Sunday, September 29, 2013

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

It is October on Tuesday; a little unbelievably given the late summer sunshine this weekend. Manchester changes in the autumn as fifty thousand or more students are landed on the city; it transforms the place in many ways. The city is a small place and though it never seems quite as packed as London or other capitals, the amount of people stands out during the autumn months.

You'll find new bars opening; and a wide range of festivals and other events taking place to take advantage of the potential audience: food and drink festival this week, literature one to follow. I always have a busy autumn as working on European projects there's a seasonal element to our work and in reality we have just 13 or 14 weeks between summer and Christmas to complete a wide rang of actvities. But this was always the case. Keats' "mellow fruitfulness" glories in the autumn; as a child the harvest festival was the religious feast that seemed most real in many ways - though its pagan in origin.

I think there are other kinds of harvest as well - creative ones. There is abundance out there. I sometimes wonder, in the modern world, when people find the time to actually do the work. At one end of the spectrum you'll have celebrity biographies rushed out for Christmas, at the other end, an autumn publishing schedule as even small publishers and local bookshops make much of their money in the lead up to Christmas. Mercury Prize and Booker Prize are announced to give a fillip to the winners; in art, the Frieze fair is one of the two biggest events for London hotel occupation (after the Farnborough air show!) The Oscar pretenders are on display; the TV programmers are sharing their jewels, whether old favourites like Downton or X-Factor or new shows like Peaky Blinders and By Any Means.

I'm overwhelmed by it to be honest: I hardly had a normal summer with my eye operation taking me out for much of June and July; and getting back to normal the last month has been exhausting, including two weeks abroad. Inevitably I'm now poleaxed by the office cold. In the real world the Conservative Party conference starts in Manchester today; and the bad policies of this unrepresentative leadership (thanks Nick Clegg) multiply as they try and slip out their corruptions before forced to face the country again. Royal Mail sell off joins pathetically contradictory policies on bedroom tax, married couples tax allowance and bungs to home buyers, alongside the fuck ups of private sector service provision  such as the NHS computer system. A march in Manchester today against their divisive policies will probably be hardly noticed by the chinless home counties party faithful.

A farmer or a poet reflects on the abundance of autumn for two good reasons; firstly because it is the end result of the hard work of the harvest during the summer; and secondly because this abundance has to last for several seasons. I think as artists we need to reflect on our own seasons - there is a time to grow, a time to reap, a time to store, and a time to live off our work. There's a busyness about some aspects of creative life which seem to be a bit too urgent at times: as if we constantly need to be producing. The last few days I've been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of material on show. The Manchester Contemporary at the Buy Art Fair showcases contemporary art practice - its on at Spinningfields today and well worth a look; in contrast an audience-curated exhibition at the Lowry "Defining Me: musical adventures in Manchester" collects together personal histories of Manchester.

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