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...

Monday, 22 September 2014

Monday Mural: Colourful Wheatsheaf

The Wheatsheaf pub has been on Oak Street since the 1880s. It's in the Northern Quarter near the Craft Centre, and is homely with a good reputation for warmth and good ales. I'm not sure what this boarded up section off it is about though.

I see three Funny Face ice creams on the right and maybe a Dr Seuss mushroom on the left. Trees, a kangaroo and possibly some computer gaming imagery takes up the middle space.

Linked to Monday Mural.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Grand, mother and child

Mother and child walking past The Grand, a former hotel which is now an apartment block of 218 properties.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Bury, so good they named it once

I come to praise Bury not to bury him... the town's name up in lights at the Bury Metrolink station, the far end of the original (1992) northern tramline. 

With apologies to the wonderfully witty, turn of the century BBC radio sitcom "Stockport, so good they named it once", which was recently aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The second series (from around 2001 and which I haven't heard, is going to be on air again next month- I can't wait.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Last #Bollington blooms of summer...

A late burst of summer purple on the towpaths and canal banks at Bollington. Adios until next June, dear summer...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

#VoteYes: freedom, independence (& then a federal north-west)

A fluttering and forlorn plastic union flag on a Mancunian wall

Today could be the last day the union flag, aka the union jack (there is a debate as to whether that is the correct name or not), is ever used. Hopefully the voters of Scotland will ignore the propaganda they have been inundated with from the British establishment with vested interets (Westminster, media, big business, the other over-privileged etc.) and they will choose to vote for their freedom and independence from the British union after some 307 years.

My surname is Scottish and so I have some Scots blood in me. Even if I didn't I would be in support of the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party and other rational organisations and individuals who can see a clear route to carving out the right for Scotland to be an independent and separate country once again (and, as a delicious bonus,  getting rid of the Tory party in Scotland forever). It's going to be close but even if the reactionary "no" to freedom and independence campaign with its vested interests wins (and they have had the establishment's powerful weapons of media and money pushing their view and distorting the "Yes" campaign's), the United Kingdom can be united no more.

A significant number of Scots voters want their independence and will need to be granted real autonomy in future whatever the result. As for rUK- the rest of the "United" Kingdom, we too need to see a shift away from London-centric, wealth and government-biased policies for the over rich and over privileged.  A loose confederation of regional federal states is what we need: sustainable, democratic and self -governing, Long live the Republic of North-West England! The Devo Max Manchester debate has started.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

ABC Wednesday: "J" is for just a juxtaposition of chairs

Taking part in ABC Wednesday joining "J". Even when they are closing up for the day walking past Cafe Pop and Pop Boutique on Oldham Street can provide an inadvertent, slightly abstract, artistic vision. I give to you a piece I call...chairs.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Window box of delights...

Little potted pleasures on a sunny late afternoon above the River Irwell, on the Manchester side. Taking part in a week full of possibilities at Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Monday Mural: Icons of the past, Marilyn & the phone box

Back streets of the Northern Quarter

My interpretation of this intriguing mural by D7606 is that is expresses the redundancy of what once were iconic items in the western world - items which we have since moved on from, having no place in the current day (sexism and exploitation of woman as objects) and the mobile phone long since having replaced call boxes?

A trademark D7606 crayon is to the left. Taking part in this week's Monday Mural.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Plant 100,000 snowdrops in Manchester @NTUrbanGardener

The National Trust are running a week-long campaign to plant 100,000 snowdrops in Manchester. Parsonage Gardens (photo) gets its turn on Monday between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm, when volunteers are required. 

Unfortunately most people are at school, college or work during those hours ...I pass through here most days so would have liked to take part- hopefully there are better times on other days to suit everyone.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Weekend Reflections: a walk in the forest

While putting on my walking boots the other morning I looked up to see these trees reflected in the car's rear window. A nice start to a walk in the forest. Taking part in Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Skywatch Friday: sunbeams over Angel Square

6.40 a.m. 4 September. The sun rises over the Co-op building on Angel Square.
Have a look at other Skywatch Friday posts around the world. 

