Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Cutting Room Experiment

There's an empty square in Ancoats next to St. Peter's Church called Cutting Room Square. It's a new public square created as part of the regeneration of the area. It's pretty quiet up there these days. But that's all going to change on June 20 when the Cutting Room Experiment takes over.

What's it all about? Well, nobody knows yet. The organisers are soliciting ideas for events across 12 different streams of programming, including literature, architecture/design, art and pop music. The way it works is that people submit their ideas for what they think should happen, and the winners of open online voting decide what actually gets to happen. It's a little similar to the way the Mapping Creativity project worked, but with a different focus and on a different scale.

Current contenders include some unsurprisingly flashmobby suggestions, like the biggest Space Hopper race ever, an enormous silent disco and a mass dance routine to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The literature stream makes for particularly interesting reading with some strong, writing-led ideas alongside some stranger ones (Jane Austen and zombies???) Votes close on Friday, May 29.

The resulting events will be funded by regeneration bodies, the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and New East Manchester.

Got questions? Want to know more? Well, you're in luck. Organiser Jon is inviting curious bloggers down to the Bay Horse on Thursday May 21 at 6:30 for what may be Manchester's first ever "blog launch," constituting a chat about the event and a free pint.

Rainy City Stories June workshops

Attention writerly folk: The Rainy City Stories project has teamed up with the lovely people at Commonword to run some creative writing workshops in Greater Manchester on the theme of writing about place.

How do the best writers successfully evoke the unique feeling of a place? How can descriptions and telling details be used to transport the reader to a particular setting? Writer Suzanne Batty will help participants explore new tactics and techniques in the two-hour session.

Suzanne Batty has published two collections of poems, most recently The Barking Thing (Bloodaxe Books). She is an experienced workshop leader who teaches Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University and is co-editor of poetry journal Rain Dog.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of writer. Places are free, but limited to 12 people per workshop, so early booking is advised. It will be offered in four locations:

Stockport Art Gallery Saturday June 13, 2-4 pm
To book a place, please ring 0161 474 4453

Bury Fusiliers’ Museum Wednesday June 24, 7-9 pm
To book a place, please ring 01706 823264

Hyde Library Thursday June 25, 1-3 pm
To book a place, please ring 0161 342 4450

Standish Library
Saturday June 27, 10am-12pm
To book a place, please ring 01257 400496

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Blogs: The Checkpoint Charlie Edition

"Can I see your papers, sir?" Manchester's set to become Cold War-era East Berlin as we've drawn the short, shit-covered straw and won the privilege of being the first city in Britain to get identification cards.

They won't be compulsory, oh no - well, not at first. Good citizens will queue up to get them out of an earnest desire to help the authorities keep us all safe, right? And you're a good citizen, right? So why don't you want one? Don't you want to live in a safe country? Hmmm, maybe we should make them mandatory. For the good of all, you understand.

Don't you stand for it.

I received an email from Rosetta Hampshire telling me about her new blog: although I am not quite as delicious as I once was

"I suppose it would fit best in the personal blogs bit as I intend to write largely about myself and my feelings about moving to Manchester. I was actually born here about ninety years ago but had never actually seen the city until this year. At ninety years old I cannot promise my blog will last for very long but hopefully it will be worth reading while it (and I) keep going."

There can't be too many nonagenarian ladies who list Stereolab among their favourite bands, but the world is much stranger than we think. ;)

A couple of new music blogs: Guestlist and Cath Aubergine's Up the Down Escalator which is a blog that lives on MySpace.

Oldham 100 is a photo blog written by an Oldham bus driver who documents his route in daily snaps. Great idea, nicely executed.

The Manchester Zedders live here. What are zedders? Go find out.

Following up my last, surprisingly comment-provoking post, Sarah Hartley has a personal blog here, and will continue her food writing here.

Commonword joins the blogging fray with Commonword Blogs.

An interesting new addition to the city blogs section: Lost in Manchester, which chronicles "the weird, wonderful and plain ordinary in and around Manchester" Reminds me of the excellent Forgotten NY.

CMS, who writes Lost in Manchester, also has a photo blog called The Last Picture show.

Culture Club Social is not a blog but a ning site with the motto "Be proud, be creative, be in the city - Bee Manc (a reference of course to the symbol of Manchester, the industrious honeybee. Which is now endangered. Hmm.) They're interested in news of cultural events around the city.

All Over MCR is an anonymously written blog that seems to have a Manchester news and media focus, with recent posts on the launch of the Bury Independent and Channel M.

Peace out.

Friday, May 01, 2009

More cuts at the Manchester Evening News

Earlier this week, I couldn't believe it when I heard some of the people who'd lost their jobs at the MEN. These are not cub reporters by any stretch, but committed and experienced editorial-level folks who've been on the paper for years.

Outgoing online editor Sarah Hartley (Good luck, Sarah!) writes about her time at the MEN over on her personal blog. Wrestling such an old-school relic of a paper into the internet age couldn't have been an easy task, and it's unclear now what will become of the stable of blogs she developed for the MEN, including The Mancunian Way and Life Through Food. Or, for that matter, the CityLife website. You'd have to be pretty moronic to jettison websites and blog projects at this juncture, but the suits in charge of our local rag haven't ever been exactly visionary.

Seriously, is there anyone left in the building? This is what, the second, or is it the third round of cuts on the paper this year? Not to mention the fact that they've decimated the much-vaunted Channel M and cut its broadcasting time to a few hours a day.

Not to mention the fact that, when I bought my GMG-owned Rossendale Free Press yesterday, it had a notice about how the newsroom was now at Scott Place in Manchester, and if I wanted to talk with a reporter in Ramsbottom I could do so at a 2-hour "surgery" once a week. (Yeah, thanks, but news phoned in from six postcodes away doesn't sound so fresh to me. I'd much rather start a citizen-powered hyperlocal community newsblog. Any takers?)

It looks like we happen to be lucky enough to be seeing the death of the newspaper age up close and personal. It'll be painful for a while as journalism reconfigures itself for the new world order. But how this happens, what new forms emerge, and whether we as consumers of news will ultimately benefit remains very much to be seen.

In the meantime, the state of Manchester's print media is looking pretty bleak. If you've got news, you'd probably be better off shouting it from the rooftops then calling the MEN, where there soon may not be anyone to answer the phone, let alone file a story.