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PTDC0001The BBC World Service broadcast a short 30 minute documentary on the 17th November for it’s faith strand, Heart and Soul, about the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing, which happened six months ago.

The programme’s title is Being Muslim in Manchester – One Love? and, while short, it packs a lot in and is very powerful.

What I like is that it manages to be neither sentimental nor sensationalist, and it focuses on a number of different individuals and families who were, in different ways, caught up in the Arena bombing or did truly beautiful and altruistic things in the aftermath of it, or were victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes as a result of the bombing.

The documentary seeks to look beyond #onelove campaign and #WeStandTogether to examine what was happening in the days, weeks and months following the bombing.

I really recommend that you listen to the documentary, even if you’re not living in Manchester, because it has a lot to say about interfaith communities and solidarity and is incredibly moving as well as sometimes shocking.

It reminded me of a very sad phenomenon I observed between late May and the end of July this year as I travelled to work by bus each morning. My commute coincides with the school run and, gradually, particularly after the terrorist attacks in London, and especially after the attack on the mosque in London, I began to notice more and more Muslim children being escorted to school by their dads. This was occurring at a time when any major concert or public event in the city had a strong and noticeable police presence, whether it be tweenagers at a day time pop gig at the Academy one Saturday or a post Ramadan Mela at the Appollo.

I don’t imagine that this phenomenon was unique to Manchester this summer, but it made me extremely sad at the time that it had come to that. That children were having to be escorted to school in Manchester by their parents because either they or their parents did feel it was safe enough for them to travel alone any more.

You can listen to Heart and Soul, Being Muslim in Manchester – One Love? on BBC iplayer 

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I was really, really looking forward to the protest march at the Tory Party conference in Manchester. It’s become a biannual event for me, and I’ve been to the previous three marches here.

I was all set, I had my tiara and I heart MCR t-shirt all ready, but then… I got well and truly felled by a humungous migraine on Friday and have only been feeling more or less well again since this afternoon. Gutted.

Possibly because of the violence in both Catalonia and Marseille, there hasn’t been a mention of the march on the news. But the Manchester Evening News has a gallery and a bit of reporting.

PTDC0001The folk train from Manchester to Hathersage seems to be a bit of a word of mouth thing. I knew that there were folk trains that ran in the Manchester/Greater Manchester area, but I hadn’t investigated them before.

Because the Manchester to Hathersage folk train runs on the Hope Valley line and I’m on the Buxton line in Heaton Chapel, it was a choice between walking it to Reddish North or getting the bus to Piccadilly. Last night, when David texted over the train times, I worked out the walking route to Reddish North, and was thinking about doing it. Then, this morning, I opened the windows, saw the torrential rain, and thought ‘Naahh…’

There were a significant number of people in the queue for same day tickets at Piccadilly who were travelling to Hathersage, which would suggest that the folk train has a good strong following of people in the know. The carriage next to the drivers cab, containing the folk band, was filling up fast when I got on, and the band were tuning up. At 11:49am we set out, and the band began to play. It’s different bands on different weeks and this week it was the turn of DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show, a Nottingham band. They played some train related material on the way out, as well as a selection of folk, skiffle and bluegrass.

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Because the folk train is situated within one carriage of a normal service train, I did wonder what people would make of it if they were just blearily travelling from A to B, and there was the odd person who got onto that carriage and looked momentarily poleaxed before either getting into it or becoming quietly resigned.

The rain had stopped by the time we got to Reddish North, and you could see gorgeous views of Reddish Vale from the train windows. Later on there were similarly great views of Marple aqueduct and the canal. During a particularly rousing rendition of ‘We’ve all gotta die someday’ we stopped at Strines and, once again, I did wonder what the unsuspecting people getting on the train thought.

When we arrived in Hathersage, we all disembarked and followed the crowd, Pied Piper style, out of the train station and down the road into the village, then into the pub.

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The pub being The Little John Hotel, where the band were due to play a second set. This turned out to be a really nice venue, with friendly staff and really good quality reasonably priced food and drink. Very much recommended.

The band played their second set as we ate, and there was some enthusiastic dancing amongst the diners during one of the jigs, an echo of earlier jig related antics on the train.

