The Corrie Deep Blues

Walking through Piccadilly Station the other day, after going to see the memorial to the dead of the M.E.N Arena atrocity, a trumpet blared out, weary and bitter. Suddenly it focused into the Coronation Street theme tune. I looked up and a couple of guys were sat drinking in the upstairs bar. One of them had opened his instrument case, taken out his trumpet and blasted out this tune. I scrambled for my iPhone and managed to record him just before he stopped, mid-flow. They looked hammered. People cheered. A couple of clippings exist, from Bradford Telegraph & Argus in the late 1960s, which cover the arrival of the American jazz player Roland Kirk, for a gig at the university. The matter-of-factness of these clippings cannot contain the lively sense of culture-clash, which begins right at the moment the completely blind Kirk emerges from a van in a boiler suit, asking cars to go around him. He then dines with the Telegraph & Argus correspondent, who feels it important to note that the waiter is thrown off-balance by his order of red meat, fish and vegetables, on the same plate: ‘Surf and Turf’ had not yet arrived in Bradford. Kirk then expressed his admiration for the Coronation Street theme tune, which he considered to be a ‘deep blues number’. It is, of course, but for the white working classes Coronation Street represented, it signified other things too, grittiness, a sense of stoicism and ‘northerness’, albeit reduced to a grainy surface. None of these aspects are incommensurate with ‘the blues’, but it is interesting to note how cultural documents can slip, and we can take a new sense of what the theme tune means. I wrote about this for the Ways of Looking festival in Bradford: Surf and Turf on Thornton Road. In Piccadilly Station it is taking on a whole slew of other meanings, as are all kinds of objects on the Manchester landscape at the moment.

Working Papers

My working papers are initial forays that are looking for a home in a journal or book in a more developed form. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think a working paper might fit your journal or collection once it is expanded. My working papers are also resources for others that are citable, but of course as ‘working papers’. Please see the guide at the bottom of the first page on each paper. I feel it is important that the preparatory nature of the work here is included if it is cited in a publication.

So, here is No.1, which gives statistics and commentaries on the final death of Postmodernism in the university. It also speculates on the dark and unknown space opening up afterwards.

Clocking Off

Fold Press have just put out a little booklet called ‘Clocking Off’, containing my extended experimental essay on the moment of Brexit. It is about how a Referendum on the organisation of space seems perfectly normal, but a Referendum on time seems impossible, at this point in history, which is a sign of our primitivism. You can get the bookette from them, when it’s on their site. Fold Press are here:

Quote in Lance Parkin’s book on Alan Moore

I have only just realised that a quote from an interview I did with Christian Martius has appeared in Lance Parkin’s book on Alan Moore. It was a strange day. Alan is a lovely bloke, but… it was always going to be a strange day. Here is the cover and the reference. The interview took place in The Black Horse, Northampton, and I published it in my ‘zine Eclectic Electric, all in 1996.

MLW and Castlefield Launch Pad, A Thin Vale

Here is the catalogue that accompanied the Manchester Left Writers show at Castlefield Gallery, called Powerhouse Liberation Movement. Interventions by all the MLWs are sandwiched between essays, one by Gavin MacDonald, called ‘Mapping infrastructure for the Northern Charnelhouse’ and one by me, called ‘From Perversity to Polity, please’. This essay was the planned conclusion to the MLW Open Democracy series.

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:

Two Zero Reviews

Here are a pair of reviews, for fellow Zero authors, for the glorious Manchester Review of Books (you read right). One is in Zizek territory, Enjoying It, Candy Crush and Capitalism by Alfie Bown:

The other is a more speculative work, Drone and the Apocalypse by Joanna Demers:

They gave me the opportunity to flex a few underused theoretical muscles. All the Manchester review of Books articles that DON’T have a byline at the end are mine (!).

Red Inkies

I have a tradition of writing for the Red Inkies. I am quite prolific, but much of my writing is a sort of practical thinking. It also remains on my hard drives. But one overflow mechanism has been the more journalistic pieces I have written over the last ten years.

I really like W.E. Du Bois’ strategy of publishing anywhere. He published in racist newspapers, for instance. I am far from ideologically aligned with some of the Red Inkies I have submitted to – to say the least – but getting in there means offering readers who might not otherwise look a different sort of perspective. I get slightly irritated by publishing resumés that list a flawless set of totally right-on titles. I’m equally suspicious of record collections without at least two or three guilty pleasures hidden in them.

There is a wider, more serious point to make here, which is that ethically, by publishing in the Guardian or New Statesman, nothing is ‘solved’, quite the opposite. I have long argued that feminists should publish in Woman’s Own and Marxists in the Financial Times, and although this sometimes happens, it isn’t as widespread a practice as it should be. Could an anti-racism campaigner get published in an EDL publication? Those kinds of ambitions, surely, should be part of any leftwing agenda.

I have a similar take on ethics in relation to social research, that will doubtless make peope feel uncomfortable when I publish the writing. But the broader point I want to make is that we need to get out of our own echo chambers, out of our comfortable, neutered, academic diplomatic immunity, and be just a little bit more risky. History, I think, demands this.

So, here is a piece from Solidarity on the London Olympic Games opening ceremony, called A Cloud Of 21st Century Consciousness. It uses Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting’s Swandown as a lens through which we might view the eventual Olympic event.

Here also are some pieces for New Worker, Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape – sorry Bill – and Adventures in European Hyper-Landscapes, an exploration of class and gender through Eurovision.

More recent pieces have been on Afzal Amin, which I titled Life in the Hall of Mirrors, and an essay on the bizarre, desperate re-burial of despotic King Richard, which I called Richard III, or How To Be an Anthopologist in Your Own Country. I’m not going to upload all of my Red Inky pieces here, just the ones that are accounts of Adventures In Political Landscapes.