(Yesterday's photo was taken on the southern side of Albert Square, above the entrance to St. Andrews Chambers and no.21).

Today's sunrise shot was the first photo that I have taken with my new camera, which I bought last week. Sadly my point and shoot Nikon Coolpix which served me well for 8 years and 8000 photos developed a fatal lens problem. The Jessops’ staff seemed amazed it had lasted that long, saying the average camera only makes it to about 4 years. What a shocking waste- if that is correct then it shouldn’t be allowed, surely? Cameras used to last decades from what I recall?

I wanted to buy a bridge camera - more than a point and shoot but not as expensive or large as a DSLR. Research led me to go for a Sony HX50. So I snapped the above shot and then realised that with my schedule for the following 24 hours I could play an amusing and creative game of “the first three shots taken on the new camera being taken in three different cities”.

After work on 4 September I jumped onto a train from Manchester to London (180 miles and a bargain £19.50 fare). I had a couple of hours in London that evening and went to the Serpentine where I took the first photo below. The light was appalling, one of those polluted (?), almost white skies that cities get when their mayor does nothing aboutcurtailing car use and exhaust fumes. But the photo represents a version of London to me. Click 2. It’s a Henry Moore sculpture (“The arch”) on the edge of the Serpentine and with Kensington Palace on the horizon.

I was then due to catch an overnight megabus and ferry from London to Paris (a cheap and cheerful £20). I slept better than I’d feared. So I arrived in Paris about 24 hours after I had taken the first photo above. As with my time in London, I wanted to find the right photo, not just click at everything, the first three with my new camera had to illustrate the cities they were taken in.

The Paris sky was even mistier and paler than London - pollution again or heat haze? The temperature soon rose to 27°C. I knew what subject matter I wanted, an art nouveau-inspired Metro station. Click 3.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Guess where?...

Another gloriously sunny day in Manchester and I looked up on the way to work to see this beautiful work of art. Would anyone with local knowledge care to hazard a guess as to where this photo was taken? I'll give the answer tomorrow...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

ABC Wednesday: "I" is for iWonder at the BBC

Taking part in ABC Wednesday: the innards of BBC Quay House at Media City.

I was invited to the BBC in Media City last week to give my views (as a blogger) on the new BBC "iWonder?" tool that they are developing. It's a cross between social media and a BBC Wikipedia, and would enable anyone to pose questions and stimulate debate. Interesting. Watch this space.

It was also a good opportunity to see inside Quay House with its cool meeting hubs and workspace, not to mention BBC radio and tv studios etc. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Strong & steadfast as she goes: The Anchor @AnchorCoffee

After the tour featured on yesterday's blog post, we popped across the road to the Anchor Coffee house on Moss Lane East for a late lunch. It's a former pub nicely refurbished which now does a  good line in bagels: houmous and sun-dried tomatoes for me and a peanut butter one for my friend Rachel (who alerted me to yesterday's Whitworth Park tour in the first place). It's a lovely cafe with a good vibe which opened two years ago on the edge of the curry mile. I will happily pay a return visit soon.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Monday Mural: Whitworth Art Gallery

The Whitworth Art Gallery reopens this autumn. I went for a tour of Whitworth Park last week, which proffered great insight to the gallery and the park's histories. It was special to be on a tour which was led by an artist. 

Once the extension and refurbishment are completed, there will be a sparkling cafe overlooking the greenery, which I look forward to pondering over a cup of something warm in.

I have fond memories of the Whitworth as I think it was the first Manchester gallery I ever went to. The pop art and spaciousness of its southernmost gallery filled me with happiness. Other exhibitions, textiles and 19th century glories bounce around in my head when I bring past visits to mind too. 

Taking part in the Monday Mural.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Inspired Sundays: Hidden gem

St Mary's is known as the Hidden Gem. This Catholic church in Manchester city centre was probably one of the dominant buildings in the vicinity when built in the 1790s, but developments around it led to it being tucked away in what became a back street. I posted a close up 20 months ago. Taking part in the Inspired Sunday meme.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Friday, 5 September 2014

Skywatch Friday: Marina morning @venetianmarina

The Venetian Marina is the unlikely name for this canalside location where narrowboats moor and boat dwellers live but, hey, they make up their own rules here on the Shropshire Canal, wending its way through mid-Cheshire.

