I’ve been spending a lot of this week at the Working Class Movement Library on Salford Crescent. There are buses and trains, but I generally get the 192 to Piccadilly and walk it the rest of the way. This takes you through the bustling sensory overload of Piccadilly and Market Street, out the other side and over the bridge into Salford, past the rise of development and regeneration on Chapel Street and Salford Crescent. While the sight of yet another block of yuppie flats being built within screaming distance of Manchester city centre does depress me, the idea of them becoming the ‘Vimto flats’ does amuse me and take the edge off the depression somewhat.
Anyway, to the WCML. I can’t think of another library or museum where you would encounter the Manchester post punk fanzine City Fun, trade union history and Oliver Postgate. I am re-reading Oliver Postgate’s memoir at the moment, so was particularly pleased to encounter the Postgate exhibtion in the entrance hall in its display case. Like Postgate and Firmin’s films, it is small but perfectly formed. Bagpuss sits in the middle and, amongst other things, it is revealed that the folk singer Sandra Kerr provided the voice of Madeleine the rag doll and that Professor Yaffle was based on Bertrand Russell.
I originally started trawling through the collection of City Fun about two or three years ago when I’d first decided to develop the punk women series I wrote for The F-Word into a book, and I’ve been meaning to finish the trawl ever since. Like a lot of fanzines that went on for a long time, City Fun clearly started to believe their own hype after a bit, and to develop their own personal shorthand/language. But I think that they were very quick to spot when they were disappearing up their own arses, and to take steps to correct that. I think that showed a good dose of self awareness and maturity on their part.
City Fun, which (amongst others) featured writing, artwork and input from Martin X, Andy Zero, Liz Naylor, Cath Carroll, Bob Dickinson, Linder Sterling and a certain Stephan Patrick Morrissey, has, over time, proved itself to be a really good social document of the 1979-1982 period, particularly from a punk/post punk and mancunian history point of view. It’s also been digitised now, a sure sign of its historical and cultural importance.
Last night was film festival night at the WCML, so I stayed until 7pm in order to watch the Lindsey Anderson/Shelagh Delaney project The White Bus from 1967. It’s described as being “A prelude” to If, and revolves around a series of small adventurous journeys undertaken by an anonymous young woman around Manchester and Salford. At one point she is on a civic bus tour on the aforementioned white bus, which is dominated by the excessively forthright and jolly Mayor, played with gusto by Arthur Lowe. I liked the bits in Central Library: “You have some filthy books in here!” and the sly double meaning inferred by the juxtaposition of the new towerblocks in Salford, and the march of progress they represented, with the rather more picturesque houses of the famous and wealthy in the suburbs. It’s an odd film, but an interesting and enjoyable one.
Anderson, while probably most famous for If, also directed the video to Carmel’s ‘More, more, more’ in 1984. It was also filmed around Manchester.
The film festival continues tonight with Luke Fowler’s The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott. Which mixes archive footage and newly shot material
“in an evocative video essay that reflects on the life and times of critic, historian and activist EP Thompson. It captures a moment of optimism, in which Thompson’s ideas for progressive education came together with political resistance and activism.”
There’s also a benefit in aid of the WCML, which has been hard hit by cuts to Salford Council, on 9th June at Islington Mill, at 3pm.
Photo of the Working Class Movement Library by pandrcutts. Used thanks to a flickr creative commons licence