Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Klea McKenna.

Image copyright Klea McKenna

There is definitely something in the air at the moment. There seems to be a lot of us documentary photographers looking back at the naturalist craze of the Victorians. In my case it's been flowers in the case of Klea McKenna it's butterfly's and her series The Butterfly Hunter.
Her series is complete and I love it. It's not all either. There's loads of interesting stuff on her site. It's no wonder that she picked up the Hey, Hot Shot! Curator's Choice Award.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Monday, 28 June 2010

At What Point Does Journalism Become Propaganda/ Ego & When Do We Stop Listening?

The side has already been decided. Investigation is replaced by atmosphere & aesthetics (& cheesey tunes). The rights and wrongs are a given. The debate becomes secondary to production values. Lets be careful folks....Thin, thin thin HERE.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Michal Chelbin is a jolly interesting photographer and not just a big perv...

A seismic shift and a fall into confusion happened as I was looking at the work of Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin.
As I'm not very cosmopolitan or that familiar with Israeli first names I started viewing the work thinking the photographer was a man. Debates started forming in my head same sort of questions and mild sicky taste I get in my mouth when I see or hear about the work of Jock Sturges. I then found out that Michal is a girls name and the work changed. Same images different gender photographer. Why in my mind has the work morphed so much? Does the sex of the photographer change the work? It certainly did for me. If that's the case for everyone, then do these photo's always have to be linked with the artist and can they not function on there own? Do we always need to know about the creator of a picture to know a picture?
As a post script I think that whether the photographer was male or female, a gallery in the UK in this day and age would struggle to show much of this work without a police raid, but that's a whole other debate................

Thomas Prior.

Image copyright Thomas Prior

On a hot day like this, take a jump into the cool deep blue sea with Thomas Prior's series 'Blackrock Tower'

Oh Well Nevermind, The Proper football Starts Soon, Champions League, Premier League.....

Image copyright Mark Page

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Art Wank.

So we all know that there's so many Bolloxsy things written about Art. Here below is one introduction to a photographers new show I received today for example.

“In recent years, it has been possible to discern an attitude in the way BLANK BLANK sees himself that would suggest a specific attempt on his part to implement his artistic ideas in a more concentrated and intensive manner. We are not talking about a change in strategy here, rather a considered artistic reorientation in connection with a critically self-assured revision of his overall production, which has led him to re-examine his archived works once more. This current selection of images represents BLANK’s commitment to this revision; it contains largely new examples as well as some older images, occasionally reverting to spacious photographs, taking details from them, and presenting them in enlarged formats as images in their own right. There is a fresh impetus to all this... ."
Translated: He's not done fuck all new for years so we are going to try and flog the lazy bastards old stuff again as a new edition.
If you would like to be able to write reviews like the one above, then why not try THIS new 'Ap' from Apple... I may get one to help me out here on the blog, before anyone else says it, I need it.

Outside The Box.

Image copyright Tony Miller

Well, it is that time of the year. Together with super dull posh gits in too tight white shorts whacking a ball backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards x 3 bleedin days! and fat scallies on benifits getting burnt red raw outside pubs, that other summer tradition is in full rip, The Graduate Show. So here's another to go and drink free wine at and one I'm looking forward to going to as I'm an 'Old Boy' (In keeping with Wimbledon parlance) It's Liverpool John Moores University (at Stockport) Photography Degree show intitled 'Outside The Box' website HERE dates & map below...........
Preview Monday 28th @ 6:00pm @ CUBE.

then on till 3rd July.

see whoever there.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Image copyright Mark Page

Summer day in Cheshire with fields burning in the background.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Frank Sidebottom.

Frank Sidebottom was to some who just didn't get him an annoying not funny comic. To others he was a brilliant Surreal performance artist who appeared at The Tate no less (see below) I think he fell somewhere in between, but one things for sure Manchester has lost another, albeit odd, Icon. When I worked at Urbis he was a presenter on CHANNEL M. When he put that head on he would go fully into character to such a degree that he had a photo ID swipe card made that had him with his head on and sporting a City Shirt and his name as Frank Sidebottom. The last couple of months he has talked bravely and in character about his cancer going so far as to make himself a new head without hair or eyebrows for when he had his chemotherapy......... Cheers Frank for the laughs. FRANK SIDEBOTTOM 1956-2010

Robert Van Der Hilst.

Image copyright Robert Van Der Hilst.

