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The Working Class Movement Library, Salford

The Working Class Movement Library, Salford

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

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The Shrieking Violet

The Shrieking Violet is a perfect example of everything that is good about Manchester. So it was with a great deal of sadness that I heard that editor Natalie Bradbury might not be continuing her zine for much longer.

Natalie recently contributed an article on the history of the little known white poppy, the pacifist alternative to the more well known red poppy, to the Working Class Movement Library’s blog. You can read her article  here.

In the light of these recent developments, I decided that an invitation to interview Natalie was long overdue.

When did you start the Shrieking Violet and why?

 The Shrieking Violet started in summer 2009 – the first issue came out on August 1 of that year. At the time I had been unemployed for several months after finishing an NCTJ course in newspaper journalism, and I was struggling to even get work experience at local newspapers as there were widespread redundancies at that time – it was a very bad time to try and get into newspaper journalism! I was becoming increasingly frustrated and disillusioned, but decided to put some of the skills I’d learnt during my course, such as page layout, to good use, and to turn being unemployed to my advantage and use that time to do something productive.

 I was also doing a lot of writing on my blog, also called the Shrieking Violet, at the time. When I started it I never thought that anyone might read it, but as more people started reading it I became frustrated by the limitations of the blog format and wanted to make a finished product that came off the screen and involved more people, and could be picked up physically by different people who might not necessarily know about my blog.

Why did you choose to do both an online version and a paper version? How was the paper copy distributed?

I’ve always been too lazy to lay out my zine by hand and cut and paste text and pictures in the traditional way. From the start I designed Shrieking Violet digitally using a design package, then created a PDF which I printed and took to a 2p photocopier shop to reproduce. As I had already made a PDF, it seemed logical to put it online for people to download and print themselves at home if they wished (or just read it on the screen if they preferred). A friend later told me about the PDF hosting site Issuu, which enablea readers to flick though the pages of a PDF online as they would a magazine. 

I made between 50 and 70 free paper copies of each issue, which is a tiny number really – especially when you consider that online views on Issuu stand at around 2,000 for each edition! Nevertheless, I think it’s important that there is a choice of either reading online or on paper. I advertise each issue on my blog, with links to both the download version and a list of places where a paper copy can be picked up; typically cafes, bars and other creative and social spaces around Manchester city centre. On my blog, I also invite people to email me if they want me to send them a copy in the post.

Are fanzines about places more common these days do you think? (as opposed to fanzines about music, or football) 

There are a lot of magazines and fanzines which seem concerned with urbanism, architecture and cities these days, and topics related to these such as regeneration and the creative economy, whether they are based in Sheffield or Liverpool, Manchester or London. Something I have noticed is that there are a lot of zines made by collectives – for example, people on the same course at university, or a group of graduates who have studied together and have that geographical location in common. Naturally, they look to what’s around them for inspiration. There are still a lot of music zines/self-published music magazines around. Football zines I know less about – although I have read FC United of Manchester’s fanzine, which is quite political and is not actually that football (or even Manchester)-orientated!
 

A collage of Shrieking Violet’s

What inspired the Zinefests at Victoria Baths?

The first zine fair I ever want to was at Urbis in Manchester in August 2008. As well as having stalls, I remember that Bob Dickinson did a talk about making a radio documentary about zines, presented by Jarvis Cocker, and there was a ‘psychogeography’ walk around the area led by the Loiterers Resistance Movement.

I volunteered at Victoria Baths for a while on the oral history stall. One day I was sitting in the cafe folding piles of copies of the Shrieking Violet and Alison Kershaw, the arts co-ordinator at Victoria Baths, suggested running a zine fair in the space; so the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention was born. It’s a brilliant space to work in. I was keen that the event should be far more than just a market for buying and selling, and offer activities that anyone could get involved in. I loved being able to draw on the history of the building and the wealth of resources in the Victoria Baths archive, which encompasses pictures and objects relating to the building’s history as well as thousands of donated memories, to encourage people to make their own swimming-inspired zines on the day. On the day of the Fanzine Convention, Future Everything had a Maker faire in the main sports hall below, so Fanzine Convention stallholders spread out around the balcony of that space, looking over the technological contraptions at the fair below. Smaller rooms upstairs, comprising the flat where Victoria Baths’ superintendent used to live, just off the balcony space, were perfect for fanzine talks, film screenings and workshops.
 
