Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Best (and worst) of Manchester

I dutifully went into town yesterday, first time for over a week. Manchester was under a pall of greyness. You noticed, in comparison with London in particular, how little of a tourist destination it is at times like these. You come to Manchester for reasons - football, shopping, occasionally an artistic event or a conference, to see friends - but not for Manchester. The building site that is the city centre as the trams are still being upgraded doesn't help. It hardly seems that long since they were put down - or the surfeit of cranes around the city before the Commonwealth Games, desperately finishing off Picaddilly Station. We've been a building site for years, and one's tempted to say that sometimes its building mostly over the cracks - and, extinguishing what little bit of green there might be in the city.

Through the rain, escaping the Arndale, I headed to Urbis, to catch the "best of Manchester" exhibition. Its a mini Turner prize for the creative arts (art, fashion and music), with the winners exhibited. Since only really the visual artists are meant to be on show (how can you exhibit a regular night like Club Brenda?) its a hotch potch but a vibrant one. Far better than the ragged New York exhibition downstairs. I liked Natalie Curtis's lightbox photographs of bands; and particularly Rachel Goodyears dark illustrations. Its a crowd-sourced competition, with judging from a number of luminaries. I'm not sure what its aim is - certainly Goodyear, the Owl Project, Babycakes and Switchflicker records have been doing their thing for a while now - but in pushing some of the more leftfield stuff in the city to a wider audience its good, and should probably be expanded (I would say this) to include film and writing.

Having been enjoying the guilty pleasure of "Desperate Romantics" these last few weeks I thought I'd pop into Manchester Art Gallery and check out their pre-raphaelites. I'd forgotten (if I ever knew) that the art gallery is completely shut on a Monday. I know the Cornerhouse's gallery is also closed on a Monday, but the rest of the venue remains open - the art gallery, our civic gem, was dormant and empty - and this in the school holidays. Somehow, it seemed something of the worst of Manchester, some civic decision made for good reasons of practicality, I'm sure, but frustrating. With the Central Library about to close for three years, the city becomes yet again, a place where all you can do is shop or drink. On the way to watch the football in a pub, I didn't notice a woman walking the other direction at speed, and slightly cut her up. I turned to apologise and got a mouthful of abuse. Perhaps a week away from the city has over-sensitised me a little; but for once, I'm in no hurry to get back there.


Paul said...

Sadly I don't think you've being over-sensistised. I've also noticed an increased tendancy for people - (seemingly in fear of a looming confrontation) to get their aggressive response "in first". Mostly verbal but can go further.

I may be getting old, but it used to be that both parties would immediately and instinctively apologise, even if neither was really to blame.

Anonymous said...

did you see the babycakes code on the wall?