Saturday, November 17, 2007

Manchester in London

I was in London for a meeting on Friday, and decided to pop over to the reopened Royal Festival Hall in the afternoon. Popping into the poetry library it was interesting to see that their current writer in residence is Lemn Sissay - and even more intriguing was that the previous weekend there'd been a posse (is that the right collective noun?) of Mancunian writers down there, no doubt having it large, with Dave Haslam on the decks. There was a nice little display of Mancunian magazines from PNR to Ugly Tree as well. Now, I guess its no surprise that a Lemn curated night would be a speakeasy/Green room type event and I'm sure everyone had a whale of a time - but it does make me wonder if Manchester is still only seen, in terms of literature, as being a bit edgy, a place of outsiders, rough around the edges. There's a truth in that, of course, since I'm still hard pressed to think of a contemporary Manchester-based novelist who sits at the heart of the culture - despite the 15 years of creative writing courses, and a wide range of books with some connection to the city. Maybe novelists aren't ever that associated with place; or perhaps, with our Steve Coogans, Tony Wilsons, Carol Ann Duffy's and the like, we've a fair enough smattering as it is. I still think there's room for a big, vital novel about - rather than just set in - the city, and I'm just surprised it's still not arrived.

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