Could you write a little about the Manchester Modernist Society and their heroines project?
 
The Manchester’s Modernist Heroines project was a collaboration between the Shrieking Violet, Manchester Modernist Society and the Loiterers Resistance Movement which took place in March 2011. It celebrated ten overlooked women in fields ranging from architecture to aviation via art, psychology, archaeology, family planning and journalism. We placed a call out for modern-day women to produce responses to each of the ten women, which formed the basis of a publication, compiled by myself, and walks around Manchester led by the Loiterers Resistance Movement. The responses were received in the form of articles, poetry, images and concepts for performances.

Manchester has a long history of feminist activism, but many of its key figures are now forgotten, who are your favourites and why?

It’s not specifically a Manchester organisation, as there were and continue to be branches all over the country, but I am really interested in the Co-operative Women’s Guild, a campaigning organisation which was founded in 1883 to provide education to its members, primarily working class women, and give them more of a voice both in co-operative societies and within society. Manchester has a long association with the co-operative movement, and I have been researching a co-operative women’s journal called Woman’s Outlook which was published by the Manchester-based Co-operative Press between 1919 and 1967. Outlook was a curious mixture of the domestic and the political, recognising the importance of both to women’s lives; it urged its readers to get involved in political campaigns, for example for women’s representation in parliament, equal pay and peace and disarmament, but also provided practical advice such as recipes, dress-making patterns and child-rearing tips. I will be doing a talk at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum on Thursday 21 March 2013 entitled ‘Woman’s Outlook: a surprisingly modern magazine?’.

As a journalist, one of my favourite women in Manchester’s history is Mary Stott (one of our Modernist Heroines). She edited several co-operative publications over the years, including Woman’s Outlook, before she became editor of the Guardian’s woman page, for which she is best known. As editor of both Woman’s Outlook and the Guardian woman’s page, Stott really involved women in the publications, encouraging them to write in and share their stories. Whilst Stott was initially reluctant to solely focus on women’s issues, preferring to be taken seriously as a journalist who could tackle hard news just as well as men, she succeeded in creating a ‘community of readers’ and ensuring content reflected their lives and what was important to them. Stott’s autobiography, Forgetting’s No Excuse, is well worth a read.

Why do you think Manchester has such a historical culture of feminist activism?

Manchester is often called the ‘first modern city’, reflecting its rapid industralisation and expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. This new way of living and working created rampant inequalities, with a huge gulf between the richest in society – those with power – and the rest, the working classes, who laboured in terrible conditions to make the few rich. A lot of the historic feminist activist figures I have come across were concerned with addressing some of these inequalities on a practical level by improving people’s living conditions, and empowering them by offering access to education. Women were already fired by with the injustice of what they saw around them, and also realised the powerlessness of their own situation in society – being unable to vote, to own property, to work, etc, and wanted to do something about it, to be able to make a difference. If you want to know more, I highly recommend making contact with Manchester historian Michael Herbert, and going on one of his Women’s History walks around Manchester, which covers women active in the suffrage, socialist, trade union and co-operative movements. He has also just written a book called Up Then, Brave Women.

What do you think the legacy of that activism is?

Feminism is, of course, still highly relevant today, and there are still battles to be fought not just over women’s status and their value in society but how women are perceived socially and culturally. I’m inspired by the ongoing work of a new generation of feminists in Manchester, from groups like the Riveters at Manchester University who work to raise awareness of issues affecting women within the university, the city and in society in creative, inclusive and engaging ways, to other collectives such as Manchester Women’s Design Group, who do interesting work around women and the city, for example by exploring women’s emotional relationships with different public spaces in Manchester.

How would you describe the relationship between Manchester and Salford?

Manchester and Salford are two neighbouring cities, separated by the River Irwell. To me they are quite different in that, whilst Manchester is quite compact as a city and has a clearly defined centre with all the facilities and attractions you’d expect, I think of Salford as being more as a collection of smaller towns and villages (each with their own attractions – see the awe-inspiring Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Aqueduct, canal-side folly Monton lighthouse, Eccles Wurlitzer museum, the bright orange Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, Clifton Country Park, etc!) than a city in itself, as it has no real focal point. There are several really great places just over the Salford border, within easy walking distance of Manchester city centre – alternative arts and music complex Islington Mill, Salford Art Gallery/Peel Park, the amazing social/people’s history resources in the Working Class Movement Library, Salford University and the Medieval magnificence of Ordsall Hall – but as a whole I think it’s a bit underexplored by Mancunians. Salford Quays, now home to BBC North as well as the Lowry theatre and arts centre and Imperial War Museum North, is a bit further out, but within reach of Manchester by tram and bus. The Quays is also doing its bit to attract people into Salford, but I very rarely go there as to me it feels like a bit of an island with a strange atmosphere, detached from the rest of the city – it is, let’s face it, perfectly possible to get the tram in and out of Salford Quays without registering that it is surrounded by some of Britain’s most deprived communities.
 
