Friday, December 22, 2006

Tons of other people are doing it

If anyone's planning on taking part in the flash mob pillow fight in Piccadilly Gardens tomorrow (all info here), you really should read this article first. It's a history of the flash mob phenomenon, written by the guy who invented the flash mob to study the trendmongering social practices of Williamsburg proto-hipsters. I first posted it way back in April. In fact, the article was published almost a year ago, but flash mobs still continue to work their way around the world, and most participants remain oblivious to their origins.

Here's the way Bill Wasik's tale begins:
On May 27, 2003, bored and therefore disposed toward acts of social-scientific inquiry, I sent an email to sixty-some friends and acquaintances. The message began:
You are invited to take part in MOB, the project that creates an inexplicable mob of people in New York City for ten minutes or less. Please forward this to other people you know who might like to join.

More precisely, I forwarded them this message, which, in order to conceal my identity as its original author, I had sent myself earlier that day from an anonymous webmail account. As further explanation, the email offered a “frequently asked questions” section, which consisted of only one question:

Q. Why would I want to join an inexplicable mob?
A. Tons of other people are doing it.

Have fun, kiddies.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Follow the Star

The new edition of the Salford Star, our homegrown bastion of butt-kicking investigative reporting, is out now. It looks to be packed with all manner of Christmas goodies, but the story I'm really itching to read is the long promised MediaPity:UK, a 7-page "study in hypocrisy"concerning the BBC's beleaguered plan to move a chunk of their workforce to the proposed MediaCity: UK complex at Salford Quays.

There's been a lot of speculation lately about whether that move will ever happen. As the BBC looks likely to get less dosh than it's asking the government for, many have predicted that the Beeb will use the funding issue as an excuse to wriggle out of a move that seems to be wildly unpopular amongst the southern majority of its workforce. They're still hemming and hawing.
But the government is making no secret of its support of the plan.

The story is not up on their website, but I can only hope they'll put it up soon, since I could have a hard time getting hold of a copy here in Vermont, where I have arrived for Yuletide

Friday, December 15, 2006

Stu's Review

Erstwhile Mancunian blogger Stuart Ian Burns is halfway through an interesting monthlong project on his blog Feeling Listless, called Review 2006. He's asked readers to send in any question, and he'll answer one a day for the whole of December. But he isn't simply answering these questions - some of which are quite complex indeed - he's using each one as the jumping-off point for a sort of ruminative mini-essay. Past questions have ranged from "Why can't Liverpool FC win away from home?" to "How many girls has James Bond slept with?". He's delved fearlessly into his personal life with toughies like "What would your total fantasy life be like?" (Rosario Dawson and the New Yorker figure prominently) and "Why Stuart Ian Burns, not Stuart Burns?" He's covered blogging, with this one: 'Whenever I think of doing something like a blog, I always worry that anything I write would either sound really pretentious or be very boring. How do you handle those fears and just write?"

And then there's my favorite:
"Throughout most of The Empire Strikes Back, the Millenium Falcon's hyperdrive is not working (should have gone to Kwik Fit!) so it can't travel faster than light! However, there is a point where they travel from the Anoat System to the Bespin system. Separate Star systems would never be less than a couple of light years apart (I presume!), i.e. at least two years travel even if they could attain just a tiny bit less than light speed! It clearly doesn't take them this long, so is it some sort of 'worm-hole' or curved universe phenomena that they utilise to accomplish their trip?" Awesome.
The good news is that you can still get in on this, as Stu's looking for his last ten days' worth of questions, so send yours to There are five flavours of question he will answer:

(a) Personal (egotistical). A question about something that has happened this year or something I've written on the blog that you've wondered about but were too afraid to ask.
(b) Trivia. 'How big is the moon?' or 'How fast is the fastest thing that's ever been fast?' that kind of thing.
(c) Review. What do you think of this album/film/book that I like?
(d) Opinion. See if I can work out something you've been ruminating on. 'Why do people who get on buses always stand near the door when others are patently going to get on after them and they'll be blocking the way?' That sort of thing.
(e) Advice. Dear Stuart, I wonder if you could give me advice about this problem I've been having ...Basically a question about anything.

Go forth and enquire.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Photographer wanted (UPDATED)

This is a personal request. I need a professsional hi-res photograph of myself taken sometime in the next week (it's for the contributors page in an American magazine I write for.) I don't know what the going rate is for this, but I don't have outrageous amounts of money to spend on it.

What I really want is a skill trade - swapping someone's photography for my writing/editing work on their behalf. But if this isn't possible I'm certainly willing to pay for it. Anyone know someone? You can respond in the comments or email me on themanchizzle at gmail dot com.

Update: Sorted! One of our number happens to be an extremely talented photographer, who was kind enough to take some of the nicest pictures of me last weekend. If anyone else needs a headshot for anything, or a wedding photographer, let me know and I'll put you in touch with him - he really is good. Ah, the talents of you blogging folk truly are limitless. Many thanks for all the help/suggestions/advice.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Free gig tonight

Breaking Christmas market update: I just happened to notice on the BBC Manchester website that B-Music have organized a short-order gig there this evening featuring American folkstress Josephine Foster, Voice of the Seven Woods, and Jane Weaver. It kicks off at 6pm in Albert Square. They want you to make an extra effort to come on time so as not to upset the proceedings. Josephine's been described as "delicate" so I hope they're planning on keeping her warm.

All info here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

New Manchester Blogs

Time to introduce the latest shiny new addtions to the Mancunian blogoschmear.

The usual hefty haul of personal blogs:

Ciara Leeming

October Poppy

Rob Adlard

Who does he think he is?

You can't control the message

And two for the music blog category:

Indie Music Blog. No extra points for guessing what that one's all about.

2nd Altos Like the Bottom Parts. A blog about life in the Halle Choir by one of its singers, Jocelyn.

There's a new political blog, On the knocker!

Finally, this one definitely wins the most attention-grabbing name of the week:
Naked Chasm Jumpers
, a general interest blog run by a group of MBA students in Manchester.

Scallies on ice, wursts, and caroling lawyers

Christmas in Manchester. What could be more quaint and Christmassy than an ice-skating rink in scenic olde fashioned Piccadilly Gardens?. On Friday I snuck into the part that's right next to the rink so I could get better shots of the skaters (if the pictures come out okay I'll post them here later.) The first thing you notice is the enormous shocking orange plastic ice skates they make the punters wear. They make hockey skates look like Manolo Blahniks, and it's pretty much impossible to look cool in them.

The skaters seemed to consist mainly of pre-teen kids who were mysteriously not in school. There were a lot of young girls skating around in aloof pairs, stopping frequently to reapply their frosted lip gloss or adjust their sparkly scarf and hat sets. But the best part was watching the scallies on ice, who behaved exactly the same way they do anywhere else. One little scallion in a red and blue tracksuit could really skate, and was playing havoc with the first-timers inching their way around the edges, skating the wrong way and buzzing them like a fighter plane.

If you're looking to get in the Christmas spirit you may want to check out some of the city's christmas concerts. At St. Ann's Church they have a yule-related concert or carols service almost every day this month, including a special one just for lawyers (maybe they need extra help?) Most are free. And over at Manchester Cathedral there's also a whole mess of Christmas music happening, with Manchester Baroque doing Handel's Messiah on the 16th.

