‘I’ve lived all over – Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Sydney – but always come back to Manchester. Well, we do, don’t we?’
What’s your name?
What do you do?
I’m a qualified journalist and university tutor but, sadly, I’m currently ‘between jobs’. Any offers gratefully received. Just nothing where I have to add up; like many journalists I’m useless at maths.
Where do you live?
A lovely, little housing association flat in Levenshulme, south Manchester. As tatty as the A6 is, I’m not sure there’s another part of Manchester I’d ever choose to live in. I’m listening to the police helicopter overhead as I type. How romantic!
Tell us the story of how you ended up in Manchester.
I was born in Droylsden, moved to London as a child then returned with a very strong Cockney accent. Growing up in Newton Heath, being bullied at school and listening to The Smiths, made sure I was soon back talking properly. I’ve since lived all over – Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Sydney – but always come back to Manchester. Well, we do, don’t we?
What’s great about this city?
It’s home; it really is. I think whether you were born here, or you’re a ‘woolly back’ from Droylsden, or you’ve arrived from wherever, Manchester will end up feeling like home and has done to people for decades, centuries. It also has a political history to be proud of, writers to admire and buildings that still take my breath away (I mean the Town Hall, not Beetham Tower!).
What’s not so great?
The poverty; Manchester has some of the most deprived areas in the country. Its children are some of the poorest. Manchester Central has the highest percentage of children living below the poverty line in the UK; some 47% living in poverty. Wood Street Mission in the city centre has seen a big increase in the number of families needing basics like school uniforms. It’s a national problem but Manchester’s ‘glitterati’, the so-called regeneration, with expensive, exclusive apartment blocks, and the sometimes homogeneous feel of the city makes the division of rich and poor all the more real. As a city we should be appalled by this!
Do you have a favourite Manchester building?
I still love the Town Hall. I know it was built rather than clear away slums; I know that decision was expensive, arrogant and boastful but, blimey, it’s beautiful inside. I also like Urbis and I’m fond of some of the 60s architecture that others hate; Piccadilly Plaza has a place in my heart. I find a lot of the ‘regeneration’ buildings ugly: the Chips building, for example. I just think such blocks are soulless, community-sapping monstrosities. I really don’t like Beetham Tower, either; I don’t care if it whistles, it looks like Lego.
Do you have a favourite Mancunian?
Obviously any Manchester socialist would have to say Mary Burns who gave Engels the chance to see first hand what it was like for the Irish living in Manchester in the mid-1800s. Ok, I know she was Irish. In fact, she lived in Salford not Manchester. Oh, I’m claiming her as ours for the purposes of name-dropping! And, in no way connected at all, Les Dawson. I have a real soft spot for Collyhurst-born Les Dawson. Many will reel, thinking of his mother-in-law jokes, but you have to remember the way young couples were forced to live with their mothers-in-law back then, and humour would be a way to cope! I’m also growing increasingly fond of Terry Christian who seems a wise, tolerant and interesting auld fella.
What’s your favourite pub/bar/club/restaurant/park/venue?
I like the Cornerhouse. I remember being taken there on a school trip when it first opened and I think it’s still a comfy place to sit and get quietly drunk, while discussing books and that. I also like Rusholme and would take any visitor there for a decent, cheap curry. Oh, and I love Lounge Ten. I was born for its style and decadence but can rarely afford to go; if anyone wants to take me …
What do you think is missing from Manchester?
I think Manchester has to remember and celebrate its radical political history. The Peterloo Massacre memorial will go some way to achieving that but the co-operative movement, the trade union movement, the suffragette movement – all these Manchester firsts should be an obvious, celebrated, recognised, constant part of our city’s heritage.
If I was Mayor for a day I would …
I wouldn’t. I think it’s a silly role.
Who else would you like to nominate to answer this questionnaire?
Rachel recommends Red Flag Walks and Radical Manchester for learning about Manchester’s radical heritage.