What are you planning to do next?

I’m going back to university in the New Year, so I’ll be a student again, which is both exciting and scary so I’ll have to see what that new challenges and experiences that throws up … !

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Yesterday was the second Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention, and Too Late For Cake had a small slice of the action.

Victoria Baths, all hail

Yes, I went paper for the day in collaboration with friend of the cake, David Wilkinson. Paper copies of the Stockport special edition of Too Late For Cake are still available, and right now we’re trying to decide what to do with them. If you’d like a copy, please post a comment below and include your email, and I will get in touch with you.

I arrived not long after the event started at 10:30am and, as is the case with all zine events I’ve been to, the first hour or so tends to serve as time for people to look at the stalls and exhibitions, and generally orient themselves and find out where the food and loos are. I managed to find the stalls, including Manchester Municipal Design Corporation who were selling our previously mentioned publication, but I couldn’t find David or convention organiser Natalie Bradbury.

Future Everything had stalls, installations and exhibitions downstairs at the baths, and I watched somewhat bemused as a young woman tenaciously attended and adjusted a wooden bobbin device on the floor. It was attached to a long thread of wool which was trailing down from some slowly unravelling crochet, which was itself suspended from the ceiling. I believe the idea was that it would start to unravel at the start of the day, and just be finished unravelling at the end of the day.

I went in search of the loos and café after that, and observed a rather puzzled group of girls trying to negotiate breakfast in the café only to discover that soup, cake, sarnies, crisps, biscuits, tea and coffee were what was on offer instead.

I instantly warmed to the café because they served the tea out of a teapot into polythene cups, and they got you to add your own milk and sugar. Also the teapot was wearing a tea cosy. I had bourbons and tea and texted David and Natalie.

I had a brief hello chat with Natalie a little while later in the café, and caught up with David by the MMDC stall, where the paper edition of Too Late For Cake had been installed. I also had a rather excellent vegan whoopie pie (like a french macaroon but Americanised) from the vegan cake stall. David was good enough to point out that heavy work with a tissue was required afterwards.

Stall holding

We lurked by MMDC for quite a bit, then David went for a wander and I went off to watch Salford Zine Library’s film Self Publishers of the world take over. I found it really interesting as there were a lot of mancunian and salfordian zine makers in there, including MMDC, Natalie, and some I didn’t recognise. It was interesting to hear people talk about their work and how they write and produce, the mechanics of it, as well as why. The Q&A was interesting as well, as I didn’t know a massive amount about the library.

I missed quite a bit of Rotheram Zine Library’s talk because I was in the café thoroughly enjoying a veg pie with pickled beetroot and pickled cabbage, plus more tea. There were mushy peas on offer, but I didn’t fancy them. In a city that seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the Pannini, it is refreshing to encounter proper warm, filling, nutritious food of the kind your mum used to feed you. And it was homemade pastry.

I had a similar regional good food experience when I was a student at Bolton and, on bonfire night, was introduced to culinery bliss in the form of black peas with salt’n’vinegar.

Fanzine making workshop and lovely stained glass

After I’d scarfed down my scran, I went back to the superintendents office where the film and talks were being held, and caught the remainder of Rotheram Zine Library’s talk. I think I may have missed the crucial bits, but I did enjoy hearing about their new projects, which revolve around ‘found’ content. There is one in which they’ve taken random nonsensical bits of footbal commentary and turned them into an epic poem, another about badly tagged clips on Youtube that people have uploaded of themselves, often singing, and another of re-constructed impressions from old photo development equipment.

It sounded as though Youtube was a real source of fascination, particularly the discussions that take place beneath clips, or used to until Youtube changed the format. Me and David talked to them afterwards and they seemed really nice. David did a zine swap later.