One more thing: Avoid the St. Ann's Square Christmas markets on weekends at all costs unless you fancy waiting 40 minutes in the cold for a mug of glauwein and a lukewarm wurst. And if you've never been, a visitor from Nottinghamshire has a thorough write-up of this year's German Market here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I won NaNoWriMo

At last, I have finally typed my 50,000th word, which makes me an official winner of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo.) Something like 80 percent of the people who sign up drop out before reaching their goal, and I completely understand why. It's the kind of thing that sounds far easier than it actually turns out to be... and then some oddballs make it even harder for themselves by deciding to write a novel in Esperanto, or writing the entire thing dressed in a chicken costume while sitting in the window of a bookstore (nope, not making it up.) Congrats to Keris, who also won, and the many (around 250) Mancunians taking part.

I was lucky in happening to have a big fat chunk of time to devote to it during the month of November, but not blogging sure helped a lot. The book is far from finished, but I've gotten most of it down. Sure, it's in a raggedy, sure-to-be-rewritten-extensively incarnation, but even having something to edit is a first for me. I've always been derailed at the "sort of thinking about writing some fiction" stage before. NaNo was a very good motivator; it forced me to sit on my internal editor and just barf it out. (You see, it's just that flavour of gruesomely mixed metaphor action that will make my work a delight to read.)

Anyway, now I can go back to my accustomed life of blogging and wasting vast amounts of time on the internet. Starting in grand style with the Manchester blogmeet Saturday at 3pm at The Castle on Oldham Street. A few folks have already said they'll be there and I'm looking forward to catching up with ConnectMedia Craig, James Yer Mam!, C. Mancubist and Jon the Beef and meeting Rachael of The Console.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Blogmeet This Saturday

Hi y'all. Sorry I've been so behind on organising this blogmeet, but this month of novelwriting is almost over (and hey, I only have 10,000 words to write in four days...) Anyway, a few folks have emailed to say this Saturday is a good one, so I'm going to plunge ahead with it.

Time: 3pm this Saturday. Probably going on for an hour or so.

Place: The Castle on Oldham Street, same side of the road as the Night N' Day but further back towards Great Ancoats. There's a back room with pool tables and they have good beer on tap. It's not as much of an old man pub as the Hare and Hounds, but it's still pleasantly scruffy.

Let me know if you can make it.

Also, here's a beautifully designed new Manc blogsite called The Console, which features music and art writing and comes tricked out with podcasts for your listening pleasure. It's the work of Rach and Olly, and I don't know much more than that, but go check it out. Cheers to Yer Mam! for pointing it out.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Writing Types

Am headed down to Norwich at the end of this week for New Writing Types, a conference hosted by The New Writing Partnership. I'll be speaking on a panel discussion called Screenburn: Writers and The Internet, along with some very talented and interesting folks: Paul Carr from The Friday Project, Lane Ashfeldt of Pulp Net and poet Todd Swift. I'm really looking forward to it, and will probably come back all fired up about online writing again. And if anyone from these parts is going, give me a shout.

This will be my first visit to Narch, as my friend there calls it - and actually my first time in that whole bit of England, so it'll be good to check out a new place. I heard they have a store there that sells nothing but mustard. In the whole shop. Yep.

Holy new blogs, Batman!

Good morning. I've finally gotten around to adding a number of new Manc blogs that have been piling up around here. They are:

The personal blogs 3rd (R)age, Ubersnack, and Totga.

The writerly blog In Search of Adam.

The street fashion photography blog Manchester Looks, which is the source of the photo above. This blog doesn't shed any light on the eternal Manc fashion dilemma (novelty socks over OR under the trackies?) but maybe that's next week.

The blog of the esteemed Northern Film Network , which is bringing documentary filmmaker Jes Benstock to Preston's Mitchell and Kenyon cinema tomorrow night - and it's going to be free, I hear. Hope to get over there for that.

A shiny new urbisblog, which today makes mention of the fascinating historic Mancunian Ann Lee, who started the Shakers. There's a great biopic there, if you ask me.

And, last but not least, Corrieblog.

Many thanks to everyone who wrote in asking to be added or tipping me off to a new blog, and especially to Mancubist, for being dilligent about scoping out new blogs while I'm off noveling.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Salford Star: The real deal

This little item provides a perfect contrast to my last post. Hats off to the Salford Star, for publishing a no-holds-barred investigation of Urban Splash's regeneration and affordable housing schemes. The Star's intrepid fact-finders discovered that, though Urban Splash's Seedley and Langworthy developments were heavily funded by the government through affordable housing grants, the resulting housing wasn't that, erm, affordable. Funny that.

That fine piece of work has landed the Star on the longlist for the Paul Foot Award for Investigative Journalism, and today earned the Star a glowing write up by the Guardian. Imagine, a Greater Manc publication having the bottle to take on Urban Splash, one of the biggest advertisers and most untouchable sacred cows in the region? That's something I thought I'd never see. Almost gives you hope, doesn't it?

UPDATE: The Star have now posted the article about Urban Splash on their site, due to popular demand. If you want to read it, go here, click on the "atricles" link in their sidebar, and scroll down until you hit "Urban Cash"

Moving Manchester: real or not?

I’m here to report back, as promised, on Moving Manchester. Some of you may remember I’d made a disparaging comment about it here. Surprisingly, the editorial team at MM responded with a rather peevish 400-word comment taking me to task, which you can read below the original comment. My favourite part is this:

As regards the difference between our magazine and a ‘real’ magazine, we would be interested to understand what, in your view, constitutes a ‘real’ magazine’. As we understand it, a magazine is “A periodical containing a collection of articles, stories, pictures, or other features”.

Congratulations, you know how to use a dictionary. Here’s another word for you to look up: pedantic.

Okay, I’ve gotten that out of my system. I came here not to sharpen my snarkening shears but to take a long and hard look at Moving Manchester in order to determine one thing: Is it a real magazine or not? Let’s open the November issue.

MM seems keen to differentiate itself from a mere property magazine. A property “magazine” should be more rightly called a property brochure. The only reason they call it a magazine is because they hope we might be dumb enough to pick one up thinking it’s a magazine if they call it a magazine and make it look like one on the outside. Then, when we open it up, hey presto! It’s all ads: Aspiration Towers, Gentrifcation Wharf, GenericQuarter.

To be fair, MM has gone to a bit more of an effort than most property magazines to present something that resembles editorial content. But sadly, the resemblance is only a passing one. We have long, byline-free “articles” on property developments in Manchester, with marketing contacts thoughtfully provided. For instance, Macintosh Mills is “a six storey love song to Manchester’s Industrial Legacy,” the piece on page 10 tells us. The only person quoted is Sam Williams, regional sales manager for Bryant Homes. The text reads like ad copy, detailing all of the developments’ assets. No effort is made to provide an objective or alternative viewpoint about this development. I have to conclude that this is not an article. It’s advertising, marketing, promotion, or whatever you want to call it. But it’s not journalism. Worsley View is given the same gushing treatment on page 24. Dandara’s ‘concept’ apartments on Page 28. I’d go on, but you get the idea.

A magazine’s credibility rests entirely upon how readers perceive its independence. A close look at MM’s slick pages reveals a maze of advertorials, sponsored sections, ads made to resemble editorial, promotional contests and dubious page placement of the kind that immediately raises red flags. Even its columnists all seem to come with corporate ties and branding.

Take a look at the spread on page 46 and 47. A full-page ad for Magners Irish Cider placed opposite an “article” titled: Cider Revolution: The ‘New’ Cool Drink? The piece about cider’s remarkable rise in popularity barely mentions Manchester, but the Magners brand name appears five times, in contexts such as this:

“Perhaps there’s something about cider that is innately comforting. It could be that it makes us think of idyllic scenes, unspoilt countryside, trees sagging under the weight of their fruit, the lightly sparkling tang of apples helping you relax and enjoy midsummer sunsets…” Sorry, I can’t go on. I’m feeling a bit queasy. I mean, come on! We’re actually s’posed to believe that a journalist decided to write this ode to cider the wonder drink independently, with no financial encouragement from the gang at Magners? Maybe the piece wouldn’t seem out of place in Over-Poeticised Beverages Monthly, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in a Manchester lifestyle magazine. Something smells rotten. And it ain’t cider.

