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Archive for the ‘Market Street’ Category

Oxford Road

Oxford Road

I had thought at first I was going to be late to meet Anne and her daughter Sarah, but the traffic and buses were in my favour for once. I’d agreed to meet them both at the Oxford Road end of Brunswick Street at 11:30, and arrived at quarter past 11 to find them both waiting for me. Prior to that, I’d walked past two empty police horse boxes on Brunswick Street (closed, much to the bemusement of residents) and seen the swathes of coaches transporting march attendees play merry hell with the traffic trying to run the rat run behind Oxford Road, which was also closed.

There were a lot of people already on Oxford Road as we walked down, and we found the Unison section assembling, as planned, by the Aquatics Centre. The atmosphere was rather reminiscent of an assembling carnival, and we even had a PA system and DJ (we think it was Clint Boon), not to mention John Robb as emcee and Billy Bragg playing live. This at once felt much more high powered and glitzy than the previous two TUC marches I’ve been on, but also much more carnival. Not that previous marches haven’t been entertaining and fun, but they haven’t had entertainment laid on. It was the difference between the Arena and the Academy: Sophisticated and innovative use of big screens and PA systems all along the line. There were also speeches from the head of the TUC, head of Unite, and head of the Students Union. Later, we also had the head of Unison, but his speech was timed to coincide with a point when the march on the move and the Unison contingent were going past him and the stage by All Saints Park. As we were trying to simultaneously navigate the narrowing road and the media block, this meant I was paying less attention to him than to previous speakers.

In the early stages, before we moved off, we all got a chance to admire each others banners. Given recent allegations about David Cameron’s antics as a young man, there were lots of pig related banners, inflatable pigs and so on. I overheard one man trying to explain the banners all around them to the young child accompanying him:

“Well, when David Cameron was a young man, he… was very… unkind to a pig.”

David Cameron pig banner

David Cameron pig banner

We had to wait an awfully long time on Oxford Road before setting off. The start time was 12, but it was nearly 2 by the time we set off. Anne’s knees are bad so we watched part of Billy Bragg’s set and the speeches from the vantage point of the window sills outside Geoffrey Manton building. While we were seated we had the unwelcome chance to observe innumerable people, including many small children, stumbling about as they tried to navigate the hostile architecture between the pavement and the windowsills, which takes the form of hedgehog spikes of upturned bricks.

When we did set off, the Mancunian Way flyover slowed down the huge balloons that at least two unions were making use off, which gave us time to take in the homeless protest under the flyover. A smaller spin off of the one in St Peter’s Square perhaps?

Homeless protest, Manchester Oxford Road/Mancunian Way Flyover

Homeless protest, Manchester Oxford Road/Mancunian Way Flyover

We turned off down Portland Street, then went left, down a series of side roads and side streets towards Albert Square and the town hall. It was at this point that I heard one woman say to a friend that their friends were in a bit of the march that was still on Oxford Road. There was some intermittent chanting, and I was pleased to hear ‘WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!’ again. ‘Build a bonfire’ has been adapted, with the bankers now taking the place of the Lib Dems in the middle. Along the route we passed various people declaiming political polemics on various corners with an inspiring amount of conviction and passion, and as we headed towards Deansgate and Castlefield we passed a fantastic drum orchestra. We didn’t get anywhere near as close to GMEX, or even the Midland Hotel, as last time, or the time before, but we did get to make a lot of noise and sing along rousingly to Pulp’s ‘Common People’ as we drew towards the nearest possible point to the conference hall.