The next talk was David’s, and our friend Clare and David’s mum and dad arrived, also Dave Haslem. After David had soundchecked his music for his talk, and got his slides ready, he nipped out and I caught up with Clare and then had a bit of a chat with Dave Haslem, who confessed he had spent an impressive amount on fanzines, including Too Late For Cake.

David did a very good job on legendary Manchester fanzine City Fun, he made it very irreverent and funny, which is appropriate. He also kicked off his talk with a Ludus song, which was a fine idea. I learnt quite a few things I hadn’t known before (I have started the City Fun odyssey at the WCML, but I haven’t even reached the halfway point yet…) which is always good.

Some of the crowd who’d come for David’s talk stayed to watch mine, and just before my talk Making a noise: an express ride through the world of punk and riot grrrl fanzines and the UK feminist underground, 1977-2012 I had a very interesting conversation with a PHD student in the front row who had read the interview I did with Natalie via email for For Books Sake, about riot grrrl.

The talk itself was a bit of a blur. It felt as though it was descending into the chaos and that I had to keep wresting it from the jaws of disaster, but the feedback I got from people seemed to suggest otherwise: They couldn’t understand why I felt it had gone badly. And they seemed to enjoy it. I was particularly thankful for David’s dad, who laughed heartily at all the crucial bits. I even got some unexpected laughs: the idea of a 2nd generation RG zine from Wilmslow amused people no end.

I really liked the glass floor in this corridor

Anyway, I got through it, the slides seemed very effective, and people said they’d enjoyed it so all is well. Major speech trauma over, I can move on now.

Afterwards I chatted with Clare, David, his mum and dad and a couple of other people, many of whom I didn’t know. We drifted back to the stalls before packing up time. Almost all the vegan food had gone, and some of the stalls were packing up.

We sold just under half of the Too Late For Cake’s which, for a fanzine exclusively about Stockport, isn’t bad. We gave £3 to MMDC, who’d also done well, for subletting their stall to us. Clare bought a copy and she and I got embroiled in a very long but fascinating conversation with a bloke called Richard who does a zine, is one half of the duo who do Under the pavement on the Manchester online radio network, and who used to live in Bradford in the nineties. He said he’d really enjoyed the talk, but how weird it had felt to hear me talk about people he’d known then in Bradford. I did quite a bit on the Leeds and Bradford Riot Grrrls, and he’d known Sarah Bag, Lianne Hall and Jane Shag Stamp. He was telling us about the RG club night Frocks’N’Docs at the 1 in 12 club, where the men had to wear dresses to get in. Apparently there was some trouble with skinheads on one occasion, and a surreal punch up between skinheads and weedy punk blokes in drag. One of his male friends also had the surreal experience of a trip to A&E in a silver dress after walking into a lamp post while walking through Bradford. I miss seeing cross dressed men at gigs, there used to be quite a few around in the mid – late ’90s, especially in London and Leeds.

After we’d settled up, me, Clare and David wandered down Hathersage Road to Oxford Road, chatting. Upon reaching Oxford Road we all decided we wanted to go home and eat something, so said our goodbyes. I headed back the way we’d just walked, then walked down Plymouth Grove to Longsight.

In Longsight, a spirited (in both senses of the word) preacher was doing catechism via a microphone and PA system outside the bookies. Not sure which religion he was endorsing, but Pakistan got an emotional mention, which might narrow it down a bit possibly. Then again, maybe not.

I got home feeling very stimulated, content, happy but exhausted.

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Yesterday was officially the final day of Christmas. En route to work I came across a couple of interesting reminders of this: The crane on the A6 in Longsight awkwardly removing the Christmas decorations from each and every lamp post, causing necessary havoc with the traffic whilst doing so. And a spirited rendition of ‘Hark the herald angel sings’* courtesy of the bell ringers at the Catholic church on Oxford Road.

Earlier in the week I watched The Road To Coronation Street on DVD. I had actually bought it as a Christmas present for my Grandad, who died just before Christmas, but decided to watch it myself. It’s quite short, but it packs a lot in. It tells the story of Tony Warren’s transformation from actor to writer at the newly formed Granada TV, and the long and difficult development, commissioning, casting and screening processes involved in getting the show on the air.

The Road To Coronation Street

It was a difficult programme to sell because Warren insisted on a Mancunian cast, and because the board at Granada were incapable of seeing the dramatic potential of the everyday and the regional, and thought hearing the Manchester accent (there are, of course, several Manchester accents) would cause viewers to turn off in droves.