Cast an eye over today's other Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Craft and food, music and dance, summer sings on...

Every day of September moves us further from that summer blissed-out feeling, as we gear up for autumn waiting in the wings with its darker nights and cooler days. BUT...the crafts and food market at St. Ann's Square started yesterday and runs through until the 20 something of September. A nice Emmaus charity vintage section - where yesterday I was tempted by a wonderful 1950s Pye Picnic radio (but I already have one), old suitcases (I have some) and characterful furniture (I've not much room...)

And a five minute walk away this Friday, Saturday and Sunday there is a Spanish Festival in Albert Square too, so there are plenty of late summer festivities still around to help keep your spirits up. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

ABC Wednesday: "H" is for the horrors of war

Dunham dusted: It's circa 1917 and young Roger Grey, a Lieutenant in World War I and 10th Earl of Stamford and inheritor of the Massey Manor, reflects on the horrors of it all.

Mancunian Wave is today taking part in the "H" round of ABC Wednesday.

In World War I, Cheshire stately home Dunham Massey gave up some of its vast space to become a military hospital for the wounded. The current exhibition on there is both moving and in places highly innovative. A ward of beds is seemingly devoid of patients but looking closer, beds appear to have invisible breathing soldiers in them.  An empty plaster cast lay on top of a bed, with notes about gangrene, emitting an appropriate stench. An operating theatre has life-size medics and a patient, all somehow body-less but wearing clothes.

Short vignettes are acted out, as if by ghosts from 100 years ago; a nurse is harangued by a shell-shocked bed-ridden patient; another soldier sits forlornly in a chair, his eyesight ruined, urging a nurse to take time out to re-read him a letter from home which also tells of the death of his brother, killed in action. The Stamford family are there too, a teenager daughter is a nurse at the hospital, while eldest son Roger* is back on leave. 

Record players and sheet music play and evoke the music of the era, signs from the time and tomes of history - along with information boards and children’s interactivity - all give the whole exhibition a sense.

Roger Grey became a recluse, and was a Christian Socialist who never married or fathered children. On his death in 1976 he left Dunham Massey to the National Trust.

Footnote 1: Newspapers of the era are also laid out along the way, which should have been a powerful tool into the history of the day- although this is where my one gripe lays- they were all copies of the Daily Mail. It spoilt an otherwise memorable walk into history, cleverly done- copies of other newspapers would have given a better balance, and considering the location of Dunham Massey, the Manchester Guardian should be displayed in place of some of the London-based Daily Mail. Even more so when you consider Roger Grey's politics. It’s not too late for that to be rectified by the National Trust at Dunham Massey. ~the exhibition runs until 11 November, open Sats to Weds and also when the hall reopens next year (2015 dates tbc).

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Parallel lines, a strip of blue

At Market Street tram stop, mid-morning, on a day when Metrolink isn't closed for improvement works. The parallel lines from the tram window, the department store and a lovely swathe of blue sky. It's going to be a beautiful day - as Mancunians (well, Bury-ites?) Elbow sing...

Taking part in Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 1 September 2014

City Daily Photo Theme Day: Rust and Ruin

This 1960s' Morris Minor has been in the family for many decades. It's been parked here for the past 25 years or so which has enabled a magical woodland to grow around and across it. 

I did get some interest from Morris Minor collectors who would like to take it away to restore. Two problems with that are (a) the need to chop down a tree that has grown and boxed it in and (b) the fear that removal may make the car collapse completely- it is held together mostly by rust, moss and ivy. 

For many years it's been a storage space for old carpets and toddlers' toys. But that's not all - if you look closely you may see a little of the bonnet of another Morris Minor behind it! -  in a darker shade of blue.

It makes for a choice of photo that I could not resist posting for September's City Daily Photo theme day of Rust and Ruin.

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