It was as Pulp segued into Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ that I realised how reliant the playlist had been on ’90s Britpop. Earlier on Oxford Road, there’d been some punk (Clash ‘Rock The Casbah’, Jam ‘Eton Rifles’), the Smiths, some standard rebel rousing anthems (‘Get Up, Stand Up’, ‘My Generation’, ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’) and Billy Bragg was playing union friendly anthems like ‘Power of the union’ and ‘World turned upside down’, plus Woody Guthrie’s ‘You Fascists Are Bound To Lose’. It’s a shame there weren’t any more modern records though (surely the students could have provided some suggestions?) and it makes me wonder if modern pop is considered lacking in stridency, or made by posh people. Some of it is, certainly, but surely not all of it? Poppy and the Jezebel’s 2012 hymn to youth unemployment ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out’ would have been a good start. And if they’d wanted a good, but less used, ’80s one they could have had Sade ‘When Am I Gonna Make A Living?’ I suspect Doyle and the Fourfathers ‘Welcome To Austerity’ would have been construed too downbeat though.

On the move

On the move

Overall, the atmosphere on the march was very carnival and jubilant. There was even a report being filmed in the midst of it all, near Deansgate. Possibly Granada Tonight. Some of the students ambushed it, natch. All along the route people have been handing out leaflets and newspapers, so I’ve returned home with a whole bag full of stuff, mainly socialist, some anti-racist, one for Animal Aid, one to do with NHS reforms in Manchester and Greater Manchester, plus Left Unity, The Morning Star, and the People’s Assembly newsletter.

The People’s Assembly were doing the rally at the end of the march, but we were a bit knackered by then, so headed home from Castlefield to Piccadilly via the bewilderingly genteel and gentrified King Street and St Ann’s Square, and the usual chaos of Market Street. We had thought that our bus stops had been moved for the day but the two day rave in Piccadilly had been shut down we saw, according to a screen with a rolling news feed on it on Market Street. What with the rave and the Britpop soundtrack, the day had a vaguely ’90s feel to it. This echoed the feeling of deja vu I had last week when I heard about government plans to restrict the length of cordoned off road allowed for ongoing roadworks to 1 mile at a time. I haven’t heard any more about this since, but my first thought on hearing the story was that it was John Major and the cones hotline all over again.

As we headed down Market Street we could see the progress of the rest of the march whenever we looked left down a side street, and we finally began to feel that we’d lost the police helicopter that seemed to have been following us since Oxford Road. The union bosses estimated that 80,000 people marched today but the 6pm bulletin on Radio 4 reported the police figure as being 60,000, which is still 10,000 more than the  police figure for the 2013 TUC march.

The view from Market Street

The view from Market Street

The People’s Assembly are running events all week during the Tory Party conference, and are putting attendees up in Sugden Sports Hall. You can find out about their events in Manchester this week by visiting their website. Their next event is The People’s Assembly Morning Briefing at 10:30am in Central Hall on Oldham Street, which features a speech from Natalie Bennett, and there are number of additional protests and marches planned tomorrow, and throughout the week.

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Digital Camera

Went to see Florence + The Machine and The Staves at Manchester Arena on Friday night.

I’ve never been to an Arena show before, and was somewhat apprehensive because, traditionally, I’ve always been a Roadhouse (RIP) and Night & Day girl. When bands I like get too big for those venues (or the Deaf Institute), I’ll go and see them at the Academies, but that’s the biggest set of venues I’d been to until Friday night.

Because the traffic has been so awful this past week, largely due to the ongoing situation with the sinkholes in the Mancunian Way and it being autumn when the traffic is always awful, I used up my time in lieu so I could come home, change and get my tea before going out again.

I was braced for the worst, traffic wise, when I left at 6pm but it was a surprisingly smooth ride into the city centre, and I got in at about ten to 7pm. I then walked very leisurely over to the Arena, which was easy to find. Lots of steps and once you’re inside it’s like being in a cross between St Pancras International and the Arndale: Weird. Like a city within a city. There’s food, bars, merchandise, and the signage is like train station signage as you navigate your way to your block of seating, row, and then seat.

All the standing places had gone by the time I booked my ticket, so I had to go for a seat instead: Another first as I’ve never been to a seated gig before.