In a feature titled Decadent Delights: The Indulgent Guide to Manchester, we’re encouraged to check into the Moulin Rouge suite at the Malmaison Hotel, the delights of which are enumerated in breathless detail. The one detail they leave out is that Malmaison is listed on MM parent company BBDM’s website as a client. Guess the whole disclosure of conflict of interest thing isn’t a priority for the editorial team at MM. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most basic requirements of journalism, and non-negotiable for real magazines the world over.

I’m not saying that every article in MM is about a BBDM client or paid advertiser. Indeed, in this same issue I was quoted in an article about Manchester bloggers, an article that seems to have arisen out of a genuine sense of trying to communicate current happenings in Manchester. And I’m sure many of the other articles have the same innocent origin. But what are readers to think when they see so much in the publication that calls into question its editorial independence?

Is it a real magazine? No, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not dead. Yet.

Thanks for your touching emails of concern. No, I haven't died, I've been writing a novel for NaNoWriMo, which is just about to nudge past 25,000 words. I'm enjoying it, but it's a pretty weird process. It's kind of like driving through a snowstorm. You can't see where you are, and have only a vague idea of where you are going, so all you can do is go forward slowly and hope for the best.

I have to say giving up blogging (well, mostly) for the month was a good idea. It made me realise just how much time I spend blogging and reading other blogs. But no worries, normal blogging service will resume in two weeks. And there had been some talk of another Manchester blogmeet... what does everyone think of the first weekend in December? I'm assuming weekends are better than weeknights, but maybe not...? And is it time to branch out from the Hare and Hounds/Urbis option... any ideas? A social event would be good, since I'm feeling a little bit like a hermit what with all this solitary writing, and have started talking to my cat. Not good.

I did manage to get out of the house to see Tony Benn on Saturday at the Lowry. It was pretty great for me because I didn't know that much about him - he doesn't have a very high profile in the US - but this show, with folksinger Roy Bailey, was a brilliant introduction. What an amazing speaker Tony Benn is. Benn talked about different protests and popular movements, working his way through British history. Now and then he'd take a break and let Bailey do a few relevant protest songs. While he was singing, Benn sat back in his chair, lit a pipe and looked on benevolently, as a great cloud of pipesmoke gathered over his head.

Anywho, Crinklybee has just written a good bit about a misadventure on our newest pedestrian bridge here in Manchester, which he has christened Archie. Go read it, it's very funny.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh Happy Day

Midterm elections aren't that big of a deal, except once in a while when they're a really really big deal. This is one of those times.

I turned on the TV in the wee hours of this morning hoping the Dems might have recovered the House of Representatives. I was delighted when I found out that they had taken over the House and may even win back the Senate, too - in case anyone hasn't heard this already, the two key races in Montana and Virginia are too close to call, and we won't know for ages. What this means is that Bush and his cronies don't have a blank check from Congress anymore. We may actually see issues being debated, instead of presidential edicts being rubberstamped by smirking parasites and spineless yes-men. The Republicans will now be dealing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the gutsiest grandmas around. They find her "scary." They should be scared.

My own state of Vermont will again be sending two Democrats and one Independent to Washington. But now U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders will become the first Socialist to serve in the Senate ever, having handily defeated an arrogant software tycoon who spent $7 million of his own on the campaign. The outcome was no big surprise - he's one of the most beloved politicians in the state. While Vermont's Republican candidates were calling in sick for their photo opps with the President, Bernie Sanders picked up an endorsement that has real traction in Vermont: Willie Nelson.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Northern Quarter appeal

Like we don't have enough to do already, Mancubist and I are collaborating on a podcasting project about different aspects of life in this little town of ours. The theme for our first segment is going to be the Northern Quarter. And we need your help...

We're looking for people who have a strong connection with the place to interview. People who you think of as Mr. or Ms. Northern Quarter, because they spend every waking moment there. People who've been residents or businessowners there since back in the day when you only ventured north of Piccadilly to get drugs or get twatted (the last time I wrote that sentence on this blog, I subsequently read it in one of our local rags, in an art exhibition preview. Maybe it'll happen again. Do plagiarists strike the same place twice?)

We also want your funny, heartwarming and/or upsetting Northern Quarter stories, and suggestions for the most iconic places in the 'hood as well as lesser-known gems to try and capture on audio. Bring it on. Share your two pence worth here in the comments or email me at themanchizzle at gmail dot com.

Friday, October 27, 2006

NaNoWriMo is almost here

What's that, you say? It's National Novel Writing Month. Now in it’s 8th year, NaNoWriMo unites people all over the world in the common goal of banging out a 50,000-word first draft by the end of November, with online pep talks, daily word counts and group critique sessions.

And next month I'll be one of 'em. I've got a novel idea that's been languishing unattended. Why is there something vaguely embarassing about admitting you're writing a novel? Maybe I've been in journalism for too long.

Every time I decide to devote more time to it, a chunk of work comes up that I just can't say no to. So it's time for drastic measures, and NaNoWriMo came at the right time. I'm cutting sharply down on work and cooling it on the blogging, so The Manchizzle will be quieter for a while, though I'll still check in once a week. I'm trying to heed the warnings of Clare and other writers for whom blogging is a tempting source of procrastination. Here's a great Slate article by one of my favorite writers, Sarah Hepola, explaining why she decommissioned her blog so she could write a novel.

Anyone else around here participating, besides Keris? If so, add me as a buddy - I'm yankunian. And if you're curious, come on down to a meeting of local Wrimos this Saturday at Kro Piccadilly, from 2:30 to 5ish. There's a whopping 270 writers affiliated with the Manchester regional group.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

new blog two-for-one

Personal blogs The Mancunian and Woo Woo Web are this week's new additions to the Mancunian blogging gang. Be nice to them.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Deliver us from Cheadle

Didn't you know God was a Northern lad? In response to Londoners trying to claim a special relationship with the deity in the letters pages of the Guardian,
Norm has given us The Ordsall Prayer.
All together now:

Our Father, which art in Heaton,
Fallowfield be thy Name.
Thy Kingston come.
Thy Withington.
In Irlam as it is in Denton.
Give us this day our Lower Bredbury...

To read the rest, go here.

Trouble in Bury

I woke up this morning and turned on the radio only to hear someone from the Museums Libraries and Archives Council lambasting the Bury Council for deciding to sell an L.S. Lowry painting. I have to admit that the painting, A Riverbank, pictured above, is a particularly handsome one, even though Lowry's not my cup of tea. Something creepy about those matchstick men and the way they all look like little ants swarming around an anthill.

The MLA is threatening to kick out the Bury Museum and Art Gallery for selling the painting and potentially removing it from public display. Apparently, it's to be sold at Christies next month for £500,000 - practically a drop in the bucket for a council that's some £10 million in the red. Worse, if the museum loses their accreditation, they could be ineligible for lottery funding, according to the MEN. That's what happened to the last museum that sold a painting - oddly, a Lowry - back in 1991.

I have to say, I don't see what the big deal is here. It's too bad that the council feel they have to sell the painting to plug a hole in their budget, but they very likely have no other choice. The Bury Art Museum and Gallery maintains an excellent and ambitious programme that would do credit to a much larger (and better funded) institution - their recent series of contemporary solo artist exhibitions is a great example. If it's a choice between closing the gallery and parting with a Lowry, it's no contest as far as I'm concerned. And if people want to see Lowry paintings, there's a whole museum full of them a short tram ride away.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not another new magazine?

