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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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.

PTDC0001

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.

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It’s occurred to me this week that, while the Manchester worker bee has become much more widely known in the past month, many people may not be familiar with the history of the bee.

I did consider writing a blog post about it, but I figured it was highly likely that such a post would have already been written and that it would just be a case of looking for the right one.

In a nice surprise, I found the perfect piece courtesy of friend of Too Late For Cake, Natalie Bradbury, writing for Creative Tourist on this occasion. The piece (published in early 2013) provides you with an overall history of Manchester’s civic bond with the bee, but doesn’t touch on the cultural side such as Elbow’s song ‘Lost Worker Bee’, (which was, after all, not released until 2015) or the worker bee tattoos, which were very definitely A Thing even before the Arena bombing in May. (A casual trawl of tattoo parlour Instagrams in the Manchester area will back this up.) In the wake of the bombing, street art has started to appear, featuring the bees, and you can see pictures of some of these pieces here.

Transport For Greater Manchester meanwhile, in a very touching video, have unveiled The Spirit Of Manchester, a dignified and thoughtful response to the Arena bombing.

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PTDC0001I spotted this poster up on the barriers erected around the building work going on opposite Manchester Apollo on Stockport Road.

I actually took it at 25 past 7, not 25 past 6, but I haven’t adjusted the time on my camera yet for British Summertime.

 

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Going past the Apollo to get the bus home from work tonight, we were greeted with the following message from their announcements screen:

SATURN 5 XMAS #1

A very Mancunian Christmas indeed

 

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Ablaze! coverKarren Ablaze! launched the long awaited issue 11 of her fanzine Ablaze! at last year’s Louder Than Words festival, where she also talked about self publishing with Route‘s Ian Daley and Ignite‘s Steve Pottinger, and about Riot Grrrl with Julia Downes.

I hadn’t seen Karren for fifteen years, so it was great to see her at the festival and hang out a bit. Following on from this meeting, I interviewed Karren via the phone in early December. We talked about fanzines and fanzine culture, Riot Grrrl, the internet, isolation, austerity and the anti austerity fightback, amongst other things.

My write up of my conversation with Karren has just been published over on The F-Word site and I’m really pleased with how well it’s turned out. One of the many reasons why I love writing for The F-Word is that they treat their writers well, and they always make articles look amazing.

It helped that Karren supplied with with some high quality scans of Ablaze! to illustrate the piece, and I really recommend that you buy Ablaze! 11 as it is fantastic.

 

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Friday, Saturday and today have been taken up by attending the annual Louder Than Words festival at the Palace Hotel. Louder Than Words is a “genre specific literary festival” organised by Jill Adam and John Robb, themed around music and writing about music, with a good dollop of poetry. I haven’t been before, largely due to a lack of planning on my part, but this year I decided to go, my thinking being along the lines of “Well, I am trying to get this punk women book done, I should be making an effort to get out and about and get myself seen.” Though, in reality, I am crap at networking, and I probably always will be. The events on the programme looked good though.

As such, on Friday, I commuted in early and had tea at 8th Day while reading NME and Stylist, both of which are deposited in the cafe for customers to read. It’s been a long time since I had a look at NME, I last bought it when I was writing a piece for The F-Word about sexism and the music press, and I tended to buy it whenever Florence Welch was on the cover, but before that, I had long given up buying it every week. Thoughts on reading the newly free NME? In terms of look, layout and general vibe, it was largely indistinguishable from Stylist, which is a bit weird, and – in terms of content – I found myself being more swayed by Stylist. How very odd. Will stick to Private Eye and The Economist.

The Palace Hotel is, I’m pretty sure, the grandest hotel I have ever set foot in, anywhere. I arrived as a very large group in full black tie arrived, which only added to the palatial ambience of marble, stained glass and sweeping grandeur. It is a lovely building, albeit slightly daunting.

Manchester poet Mike Garry opened the festival, and I enjoyed him, but decided to give Paolo Hewitt on Oasis a miss on the basis that, while I’ve certainly got nothing against Paolo Hewitt, I never could stand Oasis, and often wonder what would have happened had Puressence been the dominant Manchester band of the 1990s rather than Oasis.

Feeling too shy to really speak to anyone, and feeling a bit of an imposter, I sat in the restaurant and nursed a pot of tea while making notes for blog posts in my notepad. It passed the time until Chris Salewicz was on, talking about his new book about the 27 Club with Chris Madden. I enjoyed this talk, despite it’s dark subject matter, albeit for somewhat different reasons than with the Mike Garry/CP Lee conversation.

The evening done, I walked down Whitworth Street and got the 192 home, feeling vaguely disappointed with myself for my inability to connect. A lot of people travelled from London for the event, and were staying in the hotel, and I had visions of missing out on late night conversations in the bar or in people’s rooms. This may or may not have happened, but it was hard not to feel at this stage that commuting in each day put me at a slight disadvantage so far as meeting people was concerned. On the other hand, I didn’t have to worry about travel and accommodation costs, and knew all the good places to buy food, so, pros and cons.

I felt decidedly knackered when I got up on Saturday morning, but did manage to drag myself out of bed and make and eat some porridge before heading out.

First up in the Keith Levene Suite was Karren Ablaze! and Julia Downes talking about Riot Grrrl. I haven’t seen Karren for 15 years, and I haven’t seen Julia for about 9 or 10 years, so it was lovely to catch up with them upstairs afterwards. Julia was toying with heading over to Ladyfest at Islington Mill, and I’d thought about it as well cos Lesley Wood was playing and I had a gap in the afternoon schedule in terms of finding stuff I wanted to see. In the end though, I chatted to the artist in residence, Bob Fallen, for ages while looking at his artwork. Then I went back to 8th Day and had Spiced Sausage And Pasta Bake while listening to some very lively MMU students on the next table.