The Staves were the support act, and they were brilliant: Impeccable harmonies and lots of echo. They had a shrewd setlist as well, in that they opened with an acapella number (always a good way to grab a crowd’s attention, plus it showed off their gorgeous harmonies) and followed it with the strikingly guitar led ‘Black and White’. They ended the set with the irresistable Nashville esque sing a long that is ‘Teeth White’. In-between, they played a lovely set and did their damnedist to build up a rapport with politely interested but not ecstatic audience. One of the three sisters remarked at one point that she’d been a student in Manchester, and that she’d spent “Some of the best, and most hungover, moments of my life here” which was sweet. The band are returning to Manchester for their own headline gig at the Albert Hall on 24th October.

Florence + The Machine came on at about 9pm. From my seat I had a good view of the stage, but sideways on. This meant I got a good view of the comings and goings on and off stage during The Staves set (they gave the sound engineer friendly pats on the back as they exited) but less so during Florence + The Machine as they used a smoke machine (not excessively) and as such the band were only visible in silhouette. The band entered from my side of the stage, as The Staves had, but Florence walked across the area in front of the stage to say hello and make friends with the audience before going up the steps on the other side to join the rest of the band onstage.

The set was amazing, and Florence is a very lively, warm, and generous performer. She runs about the stage a lot, putting in dramatic flourishes, pogoing, and twirling like a ballet dancer with an interest in northern soul, and she loves invading the audience, she did this about three or four times, and security seemed up for this and managed to keep up with her. When she first got on stage, she brought with her a blue banner she’d been handed by one of the audience in front of the stage, and held it up. Later, she acquired more banners ( a very spangly ‘We Are Shining’ was particularly impressive), had bras thrown at her, and – at her own instigation – other items of clothing.

After three songs (‘What the water gave me’ was first, then ‘Ship to wreck’, then ‘Shake It Out’) she made everyone stand up for ‘Rabbit Heart’, which was particularly excellent as I’d wanted to stand up but no one in my block was doing so and I didn’t want to stand up if I was blocking someone else’s view. As it was, the crowd obliged, and I was then able to stay standing for most of the rest of the set (I did sit down for ‘Long & Lost’, which is one of the quieter songs, but only because my feet hurt) and generally treat it as a standing gig, which was cool. I had a bloody good dance to ‘Delilah’ and ‘Queen of peace’, but couldn’t do the arm movements I’d do if I was dancing to them at home because I would have twatted the people in front and to the sides if I had, which was a shame. Anyway, I had a seat free next to me so I could go a bit mad, dancing wise, albeit not with my arms.

‘Shake it out’ was a highlight as we were pressed into service as Florence’s choir, and she conducted us for it. ‘Spectrum’ was another highlight, with everyone encouraged to dance to that one, and Florence ended the song with what can only be described as a northern soul pirouette, that is; spinning slowly but with one leg lifted slightly and pointed out at ankle level. She kept this up for about two minutes as the harp finished, and the result was very impressive.

It’s occurred to me that the band used the big screens either side of the stage in a fairly innovative way, both by having Florence lift up people’s banners on stage so everyone else could see them, but also so we could play ‘Where’s Florence?’ when she left the stage during ‘Rabbit Heart’ and legged it down the gap between the standing section and my side of the arena, over to, and up, the stairs in-between segments near the back. She sang part of the song from there before coming back down and invading the crowd in front of the stage. Very energetic. They played the balearic keyboard extension of ‘Rabbit Heart’ as well, which helped it build and allowed Florence license to roam, run and generally explore, all barefoot of course.

I also thought the approach to ‘Mother’ with Florence kneeling on stage in front of a backdrop of a big red sun was very evocative, and in the spirit of the song, which is very Monteray Pop Festival 1967 (Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane..) The band then went into the blissful ‘Queen of Peace’, and followed it with ‘Spectrum’, which we all went obligingly berserk to, before concluding with ‘Dog Days Are Over’, in which the harpist got his own spotlight for what must be one of the most distinctive intros of recent memory, and we were urged to hug the people next to us and remove any items of clothing we didn’t need. I did think about doing this, but decided (after a brief speculative glance) that neither I nor the bloke next to me were up for hugging a complete stranger, and that I would get cold going home in only my bra, and wouldn’t part with my tiara because I want to wear it to work next week. Other folk were more obliging, but Florence didn’t take her shirt off as she did at Glastonbury, so I felt less guilty about not joining in.