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You have the option of heading back towards Manchester on the designated train, with the band, or staying on and making your way back on a later train. We headed back on the same train as the band, who played a similar mixture of folk, skiffle and bluegrass, albeit different songs. In the pub they’d concentrated on their own material (which was very good and in the folk tradition), but on the way back it was more traditional stuff, with a dose of pop, including a bit of Elvis and Andy Williams: ‘Can’t take my eyes of you’ with kazoos in lieu of the brass section was a revelation.

All in all, I’d say that the folk train makes for a great, quirky and reasonably priced day out. Save for food and drink at the Little John Hotel, the only cost is the train ticket. You aren’t charged any extra for it being the folk train: You pay the same as you would for a normal weekend same day return from Manchester to Hathersage. They do pass the hat for the band during the set at the pub, but I think that’s reasonable, and you can give what you can afford.

Future events are planned, and you can find out more at the High Peak and Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership website.

PTDC0001Manchester Arena has announced that it will be re-opening on Saturday 9th September with a massive benefit concert, which will raise funds for the Manchester Memorial Fund.

Those confirmed so far are:

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Courteneers

Blossoms

Rick Astley

Tony Walsh/Longfella

Acts are still being announced and tickets will go on sale at 9am on Thursday 17th August. You can find out more at their website. 

 

(Overheard on the 191 bus this evening)

Woman: (Flatly, and a bit sadly) There’s no wifi on this bus is there.

Man: No

Woman (In resigned monotone) And the heating’s on

PTDC0003I booked today off work in order to make a pilgrimage to the Working Class Movement Library, along with David Wilkinson, to see Dave Randall talk about his book Sound System: The Political Power Of Music at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

Whilst walking through Piccadilly, I was struck by a piece of street art on the pavement that a Canadian visitor had left.

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I was particularly struck by the nod to Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau, as it’s a new development in post Arena bombing murals/artwork, one that I found equally as striking as the recently encountered Stockport Worker Bee.

Market Street was busy, as always, in the clammy heat and I weaved and dodged my way through the usual blend of surreal street theatre and miss-en-scene. This included a middle aged man in a police costume with a boom box who, despite not seeming to be doing anything, had drawn a crowd of curious teenagers. There was also an Ed Sheeran style singer/songwriter who had attracted a very enthusiastic man with a huge rucksack, who was doing a variation of the Bez dance.

At the WCML, Dave Randall was introduced by the excellent Maxine Peake, and quickly proved to be a very engaging and confident (in the best sense) speaker. He clearly has a wide range of knowledge about the whole area of music, politics and protest to draw upon and is coming at it from the point of view of a musician and activist, rather than an academic. He has a global approach and his talk touched on the history of Carnival in Tobego and Trinidad as well as the protest music of the Arab Spring, I was also pleased to discover that his historical approach runs over centuries rather than decades, meaning he is looking far beyond the well trod Woody Guthrie – The Clash – The End path. I like the fact that he’s not just talking about how protest movements have used music, or how the dispossessed have used music, he’s also talking about propaganda and how the state has co opted and used music.

The Q&A went well and he got some interesting questions from the audience, covering a number of angles from ‘Can music without lyrics be political?’ via a series of debates around jazz, songs sung today at protests that have travelled from one protest area to another (Anonymous to Anti-Fracking via ‘We Are The 99%’. ‘Build a Bonfire’, ‘Whose Strets? Our Streets!’ and the imaginative recent use of the Benny Hill theme to see off the EDL were not mentioned) all sorts. I think the WCML audience can be a tough crowd sometimes, but they seemed won over by Dave, and he seemed equally enthused by the audience, so the energy was really good.

He got mobbed for books afterwards, which is always a good sign.

After tea and biscuits, it was time to venture back through the increasingly sultry Salford streets into muggy Manchester to get the bus back to Stockport.

 

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On Saturday 15th July, at Stockport Quaker House, Stockport For Peace and Stand Up To Racism Stockport will be holding a workshop on the theme of ‘Having Difficult Conversations Around Migration’. The event is held in conjunction with Hope Not Hate, and runs from 10am – 3pm.

On Wednesday 19th July, Dave Randall will be talking about his new book ‘Sound System: The Political Power Of Music’ at the Working Class Movement Library between 2pm and 3pm.