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Archive for the ‘Stockport’ Category

Stockport Garrick Theatre will be doing a production of Amelia Bullmore’s excellent Di and Viv and Rose until 4th February.pzgmnnwiow_285104_1474728963

I’m very excited about this because it’s such a great play, with three strong, complex female lead characters.

The story begins with three very different girls meeting at university in the early 1980s and follows their developing, and changing, relationships through university, afterwards, up until the 2000s. It’s funny, it’s sad, but above all, it’s complex and moving and never feels trite.

The debut performance in the US last year featured a custom made soundtrack by the US band Tomboy, which is still available to buy, and which features a suitably exuberant version of Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’.

It’ll all make sense when you see the play…

 

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Thanks to Manchester Histories Festival for this:

Manchester Histories is pleased to be working in partnership with Stockport Council to present the Picture Stockport project.
Follow the trail of 22 images displayed across Stockport town centre and vote for your favourite artwork of the borough.
Find out more and vote from 12th Jan – 12th Feb 2017 at picturestockport.com #picturestockport

I’ve had a look and there’s some really good ones, across all sorts of artistic styles. Some are surreal, some are Lowry like, some are almost like collages… Well worth checking out and voting for your favourite.

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Item 1: A car driving down the A6 at dinnertime with about a third of a fir tree sticking out of the passenger window

Item 2: About 5 seconds later, noticing that the hairdresser opposite was cutting hair while wearing full Santa fig.

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I genuinely thought that I was done with writing about the EU Referendum yesterday but, alas, it is not done with me…

Not having a smartphone I’ve been generally immune to the constant cycle of rolling news, petitions, social media updates, and collective hysterical meltdown. Or “chaos” as The Economist put it. But, like a fool, I decided to have a look at The Guardian while I was on dinner today.

I really don’t know why I still read The Guardian. It’s an occasional read, and I generally come away from their website feeling thoroughly frustrated and alienated. It seems increasingly to be written for the populations of Southwark, Hackney, Islington and Shoreditch exclusively. I had hoped for some sense from them this time, given the graveness of the situation post Brexit announcement, but no…

I knew about some of the petitions because I had emails yesterday about the TUC one and the Make Votes Matter one, plus a colleague had told me about the one for a second referendum, which the UK press have got all over their pages today. The Guardian also mentioned the one on Change.org for London to declare itself independent from the rest of the UK.

It was this last one that got me.

For several reasons…

To begin with, it is a slightly weird example of life imitating art because Radio 4 did a mock documentary last year on London declaring independence from the rest of the UK, and how they thought it might pan out.  Maybe they could organise a repeat of this in the light of recent events?

Secondly, James O’Malley, who started the petition, makes a number of sweeping statements in his summary, particularly this one:

Let’s face it – the rest of the country disagrees. So rather than passive aggressively vote against each other at every election, let’s make the divorce official and move in with our friends on the continent.

Whoa… hang on a minute there!

The rest of the country disagrees?!?

Has he cobbled this petition together without even looking at the breakdowns of which towns and cities voted for which option?

If we take the Greater Manchester area, the results were as follows:

Bolton: Leave by 51.89% to 48.11%

Bury: Leave by 54.12% to 45.88%

Manchester: Remain by 60.36% to 39.64%

Oldham: Leave by 60.86% to 39.14%

Rochdale: Leave by 60.07% to 39.93%

Salford: Leave by 56.81% to 43.19%

Stockport: Remain by 52.33% to 47.67%

Tameside: Leave by 61.14% to 38.86%

(All statistics gained using the widget on the Manchester Evening News referendum coverage)

This means that Manchester and Stockport form an island of Remain in a sea of Leave, handily complicating Mr O’Malley’s theory that everyone except London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted Leave. Oh, and Trafford voted Remain as well: 57.7% to 42.3% so maybe we’re not so alone…

If we look at the London councils, and their results, using the Manchester Evening News widget again:

Well, for a start, London has 33 councils, not 8, so it’s not a fair comparison. That said, of those 33 councils, 5 of them voted for Leave. Which, while still a minority, blows a hole in Mr O’Malley’s argument. What’s he going to do? Expel those five councils, or take them hostage in the same way that Scotland (where every council voted in) and Northern Ireland (ditto) have been taken hostage by the rest of the UK?