Within a year of its first episode airing, Coronation Street was the most watched programme on British TV, and it would help launch the career of another young Manchester writer: Jack Rosenthal.

Thinking about The Road to Coronation Street, and the issues it raises, has caused me to think about two events in Salford this past year: The transfer of a number of BBC departments to Salford from London (and from Oxford Road), which despite the fanfare has neither been the great move north or the great job creation it was touted as: London staff, unsurprisingly, being very reluctant to re-locate, commuting instead, and far less jobs being created locally. The chances of MediaCity creating its own Coronation Street or its own Tony Warren or Jack Rosenthal looks very remote indeed.

Media City by Rupert Brun shared via a flickr creative commons licence

Also, on the Manchester/Salford border, an Indian student was shot dead on Boxing Day. That Anuj Bidve’s parents had found out about his death through Facebook before GMP contacted them, and that they had considered sending him to University in the US or Australia but had opted for the UK because they felt it would be ‘safer’, makes it even more terribly poignant. They had also re-mortgaged their house to pay the crippling fees international students must pay: £9,000 a year if you’re an undergraduate currently, and likely to be much higher when domestic students fees rise to £9,000 this September.

I finished reading Dorian Lynskey’s history of the protest song, 33 Revolutions Per Minute last night. It is excellent. By the end of the book he comes to the conclusion that he has been writing a eulogy though, and by and large, it’s hard not to agree with him: The student protests and the riots had no discernable soundtrack, and it would be nice to see Doyle and the Fourfathers ‘Welcome to austerity’ do its job, but it doesn’t seem to have caught the publics imagination like earlier protest songs would have done.

 

 Image of MediaCity by Rupert Brun, June 2011. Shared via a flickr creative commons licence.

* – We did it at primary school. Primary school was less agnostic than high school, and favoured hymn practices and carol singing, not to mention the works of Lionel Bart and Gilbert and Sullivan come the festive season.

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For reasons I think it best not to go into, I had a pretty shitty bank holiday weekend. Sunday was best, mainly because it meant I got to undo at least part of the damage of Saturday (don’t ask…) but also I think it was probably the only day when it didn’t bucket down.

This is just a series of thoughts and bits and pieces, starting on Friday, going through to today…

Friday was I heart MCR day, and the idea was that employers in Manchester would let their staff out at 4pm to watch the events in Exchange Square and staff would go shopping. My own workplace did a partial sign up on this, the outcome of which was that I went home at 5pm with 1 hours time in liu. The staff who stayed later got more time in liu, and t-shirts.

On Saturday I headed towards town and made my way over from Ardwick to Oxford Road, and dinner at 8th Day to cheer myself up. Then I started to head towards town, with the idea of buying birthday presents in the Arndale (something I never do, but since I had to buy them anyway I thought I’d show willing…) and tea at Whittard as I had some back pay in August.

En route, I met one of my colleagues who was having a longer journey than usual between his places of work that day. Why? because Manchester Pride was on. I think it’s indicative of the shit few days I’d been having that I had completely forgotten this.

Apparently the religious right were out in force, picketing, but they were massively outnumbered by the Pride marchers and spectators. ‘Sodomites burn in hell!’ was the general refrain apparently, and just to keep in topical and varied they were also shouting about the evils of Coronation Street and Lady Gaga. One of the cast of Coronation Street was so peeved apparently that they got down off their float and started remonstrating with the bigots.

Another float was hurling free Fairtrade chocolate at people in the crowds, and one of the enthusiastic participants in the religious right lobby got hit right between the eyes by a bar of chocolate travelling at high velocity. Apparently it was probably an accident, but my colleague still wishes he’d caught it on camera.

Before continuing on his odyssey, he advised taking a right down Charles Street and going past the University buildings around there as the best route to Piccadilly.

I have some experience of dodging/navigating my way around processions, so I wasn’t too worried. I’ve been caught up at various times in Hazel Grove, Marple and Stockport carnivals on more occasions than I can count, and once you know that you can’t cross a parade line, no matter how much you want to, these things are easy to navigate… time consuming, but always fun.

Even skirting the back streets of Piccadilly and the village I could see and hear the parade, which looked magnificant. I wasn’t tempted to join in though as my joie de vivre was somewhat lacking, and also I always equate Pride with extortionate prices and lots of music I don’t much like.