The encores were the searing ‘What Kind of Man’, during which Florence dropped to her knees like she’d been shot when that ferociously distinct and jagged guitar kicked in, and ‘Drumming Song’. which is another great one to dance to. I emerged sweaty, with sore feet and achey legs, but blissfully happy and slightly disoriented when the lights came up.

Getting home was a bit surreal because I took the wrong exit from the Arena and ended up on Trinity Way, having to wade through hordes of opportunistic bootleggers flogging bootleg merch while also trying to navigate the hordes of similarly confused, disorientated, and – in many cases – bladdered, Florence fans. Then I realised I was going the wrong way and had to turn around and do it all again in reverse until I found the Hunts Bank exit, where I’d come in. I almost got it right from there, but somehow ended up going via Corporation Street and a whole area near Exchange Square that’s cordoned off for Metrolink works, where the walkway was very narrow and it was weirdly eerie and surreal, like some post industrial ghost town. Still, eventually the trail of Arena gig goers emerged at the junction of Cross Street and Market Street, and many of us continued down Market Street to Piccadilly.

It was while I was at the bus stop waiting for a 192 that I realised the downside of the Arena’s ‘no leaving the venue to have a fag’ policy because I ended up surrounded by fellow gig goers, all chain smoking furiously, plus a guy with a massive e-cigarette, the size and shape of the fattest cigar ever, who kept enveloping me in a cloud of vaguely blueberry smelling vapour every time he exhaled. As I was standing at least a metre away from him, this was quite a feat.

There was a lot of post gig chatter on the bus, and I think it reinforced for me the very female nature of Florence fandom in some ways, because the ones most passionately talking about the band were the girls. I am reminded of all those bras thrown at the stage last night, and the quiet, shy, red headed girls waiting to take their seats in the arena. Not to mention the ceremonial gifting of the flowery headband to the girl in the audience during ‘Rabbit Heart’.

As excellent as the gig was though, I did find being in the seated area an odd experience. I discussed it with a friend at work on Saturday, who pointed out that it’s not just at Arena shows that people treat a gig as a nightclub and spend equal time in the bar or in the loos as they do actually watching the band they’ve paid to see; you’re just aware of the scale of the phenomenon much more with an Arena show because you have to keep letting people to and fro past you.

The discovery of this phenomenon (or, at least, the scale of it) dovetails very nicely with a documentary I was listening to earlier today about Jacques Attali, who wrote a book called Noise in 1976, which predicted that the value of recorded music would crash, and that the music industry was on the brink of a crisis. The documentary discusses this ‘crisis of proliferation’ of recorded music, and how hard it is for musicians to make a living these days.

It’s been known for several years now that musicians are making more money from touring than they are from from record sales, and the proliferation of live entertainment, and the effort bands now put into tours and gigs does, unfortunately, perhaps account for the casual nature of gig attendees: Gigs are less of an event now, it seems, which is odd to me. If I care enough about a band to pay £40 for a ticket, I want to watch the whole show, not spend my night getting bladdered and going back and forth from my seat to the loos. Fortunately, Florence + The Machine are a band who believe in not only giving the audience a really good night, but also in engaging with and forging a connection with their audience, and that kind of optimism can, fortunately, penetrate even the most hardened dilettante.

Thank you Florence for making them stand up, and for putting on such a great show.

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On Saturday I ventured out into the tropical Manchester heat.

