The Guardian (a sister paper to our very own dear MEN), visited Manchester last week – or at least the Tech Podcast team did – and have just put up their coverage of the Baby’s 60th anniversary.
Archive for June, 2008
Here I am back online after 14 days. Yes, I did keep to my self-imposed confinement and enjoyed all that the sunny town of Kalkan has to offer (surprise, surprise a lot of foodie stuff which will feature on my other blog soon).
Entering into a pact meant I couldn’t crumble as I didn’t want to get embroiled in his work issues on holiday any more that he did with mine. So online abstinence was the deal and we stuck to it.
There were some testing times – the celebrations which erupted when Turkey beat Croatia with fireworks, convoys of cars and scooters, dancing and flag waving in the streets – were scenes just made for sharing. It took some serious restraint not to send a single tweet, utter or even a picture of the sheer joyous (and trouble-free) exuberance.
Perhaps surprisingly for a journalist whose first media is text it was the pictures (video) which seemed so unnatural. Snapping and sending to Flickr has been one operation for so long now that bringing my phone and camera home full of pictures to process feels like going back to a time when you’d drop your films off at Boots.
So, with an internet cafe on every street corner and free wi-fi i just about every bar and hotel, it turned into a case of will power at times.
But I’m glad we did – until now. The daunting catch up has started…… the beach life is fading.
It took 24 hours and more coffee than is probably healthy, but we have reached the end. This morning conversation moved to the nature of the Universe, and I spent some time reflecting on what just happened.
A hardcore of about 50 people are remaining in the wigwam and continuing the discussion. Interactivity has picked up with a more 2-way dialogue, and the atmosphere is much more relaxed than it was early last night.
Talk has moved in some parts to what should happen next year, but before I get to that here’s an interesting point that came out of one discussion: Joy Division is in part mythologised because of a suicide. The Hacienda is in part mythologised because of the ecstasy drug culture that emerged from there. If we encourage creativity within the city, are we not going to have to address mental health and drug issues at some point? Are they not inherently wrapped up in this sector?
I don’t think it’s no secret that Tony Wilson himself dabbled with drugs. It’s certainly well known that the Happy Mondays’ story weaves in and out of various drug addictions. The Hacienda’s biggest problems were caused by gangs fighting for a share of the drug industry inside. One of the most inspiring musicians of the Tony Wilson era committed suicide after recording ‘Atmosphere’.
And going forward, the picture doesn’t look so clear either. A large number of career poets suffer from bi-polar disorder to some extent. The largest clubs in Manchester sell little alcohol but plenty of water on a weekend night because of ecstasy use. These things have long term health and welfare effects we don’t seem to be really grappling with as part of the discussion on creativity.
Whose responsibility is to talk about these issues? Do we just accept writing is a solitary and insular activity, dance culture has pills and powder core to its being, or do we tackle it head on? Do artists themselves take responsibility? Should the council? Or the funding bodies?
I don’t have answers, but it’s one of the more thought-provoking issues from this morning.
Moving forward, I spoke to both a project manager within the council, and leader Richard Leese himself about the future of this event.
This was a stop-gap measure driven by Wilson’s friends and it’s not immediately clear if it will happen again next year. There is talk of a Summer school, but that might fall foul of one of the major criticisms of the event so far, it being mostly a seminar environment. It seems clear to me there isn’t a massive hunger for the council to fund this and so some route to self-sustainability needs to be found.
For my part, I discussed the BarCamp format the tech industry locally has found so successful and I’ve been thinking myself about how to encourage grassroots activity similar to the GeekUp community that has helped foster growth within the digital sector.
It’s also not clear yet whether the filmed sessions will be released online for free yet – I hope it will be, and apparently if/when it is, it will be announced via the Facebook group. When I hear, you’ll hear.
Next up, a formal proof of how Manchester is the centre of the Universe from Dr Brian Cox, and I’ll be producing a review of the event as a whole. Almost there – just a little over an hour to go.
Walking into the press room this morning after a few hours sleep, the team looking after the web cast looked tired but had stories to tell.
Quite frankly, editorial guidelines prevent me from telling all. It would seem some people in the Green Room were… well, I’ll just leave it there before the MEN lawyers get twitchy about libel action.
As darkness fell and the rain could be heard lightly hitting the wigwam this evening, Irvine Welsh and Paul Morley settled in for what started out as an intelligent chat about what it meant to be a writer. Towards the end it became one of the most lively and interactive discussions of the event so far.
It quickly became very clear that Paul Morley and Irvine Welsh are a great deal more intelligent than any of their previous media appearances had led us to believe. Over the course of an hour the very point that the media warps and reduces down intelligence to something more “manageable” became a core part of the conversation, and ultimately became an audience debate.
The media it was argued, assumes the audience is stupid. The systems in place, the way quality is determined by publishers, bookshops, critics, even some of the audience, all progresses an ethos of dumbness on the part of the consumer.
The lights are now dimming across the event, and but for the spotlights on stage and the constant burning glare of the press and green rooms, TWE is now feeling much more like a night club. Bands are heading onto the stage for an evening of music
We’re now a third of the way through TWE and I decided to step out of talks and ask some of the “Talent” how they felt the event was going, and sound out those watching the webcast how they felt it was shaping up.
Tony Wilson’s son Oliver spoke for 30 minutes in an unscheduled slot about his life as a music promoter and the impact Manchester and his father’s career had on him.
Considering Shaun Ryder was once his babysitter, and one of his first holidays was with New Order in Ibiza, he seemed a pretty grounded and pragmatic young man.
After him, he got our first bit of audience participation with Richard Leese having to defend the council’s attitude to culture and its heritage.
“Tony Wilson is Really Fantastic”, according to the striking new composition from Frank Sidebottom, getting its World premiere this afternoon at TWE. Also this afternoon, modern art superstar on the Manchester scene Liam Spencer talked about what he found inspiring about painting Manchester urban landscapes.