BSA Cities Manchester Walk

I took a walking tour around Manchester. This was a fringe event that coincided with The British Sociological Association conference in April 2017.

Myth and concrete are entwined in Manchester, they are in constant dialogue. This was the main theme of the walk, although each stop covered a site of the many different walks I could have planned, the science walk, the occult walk, the pop history walk, the politics walk, the conflict walk, the slum walk, the gentrification walk…

Here are some things that might be of interest to follow on from the walk: A paper Mark and I wrote for Cultural Studies, on the Urbis building as a looking glass; and two issues of the Urbis Research Forum Review, 1.1 on the Mancunian Way, and an issue on landscapes, 1.3, including a piece I wrote on atom-splitter John Cockroft. Here also is the Manchester Left Writers series on ‘the northern powerhouse’ for Open Democracy:

Here also is a Centre For Urban and Community Research Street Signs blog post about the walk:


Manchester Work

Mark Rainey and I co-authored a paper for Cultural Studies (Routledge) called The Urbis Building as Looking Glass, which used the iconic, former museum of the city, as a crystal ball through which we might view an entire political culture, and some of its changes over the last ten years. Mark and I have a longer project bubbling away, on Manchester, which we are projecting into a book. The last piece we put out was on ‘The Spectre of Engels’, which has its roots in two papers we gave at the Urbis Research Review Forum in 2010:

Something definitely started happening when we delivered those papers. All kinds of elements which were in the mix that evening, which are only just coming together now, relationships, ideas, and the ramifications of the occupied Manchester University building, next to the lecture theatre we spoke in. Mark is currently finishing PhD research at Goldsmiths on migrant homeless shelters in Manchester.

I co-founded, with David Wilkinson, Manchester Left Writers, in January 2014. David, it turns out, was one of the occupiers next door in 2010 as Mark and I talked about Engels in the city. I had met him before though, at the TRIP festival at MMU in 2008.

The Manchester Left Writers project is still very much live, we have over forty members, and a core of active writers. We have put out a series of polemical pieces called Broadsides, three in total, and a series of Precarious Passages, more subjective, poetic, call and response collaborations between two writers. Manchester Left Writers have been invited to read their Precarious Passages series at the Manchester Literature Festival in October, 2015:

We have also just been given the green light to put together a collective issue of Open Democracy, as Manchester Left Writers, on ‘The Northern Powerhouse’. This post on Hulme has also just gone live, via MMU’s slide library blog:

There’s a strong connotation of post-war Europe to the image of Hulme I wrote about, but also post-bomb Hiroshima. None of this is just incidental detail. This worn photograph of an ‘atomised’ and atomising landscape, in a city that contributed a great deal to the development of the atom bomb, is for me also a cipher for atomised individualism.

The Manchester stripe of my work is going to be a wide one.

Plugging Into The Bradford Grid

I moved north in 2011 to finish PhD fieldwork, the material that was eventually re-written for my book Small Towns, Austere Times (Zero, 2014). As soon as I got back, I began to write for the Bradford Grid project, and some of its individual members, as an affiliate rather than a full member. Again, these pieces were Adventures in Political Landscapes (as well as an ‘Adventure in a Yorkshire Landscape’). Here is a piece on the Bradford Grid from the magazine Now Then, and a longer essay I wrote for The Grid at the Ways of Looking Festival, called Surf and Turf on Thornton Road. This piece also represents my interest in subcultures and sound.

I wrote a piece called The Tracker Chronicles, for the Ways of Looking festival catalogue that year. Plus an essay for Charlie Meecham’s Oldham Road Revisited project, called Rewriting the Oldham Road. This work then moved to the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

I also published what I now consider to be a prescient piece on what might happen to art schools in Britain, called Language, Dissent and the Classed Art School as well as an essay for a South Square Gallery show on Virilio’s Dromology, called Starting in the Middle and Setting Out. That piece was written with Robert Galeta, but here is my draft before he added his final touches. The precedent for that work is probably my article for the Urbis Research Forum Review, called Reading the Calder Valley, Rural, Industrial, Nuclear, as it was really the start of my interest in technology and landscapes. It was an attempt to displace the usual obsession with industrialism as a neat period.