Posts Tagged ‘Stockport’

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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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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OK, I hold my hands up on this one, I didn’t manage to read both the Green Party and Labour Party manifestos before Thursday. I had unexpected overtime at work on Tuesday because we were short staffed, which cut my reading time significantly.

Next time, I’ll start reading earlier. As it is, I have had a look at the Labour manifesto since Friday and I probably still would have voted Green even if I had read it in time, so my conscience is clear on that one. As expected, Labour kept my seat (with an increased majority) and the council seat as well, so my voting Green made not a jot of difference. It just made me feel better. I have, since then, also signed a petition on Change.org that is campaigning to change the UK voting system. Which, again, may well not make any difference but makes me feel better.

I’d like proportional representation, the voting age to be lowered to sixteen, and I’d also like voting to be compulsory as it is in Belgium. Albeit with the caveat that there should be an option on the ballot paper for ‘None of the above’.

Similarly, I would support the idea discussed in the Economist in February for rearranged seating in Westminster to represent a political climate no longer dominated by two, or even three, parties. The house of commons is falling down, is full of rats (insert joke of choice here) and is going to have to be refurbished sooner rather than later. Why not do away with seats for the government and seats for the opposition and have a horseshoe arrangement as in the Scottish parliament? That would help discourage the current public school debating society culture of Prime Ministers Question Time and encourage cross party working which, in the current parliament, may well be an unavoidable option. Even if it’s not, anything that encourages MP’s to behave better and less like dicks is a good thing I reckon.

In terms of how Friday unfolded for me, I see now that it was a deeply upsetting day for all sorts of reasons (many of them not election related) and the regular updates received via work colleagues and the internet wove in and out of the events at work (which I’m not going to write about here) as a sort of melancholy ribbon amongst the general stress, exasperation and despair of the day at large.

Let’s start with breakfast: Normally I read either the Economist or Private Eye over breakfast, but as it was the day after the election I put the Today programme on instead to hear the worst. Not all the results were in at the time (this was just after 7am) and the Tories hadn’t got a majority at that point, but were certain to form the next government. As it was, I turned off just after Caroline Lucas had won Brighton Pavillion with an increased majority and Paddy Ashdown had been on predicting that the 2015-2020 Tory government would tear itself apart over Europe just as John Major’s administration of 1992-1997 had done. Which meant I left for work feeling, not exactly cheerful, but rather less depressed that I expected to.

I get in to work early on account of how the bus timetables work out, so I had time to look up the Stockport results on the council website before starting work and felt somewhat despairing to say the least: Both the Lib Dem seats went to the Tories, and the council results were still being counted at that point and weren’t declared until after dinner. When they were declared, an interesting picture of local vs national political allegiances revealed itself. Stockport was a Lib Dem council between 1997 and 2011, and the party should have overall control thanks to allegiances with Labour and the Independent Ratepayers. Pre 1997 it was a hung council for years, so maybe that partially explains it. Consequently, the Lib Dems didn’t do as badly in the council elections as they did in the general election, suggesting a mindset akin to ‘Trust them locally, don’t trust them nationally’. Not sure if the Lib Dems will think about this as they lick their wounds, but they should.

Throughout the morning, updates were passed back and forth as colleagues passed the desk I work on or I ventured into the communal admin area. A colleague arriving for work around 10 ish relayed Farage’s failure to win a seat, Milibands resignation was passed on by a colleague passing the desk, Clegg and Farage’s resignations came via the admin area again. All in all, we were talking about politics like mad on Friday at work, in amongst other more pressing dramas (of which there were many) and it was the same on the bus on the way home after more (pre-planned) overtime.

All in all, I cannot recall an election where the results and ramifications have been, verbally not virtually, so discussed, so dissected and disseminated by everyone I’ve encountered throughout the day, and it’s not slowing down. There is a lot of anger and despair out there, and people want to talk about it. The people who don’t seem to be talking are the people who voted Tory.

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UK Parliament flickr banner image, October 2014. Used under a flickr creative commons licence. No changes to image were made. https://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/15307418818/

UK Parliament flickr banner image, October 2014. Used under a flickr creative commons licence. No changes to image were made. https://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/15307418818/

Now that the General Election campaign has reached the stage of proceedings where each party, beginning to panic, has thrown in the towel so far as any kind of pretext of debate is concerned and are instead behaving like squabbling toddlers, it seemed particularly apt to explain why I’ve generally given up listening to any kind of election coverage and am taking a new approach to election education.

The mode of speech and language of campaign can be particularly off putting, with Radio 4’s Dead Ringers recently likening David Cameron’s mode of speech to that of a parent talking to an eight year old child who is refusing to put on their pyjamas. The station has also provided us with a very helpful (and all too accurate) guide to election speak.