Similarly, Wales is being written about as though the entirety of Wales voted to leave. This simply isn’t true: Cardiff voted to Remain by a margin of 60.02% to 39.98%, should it now, as the Welsh capital, declare independence from the rest of Wales?

Cardiff may have been in the minority but it wasn’t the only bit of Wales to vote Remain: Ceredigion did by 54.6% to 45.4%, Gwynedd also voted for Remain by 58.1% to 41.9%, and Glamorgan voted for Remain by 50.7% to 49.3%. Incidentally, Bristol voted Remain by 61.7% to 38.3%, so at least there’s a friend across the bridge…

If you want a snappy soundbite: Medway voted Leave, Manchester voted Remain, and Medway is a helluva lot nearer to London, geographically speaking, so blaming it all on the savages north of Watford just won’t stand.

Similarly: Leeds, York and Newcastle all voted Remain.

You can see a full breakdown of all the local results over on the BBC, and it’s easier than using the MEN widget.

In conclusion, while a certain amount of panic, anger, and looking for someone to blame is inevitable in these times. Can we all, please, do a little bit more research and preparation before we start slinging the mud about?

Scotland and Northern Ireland have both, in their very different ways, begun to explore the feasibility of remaining in the EU and/or gaining independence from the rest of the UK. Given that every council in Scotland and every council in Northern Ireland voted Remain, this is completely understandable. The fact that Belfast central post office today ran out of passport application forms (fact: As part of the Good Friday Agreement, those in Northern Ireland are entitled to both Irish and British passports) reflects this move.

But Mr O’Malley is basing his plea for an Independent London on the financial district, which, ironically, proved to be the downfall of the newly independent London as imagined by Radio 4 last year. This ended with another financial crash which London, now independent, had to absorb entirely on it’s own while the remainder of the UK looked on unmoved, shrugged, and got back to it’s growing manufacturing industries.

Appendix:

Full list of London council results, garnered using the MEN widget:

Barking and Dagenham: Leave by 62.44% to 37.56%

Barnet: Remain by 62.23% to 37.77%

Bexley: Leave by 62.95% to 37.05%

Brent: Remain by 59.74% to 40.26%

Bromley: Remain by 50.65% to 49.35%

Camden: Remain by 74.94% to 25.06%

City of London: Remain by 75.29% to 24.71%

Westminster: Remain by 68.97% to 31.03%

Croydon: Remain by 54.29% to 45.71%

Ealing: Remain by 60.40% to 39.60%

Enfield: Remain by 55.82% to 44.18%

Greenwich: Remain by 55.59% to 44.41%

Hackney: Remain by 78.48% to 21.52%

Hammersmith and Fulham: Remain by 70.02% to 29.98%

Haringey: Remain by 75.57% to 24.43%

Harrow: Remain by 54.63% to 45.37%

Havering: Leave by 69.66% to 30.34%

Hillingdon: Leave by 56.37% to 43.63%

Hounslow: Remain by 51.06% to 48.94%

Islington: Remain by 75.22% to 24.78%

Kensington and Chelsea: Remain by 68.69% to 31.31%

Kingston-Upon-Thames: Remain by 61.61% to 38.39%

Lambeth: Remain by 78.62% to 21.38%

Lewisham: Remain by 69.86% to 30.14%

Merton: Remain by 62.94% to 37.06%

Newham: Remain by 52.84% to 47.16%

Redbridge: Remain by 53.97% to 46.03%

Richmond-Upon-Thames: Remain by 69.29%

Southwark: Remain by 72.81% to 27.19%

Sutton: Leave by 53.72% to 46.28%

Tower Hamlets: Remain by 67.46% to 32.54%

Waltham Forest: Remain by 59.10% to 40.90%

Wandsworth: Remain by 75.03% to 24.97%

 

 

 

 

 

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Snapshot moment one: On the Monday after the TUC march, I received an email from my mum who had been shopping in Marple with my dad earlier that day. They’d just sat down on one of the benches in the shopping centre for a breather when suddenly there were all these people in suits around them. They looked up and “It was bloody Boris!”, prompting the obvious question from mum to the waiting Marple air: “What’s he doing here?”