Next up was Steve Ignorant and Slice of Life doing songs and spoken word. I liked some bits more than others, but the overall message and attitude was sound, and he seemed like a top bloke.

But the real highlight of Saturday, for me, was the Independent Publishing panel, with Karren Ablaze! (Mittens On), Ian Daley (Route) and Steve Pottinger (Ignite Books), which was utterly fascinating. What I really liked was the supportive nature of Independent Publishers, as well as the inventiveness and ingenuity, and all three of them just came across as very approachable, engaging, highly creative and positive people, which I loved. Given it was a small audience and quite informal discussion, I think a real sense of camaraderie developed. We all had a good chat afterwards, and I bought books from Ian and Steve when we all headed back downstairs for Richard Boon’s Jukebox Jury.

The night ends poignantly, with me reluctantly skipping Keith Levene in favour of an early night and the seemingly impossible task of getting two very full paper bags full of books, fanzines and a CD back down Whitworth Street, onto the bus, and home in driving wind and rain, without an umbrella. Things weren’t going too badly until I stood up to get off the bus in Heaton Chapel, and the bottom and one of the sides of one of the bags completely disintegrated, depositing my Coping Saw CD on the floor, and breaking the case. Cue quick undignified grab of said CD from the floor of the bus, desperate clutching of CD and remnants of case to chest along with increasingly soggy bags, and scurrying down the bus, stairs of bus, to the front, just as the bus reached the stop.

I had heard vague references to events in Paris throughout the day, but one of the disadvantages of not owning a smartphone, or being inclined to carry your laptop about with you, is that you isolate yourself from ongoing events and rolling news. Generally, this is a positive thing for me, but occasionally it’s not.

When I got home I had a shower and got my tea, then sat down to eat it while listening to an interminable debate on Radio 4 while waiting for the 11 o’clock news. I’d forgotten it was Saturday, not Sunday, and as such The World Tonight wasn’t on. The 11pm bulletin didn’t tell me enough about Paris, so I turned over to the World Service, and discovered the full horror all in one go.  Went to bed feeling deeply sorry for the French and, as with 9/11, with the thought that nothing any of us create is worth anything when it can be destroyed in seconds by incendiary devices wielded by zealots. Only the names of the groups change, nothing else.

I managed to put these thoughts aside this morning, probably because I was even more knackered then than I was on Saturday. I had to go into Piccadilly to find a cash machine, and on my way to the Palace Hotel I observed Manchester’s homeless sleeping in their sleeping bags and tents in doorways and on the pavements of Oxford Road. No doubt about it, the visible evidence of Manchester’s homeless problem is increasingly in your face. I remember noticing the rate of visible homelessness around Oxford Road starting to creep up in 2010, although there has always been visible evidence of homelessness in Manchester, and the supposed fat years of Labour government between 1997 and 2010 certainly didn’t change it. Still, over the past year, homelessness has become much more politicised, and there have been the homeless protest camps, first outside Central Library, now under the Mancunian Way flyover and by Altrincham Street on the fringes of Piccadilly. The flyover camp is in MMU territory, and MMU have erected barriers all around campus buildings on Oxford Road, seemingly to stop the homeless sleeping or camping out too close to the buildings. Manchester University, as far as I know, haven’t done anything about the one by Altrincham Street, but its not actually on campus, so it may get left alone. As more and more camps spring up, I keep thinking about Hooverville and 1930s depression hit America.

Having grabbed a latte and a sarnie for later at Patisserie Valerie from a girl who seemed to be about as sleepy as I was, I decided to go to the Fact To Fiction workshop with Olivia Pietkarski, rather than do the Stiff Records Story.

As with the Independent Publishing event, this proved to be a very absorbing and interesting event, with participants from all sorts of backgrounds, and with all sorts of interesting stories to tell. As with the Independent Publishing panel, discussions continued outside of the workshop, emails were exchanged, friendships begun, and a great deal of enthusiasm was generated.

I skipped Pauline Black talking to John Robb in favour of Unconvention: Is The Enemy Really Free? But, on balance, I think I would have got more out of seeing Pauline Black as Steve Pottinger said she was brilliant. Unconvention wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t for me. It was a debate around ‘free’ music, journalism, etc, and digital disruption, but it was mostly about music, not really about journalism. Barney Hoskyns was the only journalist on the panel, and the musicians in the room were very intent on discussing that, so I kept quiet and kept my thoughts to myself.

After that, I went to watch Jon Savage being interviewed by John Robb about his new book 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded. Savage was in a playful mood, and the two of them interacted well, making for a very entertaining conversation. Afterwards he was signing books, so I got him to sign my incredibly battered copy of England’s Dreaming and my much less battered but equally loved copy of Teenage. Didn’t get the chance to talk to him, so didn’t tell him how he’d helped me fail most of my GCSE’s. I bet he’s heard that line before…

After that, I went to watch the by now rather hoarse John Robb interviewing Mike Harding, who was an absolute delight.

I lugged my incredibly heavy bag of books I’d bought/brought with me to get signed back down Whitworth Street while being followed by a posse of London journalists with suitcases, presumably heading to Piccadilly train station, and then waited for a 192. I was more prepared in terms of bags today, plus it wasn’t raining, so there were no spillages. A very polite but clearly struggling young man asked me for money while I was poised to flag down the slowly approaching bus, and I gave him some.

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