I've often been a bit cynical about western photographers flocking to China. I've been such a fan of Chinese photographers that I thought,what's the point? There's so many great photographers who are from the place and know it well. I stand by that. However I love Robert Van Der Hilst's series 'Chinese Interiors' He sees to bring a touch of European Interior painting to the work. Or am I just imagining that because he's Dutch?

Sunday, 20 June 2010

1st Manchester Day.

Image copyright Mark Page

The 1st Manchester Day parade happen today and I really enjoyed it. No nothing to moan about it was great. Am I feeling OK yep, me and the missus had a macca dee's and a couple of pints and watched the parade in the sun. Simple things....... HERE for more on the day.


Image copyright Simon Bromley from his series 'Murmurations'

Another graduation show this time from the Documentary photography course at Newport. This course has a hell of a reputation and looking at the work on the website that's been set up for the exhibition, that reputation is secure for another year. Great stuff. Exhibition details.........

29TH JUNE 2010, 7PM–9.30PM (preview)




Saturday, 19 June 2010

Blackpools Graduate show.


113-115 Portland Street


M1 6DW

22-26 June 10-5pm

Private View 22 June 6-9pm

Blackpool - as part of ‘BE’ Blackpool School of Art & Design Graduate Exhibition

Info here about the School Show …


Eighteen Percent Grey

Sustain Gallery

65-71 Scrutton Street


Thursday, 17 June 2010

Rhubarb Rhubarb do You take Duckrabbit?

You still got time to catch this match made in photie heaven. Rhubarb Rhubarb have teamed up with our friends Duckrabbit to bring you a seminar on Multimedia story telling. Duckrabbit are the dogs dangley bits in this field so if you are in London on the 19th I suggest you go. 10Am til 4.30pm £45 you can book HERE to save disappointment.

While I'm at it, it's portfolio review time fast approaching from Rhubarb Rhubarb. There's some big name reviewers so if you've got the guts to show your baby and are willing to run the risk of a complete stranger telling you it's a right ugly little bastard, then Birmingham between 29th July & 1st August is the place for you. HERE for booking that. I will say that this one can put your work in the path of some pretty influential types. Not that manchesterphotography would condone that kind of cynical careerist move of course, We are pure here..........

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

And more content nicked off the 'brilliant, where the fuck did they find that' duckrabbit.

Is The Photographers Gallery, London Shite?

I know that sounds like something I'd ask here, but this time it's not me but a respected MAGNUM photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins. This is what he has to say on the matter.

"I am delighted my comments, made in passing, have evoked a lively response. I stand by my remarks of course, but for the sake of clarity I outline my position in a bit more detail.
I was around when the Photographers’ Gallery was started by Sue Davies, and it was exciting and showed, mainly, great shows and inspired people. It had a buzz!
A lot has changed. When I talk to people, from photographers to others in the arts I never, really, never find one who has a good thing to say about the Photographers. Gallery. The response is from a disdainful shrug – that’s what we are stuck with, to an explosion of anger that the promise and hope that Sue Davies brought to the place has been so profoundly betrayed.
I care about photography, in its richness and complexity and I am angry at the way the possibility of the Photographers’ Gallery has been strangled over the years leaving a limp corpse requiring vast funding from the public purse to maintain its mediocrity.
I am angry that there are many more exciting, relevant galleries that are starved of funding because the money goes into maintaining this vegetative-state-gallery. Places like Side, Host, Open-Eye to name but a few.
I am angry that Photographers’ Gallery has become a misnomer. It is not about photography or photographers, it is about a narrow thread of photographic curation that is frequently dull, and/or poorly conceived. I also admit they do have a few good shows, but far too few, and across far too narrow a spectrum of the medium
On the web-site it states “we are the place to see photography in all its forms.” This is a grotesque claim and so patently untrue. Why lie? If it indeed was fulfilling that claim, with the caveat – at its best – then it could claim the name Photographers’ Gallery, and it would not be betraying the initial ambitions of the project.
I am angry it makes no attempt to support or promote British photography
Someday I will write more about this, but I am sorry that the quality and relevance of the PG is not publicly debated in forums like the BJP and RPS Journal, and the Guardian Arts Page and the national media. This is a publicly funded institution (40%) and should be a beacon, but is an irrelevance; an expensive one.
People seem to be scared to speak out, I am not sure why. One thing is for sure, more money is going into it, and it will get bigger, and a larger corpse does not stop rotting.
I leave you with this from their web-site “the Gallery has developed a reputation as the UK’s primary venue for contemporary photography.” So sad, so untrue."