There was a slight hitch at the bus stop when the notable lack of 192’s heading up or down the A6 became noticeable. Eventually a bus homed into view, bearing the legend designed to crush every commuter’s heart ‘Sorry, Not In Service’

The bus, surprisingly, pulled up at the bus stop, despite some baffled ‘WTF?!’ shoulder and face expressions from me. The driver got out of the cab. ‘Stockport Carnival’ He explained, ‘The parade’s just set off’

Of course. Stockport Carnival is always (at least, I think always) one week after Hazel Grove Carnival, which tends to occur just after Marple Carnival. Entire families have been known to plan their Saturday shop and library run around Hazel Grove carnival, we even moved a birthday party because of it once. But I feel sad this year because Hazel Grove carnival has become a victim of budget cuts at Stockport Council, so this is the last one.

Another bus turned up a few minutes later, and I climbed aboard.

I headed over to Central Library as I haven’t been since it re-opened in March, and I’ve really wanted to see it. It’s very nice but they do still seem to be finishing it off. There are glass lifts and a strong focus on whiteness and large minimalistic spaces. In some ways, it reminds me of the British Library in St Pancras, London, which if it’s intentional, was a good choice of role model. The hand of modern architecture has left imprints akin to those seen at the Library of Birmingham and both Sheffield and Manchester Learning Commons’. It’s not as easy to find your way around Central Library as it was in its previous incarnation.

There’s a lot of new innovations to make room for, such as a media centre, and I’m not mad keen on the lending section being in the basement while things like BFI film booths, performance areas and the café are on the ground floor but it does reflect the way peoples priorities are going on a day to day basis. I’m sure there is stuff going on above the ground floor, but I couldn’t find a way up there.

So, having had a good look, I headed off back down Moseley Street and then over to Market Street to go to Whittard. For once all the various smaller groups of buskers, charity people and religious evangelists had been drowned out by a single voice: There was a Gaza protest going on. I think it was probably the SWP as they regularly pitch up outside Marks and Spencers on Market Street. Anyway, they were very vocally compelling, and were getting a good enough reception for me to be a bit uneasy about it getting out of hand. Not in a 2011 riots sense, but in a mild ruckus in an already far too crowded street sense.

So I decided to take a diversion on the way back to Piccadilly and go back via the Town Hall and Albert Square. In doing so I passed the march that was assembling, this group were a young, mainly Asian group, as angry as the contingent on Market Street, with the same slogans. We reached Piccadilly at roughly the same time, albeit via slightly different routes. The group marching was quite small but seemed to be being policed appropriately and not aggressively or disproportionately. They made up for their number by sheer volume and passion but, even so, the musicians and street market in Piccadilly, including a rather saccharine rendition of ‘Jesus loves the children of the world’ by the gospel choir, soon drowned them out.

 

 

 

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At the end of January I went to see a colleague of mine at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. I’d been meaning to for a while, but it’s too far away from where I work to be doable in a lunch hour so I waited until I had a week off instead.

I got the bus into Piccadilly and felt rather depressed as the bus turned off down Whitworth Street and went past Legends, now boarded up and poised for either demolition or partial restructure. Then I walked through Piccadilly Gardens to Mosley Street (honoured by John Cooper Clarke in one of his more lugubrious works) towards Saint Peter’s Square. I feel quite bleak about the redevelopment going on there too – the Library, Library Theatre, Peace Gardens, Metrolink…

Library Walk by cantwont used via a flickr creative commons licence.

Library Walk by cantwont used via a flickr creative commons licence.

When it’s redone the council are glassing over Library Walk, one of the most architecturally beautiful walkways in Manchester. Not only do the architect’s and the council appear to be deliberately blighting a really nice bit of Victorian architecture, but the council also intend to put a new Peterloo memorial plaque on the gate. It will be the 200 year anniversary of Peterloo in August 2019, and to mark this event with a plaque honouring the death of 17 people and the severe injury of 700 more for demanding the right to vote, on a gate obstructing a public right of way adds insult to injury. Not only have Manchester City Council for years had an extremely euphemistic blue plaque marking the massacre, they’re also now revealing a massive irony deficit.