In the end I decided it would be impossible to get to Market Street, so instead I walked it to the Appollo and got the bus home again. Or as far as Longsight anyway, as the scallies on the bus and the speed of the bus were driving me mad by then, so I walked it from Longsight instead. It was that kind of day really…

There appears to have been very little mention of I heart SLFD this past week or two, but I know of at least one thing that SLFD should be proud of: The Working Class Movement Library on Salford Crescent.

Thanks to the government cuts, and more directly, to Salford Council, the Library has lost a massive chunk of it’s funding this year and, as such, will have to make up the shortfall itself somehow. This will be very difficult, as £80,000 isn’t something you tend to find down the back of a sofa, and even if it was, they’d have to be finding it every year from now on.

I’ve visited the library a few times now, and I’ve always found the experience fascinating. The scope of the collection, and the size of it, is mindbogglingly huge and complex, and the staff and volunteers are a lovely bunch of people who always make you feel welcome and will always be willing to help dig things up for your research. I like this library a lot.

David has also used it, for his PHD in his case, and spent his time there engrossed in copies of Temporary Hoarding, the Rock Against Racism magazine. “WCML was great!” read the email I got off him. “Four page Gang Of Four interview with Lucy Toothpaste and Irate Kate!!!”

I knew exactly what he meant.

If you want to donate to the library’s fundraising appeal, please click here:

 If you wish to find out more about the library, and it’s amazing resources, please click here:

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Last night David and I went to the Cornerhouse to watch ‘Break My Fall’. The film started at 6:20pm, and it would have been about halfway through the film when the lights were suddenly switched on and a member of Cornerhouse staff informed us that we were going to have to leave: There was rioting in Piccadilly and it had spread to Deansgate. Given Oxford Road’s proximity to Deansgate Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council were strongly advising the Cornerhouse to close for the night.

There had been storm warnings all day, with rumours circulating by word of mouth and on twitter and facebook. Trouble kicked off first in Salford Precinct in the afternoon. There was a scuffle, but it was contained and dispersed. In hindesight it seems very probable that a lot of the people who were dispersed either moved on to Piccadilly, or else onto the the estate in Pendleton. Another thing we realised later on, and especially today, was how unreliable the info on the GMP twitter feed had been.

The atmosphere on Oxford Road as we left the Cornerhouse was odd rather than frightening. We had been advised by the Cornerhouse staff to head for the Aquatics Centre if we were trying to get to South Manchester, so we started to walk in that direction. It would have been about 7:45pm by this time. As we walked we saw lots of buses, many parked at stops on both sides of the road, and a small but visible number of TFGM (Transport For Greater Manchester, the new name for GMPTE) staff near the stops, directing people. Whilst I know it was the standard large incident procedure, it did bring back memories of being in London on July 7th 2005, so I think my adreniline levels kicked themselves up a gear then.

As we walked, I observed a small but noticeable number of people heading down Oxford Road towards Piccadilly. Contrary to press reports, these people were not children and teenagers: They were adults. There were probably more people, like us, heading away from the area, but it was interesting to watch those going the other way. Those of us heading away from Piccadilly appeared either outwardly calm or slightly apprehensive, whereas those heading towards Piccadilly were visibly excited: Some of them looked as though Christmas had arrived early, wrapped up in New Years Eve.

Eventually we both got buses, and parted on the agreement that we would text each other once we were home. David got home first, and I got his text whilst I was on Plymouth Grove. The bus took a very long time to get down Oxford Road, mainly I suspect because they had been told to do long stops to pick up people who were basically being evacuated from Oxford Road.

We picked up the speed a bit on Plymouth Grove, where we passed two slightly self conscious seeming police people, and as we moved along Plymouth Grove talk moved from the riots, and from the scatter bullet phrase ‘Set on fire’, which I had been hearing repeated again and again up until that point, to more mundane matters.

I was on the 197 as this had been my plan all along: As soon as the rumours of a riot started to circulate at work and online, I knew that I would need a new way home: If I’m going out, I have to walk to Piccadilly and get the 192 home as the 191 stops running at 23 minutes past six. All the rumours pointed to riots happening in Piccadilly, so as the day wore on the 192 became an increasingly unviable option. This meant that I could get the 197 or the 42 from Oxford Road, and walk part of the way home, or I could walk all the way home. We’d paid for our cinema tickets in advance, and there was only one showing of ‘Break My Fall’, so cancelling would have been a wrench.

