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