I've mentioned before that Time Out isn't the only magazine launching in Manchester this fall. 69-247 Magazine (yes, that's it's real name) is supposed to be out tomorrrow. It's a free glossy from the Midlands that is starting a Northern regional edition based in Manc. It promises to both ruffle our feathers and give us a kick up the ass, which sounds kinda painful to me. Former City Life staffer Ruth Allan is heading up the Manchester editorial operations.

It's pretty brave to go ahead with a free mag when Time Out is poised to start publishing here in the spring, since it looks like they'd definitely be going for the same ad market. You can read more about it in the somewhat breathless press release here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Manchester Blog Awards on 5 Live UPDATED

A segment on the Manchester Blog Awards that includes interviews with some Mancunian bloggers will be on BBC 5 Live's Pods and Blogs in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, says Robin at the BBC Manchester Blog. Non-insomniacs can listen again by clicking the link at the top of the Pods and Blogs mainpage.

Here's an audio file of just the segment on the blog awards that someone (cough) ripped and emailed me.

powered by ODEO

Manchester "gits tough" on street crime

I was helping out with the literature festival this week, and witnessed a truly ridiculous scene. The Burgess Project was a live literature performance spread out over several locations in the city centre - the crowd was lead from one site to the other by two talented actors playing the author Anthony Burgess' alter ego and his muse.

Burgess' alter ego, Enderby, was in full character, clad in top hat and tails, leading the audience into The Triangle while puffing away on a cigar and keeping up a stream of improvised declamation. Of course, he had to put the cigar out before going inside, but rather than tossing it on the ground, he carefully stubbed it out on his cane, retaining the stub. In the process, a scrap or two of tobacco leaves not much larger than a fifty pence coin fell to the ground.

Within five seconds a little man in a red uniform appeared brandishing a ticket book, almost sputtering with rage. He was a Manchester Street Crime warden, on the verge of writing out an £80 ticket for littering on the spot. It was only by apologising profusely that we managed to placate him. "Performance or no performance, that's an £80 fine," he kept stubbornly insisting.

The security man who was accompanying the performance on its route told us that the same officer had been wreaking havoc at the Food and Drink Festival last week, slapping stallholders who dropped their butts with immediate £80 fines. "He wanted to be a policeman, but he couldn't, so this is how he gets out his frustration" the big man explained with a sigh. But I'm not sure we can pin it all on this one unhappy individual. Perhaps this is a new strategy of the council's to boost profit from the city's cultural events? At any rate, it's nice to know that they're going after the real menaces to society.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Weekend: From China to Southie

Lots going on this weekend. Tonight is the private view for The China Show, an exhibition at Urbis that looks at the explosive transformation of the Chinese landscape and way of life happening right now. It'll be interesting to see how (or whether) the exhibition addresses the political elephant in the room. China's rapid shift into the modern age can't be discussed without talking about the government's efforts to control the course of that shift, and in some cases, dam it up entirely. I'd be interested to hear more about how this oppression has spawned an underground digital culture of dialectic and dissent.

The exhibition is part of the China@Manchester Festival, which continues through January and includes a film festival at Cornerhouse and coincides with The Vital Chinese Live Art festival next week at the Chinese Arts Centre.

This is also the closing weekend of the Manchester Literature Festival, and I'm really looking forward to Kwame Dawes' performance of Wisteria, a poem cycle inspired by the lives of people who lived through the last century in the American South, with music composed for the work performed by a classical ensemble. That's Sunday night.

You may also want to go catch The Departed, Scorsese's cover version of Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, which I saw a few days ago. Infernal is the better movie, but The Departed is great fun. The cops n' robbers story is transported to South Boston, where we get Jack Nicholson at his most gloriously loopy, Matt Damon in the full Good Will Hunting accent and a stellar cast including Leo DiCaprio, Marky Mark and Martin Sheen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New NW online mag

Until now, Manchester has been overlooked by the subscription e-magazine trend that's proven immensely successful in the world's other cosmopolitan urbs. New Yorkers who want a short but tasty lowdown of what's on get Flavorpill zapped to their inbox every week. Similarly, in-the-know Londoners swear by Urban Junkies. Meanwhile, all we've had is thinly-veiled advertorial of Manchester Confidential, which is clearly aimed at a Cheshire set more interested in charity dos than poetry slams or sloppy parties in abandoned warehouses.

But here comes Your Fridge Door, a subscription-based daily e-magazine about what's happening in the North West. And yes, that means Manchester AND Liverpool (Preston? Lancaster? Anyone?) The site looks good, despite being online for only a couple of weeks (and I've just about forgiven them for equating bloggers with reality TV morons. Kind of.)

It's unclear whether linking the two cities will work - despite their proximity, residents tend to view them as completely separate entities. But with high-end national advertisters targeted that may not be an issue; This week the site is running ads from Diesel, just like Urban Junkies, which makes sense as YFD Editor Stephen Toal was one of the original UJ team.

Just to make things more interesting, I hear Manchester Confidential plans to expand into Liverpool shortly. Looks like the North West is finally waking up to the potential of new media - and we could have a nice little competition shaping up.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An Anthropology of Ourselves

The Art of Fiction and Spinneyhead reminded me that today is "One Day in History" - an attempt at the biggest mass blog in history and an effort to capture a multitude of days in the life for posterity. Organisers History Matters say: "We want as many people as possible to record a 'blog' diary which will be stored by the British Library as a historical record of our national life."

It's an intriguing idea, but not an original one. Last month I read this great article in the New Yorker about the Mass Observation movement that took hold in Britian between the wars. It's a fascinating piece about a largely-forgotten chapter in history; in a way, these were the first citizen journalists, though what they were doing couldn't really be called journalism, and in fact gave rise to modern polling. Caleb Crain writes that volunteer social observers studied "such aspects of contemporary life as:

Behaviour of people at war memorials.
Shouts and gestures of motorists.
The aspidistra cult.
Anthropology of football pools.
Bathroom behaviour.
Beards, armpits, eyebrows.
Distribution, diffusion and significance of the dirty joke.
Funerals and undertakers.
Female taboos about eating.
The private lives of midwives.

"They intended merely to expose facts 'in simple terms to all observers, so that their environment may be understood, and thus constantly transformed,'" he says. And surprisingly, it seems the movement is still alive and kicking.

Crain also had this lovely description of Bolton, which I happened to be reading just as the train was passing through Bolton station:
"Bolton, an industrial town in northern England so bleak that even the riverbed was paved." Bolton became the main hub of the Mass Observation drive; the picture above is from the Bolton Museum's archive of photography by Humphrey Spender, who documented the movement, and its caption reads: "Interior - bar, Swiss Hotel - Walter Hood, ex-miner, mass observer waits to observe customers."

Anyway, get over there and start observing yourselves.

Manchester Blog Awards: 2006 Winners

So last night's Manchester Blog Awards ceremony went off without a hitch. Thanks to the many intrepid bloggers who braved some rather serious poetry readings in order to represent. In the audience I spotted Spinneyhead, Bitter and Blue, Skipper, Mancubist, Craig McGinty, Robin Hamman (he's the one liveblogging in the only picture I've been able to find of the event, above, from ickleweb), Kitchentable, Keris Stainton, Wodge, The Art of Fiction, The Tart of Fiction, and, of course our excellent readers, Geoff of the 43 and The Airport Exile, whose blog readings were by turns lyrical, evocative and funny.

The 2006 winnners are....

