when the city seemed to be set in aspic, when nothing changed, and the machinery of the industrial boom had rusted itself a place in the present. This great white hope of a building wasn’t a municipal location but merely the office of Sunlight’s property business. What’s so appealing about this place is how it’s something of an anomaly in Sunlight’s catalogue. He designed houses, and he built the elegant Sunlight House simply as a place to continue his practice of house design. This office – optimism in Portland stone – was intelligent and inspired, but in Sunlight’s mind it wasn’t complete.

The awe inspiring design stands at 14 storeys, but the architect had intended for its original reach to be more like 30. Walk down Quay Street sometime, head away from the city, in the direction of the Irwell, and take a look at this marvellous chunk of stone.  It’s so permanent seeming, as if a naturally occurring monolith. Now, look up to its beautiful row of windows high above the street, see if you can spot the art deco eagles on each corner. Now consider the height and double it. Just imagine what an impact something of such size and stature could have had on Manchester.

Inside of Sunlight House a unique vacuum system was in operation that made the task of maintaining the building more manageable. A similar one can be found in Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre in which a central vacuum is plugged into by a hose via periodic holes in the skirting boards of the building. The cleaners only need carry a light, flexible hose with them and not an entire vacuuming contraption. Nothing at Sunlight House was about showing off, yet in its competence it did just that.

From all accounts is seems as though Joseph Sunlight was something of an eccentric. In in his lunch hour, in place of an attendant he would operate the high-speed lifts himself, and his wish was to be buried in a mausoleum on the roof of the building. Sadly, stories dictate that this was a wish Sunlight went to his death bed believing would be honoured, but it was never to be.  Perhaps, then, it’s Joseph who is the ghost said to haunt the building – ghosting the lift shafts, traversing the floors in search of a burial place never built.

Now recall that Sunlight House of earlier, the one that’s double the height of the building we know today, and then consider this – a proposal for an extension to Sunlight House was reported in The Manchester Eyewitness on 15 August 1948, and it read:

Manchester Skyscraper Proposed! Plans for a Manchester skyscraper, an extension to Sunlight House, Quay Street, are to be presented to the Draft Schemes Sub-Committee. It will be twice the height of the present building, and will be built between Sunlight House and the Opera House. It will be surmounted with a large clock tower. The £1m, 35-storey, 360ft building has been designed by Mr Joseph Sunlight.’

Sunlight House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunlight took his inspiration from the solid, ornate skyscrapers that dominated the Chicago skyline. Few buildings adopted this style, but, if they had, Manchester might have been a very different city. If we’d had the bravery back in the ’40s to go ahead with Sunlight’s vision, if we could alter history and reverse what is perhaps one of the city’s worst planning decisions of the time, then we might have an ultimately more gothic and intriguing city; a city unrecognisable as British, but instead a city straight off the pages of a noir fantasy – solid and white, as if furniture draped in Manchester cotton.

Chicago’s Skyline by Otto Bettman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Hayley Flynn

Hayley Flynn

Hayley is the creator of 'Skyliner' (theskyliner.org), a Manchester-born blog that is dedicated to the pursuit of rare and fascinating art, architecture and histories. A lover of opening closed doors, microfilm, and architectural drawings. She fled the confines of an office job to work in the arts and spend more time exploring the secrets of cities, Hayley and is now a tour guide, location scout and researcher but above all things - a professional dilettante.

Cottonopolis: A Skyline Reimagined

October 8, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Skyline

My family are predominantly from Liverpool, and so it’s safe to assume I’m the black sheep of the family in my adoration of Manchester. I love it because I feel like I’ve made it my own. It’s a city where it’s very easy to do that and to carve yourself a place where you slot in and feel at home regardless of your roots. It’s also a challenging city to love because you have to work at it. There’s nothing immediate about it, it’s small yet spread out, it’s unremarkable in many ways, and you certainly don’t get that breath-taking moment of flinging open your hotel window and gazing down on an urban paradise – its not an easy city for a visitor to love.

Manchester was my blank canvas when I first came here and it remained that way for several years, just a corner of the canvas was filled in and it was rudimentary and pencil drawn. Then I realised that I hadn’t approached the city like I do all other cities; as a tourist – always asking questions about its history, its art, exploring the streets and getting lost in its dead-ends. I did this and my canvas became florid in its detail. I still explore like this everyday because there’s no reason, in any city, for that curiosity to ever wane.

I’ve adopted Manchester as a home and so it saddens me when a building I love is at threat, with that in mind I’ve looked at what Manchester could have been had these threats never reared their heads. What we’ve lost and what we almost had.

Over the years there has always been a kind of marvellous futuristic machinery at work behind the scenes of some of the major buildings.  In the late 19th century Manchester Hydraulics Systems supplied this brand new source of power to the air conditioning of John Rylands Library (in itself a ground breaking concept at the time), the safety curtains of the Opera House, the organ of the Cathedral, and the clock of the Town Hall.

The Palace Hotel on Oxford Road used this hydraulic power in a fashion not dissimilar to something you’d expect to see in the Coen Brothers’ ‘Hudsucker Proxy’. They installed a series of tubes in what was then the Refuge Assurance Building, and inside of leather-bound capsules they would seal notes before dropping them into the suction system and transporting them to another part of the building.

Sunlight House on Quay Street (see the image above) is perhaps something of a silent star in amongst all of these landmarks and ground-breakers. It’s a grand building on an otherwise bland street, it’s not a building whose name is instantly recognised nor is the purpose of it clear to the everyday passer-by, but it’s this building that’s inspired me to look at Manchester as it could have been.

There are lots of ways in which the skyline of Manchester could be re-imagined but I’m going to look at a handful of possibilities: of proposals that were never approved, and outstanding buildings that were demolished.

Cottonopolis, Manchester’s moniker during the industrial revolution, already conjures images of a Metropolis (be it Superman’s or Fritz Lang’s) but when you think of it realistically – a city born of cotton mills, well it doesn’t hold that same excitement, not the excitement that you’d experience in a city dominated by a behemoth of a skyscraper that’s made entirely of imposing white Portland stone. A skyscraper that looks down on a giant hippodrome that was built to be flooded so that it could ensure the most spectacular of shows. And how about the secret foundations of the city and the empty pockets of space underground that were intended for something a little more bustling.

Over the course of this week we’ll look at these eventualities and re-imagine the skyline of Manchester; Cottonopolis.

And it’s Sunlight House where the outline of a new city begins…

Avatar of Hayley Flynn

Hayley Flynn

Hayley is the creator of 'Skyliner' (theskyliner.org), a Manchester-born blog that is dedicated to the pursuit of rare and fascinating art, architecture and histories. A lover of opening closed doors, microfilm, and architectural drawings. She fled the confines of an office job to work in the arts and spend more time exploring the secrets of cities, Hayley and is now a tour guide, location scout and researcher but above all things - a professional dilettante.

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