Thursday, 2 October 2014

Autumnal Irwell morning, National Poetry Day

My breakfast time view this morning looked down from my balcony and along the River Irwell's banks, where some trees are changing colour much faster than others. Who needs the blandness of breakfast tv when you have a view like this - and the BBC World Service on the radio for real news, plus The Guardian delivered to your e-reader? It was an inspiring start for me to National Poetry Day.

Here's an extract from a  poem by Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829-1925) about two of our great Mancunian, Salfordian, Lancastrian rivers, called The Mersey and The Irwell. (It also mentions a third, the River Irk).
"...Where blended Irk and Irwell streamed
While Britons pitched the tent,
Where legionary helmets gleamed,
And Norman bows were bent,
An ancient shrine was once esteemed
Where pilgrims daily went...
...And though it be long since daisies grew
Where Irk and Irwell flow,
If human love springs up anew,
And angels come and go,
What matters it that the skies were blue
A hundred years ago? "

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

City Daily Photo theme day: movement

After the driest September in England for 50 years we start October on another mild day. The City Daily Photo theme day for this month is "Movement".

Of course, I first thought of famous Manchester movements that have changed lives: of communism - of how Marx and Engels met and worked togther in Manchester and how the dire industrial squalor and inequalities that the world's first industrial city caused led to their world-shaking theses.

The UK Suffragette movement too came from Manchester of course and I have blogged on and around that before.

In fact, I should merely point you again to my week's curation last year at Northern Spirit where I came up with the theme of Manchester Movements and Manchester moments, including the formation in 1847 of the UK Vegetarian Society.

But, hey, for once I will conform and go with the flow, and offer you two night time views of traffic on Trinity Way...

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

"L" is for Live this Friday: The Madding Crowd

The Madding Crowd play at Night & Day on Oldham Street this Friday 3 October. Manchester is their home town and they are a powerful group who deserve to be better known - they have strong social messages to convey and a sound with an edge and originality.

Intelligence, joy, beauty and reality merge with their poetic passion to rail against the greed of this corporate disunited kingdom that we inhabit.

They put it better in their own music and promotional material than I could do here, so here are a few quotes that I hope will encourage you to catch them live this week and at future gigs, as well as buying their music. Only £5 for Friday's gig, and a ep A stitch in time is out now. (£4 for CD).

“We write about where we're from, Manchester, with all its scarred and tarnished beauty, with its relentless individuality…” 
 “…weary purveyors of songs of love, hate, happiness, chaos, rebellion, glamour, intelligence, wit, imagination, bile, passion, despair, rejection and protest. We are everything that is lacking in a mainstream music industry that has become whitewashed, full up with corporate puppets charlatans, nonentities, agreeable pawns and vacuous, transparent bores.” 
“We come from a Britain of hysteria, of hate, of mass, seething idiocy, a place where there are very few shining lights. So we write songs about it, in order that we may perhaps shed light on it, and maybe change it for the better. We write songs about the paranoia, insecurity and uncertainty of the modern age, the fragility of the human psyche in a time when information is endless. 

And so … I find myself spoilt for choice for live music this Friday, with no less than three fabulous bands I want to see. As well as The Madding Crowd, there's the amazing electro trippy sounds made by The Egg who are playing in London while The Carpet Crawlers perform the epic Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway at the Picturedrome in Holmfirth.  A friend has got me tickets for the latter, so I will have to catch The Madding Crowd again soon (please all go along in my absence!) and one day I will get to see The Egg.

Taking part in ABC Wednesday, albeit a day early, due to City Daily Photo's theme day on 1st of the month tomorrow.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monday Mural: Badger

 A lone badger- she or he must have survived the cruel Tory party badger cull last autumn and which, despite scientific evidence and people's protests, has started again. A wise move to take refuge at this pub in the Northern Quarter. Linked to Monday Mural.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Politics, Posters, Protest: British Political Posters 1914-2014, Friday 10 October

The People’s History Museum is hosting a conference on Friday 10 October. Politics, Posters, Protest: British Political Posters 1914-2014 is organised in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Posters have been used in every general election of the 20th century. In the run up to the general election 2015, curators, campaigners and designers will explore the significance of the poster to the past, current and future British political debate. Topics will include the history of posters, design as activism, the management and manipulation of billboards, subversions and internet spoofs and the influence of new media on how political posters are conceived and deployed.
Suzie Mackie and Pru Stevenson from the See Red Women's Workshop will be speaking at the conference. Also Cat Picton Phillips, and Peter Kennard, Senior Research Reader in Photography, Art and the Public Domain at the Royal College of Art, best known for the images he created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the 1970s and 1980s.

The posters reproduced in this blog post are used by kind permission of The People’s History Museum.

Bite the Hand! © See Red Women's Workshop c.1975

Kennard Phillipps Photo Op © kennardphillipps

The 1987 poster, There is only one loony left is on display at the museum and was originally produced by Red Wedge.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Weekend Reflections: Late lunch at the Slug and Lettuce

Afternoon tea or a late lunch at the Slug and Lettuce, one of 90 such bars across the UK.

Taking part in Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Skywatch Friday: Chet's flatiron tribute...