Best Political Blog: Normblog
Best Arts and Culture Blog: Yer Mam!
Best Personal Blog: A Free Man in Preston
Blog of the year: The 43

Best wishes to all of the winners. Don't let your new superstar status go to your heads, and remember all the little people like us when you're cruising around the blogosphere in your tricked-out limo, sipping champagne with models and movie stars. Congrats to all of the shortlisted bloggers, too - the competition was very fierce.

Many thanks again to our judges, Richard Fair of BBC Radio Manchester and the BBC Manchester Blog, Fee Plumley of the Manchester Literature Festival and Dave Carter of MDDA, for their time and effort. Thanks to Newfred for donating his design wizardry. And thanks also to Robin, who donated a load of BBC T-shirts to the cause and interviewed quite a few Manc bloggers for Radio Five Live's Pods and Blogs. I'll post the information here when I find out when it's going to be airing.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Manchester blog awards bulletin

Just a word about the blog awards at Urbis tonight: Verberate, the live literature night, will be happening at 7, and then the blog stuff starts at 8-ish, and should go on for about half an hour or so. Synchronize your watches, gentlemen.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More writing on the wall

Graffiti certainly divides opinion in Manchester. Sometimes it's art, sometimes it's an ASBO. If you want to check out some of the finest examples without leaving the comfort of your home, there are 2,129 images tagged "manchester graffiti" on Flickr. There's also the street-art specialist blog MCR Marks. And now someone's documenting graffiti's lower echelons: Bad Graffiti features bizarre, silly and mispelled graffiti from the North West and beyond, stuff like "Puddy Cat 4 chocolate biscuits" above. (Wha??) The blog is the work of Mancunian Mof Gimmers (not his real name) who also writes another blog called Gimmervision.

Seems most of the graffiti in this town is of the outdoor kind. Sadly, bathroom graffiti is something you never see much over here. In New York, at spots like The Hungarian Pastry Shop and the famously decrepit bar Siberia you could find amazing works in this genre, but I've struggled to find any toilets in Manchester that can come close, apart from a few scrawlings in the loos at Temple Bar (which, fittingly, used to be a public restroom.) Not that I'm encouraging vandalism or anything. Ahem.

Back for the MLF

Sniff, cough, hack. I've just limped back into the country, valiantly fighting against an evil head cold and jetlag double smackdown. That America is just teeming with germs, I tell you. But I need to recover fast if I'm going to enjoy the Manchester Literature Festival, which starts today.

There are quite a few exciting things going on in the city over the course of the fest. Techy creatives will be especially interested in the freeplay strand of programming, which combines literature with circuitry - check out the Burgess Project, Anywhereblogs and, of course, The Manchester Blog Awards night. Word has it the BBC are going to be on hand to interview Manchester bloggers for both BBC Manchester and Radio Five Live's Pods and Blogs programme, so if you're one come along and use up a few of your fifteen minutes of fame. We're also going to be going out for some drinks after the event - sort of like a Manchester blogger meet-up (the next one of those will be in November, by the way.) All are welcome.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Manchester Blog Awards Shortlist

Here's the shortlist for the 2006 blog awards. There are three shortlisted candidates for each category. They are, in no particular order:

Blog of the Year


The Airport Diaries


Best Personal Blog

A Free Man in Preston

Keris Stainton


Best Arts and Culture Blog

Yer Mam!

Ready Steady Book

Bitter and Blue

Best Political Blog



Blood and Treasure

It was very difficult to decide what to shortlist - thanks everyone for writing in with your nominations (we had close to a hundred separate emails, a great response.) I hope next year we can have more categories, as it would broaden the field a bit.

Everyone is welcome at the Blog Awards Monday Oct. 16, 7pm in the Social at Urbis, where the winners will be announced and where we will have blog readings from Geoff of 43 and the airport exile, plus live literary and musical entertainments from the Verberate crew. Yes, there will be beer there. And it's free. Not the beer, I mean it's free admission. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Weekend: eat, drink and be merry

Today marks the beginning of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. I've never been to any of their thangs before (probably because the festival coincides exactly with peak foliage week in Northern New England) but you can get the full rundown here. The event that sounds most enticing to me right now is the Beans n' Buddhas dinner at Earth Cafe, "celebrating the warm, tropical and aromatic cuisine of Thailand and Indonesia." As Homer would say "mmmm, Buddhas."

Look '07 is a yearlong celebration of photography across different NW venues. Never heard about it before? Neither had I. No worries, though, there's still several months of photographic goodness in store until May. You might want to check out the Rene Burri exhibition at the city art gallery, or the Trace photography open at Cornerhouse. And in a couple of weeks there's yet another photography exhibition chronicling the glory days of Manchester's most legendary nightclub, The Haci... zzz. wha? sorry, guess I nodded off there for a minute.

Friday, traveling night Rain or Shine spreads its countrified love all over the fabulous restaurant and bar Kim by the Sea on Old Birley Street in Hulme. The headliner is Jawbone, "a one-man-band sonic assault from Detroit that has a sound that strips the blues to its bare-bones with a primaeval stomp that's the missing link between Lightning Hopkins, Zoot Horn Rollo and The White Stripes." My my.

Getting into next week, if you've ever wanted to drink tea in a drafty squat but missed out on all the Okasional Cafe fun last time around, some members of Manchester's anarchist cafe society are putting together Lost n' Found, an "autonomous social centre" that's going to occupy a disused building somewhere in Mancland between Oct. 11 and 27. Short film festivals, junk fashion shows, art exhibitions, bicycle repairs, cabaret, reiki, hot meals and oodles of earnestness will be on offer.

You can follow that up by getting your dance on in yet another disused industrial space (it's all right, we've got loads of 'em) at the Warehouse Project, which kicks off two months of madness this Friday at the old Boddingtons Brewery. Look out for De La Soul Oct. 28, The Long Blondes Nov 2, Roni Size/ Gilles Peterson/ Daddy G Nov 4, Larrikin Love/Noisettes/Ladyfuzz Nov 17 and Horace Andy with the barking Lee Scratch Perry Nov 22. And that's just a bit of what's to come, but it is of course selling out fast.

New blog Wednesday

A trio of new-to-you blogs from the Manc blog awards motherlode:

Notebooks is the personal blog of Julia, a writer, historian and journalist who is originally from Russia. Her latest post is about the dark side of being a media researcher (Oh, I can sympathise!):

For the third week running I've been trying to find a medical professional to speak about migraine, and, to my huge amazement, still haven't got anyone, except for a couple of doctors, whose secretaries it's difficult to track down. Two organisations that I tried didn't have a contact, and the third one is showing great deal of relaxation in not getting back with any kind of response.

Geeks, pause that episode of Battlestar Galactica for a minute: Silk and Spinach is a techy blog relating to software, specifically Agile software development. And no, that doesn't mean developing software that's quick on its feet. Apparently. What do I know?

Given the tremendous popularity of knitting blogs around the world, I've always wondered why we don't have any crafty blogs here in Mancunia. Well, now we do. Written by Jenny in Levenshulme, Indie Quarter was set up to showcase the work of independent designers/crafters/makers - from people working in lofts and studios to people working away in their box rooms. It aims to display alternatives to mass produced high street goods.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Let there be branding

Anyone see this last week? They lit up the inside of the Great Bridgewater Tunnel (that the one by the GMEX?) with lights spelling out "Be Original" and "Be Modern" - from His Holiness Peter Saville's vision for rebranding Manchester. Apparently there are more light displays coming, in different parts of the city, over the next couple of months.