Snapshot moment two: Having attended the protest against mental health cuts in Stockport outside the town hall on 29th October, and the council meeting that followed, I can only conclude that while council meetings can be incredibly frustrating to sit through when you really, really disagree with the councillor speaking, they do also provide the odd moment of hilarity, intended or otherwise.

Snapshot moment three: The Morning Star has a better cookery column than Socialist Worker

Snapshot moment four: It is occasionally possible to walk down Heaton Moor Road and not get soaked playing that timeless seasonal game of Puddle Roulette.

Snapshot moment five: In a city notorious for its rain, it is very hard to find a shop selling umbrellas

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I was on annual leave last week so I decided to do something I’ve wanted to do for years: visit the air raid shelter tunnels in Stockport. 

I was not at all disappointed, though I must declare that I do have an interest in all things subterranean, which definitely had a factor in it. The tunnels are naturally atmospheric but you are issued with a hand held device to take around with you, containing audio description and sound clips to enhance the experience and provide context. The audio description and the sound clips are really good quality, so it’s definitely worth making use the device as you travel around the tunnels.

I was very interested in the structure of the tunnels, and in how they’d been made. They were dug out of the sandstone over a period of about a year between 1938 and 1939. Sandstone is quite soft but not brittle. There is a lot of dust, and some damp, but the structures, aside from a bit of shoring up, seem to be pretty much as they were when they were last used as shelters.

The tunnels were equipped with a canteen, toilets (some flushable), benches, bunk beds, tools, Red Cross nurses station, ARP warden stations, and the workers from the Plaza would put on entertainments for those sheltering there.

The tunnels are all numbered, but it’s easy to see how you could become lost, even with signage, one tunnel looking much the same as another. Apparently people would sit with the name of their street on a bit of cardboard so that their neighbours could find them and they could all sit together. The tunnels became known as the Chestergate Hotel as more amenities and entertainments were added. You can see now how primitive the bunk beds were, how everything was functional rather than necessarily comfortable, practical and purposeful.

I’m so pleased that it’s been preserved as a museum because it is truly unique, and it tells a really interesting story.

The museum provide guided tours by night where you can see more, but you have to book pretty far in advance.

Stockport Air Raid Shelters are open Tuesday – Friday 1pm – 5pm and Saturday 10am – 5pm

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ChavsOwen Jones is about ten years younger than me, but we both grew up in Stockport, him in Edgeley, me in Hazel Grove. Economically, Stockport ranges from extremely poor to extremely rich and we both grew up with parents working in reasonably (but not excessively) well paid jobs in the public sector, and seem to have both grown up with an awareness of social class and inequality, probably because of where we grow up and an awareness of those around us who were not so privileged. I remember this sense of variety being less obvious at junior school than at high school, possibly because at junior school the catchment area seemed a lot smaller, but also because my high school seemed to take kids from all over Stockport, plus some bits of Derbyshire and kids who’d been uprooted and moved from bits of Manchester and Salford. At sixth form college the net was cast even wider and we had a significant Derbyshire contingent as well as a large group of kids from Parrs Wood.

All of this seems very healthy in retrospect but, at the time, it did mean our high school was a seething mass of snobbery, elitism, bullying and territorial behaviour, both as a result of class divisions but also geographical territories. I didn’t go to under 18’s club nights in Stockport town centre in the early to mid nineties, but a classmate who did talked of those from different high schools standing in different corners, glaring at each other mistrustfully. Regular end of term rucks with rival high schools on school turf were also a curious tradition at our high school which, given the irregular nature of the buses, showed a certain degree of dedication if nothing else.

Owen Jones was the only child from his primary school to go to university but, unlike Owen, I went to an ex Poly, not Oxbridge. My mum had been to university as a mature student to train as a social worker, she had been to a grammar school. My dad went to a secondary modern before doing an apprenticeship. Both of them were lucky in their career paths and, as such, could afford to pay for me and my sister to attend university at a time when grants were being scrapped and tuition fees were being introduced. Both of us now have jobs in what would loosely be described as “the service sector”, and we both earn less than £20,000 p.a. We are lucky in that we like our jobs and find them rewarding, something of a minority view these days.

