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Posts Tagged ‘oxford road’

On Saturday while taking a break from the annual Louder Than Words music literature festival at the Palace Hotel, I found myself standing outside 8th Day marvelling at a very smart and imposing horse drawn Victorian style funeral carriage which was parked up there.

I initially thought it was something to do with a group of gothic lolita girls and steampunks I’d seen earlier on Oxford Road, but I think that was just an odd coincidence as I worked out eventually that the carriage was attached to a gathering group of people in hi vis vests inside and spilling out of All Saints Park across the road. The banners they had seemed to be for something called The 10th Day, which google reveals is something to do with Karbala.

What made this odd occurrence even odder was that it must only have been about 20 minutes since the first of the days marches had passed down Oxford Road: The protest march against the treatment of Kurds in Turkey.

The 10th Day people must have headed off down Oxford Road at about 2pm as I could hear their drummers over John Robb interviewing Kristen Hersh upstairs at the Palace Hotel.

The third march? That was the Anti-Fracking demo and march in the city centre, which you can read about over on Frack-Free Manchester.  I did know about this one in advance actually, but as with every march on a Saturday, knew I wouldn’t be able to attend as when I’m not attending Louder Than Words I’m working.

Despite the nature of these three marches, it does feel oddly reassuring to hear the sound of people on the march again in Manchester as, increasingly, I’ve been starting to see last years TUC March as a kind of last hurrah and wondering what will happen next.

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Recently I have been reading Oliver Postgate’s excellent memoir Seeing Things while stuck in traffic on the bus. Often though, the bus is too crowded for reading and I get to thinking instead.

I’d like to say that I worry about the situation in Syria, and about the biggest mass migration of people since World War II, but I’m ashamed to say that I spent most of Wednesday’s morning commute considering the logistics of holding a ready to wear fashion show on a double decker bus. I’d almost nailed it by the time we reached Oxford Road as well, but it is admittedly a much easier one to figure out than the war in Syria, or mass migration. To which there are no easy answers, obviously.

 

 

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Upon scurrying down Oxford Road this dinnertime in the direction of Blackwells, who were holding a copy of Tracey Thorn’s excellent memoir Bedsit Disco Queen for me, I chanced upon a small but eye catching protest taking place outside University Place.

Readers of the MEN will be aware that, post election, Manchester University is once again Occupied. The occupation is taking place in the Harold Hankins building at the Business School this time, a banner has been hung from the windows there to acknowledge this.

A similarly eloquent banner was being held up by the group of students outside University Place. It read:

9K Tuition Fees 4 years on: Still Shit.

Short, and to the point.

The MEN has reported that the students had occupied the Visitors Centre at University Place late this afternoon.

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On Sunday I went to Manchester University Student’s Union to see Throwing Muses. The gig was supposed to be upstairs in the Academy 2, but had been shunted downstairs to Club Academy in the basement to make way for the Mela for Eid upstairs.

I can imagine Club Academy, as a venue, not being that much bigger than the kind of venues the Muses played when they first started out in the US in the mid eighties as it was small and sweaty. The crowd looked as though they were made up almost entirely of people who have been following the band since the eighties.

The stage was really low down so I couldn’t see Kristen Hersh at all throughout, which made for rather an un-engaging experience. I did however have a perfect view of the sound desk, a pretty good view of the bar, and spent a large chunk of the bands set watching a woman with a particularly magnificent rose tattoo and red bob, who was stood about a metre in front of me holding onto a barrier, undulating wildly and a various speeds throughout.

The band, and Hersh, seemed to take a little while to get going, meaning ‘Bright Yellow Gun’, which was about the fourth song or so in, sounded a little sluggish. Hersh seemed to be struggling with her vocals too, I think she had a cold as she sounded husky and a bit tired when she was speaking to the crowd. At times her vocals sounded unnervingly like early Courtney Love.

‘Hate My Way’ was about the sixth song in, and the band seemed to take off from there, with Hersh still sounding hoarse but both she and the band seemingly more relaxed. There were moments when it all really seemed to come together and it was possible to discern what made the band such a hypnotically powerful proposition, and Hersh such a compelling frontwoman, bu there was also the odd moment that was bewilderingly unlistenable as well.

The bands first encore commenced with Hersh performing a stripped down subtle and controlled rendition of early favourit ‘Fish’, and the band rejoined her for about four more songs. They were called back for a second encore afterwards, a blissfully slow and langorous song I wish I knew the title to. Hersh seemed weary as she said a final goodnight, and I was personally relieved that she wasn’t pushed into a third encore. She seemed to have had enough by then.

I couldn’t find any of my friends so after hanging around for 15-20 minutes outside waiting for them to emerge, I headed down Oxford Road. The crowds from the Muses gig were merging with revellers from the Mela for Eid upstairs, and the more spontaneous Eid celebrations outside. Lots of cars were blasting desi and the Asian men (and it was all men so far as I could see) were in boisterous mood.

The further I got down Oxford Road the less Eid revellers I saw. By the time I was passing the Thirsty Scholar by Oxford Road train station the desi had been replaced by the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger once again moaning that he was ‘Borrrn in a crossfire hurricaaannne’. I picked up a 192 by Piccadilly train station and the desi and Rolling Stones were replaced by the deafening mouth organ howl and stomping feet of a scratch blues ensemble on the top deck, who sounded particularly carried away. I have to confess, I’ve seen and heard some seriously weird things on the 192 but this is the first time I’ve experienced a live gig on it, drunken karaoke not withstanding.

Longsight was oddly quiet for Eid, possibly because the gig had finished fairly early, what with it being a Sunday. I arrived home in perfect stillness and quiet.

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I was speaking to a colleague at work today, who I didn’t see much of last week, and she said that she saw lots of people running down her street in Hulme last Tuesday night, pausing for breath, then running off again, hotly pursued by the police. Apparently the police were chasing rioters and looters from Deansgate and Piccadilly into Hulme… ‘Ooh,’ I said, ‘That’ll be why they were evacuating Oxford Road then…’

The name and shame pictures that have come out in the local press so far would seem to support the general theory that it was a fairly mixed bunch of age ranges and ethnicities who were rioting and looting in Manchester and Salford. Not many people look 10 in their pictures… despite the press reports.

As to the whys and wherefores… will we ever really know? I think we all have our own personal theories, but perhaps we shouldn’t necessarily share them all.

That said, Afflecks appears to be open again (I haven’t actually been into town yet to check, but their site suggests so) despite sustaining damage, which is good news. They are planning a spot of civic pride for the 26th August if anyone fancies getting involved…

http://www.afflecks.com/2011/08/12/afflecks-loves-mcr-show-that-you-do-too/

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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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Manchester Oxford Road post Slutwalk...

I spotted this as I was on my way home from work on Wednesday night. It made me feel really pleased, and not just because I had my camera with me for once…

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