Manchester Blog Awards deadline extension

We have extended the nomination period for the blog awards until October 7, due to a delay in the Manchester Literature Festival newsletter going out. So, you've got another week to get in those nominations for best political blog, best personal blog, best arts and culture blog and blog of the year before the winners are announced Oct. 16. Send all nominations to mancblogawards at

Friday, September 29, 2006

Now with added categories!

The Manc Blogroll (see right) was getting really, really long - and I've been wanting to break it into categories for a while. Prompted by a timely suggestion from Wodge (whose blog is now all about telly, by the way) I actually did it. The blogroll is now broken up into the following categories:

arts and entertainment blogs
group/organisation blogs
literature/writers' blogs
personal blogs (hoo boy, of which there are many)
political blogs
sport blogs
religious blogs
city blogs (stuff about Manchester specifically)
tech blogs
photo blogs
academic blogs

I went through all the sites and tried to categorise them in a sensible way. Of course, if you don't agree with the category I put you in just drop me a line. But if you're some manner of electro-anarchist and have a problem with putting blogs in boxes, too bad. It's much easier and more orderly this way, and I am a virgo, after all.

While messing about in the template I took the opportunity to add some new blogs in and offload some of the abandoned ones. Too screened-out to do a proper introduction, however, so you'll all just have to introduce yourselves.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The pod people

A few random things to tell you about here. First, Jon of Black Country Grammar informs us that tonight marks the monthly return of noWax, the club night where YOU are the dj, astounding and confounding the other musos in the place with a selection of tracks from your own personal mp3 player, mobile phone, or even, Jon says, a cassette walkman (remember those artifacts?) But he doesn't say if anyone who wants to bust out some Waylon and Willie on their portable 8-track player is welcome. (Remember: "If we don't care for the 8-track, who will"? -- Mr. James "Big Bucks" Burnette)

Anyway, it's at the Bay Horse on Thomas Street from 8 tonight. Anyone who goes along to this also gets free entry to High Voltage later on.

If you're still among the podless, you might be interested in this contest I heard about. Kate Fox of the Mersey Basin Campaign says they're running a photo competition for Mersey Basin Week - the person who submits the best photograph of a MBW event by Oct. 20 will win a brand new ipod. The details are here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bill Clinton, Fox News and YouTube

Here in the states everyone is talking about Bill Clinton's appearance yesterday on a Fox News talk show, where he responded to questions about why he didn't do more to catch Bin Laden after the U.S. Cole bombing with an angry tirade against the Murdoch-owned Fox and the American right.

An English viewer, raised on a diet of the Today programme and Parliamentary catfights, might not understand what all the fuss was about; Though he criticised the Bush administration, Clinton didn't say anything really outrageous. But if you understand the despondent state of the Democratic party in this country, you'll know it's a big deal. Confonted with a feckless Republican administration that has raped the environment, endangered the American citizenry and raided the country's coffers for their own benefit, the left has been almost bizarrely incapable of elucidating a response. Clinton's tirade "gave the democratic party a backbone transplant" as Paul Begala said on one of the morning shows - people are getting angry, and realising that we don't have to put up with this shit.

An interesting side story here is what's happening over on YouTube. Naturally, the folks who didn't see it on TV went there first to watch a video clip, and several people had posted it. But YouTube is taking the Clinton clips down as fast as they're put up, after Fox news threatened them with legal action. People seem to be reposting, but are worried about the site's culpability all the same: " er... how do we protect YouTube from copyright violations?" one YouTuber fretted. "Fox will sue them to kingdom come and get them shut down if we keep on posting, but if we don't, then Fox, big media, and the unjust law wins. Can we post under "Fair Use" or creative commons, or anti-copyright?
Is there any chance for us? Or do we just get battered by the law again and again, until we shut up like good little sheep?"

Political blogging recap

Have been meaning to post a report on the political blogging discussion on Sunday, but had to wait until I arrived in the states to do it. I'm writing this from my parents' spread in Vermont, where I'll be for a couple of weeks. Anyway, the talk went really well. I was so impressed at how well informed everyone was, and was happy that the folks in the audience not only asked questions, but also shared their own opinions. In the end, it turned into a kind of seminar, which was great.

I won't do a long summary here, because Urbis are putting together a podcast of the talk and I'll post a link when it's up. But in the meantime two attendees, Stu at Feeling Listless and Stephen Newton, have filed reports of what transpired - go check 'em out.

A partial list of the other bloggers in attendence included panellists Norman Geras, Bill Jones and Martin Stabe, Roy Johnson, journalist and occasional Blood and Treasure contributor Kevin Gopal, MDDA director Dave Carter (who is starting a blog I hear...) and "lapsed blogger" Kate Taylor.

I'm going to be putting together some more of these talks about blogging and digital discourse, so let me know if there's a topic you think would make a good one. Music blogging and online writing about books and literature are two possibilities.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Grab a pew

This is one clubnight I've never seen in a listings magazine, but anyone with gothy predilections should be interested (if you don't know about it already.) Ara is a monthly night at Sacred Trinity, a beautifully preserved gothic church on Chapel Street. Yep, a clubnight at a church.

I think this is really interesting - there's nothing on the website to suggest they do any proseletyzing on the night, but there's no denying that something like this is a smart idea for a congregation interested in welcoming in a younger demographic. It's not all dancing to Bauhaus and Siouxie, though - They also have books/magazines to read, show films, have art on display and have occasional poetry readings.

There's a long post on Criminally Vulgar
that describes what the night is like, and also talks about a troubling series of events when the place was invaded by some drunk brawlers. If you're going, please be serious and respect the folks putting it together. The very complete and helpful Ara website will tell you everything else you might want to know (the church photo is from there). The next one is tonight, and it's an Adam Ant special. 9-2, £5, BYOB.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Weekend: politicking

Ah, the Labour Party Conference is upon us. It's odd how all the national papers turn themselves inside out with special Manchester supplements detailing the city's cultural delights for the benefit of LPC delegates who will probably spend most of their time attending meetings in some dreary conference centre, or in a smoky pub, schmoozing with other pols and their hangers-on.

A case in point is Time Out Manchester - the sample issue should be out today (even though it was meant to be out yesterday and wasn't, so maybe it won't be.) If it's hard to find, it's being distributed by the WH Smith's in the Arndale, so that might be your best bet. But if you're an LPC delegate, you get one for free.

On Saturday, you might want to dig out that Impeach Bush T-shirt and head over to the antiwar protests outside the G-Mex. More info here. Bring a white sheet or white clothes, preferably spattered with red paint, if you're up for the mass die-in at half two.

Or if you're in more of a musical mood, head over to Platt Fields Park for Cohesion Live, an outdoor concert in aid of a Manchester peace park in Kosovo, featuring Doves, Badly Drawn Boy, Graham Coxon, Elbow, and just about every other reasonably successful local indie band going (doors noon, £20 adv/£25 gate). No pets allowed, so leave that crusty dog on a string at home.

And if you have any energy left when Sunday rolls around, come by the political blogging panel discussion at Urbis, at the very civilised hour of four p.m. It's free, too. That's the last plug, I promise.

(The picture is David Harrison's Bad Fairies, part of the John Moores 24 painting exhibition on display at the Walker in Liverpool. Really amazing show - don't miss it.)

Blogger must advertise

You might have noticed I've finally caved in and signed up for adsense, and I'm in the process of looking for other advertising that isn't going to be too invasive or icky (any advice gratefully received.)

I thought about it, and decided that if everyone accepts that newspapers and magazines need advertising to survive, why should a blog be any different? I know many folks have strong negative feelings about advertising on blogs, but I spend A LOT of time on this site, and this is the only way I know of to get reimbursed for that time... though the payment will probably be so nominal that I'll finally decide it isn't worth it and take the ads off. We'll see - it's a trial.

