Thursday, 19 July 2012

Manchester: In Residents … #15: Andy

‘I remember the punks that used to hang around the entrance to the underground Arndale Market, and I remember the Northern Quarter when it was just fabric shops and disused buildings…’

What’s your name?

Andy Speak

What do you do?

I’m a PhD student, studying how green roofs influence Manchester’s urban microclimate.

Where do you live?

Whalley Range / Old Trafford, just around the corner from Jam Street Cafe who save me from many a hangover with their veggie breakfasts. It’s nice and quiet and green, and the rent’s cheaper than Chorlton!

Tell us the story of how you ended up in Manchester.

I’m from Greater Manchester originally, albeit a small village called Blackrod, out on the outer edge of the county on the border with Lancashire. I used to come to Manchester shopping with me mum in the ‘80s and I have some memories of what it was like then. I remember the punks that used to hang around the entrance to the underground Arndale Market, and I remember the Northern Quarter when it was just fabric shops and disused buildings. Then ‘Madchester’ hit and I was 16 so of course I had the whole bowl haircut, DMs and Stone Roses/Inspirals/James t-shirts and would wander around Afflecks on a Saturday. It was a very exciting place then and that excitement about the music scene has always stuck with me. I moved away to other parts of the country a couple of times but I always gravitate back. I have been living in the city proper for about ten years now.

What’s great about this city?

I’ve experienced a few UK cities but Manchester is always my favourite. There’s something really independent about the city that comes out through the music and the culture. A kind of ‘two fingers up’ to London. Plus it has an amazing history. I only recently learned about the whole Marx/Engels connection, and how it was the first industrial city, and how the new urban conditions created the first ever gang culture in the form of the Scuttlers. There’s always something new to discover…

 What’s not so great?

Manchester is losing its identity under a wave of neo-liberal corporate pressure. I mean all the identikit city centre flats and wanky bars and using nostalgia about Madchester as a marketing tool, and the whole tacky ‘I Y MCR’ campaign and letting market forces determine how the cityscape develops. Losing Legends to a German hotel chain is a case in point. If we’re not careful Manchester could end up like Birmingham! I guess this is just how a lot of urban development is happening in the UK in general, but it would be nice if Manchester could resist it.

If I’m honest I am getting a little bored of Manchester and after my PhD is finished I’m probably going to move abroad. It’s really only my friends and my allotment that are keeping me here! I think that’s more a subjective experience rather than anything wrong with Manchester though. I’ll probably be back in a few years when I realise the grass was greener here all along …

Do you have a favourite Manchester building?

It’s more of a favourite wall. It’s the wall next to the abandoned bit of land next to Company Bar and Molly House in the gay village. It’s a huge Victorian thing with the outlines of two houses that used to be there etched onto it in grime. A palimpsest of our smoggy industrial past. The number of bricks in the wall always boggles my mind, especially if I’m looking at it at 4am after numerous pints! My least favourite would be the ivory tower that is the Beetham Tower, howling its disapproval over lesser Mancunia every time a strong wind blows.

Do you have a favourite Mancunian?

I guess it has to be Morrissey. He’s a bit of a prat these days but in the ‘80s and ‘90s he was incredible, and really summed up what life was like in a post-industrial town.

What’s your favourite pub/bar/club/restaurant/park/venue?

The Molly House is my new ‘local’. Finally an actual decent pub for the gays! Bar Fringe on the edge of the Northern Quarter is also a bit of a gem. I love the huge ivy-covered hand statue in the beer garden, and anywhere that has both a life-size Buffy cut-out and a huge green man face is good with me. The Britons Protection is a great pub for cold winter nights – a few mates around a table in one of the warmly lit snugs and you can happily stay put all night getting wing-wang-wooed on ale. I also always love checking out the Okasional Kafe whenever and wherever that pops up …

What do you think is missing from Manchester?

Long, hot summers. But hey, with climate change you never know….

If I was Mayor for a day I would …

Get rid of the stranglehold of the corporates and the public-private Manchester City Centre Management Company who use public money to promote the interests of retailers and developers, and who just want Mancunians to be ‘users’ of the city who do nothing consume. The riots last year were a sign of how much this model isn’t working. Try and get Manchester back to its radical socialist roots. Not an easy job I admit. I’m actually not even that political a person but unbridled corporations make me mad!

Who else would you like to nominate to answer this questionnaire?

Zsa Zsa Noir

Here’s a short film about Andy’s fascinating PhD research.

1 comment:

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