MLW and Castlefield Launch Pad, the films

Manchester Left Writers won the last round of bids for Castlefield Gallery’s Launch Pad series, administered in association with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Part of the pitch was for us to make some experimental films. Here are my films so far. The films are being pitched as ‘Notebook Films’, lo-fi, ideas-driven, quick. Here are some brief explanations and glimpses of each of them:

Notebook Film No.1 begins with the Millbank Riot as an augur of the austerity to come and its responses, 2011 included. It comes into the city of Manchester past shipping containers, and meditates on the ‘parliamentary stop’ of Ardwick Station, which has featured in other MLW pieces. It then travels out of the city with all of the riotous noise of recent protest marches. It begins to demonstrate the methodology of making ‘notebook films’ with iPhones etc, and foraging for scraps to make work with. It challenges the relevance of ‘magnetic north’ and brings in Manchester’s science history. This film sets the scene.

For continuation, Notebook Film No.2 begins again at the Ardwick parliamentary stop. It passes the council clad high-rises named after suffragettes, to ponder class and housing, gentrification, gender and plein air sleeping, via a piece of tent graffiti. It then arrives in the city again at Victoria Station, past relatively new high rise housing stock, to consider Blake’s ‘Ratio’ and what Adorno and Horkheimer called ‘instrumental rationality’. The soundtrack comes courtesy of Onion Widow via Chelsea from Essex.

Notebook Film No.3 explores Ancoats, Engels and myth. It examines contemporary spaces where poverty and the rag trade adhere. It then attempts to collapse the recent filming of Captain America in the Northern Quarter with earlier myths, in order to try to break up and loosen how ideology operates, so that we might think about that in relation to the Northern Powerhouse. The soundtrack by Chelsea from Essex provides a kind of folk elegy for the present, as the ghosts of Cheshire huntsmen – Engels himself rode with the hunt – appear on the streets, providing further augurs. Found scraps begin to re-map the island:

Notebook Film No.4 is by Natalie Bradbury, with some input from me. It explores the relationship between town and country, urban and rural, between Manchester and London, between fixity and mobility. It also begins to explore the idea of the ‘poor relation city’, to the north and south of Manchester, in this case the first in a series of meditations on Stockport, that will later be followed by explorations of Rochdale. This film also finds spaces of hope, in passers-by, in tiny nooks, in small public sculptures like eccentric shrines, in tiny urban interventions, in windows, in walls:

Notebook Film No.5 is a short glimpse of a much longer film, just under half an hour, which takes a trip from Angel Meadow – the place of the extinguishing of Co-operation in the failure of the Co-op bank – to the birth of Co-operation in Rochdale, under harsh social conditions in the 19th Century. The film is subtitle ‘Top Deck As Method’, which is fairly self-explanatory:

Notebook Film No.7 uses the language of Stockport regeneration policy to make a critical but open short piece on the place. At one point, we are literally watching the traffic lights change, close up, trying to find meaning:

Notebook Film No.9 is about the worth of collage, and what Benjamin called ‘Botanising the Asphalt’, for urban exploration. It references Schwitters’ non-representational ‘stuff’ of ‘Merz’, and the ‘gesamtkustwerk’, or ‘total-work’ as smashed fragments. It uses Modern and Post-Modern references to Beethoven’s 9th to further embed the idea of the grand final masterpiece as ultimately shards, after Adorno, and Minima Moralia. This is a gutter version of Shelley’s Ozymandias, for the humanities in the early 21st century. Here it is:

All of the work here is mine, apart from some sound – credited on the Vimeo site where due – and Notebook Film No.4, which is by Natalie Bradbury, with my input. I will upload and preview more work as I make it. Notebook Films 6, 8 and 10 are currently being assembled by David Wilkinson. I am also working on the found scraps you can see in Notebook Film No.9, to present in the gallery space.

Here are the End Credits:


MLW at Verbose

Manchester Left Writers will be reading at Verbose on Monday 28 March, we are the special guests. We will be reading some of the Precarious Passages pieces we premiered at the Manchester Literature Festival last year, and testing a draft of the brand new Precarious Passages No.4.

The ‘Northern Powerhouse’, a Manchester Left Writers Open Democracy series

I co-founded Manchester Left Writers (MLW) in January 2014, initially as a leftwing reading group, before shifting it into a more critical focus, via a series of publications called Broadsides and Precarious Passages.

I am now co-editing a series of articles with openDemocracyUK. In it, we aim to present the Northern Powerhouse as a prism, dispersing different political colours, and structures of feeling, in the present. We are looking at Manchester initially, the glittering prize in George Osborne’s eye, and then thinking about how to reclaim the mythical space of ‘the Northern Powerhouse’ for its people.

First, we have an Introduction to the series, before an opening salvo, The Northern Powerhouse as Real Mirage, and then David Wilkinson on the Gay Village, gentrification and the crash of 2008. This article was originally called Civic Pride.

Next, we have a co-authored piece by Natalie Bradbury, Robert Galeta, and me, called Pomona for the People, which argues for a proper public ‘agora’, or forum, in the city. It makes an argument for real ‘placemaking’ in the present, for everyone, rather than the ‘futures’ of capitalism for the few.

The photograph of graffiti on Pomona shows that it is already an interstitial, open space by default – it lies between Manchester, Trafford and Salford councils – it is clearly used by many nations, faiths and cultures. Why not keep it like this? Sadly, the answer is obvious, because capital and neoconservatism control the discourse. I have uploaded the original 3,000+ word cut, but here is the Open Democracy edit too.

The next piece was by Bob Dickinson, on Peel power, the real Northern PowerhouseThis was followed by Northern House Power and very shortly afterwards Seeing the Global in the Local. Here is the whole series:

My New Blog

I used to be an enthusiastic blogger, with a site called ‘Steve Hanson and his Fantastical Electrical Notebook’. Actually I never stopped blogging, the Electrial Notebook is right up-to-date. But I made the site private, using it as an online hard drive. An archive I could pick fragments of writing up from, to then use in more serious published pieces. It’s still there. But it’s a tool for talking to myself and storing work in progress, an electronic workspace for me. It would take weeks to trim it and back up all the material, to then turn it back on for the public again, so I have set up this new blog.

I will be uploading pieces of past publishing, possibly in altered or precis form, and from then on using it to put finished pieces on. ‘Adventures In Political Landscapes’ sums up my interests as a writer, without being too niche or expansively abstract. There’s also a tiny homage to a Be Bop Deluxe song I love in the title.

I am essentially a writer who works as a Lecturer and Researcher. My first book, ‘Small Towns, Austere Times’, was published by Zero in 2014. My second volume, ‘A Book of the Broken Middle’, is currently being finished for Repeater. I was a founder member – along with Mark Rainey – of the Materialist Psychogeographic Affiliation. I briefly appeared in the last few pages of Merlin Coverley’s book on the subject, before disappearing in a puff of smoke. I then co-founded Manchester Left Writers with David Wilkinson, please see the links here, and for more information about me, see the appropriate section.

Ultimately though, this is the compost bin of my mind.