On a personal level, the much used phrase ‘Hard working families’ has confused me. I suspect that it really means ‘Nuclear families [2 parents, married, with two children] where the father works and the mother either works or is a housewife’, and if so, it’s a bit narrow to say the least. I am single, have no children, live alone, work full time. I think this therefore places me in the ‘Woman who is not really a woman’ category so far as most political parties are concerned. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a family, it just means I’m a single person household. So far, so alienating…

Another quandary, and one which is a particular feature of a UK General Election campaign, is that while the UK political culture, and media culture is steering us more and more towards the US system of personality politics, as a work colleague remarked on Saturday, we are not being asked to vote for a leader of a political party on our ballot papers, unless we happen to live in their constituencies. We are being asked to vote for local representatives of a range of political parties.

So far, I’ve received a lot of literature from the Labour party, plus one piece of literature from the Liberal Democrats and one from UKIP. The Liberal Democrat representative is currently a councillor on the local council, and rather shot himself in the foot by telling me, via his flyer, what a great job he’s been doing on the council. My thought, after finishing reading, was therefore ‘I’m not going to vote for you as an MP because, by the sound of it, I’d be better keeping you as a councillor because it sounds like it would be a shame to lose you’. UKIP, meanwhile, spent the first paragraph of their flyer listing all the various districts of Manchester they had lived in. Which seemed an odd thing to do given they are standing for a ward in Stockport. I didn’t read any further. Labour were writing from a point of view of already holding the seat, and the local council seats, so their output has been more prolific and more locally focused.

Which brings me to my own peculiar dilemma.

In 2010 I moved house 1 week before the General Election and, not thinking to register as a postal voter, ended up getting up very early in the morning on election day to travel 1 hour by bus to vote in my old ward before work, it having been too late to change wards. My old ward was a (fairly) safe Liberal Democrat seat, which has traditionally always been a two horse race between the Lib Dems and the Tory’s. The Lib Dems kept the seat.

My current ward is a safe Labour seat, and as a disillusioned Lib Dem voter I am currently deciding whether to vote Labour or vote Green. I don’t have, or watch, TV, so I’ve been getting my election information from radio, print and internet media. And I’m not finding it very helpful or very informative. My dad watched part of the first TV debate but got frustrated and turned off about halfway through, so it doesn’t sound like I’ve been missing out by not having/watching TV.

Because my ward is a safe Labour seat, and I’m not massively averse to them keeping it, and because we have the first past the post system, it really doesn’t matter a toss which way I vote because Labour will win anyway. But I vowed never to vote Lib Dem again after the 2010 election, and then caved in with the European Election last year and voted for them in the hope that they’d stop UKIP winning the North West. They didn’t, and I was really angry with myself for voting tactically rather than on principals and beliefs. Therefore, I’m determined to vote on principals and beliefs this time.

It occurred to me on Saturday night, following the conversation with my work colleague, that the best way to decide once and for all ahead of Thursday who to vote for would be to download both parties manifestos online and read them both ahead of Thursday. No silly stunts, no sniping, slightly less soundbites. Only then can I exorcise the playback of Natalie Bennett having a meltdown on a phone in, Ed Miliband being mobbed by a hen party, and put aside the fact that the Green party haven’t flyered me or knocked on the door (no one knocks on our door: it’s flats, no one does flats) and the fact that my local Labour MP has clearly been busy locally, but still tends to be dismissive 9 times out of 10 when I write to her about issues affecting me.

I am currently 9 chapters into the Green Party manifesto, and it’s an encouraging read so far. It seems to be a manifesto founded on an ethos of hope, which is strong contrast to mainstream politics, much of which these days (particularly the Tory’s and UKIP) seems to be founded on an ethos of spite. I’m planning to finish reading it today and get onto reading the Labour one tomorrow, so I can’t compare at this stage, but that said, I can tell from the layout and aesthetic feel of the two manifestos that the Green manifesto was designed to be read in its entireity and the Labour manifesto probably wasn’t. I’m basing this assertion on the fact that the manifesto page of their website gives you the option (prominently displayed) to select those issues that matter to you and create your own manifesto by doing so, whereas the link to the full manifesto is much less prominently displayed. The full manifesto also looks less good.

I’m trying not to be influenced by this, but I do wonder about the thinking behind it. Is it that the Labour party realise most people are too busy to read a full manifesto? or is it that their campaign is built around trying to attract voters on specific issues rather than on the full package? Tricky…

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David and I have been discussing compiling a rock’n’roll tour of Stockport for about a year and a half now, ever since Sara expressed a desire to make a pilgrimage to Strawberry Studios. Whilst Strawberry (where 10cc, the Smiths and Joy Division, amongst others, recorded) would be the obvious one, we thought, isn’t there more to our local musical heritage than this? We decided to find out…

So, after much emailing and internet research, not to mention pumping various colleagues, friends and relatives for info on rock’n’roll Stockport, and a frenetic few hours brainstorming in the Cornerhouse after work, on Sunday 20th March, we did it.

