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PTDC0001I’ve been planning to have a go at the Bee in the city trail for several weeks now but kept putting it off. While it is possible to download the app and find the bees that way, I opted for one of the maps available from Central Library.

There are quite a lot of bees in and around Central Library as it turns out, both the full size statues and the “little bees”, which are half the size, and have been designed by children across Manchester and Greater Manchester. Each bee has a ‘sponsor’ and a theme, decided on by the artist and sponsor in collaboration.

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I didn’t get to see the Sylvia bee in suffragette colours at the People’s History Museum, but I intend to check her out at a later date. The Bling bee near Mount Street and the Bridgewater hall had a lot of children clustered around it, admiring it’s mirrored coat. Part disco bee, part intricate art. I got as many pictures of the ones I saw as I could but, with it being the tail end of the summer holidays, a lot of families were out bee spotting too and it felt like every time I got close to a bee I’d be mobbed by small children.

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I thoroughly approve of the whole Bee in the city project. I know that some people have reservations, in fact I overheard one of the mums near the Bling bee saying to another visitor that she’d had enough of bees by the time the art trail came round, but that seeing the statues has changed her mind.

Apparently the Bee app has various freebies and promotions attached to it that you can get when you visit and unlock specific bees. I’m guessing it’s done with QR codes, and it’s clearly a gameification technique, but I think of the bee art trail as being akin to a live action version of Pokémon Go anyway, so fair enough.

There will be some who will say that the money spent on Bee in the city could be spent on other things, that instead of traversing the city centre photographing bee statues we could go around photographing rough sleepers, that we’d probably snap as many rough sleepers as bees. I’m not sure what that would achieve but, yes, the numbers of rough sleepers, or homeless as I’d rather say, are extremely high in Manchester. And pretty much everywhere else in the UK at the moment.

Similarly, if the money hadn’t been spent on the public art trail, it’s not like it would have been spent on helping the homeless, or funding the NHS, or extending public transport. Because those things are funded differently.

You can talk of bread and circuses, the opium of the people, distractions from reality, but I only think that this is a valid argument if the phenomena in question is actually so all absorbing and distracting that it has a massive and distorting impact on society. I don’t feel that, however cool they are, the bees are likely to achieve that.

There is the question of sponsorship, of course, which invariably influences the content of the art. For example, one of the bees I saw today has been sponsored by Virgin Trains and has a pendolino theme to it, similarly Sylvia bee was sponsored by UNISON. But I think the stories that the bees help to tell (many discuss climate change and it’s impact on bees, many have ties to Manchester’s cultural, social and political history) cancel that out.

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Each bee has a sign attached to it’s base that advises you as to how to report damage to the bee in question. It seems sad that those signs have to be there but, unfortunately, some of the bees have been damaged. There is a dedicated team of workers who clean and mend the bees.

Similarly, there are signs on the bases advising you not to climb the bees as, to a small child, they do look rather irresistible in that respect. The no climb rule hasn’t stopped people from touching the bees however; I saw a lot of people, children and adults alike, gently patting or stroking bees that they had taken a shine to, and I think it’s a natural response to the art. The bees have very manga ish faces, with big eyes and a noble bearing. Some are quite smiley as well.

I have the map at hand and I intend to return to the fray in September. The bee quest continues.

Bee in the City runs until 23rd September around Manchester.

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Oxford Road, near Cafe Muse

 

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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.

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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. 

 

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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.

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Located just past the junction of Belmont Way and Wellington Road North. Once again, my camera is displaying completely the wrong date on it.

 

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