Couldn't they do something about the ads being so dull, though? Why can't we have clever jingles and witty campaigns, maybe Whiffling 'round the internet? (Oh, see, now that's a reference to a book. I suppose I should whack an Amazon ad thingy for Murder Must Advertise in here. Is that how they do it?)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blogging on the radio

I'm going to be on Alan Beswick's show on BBC Radio Manchester today to talk about the Political Blogging Panel Discussion happening Sunday at Urbis, the upcoming Manchester Blog Awards, and the whole weblog phenomenon. I've been told it'll be on sometime between 2 and 4 pm.

I bet I'm gonna be saying the word "blog" a lot.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The North West Enquirer is dead

I'm sorry to be the bearer of such sad tidings, but I've just learned that the North West Enquirer has folded. As always, money is the issue - I'm told the advertising sales never got off the ground, and even with a beefed-up ad sales team the paper never was able to recover.

Condolences to all the fine folks who worked there and especially to editor Bob Waterhouse, who believes the North West deserves its own intelligent and readable paper. I thought it was quite good, and I know there are a lot of people who will be very disappointed.

The Press Gazette has just put a story online: North West Enquirer goes into administration.

New blog bonanza

Jeez Louise, it's amazing how many Manchester blogs have come out of the woodwork since the nominations opened for the blog awards (we've gotten in quite a few of those already, but be sure to get yours in by Oct. 1 if you haven't already...) Because there are so many new ones to add to the Manchester blogroll, I'm not going to write as much as usual in the way of introduction, but go check them out.

Cygnet's Review is a funny personal blog written by Joel Swann, a student based in Manchester.

While it's not strictly in blog format, fans will be happy to hear that Wayne Clews continues to publish his "Sex and Self Pity" column every week online, long after the demise of City Life.

Keeper of the Snails is the literary blog of author and academic Claire Dudman. Lots of tasty stuff for folks interested in books and that.

Bothered is a shared personal blog written by two girls in Manchester.

Hyde Daily Photos is a really lovely photoblog featuring the work of contribitors Gerald England and Pamela, who snap quotidian scenes of Hyde life, like the photo above from Sept. 16. It's part of the city daily photo blogring, which I hadn't heard about before. Nice idea.

Michael Taylor, an editor based in Cheshire, writes The Marple Leaf, a personal blog with a motto: Be honest - be loyal - be kind. Cool.

The Mersey Basin blog is the online home of the Mersey Basin Campaign: "an organisation which is concerned with water quality, environment, waterside regeneration and community engagement in the catchments of the Ribble and the Mersey. We're based in the Northern Quarter, but have various action partnerships all over the Northwest. Our first blog has been set up to write about Mersey Basin Week 2006 - a series of related events that will take place at the start of October, but as you'll see, it also covers what we're up to at the moment, local watery news, and some other random musing."

Wow, that's a lot of new blogs. If I've missed anyone, let me know.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Guardian's Manchester podcast

I almost missed it, but there was a link on the I've Been There page to a Manchester podcast done by David Ward, one of the few lonely Grauniad journos left here. Billed as an audio guide to Manc, it it promises to "reveal how cafe society changed the city" (Yes, they're serious.)

I just listened to it, and can't say I'm any the wiser about Manchester's cafe society. While the production values were as high as I expected, I found the podcast a bit of a dud. It felt like a school field trip, slogging round the Museum of Science and Industry for an age. And the local experts they chose to interview were - surprise! - mostly Guardian or MEN writers, reeling off the usual suspects in culture, nightlife, food etc. I'd much rather hear from regular Mancs, folks who might say something unscripted, talking about some random club night, un-famous pub or the little curry place on the corner.

To be fair, it's nice to see the Guardian paying any attention at all to Manchester. As a regular reader of both their online and print editions, I frequently get steamed up about how little they ever write about the city ... unless someone gets shot in Moss Side or assaulted in Salford, of course. Unfortunately, this podcast is not something most relatively clued-up Mancunians will derive much benefit from, since it just tells us stuff we already know. It's clearly targeted at older, affluent daytrippers, who probably live down south.

Yeah, it's easy to criticise, but how about coming up with something better? Okay, I'm going to take a podcasting course next month at MDDA (The Oct. 13 one is apparently full, but they're going to do some more, so check their website.) If anyone's interested in doing some podcasting about the real Manchester, get in touch.

Yeah, I've been there

I recently stumbled on this interesting open-source travel/city tips page the Guardian has put together called I've Been There. People recommend different places/sites/activities in their city, and other readers can rate them according to whether they agree or not - the more people agree that something is good, the higher its rating becomes.

There are a lot of good things on here, from The Temple to Yadgar's Cafe, and it's cool to read why people like them. One recommendation is simply an admonition to "avoid the curry mile like the plague." A few are clearly people recommending their own artwork or DJ night, etc, but they're exceptions. And there's even a blog on there, or rather a blogroll ... cheers for the recommendation.

(Temple pic from Flickr snapper hugovk.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Weekend: Biennial madness! (updated)

This weekend it's the opening of the Liverpool Biennial, so if you're even the tiniest bit interested in contemporary art, go check it out sometime in the following ten weeks. The really great thing about the biennial is that so much of the work is in public places, and pretty much all of it is free. The Biennial website should be your first stop when planning a visit, it's got all the maps, schedules and descriptions you could want, but the excellent Art in Liverpool blog is a good place to muck about, too.

The biennial has also an extensive fringe, called the Independents Biennial, which is heavy on Northwest artists and has all kinds of far out stuff going on, from phantasmagorical surreal cabaret to sound art installations in flaming tunnels. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to figure out what's on when because the independents website has bizarrely been set up as an unsearchable forum, and it's almost impossible to find a specific event, except by accident.

Why is there a picture of Bootsy Collins up there? Grizedale Arts are bringing Bootzilla and Bernie "Woo" Worrell to Liverpool for the Biennial is what I heard. Oh yeah.

Update: Bootsy pulled out at the last minute. Boo.

Manchester Mallrat

Yesterday was my birthday, so I celebrated by giving myself the afternoon off to drift around Manchester doing non-important things in a non-hurried manner. I went by the new Arndale food market, which is quite nice and clean - though they didn't even have any bins yet. It only opened a few days ago, but I heard reports of sushi, so I hustled over.

The sushi is sold by Wing's, which have opened a pan-asian concession that sells pad thai and chinese dishes but also has one of those rotating sushi treadmills with colour-coded plates. I don't like them so much. It's cheaper and nicer to buy it from the sushi "pick and mix" - a rack of frustratingly individually wrapped pieces - where I paid about £4.85 for six pieces, soy sauce, wasabi and ginger (yes, you have to buy the condiments). The selection was really limited - shrimp, salmon, tuna and a number of awful things with tuna salad clearly meant to entice those philistines who aren't keen on raw fish. No unagi, either. The quality was good, the fish fresh - I wondered if it came from the lovely and enormous new fish market round the corner? I'll be going back.

The rest of the market was cool; the best things looked to be Gastronomica, which sells a glorious array of Italian-style dried meats (porchetta sandwiches, etc.), an extensive produce stall and a cute little stand selling fancy tea and scones, where I tried to sell the owner on the delights of boba tea - the iced tea with tapioca pearls that I became addicted to in Taiwan and NY but haven't been able to find over here. I'm not sure she was convinced. The Polish deli is actually more of a Polish grocery, selling cookies and margarine imported from the motherland. Is Polish margarine really that different from British margarine?