When I was a teenager, the kids who bullied you at school wore spliffy jackets, Joe Bloggs coloured jeans and listened to rave. They were called townies, they weren’t necessarily distinctive of a particular class, they were defined by fashion, music taste, and a perceived aggressive narrow-mindedness towards other teenagers who weren’t like them. They were the natural progeny of casuals and skinheads.

After them came scallies, whose very particular dress code included Lacoste sportswear, the trousers of which were tucked into Reebok sports socks, and Nike trainers. The style was widely believed to have derived from scallies in Liverpool, who had started the sock and trouser thing. Stockport still has scallies, but we never had many chavs, at least, by the strict stylistic definition: We had a severe shortage of people wearing Burberry. Possibly because I don’t think many local shops sold it.

Owen Jones’ polemic, Chavs: The demonization of the working class suggests that the term ‘Chav’ has been used as a term of abuse to label and demonize the working classes, and that politicians and the media – two professions dominated by the upper and middle classes – have been particularly culpable in this. In the course of his book he systematically interrogates every single statistic, accusation, slogan and stereotype, revealing a very different picture of the British working class.

Points he make include: The figures for benefit fraud are eclipsed not only by white collar crime, but also by the amount of benefits that those on low incomes are eligible for but do not claim due to the bureaucracy involved and fear of later re-payment demands when the goal posts are moved by the Department of Health, HMRC etc.

That the racialisation of the working classes into “White working class” rather than taking the working class as a whole, across ethnic divides, has encouraged the BNP and UKIP and given them a platform in communities that have long been Labour strongholds but who have long since lost faith with a party they feel no longer represents them: If disenchanted Labour voters in the D/E social codes had voted instead of simply staying at home in 2010, Labour would have won the 2010 General Election.

Some of the books findings are less surprising than others: that the media and politicians believe the average persons income to be around the £50,000 mark, and ‘middle class’ people to be earning £50,000 at least is relatively well known, and it does seem to be an attitude shared by the BBC and the broadsheets also. Still, its good to know that Jones has noticed this in that, he effectively re-defines the modern working class, challenging stereotypes and speaking to those who are labelled as well as doing the labelling. He also finds allies in surprising places, for example Rachel Johnson, editor of The Lady and sister of Boris.

Social commentaries, social histories and sociology from the late 1960s through to the mid 1980s were all full of discussions of the working classes but, as the 80’s ground on, class, also notions such as society and community, were subsumed by individualism and naked greed as the economy improved and council housing was sold off under ‘Right to Buy’.

Britain has yet to fully address the legacy of the 1980s and 1990s, politicians in particular seem incapable of taking the long view of anything: They will not look to the past and learn from it, and they fear the future and, as such, no government for the past twenty years or more has thought beyond eighteen months into the future. This is a legacy we will have to deal with one day, sooner, rather than later.

Feral underclass against the Tories

A good banner is always worth a replay

Had Jones’ book been published in 2012 rather than 2011, he would undoubtably have discussed the 2011 riots and, perhaps, the Olympics. So far as the riots in Salford and Manchester were concerned, TV footage showed white children and teens in hoodies and sportswear smashing and looting, or riding aimlessly on bikes. When the Manchester Evening News published mugshots of those arrested and whipped at lightning speed through the courts, the picture was decidedly more complex. True, about 90% of those arrested were white, but a surprisingly small group were under 18. The localities of those named and shamed in the mugshots also revealed that those taking parts in the Manchester rioting and looting were from all over Greater Manchester not just areas close to the city centre, or previous crime spots. This suggested all sorts of interesting possible reaons as to why people were in Salford and Manchester at the time, whether they had come in especially, or were simply around and got caught up in events: A significant number of those arrested were middle aged men in their forties or fifties, a number of whom were listed as having ‘no fixed abode’, whereas another participant was a university student from Marple. In the first instance, this suggests homeless people may have been involved in the rioting, in the second instance, a radical leftist student faction inspired post Millbank. Also mentioned was the amount of alchohol some of the participants had consumed (including the student from Marple) further muddying the waters. What Owen would have made of it all, I can only guess.

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