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.