We focused largely on the Hillgate and Underbank areas of the town centre, then took a sojourn along the A6 to Heaviley. We didn’t include everything, for example we skipped Moolah Rouge, where David’s band used to practice, and where Badly Drawn Boy recorded ‘One Plus One Is One’, as we had a couple of other Badly Drawn Boy sites anyway, and we didn’t walk as far as Stockport Grammar, the extension to which now occupys the former site of the Davenport Theatre (gigs a plenty in the seventies and eighties, including Gene Pitney apparently) as it’s nearer Great Moor than Heaviley, and we didn’t feel like walking that far.

As was befitting the general ambience of the occasion, it was cold and rainy, but without the howling wind that accompanied us on the People Like Us LGBT tour last month.

Our first location was Debenhams on the corner of Prince’s Street and the A6, as this is where Cath Carroll and Liz Naylor originally arranged to meet up with each other when forming their punk band, Gay Animals.

We also pointed out the Plaza, where Ray Davies played a few years back.

We did, as promised, visit Strawberry Studios, which isn’t operating as a studio anymore, but which does have the blue plaque, and pointed out to Sara a number of teenage haunts and landmarks – where Cobwebs the alternative clothing shop used to be, the tattoo parlour, the sex shops, where the old pagan shops were/are… also The Stage Door where I used to buy ballet shoes and leotards aged 9-11, and later on (aged about 17 or 18) deeley boppers for going to gigs in. Double 4 is still on Hillgate of course, but it’s not what it was, and Richer Sounds is there still, and was a site of pilgrimage to Sara in her youth, thanks to their stash of cheap blank tapes. We were also assured that the drum shop on Underbank is owned by the drummer from The Verve. David pointed out to us scenes of his misspent youth as we skirted Offerton on our way towards the A6 and Heaviley.

On the A6 we passed Stockport College, which has links to Badly Drawn Boy and Andy Votel, passed the notorious accident blackspot where Sir Ranulph Fiennes had a messy accident a few years back, and passed the section of the A6 where we estimate Johnny Kidd of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates fame died. We can’t be sure of the exact stretch of the A6 in either case, just that it was just outside the town centre in the former case, and just past Stockport on his way back from Manchester in the latter case.

In Heaviley, we paused to nod briefly in the direction of The Blossoms, as it’s lovely stained glass exterior features on the inner sleeve of the aforementioned Badly Drawn Boy album, before presenting the highlight: Riley’s Sports Hall. This largely unnoticed building on the corner was once a cinema in the 80’s, and is now a pool hall. Back in the sixties, it was the Taberknackle David discovered, after much internet research and close questioning of friends and relatives. The Taberknackle being where all the big gigs of the day were played, and some of the big names passing through included the Walker Brothers and Jimi Hendrix, the latter of whom (very surprisingly) played two gigs there within just a couple of weeks. We walked around the building trying to figure out which door would have been used by bands/roadies for loading in equipment, and which the stars had passed through, then we walked back into the centre for coffee and cake at the continental cafe at the bottom of The Brew.

 As with the People Like Us LGBT tour, the traffic on the A6 caused problems, as unless you naturally have the lungs of a town crier, it’s hard to make yourself heard when extolling the finer virtues of Turners art shop, the Town Hall, or the old Infirmary building. Still, a good time was had by all. Not exactly C.P Lee, but not bad for a D.I.Y heritage tour.

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Went on the LGBT History walk around Stockport with David. We didn’t really have any expectations of it, and it was quite a modest affair, but in a good way. It was done by a gentleman from PLUS (Stockport’s People Like Us), and it was a bit like doing a pub tour, but without the booze. We met up outside Staircase House, which is just off to one side of the market place, and ended up at the Arden Arms, Stockport’s only “gay friendly” pub. We also got a bit of gangster history as well, as we passed Chris Little’s old headquarters at one point (note: anyone wishing to visit the spot where he was gunned down needs to go to Marple…) and also some nice overall historical, architectural and artistic moments. The area of Stockport around Hillgate and Underbank has been rennovated and restored in a pretty positive way, if you ignore the imposition of TK Max, and it’s nice that you can still be pointed to a stairwell painted by LS Lowry, as well as the more noticeable landmarks such as Strawberry Studios and the Unicorn Brewary. Many of the old gay pubs are still there, but often under different names, and none of them are gay anymore. This didn’t make the tour any the less interesting, but it is a bit depressing from a contemporary point of view: clearly the village holds sway.

PLUS itself was launched a couple of years ago at the Friends Meeting House, which is round the back of Stockport Town Hall, and they now meet at the Arden Arms once a fortnight.

It was a friendly, informal, and interesting tour which I would thoroughly reccomend to anyone interested in British gay history. It’s a real shame that the weather was so appalling (or as David put it, typically Stopfordian in nature) and that the howling wind, the rain, and the traffic on the A6 made it hard to hear some of the anecdotes at times.

Afterwards we had tea and toasted sandwiches in a lovely continental café next to an old fashioned sweet shop by the brew, then walked around Stockport for a bit in the rain, looking for interesting places that were open. There’s a new record shop on Underbank that looks good in a Café Pop kind of way, but it was shut. So we we trudged back to the A6 and got the bus to my house, where we talked of gay history, punk, post punk, and music in general all afternoon.

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