The 197 follows the 191 route until you get to Levenshulme, then it turns off down Albert Road and goes through Burnage and Heaton Moor to Stockport. This meant I had the option of hopping off in Longsight and walking it, or hopping off in Heaton Moor and walking it. Because Longsight has a history of rioting and Heaton Moor doesn’t, and because it’s less of a walk from Heaton Moor, I hopped off at the top of Heaton Moor Road.

It was a bit of a trek home, but all was calm in the twilight. There were plenty of Ladies Who Lunch, or their northern variant: Ladies Wot Lunch, plus their male equivalents outside the usual cafés and wine bars, roaring at each other, eating and drinking… not a care in the world. Fiddling while Rome burned…

Today, things seem to be back to normal. The clean up operation, which was organised on twitter, started this morning. There was still a latent tension in the air and a sense of wariness on peoples faces though.

At work, we all had our ‘How did you get home last night?’ conversations, and judging from the problems other people had I feel I got off very lightly indeed. One colleague had a very near miss with the mob on Market Street whilst trying to get to the Manchester/Salford border, another colleague had a long walk across the other side of town, dodging would be rioters en route to Piccadily, to a bus stop where she merely hoped there would be a bus.

The rumours were, of course, flying today as to who was responsible for the rioting, and why it had happened. I heard my first rumour on the bus on the way into work this morning when I overheard a pissed off business man loudly telling someone on his phone that he’d been in Piccadilly the night before, and that it had been the EDL (English Defence League) orchestrating things. This came to sound increasingly unlikely as the day progressed however, and the following rumours began instead:

  • The riots were orchestrated by gangsters (Graham Stringer M.P)
  • The riot in Salford was orchestrated by gangsters as payback for previous police actions (local media, and possibly local gangsters)

It has rained heavily and consistently today, and this undoubtably helped tonight in that there appeared to be no trouble and no buses appear to have been re-routed. Yesterday we relied on the GMP twitter feed for updates, and we were badly let down by it, so today we switched to the Stagecoach website, BBC Manchester, and the Manchester Evening News. The MEN had the most thorough coverage, both online and in the paper, though I’ve been told Manchester Confidential is also good.

I basically gave up on national papers and radio stations yesterday for coverage as they were all focusing on London, so it was almost impossible to build up any kind of idea of what was going on in Manchester from them, and that’s remained the case today really.

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On Monday I ventured out to the People’s History Museum in Spinningfields, on the edge of Manchester and Salford. I was meeting David at 12 midday, but got in really early so spent a lot of time gazing in wonder at the enormous Father Christmas outside the Town Hall in Albert Square. As David pointed out, Santa bears resemblance to Zippy from ‘Rainbow’ in daylight, and given that the giant red ribbon from World Aids Day was up next to him, we wondered if Manchester City Council were trying to tell us something.

The People’s History Museum, which is concerned with the history of working people in Britain, is very modern, all glass, light wood, steel and sparseness. It opened in it’s current incarnation in February 2010, and the permenant exhibitions are divided across two floors into Pre 1945 and Post 1945. Pre 1945 includes the Chartists, Peterloo, Suffragettes, Marxists, Trade Unions… Post 1945 includes things like the founding of the NHS, the Labour movement, Socialism, Anti-Poll Tax, Trade Unions… 

We enjoyed the Nye Bevan speech about the NHS, and I enjoyed Henry Hunt’s speech in Manchester, 11 years after the Peterloo Massacre.

Downstairs are the temporary exhibitions, Death and the Working Classes, which looked back to the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and to the normal everyday approach to death amidst such occurrances as the Cholera epidemic and World War I, and to the clothing and rituals around death. There were interesting prints and pictures, and the overall impression was of interest rather than something upsetting. Though it was incredibly poignant in its matter of factness in terms of the written and spoken accounts. We also saw the exhibition on alternative, political, Christmas cards, which had been grouped historically and thematically. Some very dark humour, and some absolute hilarity, from across all eras. It was nice observing how the issues and themes touched on tied in with various items from the permenant exhibitions.

The cafe is very nice, and I had the best hot chocolate I’ve had in a long time.

It took us a long time to get around the whole museum, but it was worth it. We talked a lot about history, student protests, and other things as we made our way round. We kept on seeing things that resonated today.

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