This debate has been going on over on duckrabbit. For what it's worth my view is that The Photographers Gallery is probably no better or worse than most Arts institutes in this land. A lack of imagination, too many self serving individuals connected to said places, too many conditions applied by the funding bodies, community this, and community that, galleries these days are spending more time doing social work and functioning as community centres/creches and not enough exploring new ideas/artists. The same safe bet photographers who the establishment have deemed worthy doing the circuit of galleries. What's the answer? Fuck knows........ there probably isn't one.

'Near The Egress' by Antonio Martinez

OK now take me somewhere new with your multimedia ways...... Brilliant! found via.......

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Bloody Sunday...Monday... Tuesday.....Wed....

image copyright Clive Limpkin
Today after too many years the families of the victims got their apology, and so they should. But when do the victims of THIS or THIS or THIS, or the one closest to my heart THIS get their apologies?

Field Trip Magazine #1

from Craig Atkinson and Cafe Royal Books, out now!

Monday, 14 June 2010


Images copyright Mark Page

Alex Prager.

Image copyright Alex Prager

It's like if a load of 1950's Hollywood starlets from film and sitcoms came back to life and starting walking about and stuff. Welcome to the techno-coloured weird world of Alex Prager.

New Cliches of Photography #21

Detroit? Oh come on give me fucking a break.....

Sunday, 13 June 2010

I'm not going to go on about THIS. However I will say that if your only purpose in life is to catch a fucking ball and you can't, well maybe it's time to re-evaluate. We'll leave it at that.

Spencer Tunick @ The Lowry.

I'm a little bit reluctant to write any kind of a review of anything after the last thought provoking post over on Blacklab. Anyway 'Everyday People', Spencer Tunick at The Lowry.

I'd obviously seen plenty of Tunick's work before and was always impressed with his organisational abilities but other than that always thought of it as a bit gimmicky, a bit..... samey. I was intrigued when I heard that The Lowry had commissioned him to make work to mark their tenth anniversary. I almost sent in my name for the volunteer call but well, I'm shy and a little over my optimum fighting weight so I didn't. But I needn't have worried everyone in the pictures seemed to be over their optimum fighting weight. That's one of the things I love about these pictures, that there's people of all shapes and sizes, although not age, getting your 'kit off' for NY photographers appears to be a pastime favoured by the middle aged.
There's a good few prints been produced and I was suprised by the variety of the images. People crammed into buses, smaller groups of males (middle aged) and photo's at plenty of sites in and around Manchester. For me though it's the shots in Peel Park, Salford that stand out. I like the intentional connection with the work of Lowry and I love the nudes in the weak Salford spring light. Go see it and then pop in the rooms next door to see the exhibition 'Lowry Favourites' there's pencil drawings of crowds in Peel Park done by Lowry in amongst.
Oh yeah, Interview with Spencer Tunick HERE.
'Everyday People' by Spencer Tunick, The Lowry, Salford Quays til 26th September.....

Friday, 11 June 2010

Reality Football.

Image copyright Alan Powdrill
Staying with the football theme, of course, a fantastic portrait project looking at UK grass roots football by Alan Powdrill. There's a seperate website for it HERE.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Dean Dorat.

Image Copyright Dean Dorat
You didn't think you could escape football here did you? Not the first time I've seen work about fans watching football by a long chalk, but I kinda like these. Dean Dorat's website.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


Photographs by Mark Power, Poems by Daniel Cockrill with graphic design by Dominic Brookman.

I've been following this collaboration since it's beginning. In amongst the current reams of work on England and Englishness this stands head and shoulders above the rest, not only in the execution and depth of the work but also for sheer originality of the idea of the collaboration and by the looks of it, the exhibition which has just opened at THE ATLAS GALLERY LONDON.
"Atlas Gallery is pleased to present a ground-breaking exhibition exploring synergies between words and images, which will dramatically transform the gallery into a multi-media experience including photography, poetry and live performance. ‘Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment’ is a collaboration between Magnum photographer Mark Power and award-winning poet Daniel Cockrill. This multifaceted project began in 2006 as an experiment and continues in this guise of exploration and evolution. The two artists travel together to different parts of England, usually a town or city, share similar experiences, but react independently. It is an exercise in seeing and selecting what each considers interesting or important at any given time. Mark Power responds with photographs, Daniel Cockrill writes poetry.