Then it was into the new, expanded Arndale Centre. This place now goes on and on forever, like a huge American mall, with a bewildering number of shiny new stores. They've opened the bit called the wintergarden, which I thought had a nice ring to it, but it turns out all that means is part of the mall has a glass roof. It's all so anonymous and generic looking that it made me anxious. Thankfully, they've still got the scrotty old market down in the bowels of the beast, where ten minutes in the warren of stalls hawking mobile phone covers, plastic boots and manicures will make you feel much better.

Before I left, though, I went to check out the new Waterstones Arndale, which is oddly being marketed as a "concept store". I didn't really get the concept. The colour scheme is different - all pale gray and metal to suggest hipness, I guess - but it's basically a smallish Waterstones with a tiny, bizarrely curated magazine section. And I missed David Hasselhoff by about 20 minutes. He had been there signing books, and the staff were all wearing autographed t-shirts that read "don't hassle the Hoff." Can we stop saying that now? I bought Anansi Boys and went to go read it in Cathedral Gardens, and for once it didn't rain.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Time Out plot thickens

Via morning_theft on Manchester's Journal (link tk), some more interesting details about Time Out Manchester to be gleaned from this press release. I'm just pasting it below...

Time Out Manchester special edition for Thursday September 21 - Friday October 20 2006.

Time Out is delighted to announce that it will be making its debut in Manchester this September. Bringing its inimitable and hugely successful blend of definitive, independent information to the city at this time is not a coincidence.

The huge cultural and economic growth seen in the last few years and the spotlight provided by the Labour Party conference in the city for the first time since 1917 has meant that visitor figures are expected to rise in the 'capital' of the North by 17,000 during the Autumn.

Tony Elliott, the founder and owner of the international Time Out brand said, "It is the perfect time to provide this fantastic city with its own 'handbook'. There is so much going on that people need to know about."

The one-off publication will hit the city on September 20 covering Thursday September 21 - Friday October 20 2006 (4 weeks) and be a hybrid between a Time Out visitors' guide and a general listings guide for the city during this period. A weekly Time Out Manchester is planned for spring 2007.

Time Out Manchester grew out of discussions with Manchester City Council and Marketing Manchester about the launch of the weekly title. MCC and MM were enthusiastic about the possibility of a one-off Time Out-branded publication that would celebrate Manchester this Autumn.

Time Out Manchester will have a print run of 30,000 of which around 10,000 will go on sale for 1.50 in Manchester and the North-West; the rest will be given away to the Labour Party delegates (direct to their hotel rooms), via direct mail and to cultural outlets and key distribution destinations throughout the city centre.

The publication will focus on the vitality and vibrancy of the city in the same way as the London edition and is designed to be both useful and exciting to anyone in Manchester in the period.

Editor Bill Borrows, a born and bred Mancunian, heads up a team of new and exciting journalists from the city who will be bringing their knowledge, enthusiasm and talent to the project. Borrows has written for almost every national newspaper, including time as a columnist on the Daily Mirror, and worked for magazines as various as Marie Claire, Red and Maxim (where he was Editor-at-Large) as well as editing magazines for the British Tourist Authority,

SKY and working as a consultant on several others.

Contributors include award-winning food critic Andy Shanahan, Alex McCann (editor of music website, Susie Stubbs (Editor of All Saints, No Sinners magazine), Caroline Shaw (former editor of both Theme and City magazine), author and broadcaster Flic Everett and Elbow frontman and XFM DJ Guy Garvey.

Local photographers and creatives including Peter Saville, architecture specialist Phil Griffin and famous Manc rock photographer Karen McBride have all been commissioned to contribute to the pages.

Looking to the future and to launching a weekly magazine in 2007, Time Out Manchester aims to reflect, document and inform the city with the same level of expertise, outstanding editorial content and definitive listings established and honed over 38 years in London. By working closely with Marketing Manchester, local agencies and organisations Time Out will evolve and develop into a definitive weekly guide for Manchester.

Time Out Group Chairman Tony Elliott adds, "The next 12 months are a tremendously exciting time for the Time Out Group. We are expanding both nationally and internationally, and are greatly looking forward to being involved in this vibrant and vital city and welcoming our Manchester team to Time Out."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Blog awards nominations open: updated

And... they’re off! The blog awards nomination period has now opened. So send in those nominations for the best of Manchester’s blogs in the following four categories:

Best Arts and Culture Blog ( incl. music, photo, art, film, lit, fiction blogs, etc.)

Best Political Blog

Best Personal Blog

Blog of the Year (Open to any kind of blog)

One set of nominations per person, please. And yes, you can nominate your own blog, or someone else’s. Only blogs written by someone who lives or works within reasonable commuting distance of Manchester are eligible.

UPDATED: nominations do not count as votes, so the whole notion of campaigning (ie pestering all your friends all over the world to nominate your blog, or creating fake gmail accounts to in order to flood the inbox with ersatz nominations) is kinda silly. If you want to be considered for a particular category, just nominate yourself fer chrissakes.

Another update: The Manchizzle isn't eligible for any awards, because I'm one of the judges. That would be so wrong.

Please email your nominations to:
The nominating period closes on October 1.

A shortlist of finalists in each category will be chosen from the nominations, and announced in early October. A judging panel (see below) will select the winners from that shortlist. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony during the Manchester Literature Festival, at Urbis, on October 16 at 7pm. There will also be live literature, music and blog readings on the night.

2006 Manchester Blogging Awards
Judging panel:

Dave Carter, Head of the Manchester Digital Development Agency.

Fee Plumley, Manchester Literature Festival, Festival Manager and ‘Freeplay’ Artistic Director

Richard Fair, BBC Manchester

Kate Feld, blogger and freelance journalist

Any questions, email me on themanchizzle at Good luck!

Free podcasting and blogging classes in MCR

The Manchester Digital Development Agency is hosting a nice series of free workshops in podcasting, blogging, and other stuff like that. I'm going to the podcasting one myself. More info here, if you're interested.

Political Bloggers: A Panel at Urbis 24/9

I'm going to be moderating a panel discussion at Urbis later this month - and yes, it's about blogging! Details are below. Please come if you're remotely interested...

Political Bloggers and the New Media Landscape

On 24 September 2006, to coincide with the Labour Party Conference (Sun Sept. 24 – Thurs Sept 28), Urbis will host a panel discussion that will explore the way political bloggers are changing the media.

In the UK, bloggers are increasingly driving the news, and providing a robust and democratic new forum for political debate. A consortium of influential UK political bloggers has just set up their own advertising venture, an indication that blogging has started to reshape the media market. These self-appointed pundits are both reviled as ranting rumormongers and hailed as the prophets of the digital revolution. So what’s the truth – are bloggers setting the news agenda, or is this mostly hype? And will political bloggers put traditional journalists out of work, or can the two work together?

Panelists include:

Norman Geras: blogger, author and professor emeritus at Manchester University, where he taught in the school of government for several years. His mostly political blog, Normblog was voted best UK Blog at the 2005 Weblog awards. He is also an author of the Euston Manifesto.

Martin Stabe is an online reporter for The Press Gazette. He is a frequent contributor to the gazette’s journalism weblog, Blog Watches Dog and he also maintains a blog at, which deals with politics across the Atlantic and across the channel.

Bill Jones
blogs at Skipper, which covers UK politics, parliament and the press. He lives in Stockport and is a semi-retired lecturer at Manchester University specializing in British Politics. He is the editor of the Politics Today series of books published by Manchester University Press.

The event will be run as an informal panel discussion, followed by a question and answer session. Starts at 4pm. Free, booking not required

For more information, get in touch on themanchizzle at