I love the curves on the Chetham School of Music's newer building.
Have a look at other Skywatch Friday posts around the world. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Red leaf in a red city

I took this photo on 1st September. It's from an early-turning tree on Oxford Road and is a heart-rending reminder that summer is turning into autumn. It really is the first week of autumn now - I will always go by equinoxes not the method of convenient calendar months used by the Meteorological Office.

Red City?  Manchester used to be a red city and to an extent still is, with Labour ruling the Town Hall roost and the Labour Party conference held here this week. But politically they have actually been more of an insipid Tory blue since the Blair years. I hold out for a Green spring in 2015, both in nature and in politics.. 

I will need to be dragged kicking and screaming out of summer as always but I mustn't be greedy. I have had the most fortunate and wonderful summer months, living life to the full, with family holidays in Croatia (Porec) and Wales (Twywn), a coastal path walking weekend based in Exmouth, a few trips to London, plus Paris and a radio conference in Nice. Add to that a good summer weather-wise in the north-west and the festivals and walks in the area. I have been truly spoilt. Here's to a happy, hearty and healthy autumn for all.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Festival food (& drink) for thought... @MFDF14 #MFDF14

The 17th Manchester Food and Drink Festival is reaching its midpoint, running as it does from 18-29 September. The main hub is in Albert Square – with other events around the city too. Looking around on my first visit this year, I was struck as to how much it has grown in over the decades.

I have fond memories of the 2011 Festival, which perked me up on several evenings after I’d been working long days in Cumbria co-running focus groups and enduring arduous train journeys south from the Lakes. I‘ve visited the 2014 festival three times so far and have been suitably inspired once more.

The first visit I met with a friend who was staying at the ibis hotel and over a drink at the rather cool bar there we planned our gastronomic route around the stalls. (The festival brochure is a work of art in itself). If you are looking to stay in Manchester for the Manchester Food & Drink Festival, there are two ibis hotels within walking distance.

The Blue Pig’s bespoke cocktails went down a treat- especially their Festival Fizz (gin, blueberries, mint, lemon and ginger ale). Vin Van Voom with their wine from independent vineyards, served from a cool 1950’s trailer, is another fabulous place to grab a drink.

Food wise, I heartily recommend V Fresh from Stockport and their wraps, pots and gourmet burgers approved by the Vegetarian Society. Preston’s Jolly Waggoner are new to me and a pleasant surprise with their “supercharged scran street circus”. Another place to try, but I fear it will be too sweet for my tastes, is Birmingham-based Churros Susanna: “Very funky stall selling authentic Spanish Churros and chocolate. Vegan friendly, waffle style sticks served with a pot of warm dipping chocolate, sugar and cinnamon.” I was disappointed the one time I ate at Chaophraya’s restaurant but that was due to the poor choices made for me by my two dining companions! I’ll give their “finer twist on traditional Thai street food” a go as I have heard impressive things.

Of course, where there is good food and drink, there needs to be some accompanying culture - a range of musicians are at the Eat Drink Dance Stage. I never know which times I’ll be there so end up exposed to random music – but that’s not a bad way to appreciate a music festival. But two acts I want to see are the Stone Flowers Project, celebrating International Peace Day: this is led by Musicians without Borders working with survivors of torture. “Beautiful music from an amazing group of people”.  Old House Playground are a Greek rock band teamed up with Manchester’s Durutti Column legend, Vini Reilly.

As you’d probably expect, there are glittering prizes and awards being handed out (at a Gala Awards night on Monday 29 Sept). The festival brochure has shortlists for 12 categories; which include two new categories: “Best Street Food of the Year” and the award that is the biggest mouthful, possibly in all senses, “Best Food and Drink Pop Up Event, Club or Project of the Year”.

I agree with the shortlisting of North Tea Power as “Coffee Bar or Tea Shop of the Year”. But personally I would split this into two categories and award the latter to Proper Tea, by the cathedral. Takk would get an honourable mention too. I’d happily see Kosmonaut take the crown for bar of the year.

Apart from those my own awards don’t really match with the shortlist, although to be fair there are many places on the list that I have yet to visit. So that’s something to add to my bucket list before the 18th MFDF comes around. My best restaurant by a country mile would be 1847, scandalously not even on the shortlist! My best café would be Earth, and Unicorn and On the Eighth Day would get awards from me simply for their consistency, excellence and for being at the vanguard of ethical eating and awareness-raising.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

#Cider with Rosie and @Horse&Jockey

It's apple and pear picking season so here's a crate of organic cider and perry, on sale at a local garden centre. It includes a bottle of Old Rosie, doubtless named after the well known 1959 book Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.

Cider (apples) and perry (pears) vary in alcohol content from 2% alcohol volume to 8.5% or more in traditional English ciders. I must pop over to an old haunt of mine on Chorlton Green, the Horse and Jockey, where: 
    1. Nearly forgot our cider lubbers can enjoy at 7.3% one pint should see you on your way!
Locally produced, smaller quantity ciders are often known as "scrumpy",  from the obsolete dialect term "scrimp", meaning a small or withered apple. Traditionally produced in the west country of England, it's popular throughout the UK, although local Manchester breweries and micro breweries such as try their best to corner the Mancunian beer markets. Does cider travel internationally I wonder? Swedish cider is popular in the UK and there must be others...