Power and Cockrill have discovered an inter-changeability of their work over the past three years. A photograph of Liverpool may work as well with a poem about, for instance, Colchester as with a poem about itself. Increasingly, and as the recession developed, Cockrill’s responses became more documentary, termed by Power ‘documentary poetry’. Their work assumed a darker, more ominous tone as time has passed, a reflection of the changing mood in England. Photographs and poems, which began as a careful sequence, have integrated over time, allowing instead for chance meetings, a key aspect to the project. While there are a few examples where specific pairings are retained, for the most part they prefer to leave the outcome to fate.

In the gallery poems in bold, dynamic graphics (especially designed for the exhibition by Dominic Brookman) will cover the walls, a single photograph propped up here will contrast with a second image installed on the floor, a triptych combining images with a central poem will open and close, encouraging the viewer’s involvement, complimented by a sound piece of Cockrill’s rhythmic verses. Different methods of framing are experimented with, using wood, metal, and even concrete in various guises. It is this exciting interplay between words and images, merging and layering, at times controlled and static but occasionally meandering and flowing, that pushes at the boundaries of both photography and poetry.

Whether making a portrait, photographing a modern landscape or writing a poem about the state of an English town, both artists are attempting to uncover a ‘likeness’. They slowly assemble a sketch, brick by brick, word by word, picture by picture, that not only reveals the England of ‘Now’ but also attempts to communicate a vision of the country’s future. They have set out to record a view of England that affirms its appearances and disappearances, documenting the transition taking place and the changes in temperature, both political and environmental, with permanent results. The collaboration and companionship of two artists, and the fusion of poem and photograph, unearth similarities between towns and places, while at the same time establishing links between words and images."
(Text from ATLAS GALLERY website)
Show Dates
9 JUNE - 10 JULY 2010
ATLAS Gallery
49 Dorset Street, London W1U 7NF
+44 (0)20 722 441 92
Mon - Fri 10am - 6pm . Sat 11am - 5pm

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Swap Shop!

Image copyright The Phantom Flan Flinger
Photo blogger Laurence Vecten has come up with a great little resource. An online photo book 'Swap Shop' called, wait for it....... 'Photo Book Swap'. 'It does exactly as it says on the tin' to keep the references to popular culture going......
I've got an (almost) untouched 'HOW TO TAKE BETTER BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS' or some such title featuring some stunning 1980's (almost) nudes inside. Any takers?

'OPEN CITY' update.

Image copyright Rebecca Stunell.

We may not have created a new iconic photographic image of Manchester on last months 'OPENCITY' photography day. But some interesting pictures were made and it was a step in the right direction for UK photographic freedom. Some of the images can now be seen HERE.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Alexey Titarenko

Images copyright Alexey Titarenko.
Photographers can define cities. They can invent them or at least the idea of a city, the image of a city, and that image can be so strong that once in place the photographers vision can never again be separated from the reality. A perfect bonding between an artists vision and a location. Photographers can make stars into icons, and they can do the same for cities. When I went to Paris In my head I was visiting the world of Brassia and of Atget. Having never been, I imagine a New York of Gary Winogrand and if I go to to Hamburg I'm sure it will be populated by a cast straight out of Cafe Lehmitz. It takes involvement and if not love then fascination for a place or in the case of Eugene Smith and 'Pittsburgh' a near fatal and devistating obsession.
Alexey Titarenko has over many years been working on St Petersburg. This has become the main subject for his life's work and in the process he has made an extraordinary body of work, that not only portrays this great city but also deeper themes of recent Russian history. I have always wanted to see St Peterburg, I imagine and hope it to be like the pictures by Alexey Titarenko. Alexey Titarenko is in the west an under appreciated artist and an exceptional talent. Few photographers can match the balance and marriage he achieves between technique and concept. Gushing? I guess I am.

Below a documentary about his work. (it's in 3 bits and a little slow to get going and sounds like it's translated by Stephen Hawking but persevere....)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

'THE DOOR MARKED SUMMER' By Guest Writer John Fitzgerald.

After about a minute’s scramble they stopped to listen, and knew by the noises they heard that they were being followed. ‘If only the door was open again!’ said Eustace as they went on and Jill nodded. For at the top of the shrubbery was a high stone wall and in that wall a door by which you could get out onto open moor. This door was nearly always locked.
But there had been times when people had found it open; or perhaps there had been only one time. But you may imagine how the memory of even one time kept people hoping and trying the door; for if it should happen to be unlocked it would be a splendid way of getting outside the school grounds without being seen.
(C.S Lewis: The Silver Chair)

It sounds surreal I know, but I’m increasingly fascinated at the moment, obsessed even, with the many and various doorways one sees peppered around Manchester city centre. There is, to my mind, something highly suggestive at work here. Doors, for instance, to the old cotton warehouses in the Village and also along Dale Street – from the Northern Quarter to Piccadilly Station.

