Monday, July 25, 2016


"Holiday" as Madonna sung, or perhaps more appropriately as Stanley Middleton named his 1974 Booker winner. "School's out," was Alice Cooper's version. Whatever....last week a sudden rise in the temperature seemed to send everyone a little doo-lally as people at work tried to finish things off before their early summer break. I was heading home for my dad's 80th, and the supermarkets and roads were busy with the franticness of the British in their holiday rituals. The sun continued through the weekend which meant I got a bit of sunburn taking my sister's dog for a walk and playing tennis on the lawn with my nephew.

I reminisced to a colleague about when Manchester stopped dead in the summer - not a thing to do or see. Not anymore. This week alone there is the Science festival and the Jazz festival. I caught an opening at HOME on Friday, possibly the strongest work since it opened, with a group of Brazilian artists on show. No wonder its good, consisting of five winners of Brazil's main contemporary art prize. Go see, and I'll go back as the preponderance of video work means I've still some to see.

Then to the wonderful Portico Library where a series of performances, linked to Confingo magazine took place. Le Surrealisme, c'est moi, was curated by Zoe Maclean (apologies for missing accents etc.) and came out of a series of serendipitous collaborations which she has been putting together. I was particularly taken by the dramatic song cycle from MOTHER, but it was all good to be honest. Quite a surreal week, actually, as The Other Room on Wednesday - moved just this once to the Wonder Inn - boasted some excellent and varied performers. My second time there in a fortnight as I'd gone along for the surprising and varied "Dada 100" celebration a couple of weeks before. It seems that Dada - birthed in Switzerland in 1916 as an absurdist response to dangerous times, seems very apt in our current post-Brexit psychodramas - though in the UK of course, the "dada" influence seems to be found more in the comedy of Spike Milligan's Q series and Monty Python's Flying Circus than in high(er) art.  All good fun.

I mention Booker above, as this year's Booker longlist will be released on Wednesday. Where has that year gone? (And I do need to finish "A Brief History of seven killings"!" Remember last year was the first under the new regime of all English language writings. Not that many big names with books out this time - though Annie Proulx has been mentioned for her latest mammoth book, whilst Julian Barnes who won with his last, somewhat manipulative novel "The Sense of an Ending" has a smaller work out. There's also a new Eimear McBride due, which will presumably be eligible.  Watch this space!

I will more than likely be at Waterstone's on Deansgate where Jen Ashworth's 4th novel "Fell" is being showcased. From what I've heard, the Lancashire gothic that pervades her previous novels is made more explicit in this new story set around the north of Morecambe Bay. Then on Thursday its another "launch pad" show at Castlefield Gallery featuring Amelia Crouch.

Elsewhere, in TV land, I enjoyed the first episode of Conrad's "The Secret Agent" with its late Victorian freakshow aesthetic, and need to catch up with last night's - so shhh! Meanwhile the new Granta has two writers like and admire, Gwendoline Riley with an extract from her forthcoming fifth novel, which reads as intimate and intricate as ever, and Melissa Lee-Houghton with a long poem - which I suspect may be the longest Granta has ever published. Her new collection is out from Penned in the Margins later this year.

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