Despite its reputation and Victorian gothic splendour, the only time I’ve previously visited the Rylands was for a staff meeting about three years ago. Though, as I discovered when I was making my way there, I’ve a pretty good idea of how to find it because it’s been on at least one of the protest march routes I went on in 2011.

The Rylands Library has the misfortune to be situated next to Emporio Armani, which is itself next to RBS. Old meets new… They have  a combination of old and new within the Rylands itself, but they’ve preserved as much of it as possible so there’s lots of old glass and a lot of the old gothic building. I really enjoyed my visit, and I take my hat off to Enriqueta Rylands for founding such a long lasting legacy both to her husband, John, and for the people of Manchester.

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I didn’t get back from Manchester until midnight last night/this morning, and seeing as how I’d gone out at 9:30, that’s a long day.

This weekend has been the tail end of Manchester Histories Festival, a largely free and very diverse event. I found out about it quite late, so decided to cram as much into Saturday as possible.

Manchester Histories Festival events for Saturday 3rd March 2012

The weather looked distinctly unpromising when I headed out at 9:30, a fine mancunian drizzle and grey skies suggested a damp day best spent indoors.

On my way down Mosley Street I was very aggressively (though I soon decided ‘desperately’ would be the better word) asked for money by a homeless guy I’ve given money to before. Everytime I’ve given him money it’s been the same story: He’s been kicked out of the house by his stepfather. I don’t know if he keeps going back or what, and it’s not up to me to make value judgements about vulnerable people, so I won’t.

This time he was very agitated, very desperate, and practically in tears because he’d been asking people for money for 12 hours and all he’d got was 20p. He wanted notes, but I wouldn’t give him any as it felt too much like being mugged. Also, whenever I have given him money in the past, it clearly hasn’t helped him any, and it became apparent after the first couple of occasions that I wasn’t doing him any favours in the long term. Of course, the agencies who might be able to help him – hostels, The Big Issue, Shelter, other housing charities, the council and social services – are all under the cosh of the recession.

There definitely seems to be more homeless people on the streets of Manchester than there was even a year ago, and what with rent increases, diminishing wages, negative equity/mortgage defaults, unemployment, cuts to benefits, anti squatting legislation and a lack of affordable housing, it will only get worse in the next few years.

Desperation really is in the air. You can see the signs more and more since the riots last year: people picking up dog ends of other peoples cigarettes from the pavement because they can’t afford to buy their own, metal thefts, the Co-Op being ram raided last month. Last week I encountered two young northern Irish lads with back packs asking for hostel locations.

To get back onto the festival, the first three events were at the Friends Meeting House on Mount Street near the Town Hall.

The first talk was by Alison Ronan, a historian at MMU who talked about Margaret Ashton, a suffragist and pacifist who was the first woman to be made a councillor for Manchester City Council. The title of the talk was The hanging of a pacifist: the story of the lost portrait of Margaret Ashton, Manchester’s first woman councillor.

She opened by discussing the portrait in question, and went on to fill in a lot of detail about the largely unknown Ashton’s life and character, her politics, associations and friends and allies. The portrait of Ashton was painted in 1925, and the council refused to hang it in the Town Hall. The pacifist stance she took during World War I being part of the reason. The painting was eventually hung in 2006 following a campaign.

I liked this talk but I found the atmosphere a little exclusive in that it quickly became apparent that the speaker knew half the audience. It was still an interesting talk about a hidden aspect of Mancunian and women’s history though.

The talk after that was given by Robert Poole, a historian from the University of Cumbria, about the Peterloo Massacre. He has a project going on at the moment in which a group of volunteers have been transcribing previously unseen written eyewitness accounts of the 1819 massacre.

The talk was an opportunity to share those freshly transcribed accounts, and he concentrated initially on eyewitness accounts from the authorities, all of which had a series of interesting inconsistencies. For example, a flip flopping in describing the marchers and crowd as both ‘A mob’ (suggesting mindless and disorganised behaviour) and military like (suggesting lots of organisation).

