There Is A Light That Never Goes Out….
Where there's music and there's people
And they're young and alive
I never never want to go home
Because I haven't got one
STEVEN MORRISSEY & JOHNNY
The Smiths - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Back in Manchester,
forty years (and more) on, some things have changed, though the
air still hangs heavy and dark over the city.
Media centres, flats and businesses rise high above the Salford Quays, though much of the inner
dockland areas and the canals are weed-strewn and crying out for
development. The older buildings
of the city centre jostle now with towering hotels and gleaming office
Tiny scraps of history remain
amidst the tramways and roadworks of the future, their chimneys out of place in
the new green world, but their gutters filled with buddleia and assorted
Friday night and the city is waking up. Only two weeks to party before
Christmas and the populace is in strutting out.
The centre is packed with (as the visitManchester
website boasts) world-famous markets feature[ing]
nearly 350 stalls spanning 10 distinctive market sites [Albert Square, Cathedral
Garden, Market Street, Exchange Square, Corn Exchange, Exchange Street, New
Cathedral Street, French Christmas Market in King Street, German Christmas
Market in St Ann's Square, World Christmas Market in Brazennose Street],
transforming the city centre in to a festive wonderland….. Regularly named one
of Europe's best Christmas Market attractions,
nine million people visited in 2014.] The
list is almost as exhausting as the reality, with endless strings of stuffed
Santas, electric reindeer, and tacky stalls selling anything and everything.
The pubs and restaurants are
steaming. The Briton's Protection (opened
in 1806 as a recruiting office for the war against Napoleon, but also the only place in town to commemorate the 1819 Peterloo Massacre) is
rammed. The Pev (full name, Peveril
of the Peak, the title of Walter Scott’s longest novel) has burst and the
crowd spilled onto the pavements.
I book a table at Mr
Thomas’s Chop House (Est. 1867) and innocently ask for a quiet corner. A pleasant lady informs me that it’s our busiest night of the year! And
sure enough, I have to fight my way in through the crowds to reach the spot they’d secured for me by the back door, utilising the fore-arm smash that I
learned all those years ago from Kendo (see http://www.richardpgibbs.org/2016/12/greater-manchester-1-then.html for the story behind that…..)
The morning after is as dark as
the night before. At eight a.m. one of
the clubs in the Gay
Village is evacuating itself, with clients swaggering and staggering amongst the jaded taxis; silvered
ampoules litter the cobbles, a peroxide head leans forward and spouts peroxide
fluid…. Further down the road The Midland Hotel (where Rolls met
Royce) has rooms for one starting at £254 (without breakfast) but there don’t
seem to be many lights on at this hour (you may be interested to know that, as
their website says, The Midland provides
some of the finest dining experiences in Manchester.
The team of chefs work constantly to ensure every dish, be it our traditional
afternoon tea to the award winning cuisine in The French by Simon Rogan, is prepared with love and passion and
full of amazing flavours and tastes. Where possible, we strive to use locally
sourced produce to enhance the offerings on our bespoke menus.)
I chose a Lancashire Butter Pie at
the Chop House. I truly missed out on this bespoke
menu…. And I wonder what locally sourced really
means in St Peter’s Square…..
Across the street the
pantheon-like Central Library sticks limpet-like to the Kafka-esque book
depository (the Town Hall extension), which in turn is attached by sighing
bridges to the fourteen million bricks of the Victorian Town Hall (encased in
grimy Spinkwell stone).
Down Deansgate lies the John Rylands
Library, built by Enriqueta Rylands with no expense spared as a memorial
for her husband.
It houses an
exceptional collection of books (including, I note, several tomes entitled The Bible in Vence! Tut!
Even my cat knows how to spell Venice! sic)
and a hushed gothic reading room – What
an amazing place! Opines K R Higgins, Brisbane, in her recent tripadvisor
review. This was like being in a Harry Potter movie!
The Cathedral (the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys
and St George), is virtually empty,
and I imagine (though I am not an expert!) it is even more like being in a Harry Potter
intones the liturgy, almost to himself, while two Chinese girls admire the
A statue commemorates
Humphrey Chetham, whose Hospital
School and Library (Charity
no. 526702) spent £10M of its
£11.3M income in the financial year ending August 2015. Outside a sign points to the North
Pole, and a carousel stands parked and fenced in (to stop the horses leaping away?)
In front of the titanic prow of the National Football Museum,
a homeless man begs on the cold street.
He could be in the Cathedral.... except that no one would even pass him by in there.
In 1937 George Orwell wrote, in The
Road to Wigan Pier, about how Southerners go north… with the vague inferiority-complex of a civilised man venturing
He writes about the snobbish, effeminate, and lazy Southerner. He identifies how, In a Lancashire cotton-town you could probably go for months on end
without once hearing an ‘educated’ accent, whereas there can hardly be a town
in the South of England
where you could throw a brick without hitting the niece of a bishop.
Things have changed. No one in Coronation Street wears curlers or hair nets any
The Whitworth Art Gallery [Winner
of Visit England's
gold prize for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2016 and winner of the Art
Fund's Museum of the Year 2015] has been reconstructed and currently has Andy Warhol on display,
as well as 'works' by contemporary artists.
And on Salford Quays,
there is Media City, where the BBC and ITV hang out, there's a branch of the Imperial War Museum, lurking like the Bismark, and there is this shiny MI6-lookalike just by the Manchester Ship Canal.
Quay West, just across the Manchester Ship Canal from The Lowry
In The Lowry, (two theatres plus galleries with works by L S Lowry and modern artists ina landmark quayside building) I wander free around L S
Lowry – The Art and The Artist (A permanent display of the best of LS Lowry)
and am astonished at the range and depth of the man. I realise he was still around all
those years ago when I lived here, so feel a tenuous connection even.... though, like
many a snobbish and lazy southerner, I previously 'knew' Lowry to be a painter of stick men
and factories, where people come and go in a 'normal' way.....
but this really is something else. The building is spectacular outside as well as in....
And the range of the Lowry works, from early life drawings to mesmeric scenes of the North Sea, and from a vast portrayal of a Welsh industrial landscape to a slightly eerie portrait of a quiet woman, is breathtaking. One picture in particular catches my attention and I have been kindly granted permission to reproduce it here.....
LS Lowry The Funeral Party 1953 © The Lowry Collection, Salford
The extraordinary thing about
this funeral party is that it perfectly captures the people in The Union Inn, Levenshulme, when I
returned there yesterday (again please see my previous piece for more of this.....)
On my way back to Piccadilly station, on my way back to
the snobbish South, riding the brilliant Metrolink,
then lunching through the now spacious and quiet Briton's Protection and The
the streets are relaxed with people living their bright lives under
the damp grey skies, as Lowry loved them.
Morrissey (currently 57) sang:
There's a place in the sun for anyone
To chase one and I think I've found mine
Yes, I do believe I have found mine
is not quite my ideal place in the sun, but there
is a light and it never goes out….
Nowhere, not even paradise, is perfect [remember Peter Cook’s comment to
Dudley Moore as they wandered amongst clouds with white hats and scarves? Pete: Is
this it then? Dud: What?
Pete: Is this Heaven then?
Dud (quizzically): Yeah…. Pete (after a pause,
sardonically): Bloody hell!]
If nothing else, Manchester, Greater Manchester, has been an inspiration, as it clearly was to Chopin.....
I return to the soft, fat, lazy,
effeminate south, topped up with Northern grit and subtleties....
And no, I won’t look back in anger….
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster.....
Musée des Beaux Arts