Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Other people will be far better than me at attending the lit fest. I went to the Manchester Blog Awards/Verberate on Monday, which was mostly very enjoyable - as always I'm left a little cold by the Speakeasy types who did the second set. I felt the blog readings were an enjoyable take on this whole thing. Blogs aren't books, and neither is necessarily good read live, but both the Airport Diaries and 43 bus readings were done well. Its coincided with a busy week at work, a conference on Monday, then a workshop on Tuesday, both involving Peter Saville, once Factory Records cover designer, now Manchester's "brand" manager. I get the feeling the city council wanted a logo, and what they got instead was a dialogue. They may not realise it, but the city has got the better out of that deal. Dialogue being hard. I felt quite inspired - but also a little cynical - in that working for that same council you get to see how far the rhetoric is removed from the reality; its a totally hierarchical organisation, that can at times seem opaque in the extreme in how it decides things. Factory records, as he reminded us, happened without the great and the good even realising it was around; and I'm not convinced that anything has changed - at times the city seems determined to develop the world's biggest bar crawl, and sod anything that gets in its way. But at other times - with the Manchester Food and drink festival, the literature festival etc. - one is more optimistic. I still know I'm far more likely to find the future in the Northern quarter or in an independent dive venue like the Britons Protection, Big Hands or the Star and Garter than anything badged with the words "Manchester International Festival", and that is a gap that needs to be bridged. As my homework from the Peter Saville event I'm meant to send a "viral" email out to three or four key people about the city's dreadful "official" websites. Not entirely sure how I phrase that one. But then again, you have to commend those who have raised expectations in this way; and only hope that they are capable of meeting them. As Saville said, a brand is about values, not a logo, and if you don't live up to the values you espouse then all the money in the world won't make a difference. I've not had a chance to "listen again" to Radio 4's "original modern" stories yet, but that's the other thing about festivals - half the year you are sat in wondering what to do, the other half you're frantically trying to catch half of the interesting things going on.

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