The eyewitness accounts of those in the crowd, or independent witnesses, made for much more consistent reading. There were some interesting details that emerged that I hadn’t previously been aware of, for example that Special Constables had been amongst those injured by the yeomanry and the cavalry. It was a very interesting and engaging talk, which I enjoyed a lot.

Also mentioned were the new plaque, which is red, not blue, and which was unveiled by the council in late 2007, and the symbolic re-enactments, the veterans stories that emerged years after Peterloo, and the march home by the Middleton contingent from the massacre, with the shocked and wounded survivors swearing they’d go armed to any protest they attended from then on.

The event after Peterloo was Dave Haslem and his Brief introduction to Manchester’s alternative music magazines. David arrived at this point, and we sat enthralled as Haslem spun us tales of Mole Express and City Fun. I didn’t feel that he covered the ’90s that well, but I think that this was because he was taking an evolutionary approach musically and so concentrating on dance fanzines, of which there weren’t that many.

There was time to kill after this event so we went to Cafe Nero with a lecturer from MMU who David knows, blogger Greg Thorpe, and Dave Haslem. This felt a bit weird as I’m not used to such exulted company, so I mainly kept quiet.

Afterwards David and I got some cake (and the best veggie sausage rolls ever) from Earth Café and mooched about the city centre for a bit, making our way down Market Street and observing the huge crowd watching the gaggle of children breakdancing. The dancing puppets man was also present, with his puppets I mean, not watching the breakdancing children.

Haslem had talked earlier about a history based workshop he had done with a group of young fanzine makers in the city in the weeks previous, including the makers of Things Happen. Five fanzines were produced from this, and were sold at the

Five fanzines, fresh as morning dew

The panel at the final event, Fanzines, was made up of a guy from Mole Express, Bob Dickinson, Liz Naylor and Dan Russell, who is part of the Things Happen ollective.

The guy from Mole Express seemed either reluctant or hazy, but did slowly start to warm up a bit. Dickinson, Haslem and Naylor discussed City Fun in the main. Dan was pretty quiet.

I hadn’t met any of the Things Happen people before, though I had heard of them. After the panel discussion we talked to Dan and the other people involved with the fanzine workshop and Things Happen, also Natalie Bradbury who writes the excellent Shrieking Violets, and is organising another fanzine convention at Victoria Baths.

We headed over to Hotspur House afterwards, which is an abandoned and derelict printing mill behind Oxford Road train station. The Things Happen people have a studio space there where they create design work, including their fanzines. They are also engaged in the process of clearing up and fixing up the mill, and developing spaces for other artists to move into.

Stuff Happens

The relationship with the council appears to be edgy but productive so far. Hotspur House is a derelict Victorian mill surrounded by hideous steel and glass yuppie developments though, and that makes it very vulnerable. You suspect that it’s the recession that has saved it so far, not any preservation interest by the council or the developers.

The space the group have is good, and they’ve fixed it up as well as they can with the resources they’ve got. Manchester Mule have an office on the floor downstairs, and other designers work in the building as well. I hope it works out for them, they seem a nice lot. Very focused as well, and idealistic in the nicest sense.

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As anyone who has walked down Market Street on a weekend will tell you, it’s not so much a stroll as a frantic scurry as you try to dodge getting embroiled with the chuggers and the religious evengelists (of all stripes, let’s be fair…) and try to avoid colliding with the more straight forward street performers.

As I was scurrying back towards Piccadilly this afternoon I came across the surreal sight of a young woman belting out some kind of Celine Dion esque ballad and, less than two feet away, a man selling dancing puppets. Two Bart and Lisa Simpson dancing puppets were merrily dancing away to Hot Butter’s ‘Popcorn’, threatening to derail the diva’s performance, but she continued valiantly…

Also spotted: Candyfloss for sale, and lots of it, which felt distinctly odd in February.

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