Equally arresting are these graffiti-laced portals we meet ‘down the underpass’, beneath the Mancunian Way.

What’s this all about then?

Where does it go? Who’s got the key?

An entertaining scenario plays in my mind. Next time my friend Simon comes to visit from London I’ll tell him, ‘We’re off to a party tonight fella’, and we’ll get the 42 in from Southside, jump off at All Saints, bowl along Grosvenor Street past the Deaf Institute and the Sandbar, until we’re at the subway next to the 5-a-side pen behind the old ‘Man Alive’.

I’ll stop in front of this very door

and announce, ‘OK Squire, we’re here’, pausing to enjoy his puzzlement and perhaps mild annoyance. Another one of John’s ‘on-street’ jokes? Ha ha. Or some kind of dare … a springboard … a trap?

I pull out my phone – ‘We’re outside mate” – and the door slides open. We go in. It closes smoothly and silently behind us and we’re in a curving passage with an inside wall of exposed rubble as if we’ve discovered a quarry buried deep in the heart of the city. The curve leads to a long, dimly lit, metallic staircase, giving onto a gloomy Blake’s 7-style corridor and then one more flight of ghostly aluminium stairs.

Now we can hear music and the sound of people having a good time and voilá – there we are in the midst, at the heart of the coolest, most supergorgeous, full-on party you’ve ever seen. Winner! Everyone’s happy. Some kind of vodka-fuelled Felliniesque chaos takes over and life goes up a level again. Now Simon owes me an equally swish surprise next time I’m on his manor!

Baudelaire, in his prose poem, Le Joueur Généreux, tells a similar story. The poet, beaten down and haggard as usual, is shepherded through a non-descript doorway in a dowdy Paris side street, stepping into a salacious world of scandal, luxury and vice. It’s like a scene from Nero’s bathhouse – marble pillars, walls of soft silk, the beautiful and the damned spread-eagled on cushions with the Devil himself distributing largesse at the centre of it all. The poet is so taken by this louche break with routine that he gambles his soul away at cards, as you do, and in recompense the Devil promises that, for the rest of his life, he will never be troubled by boredom or ennui again. Upon leaving the secret chambers Baudelaire begins to doubt the veracity of his experience and runs home to pray to God that the Devil keeps his promise!
I’ve been there! I know! Someone told me once too that you don’t truly know a city until you’ve been bored in it and I can certainly empathise there but, to be honest, I find it hard to be bored these days in the city centre, especially on Dale Street, feeling the pull and the sway of these extraordinary doors

There are so many different levels at play on this road. Most of the premises were built in the early nineteenth-century as warehouses for Manchester’s burgeoning cotton trade and you can still see that legacy in the names of the smaller streets running off towards Ancoats – Tariff Street, Mangle Street, Back China Lane, etc.
This trade was the dynamo behind Manchester’s astonishing growth in the first half of the nineteenth-century, bestowing commercial puissance on the city and earning it an intriguing element of autonomy from the capital. In economic terms, Manchester came to possess its own trading routes to America, Australia, Africa and India, ensuring a degree of financial self-sufficiency In cultural terms Manchester became the ‘open city’ par excellence, woozy with ideas from place-names so glamourously other in the shy Mancunian sunshine – Paris, Dublin, Boston, Alexandria – ideas given expression in a vital and varied creative milieu – from The Manchester Guardian and The Hallé Orchestra to the raucous street life of Shude Hill Market on a Saturday night.

That’s what these doors represent for me in historical terms – the city’s natural independence and inbuilt lack of parochialism and closed-mindedness. It’s an openness to people and to ideas on a global level which exists in a different dimension to Town Hall strategy and Marketing Manchester brochures. It’s in the texture of the place and the hearts and minds of the people.

The people. The human level. The human condition. How many men, women and children clocking in and out of these doors every morning and evening? How many human dramas playing themselves out behind these doors?

A colleague and friend drops a ten bob note on the floor. They don’t notice but you do. You’re skint with a big family to feed. You know your mate’s in the same boat. What do you do?

You have to turn up for work and face the woman who’s just left you for one of your colleagues. You’ll need to have a ‘one to one’ with him too.

You’ve just found out a baby’s on the way. Time to tell the boys and girls. Time to celebrate.

The highs, the lows, the boredom at the start of the week, the gathering buzz towards the end. So many acts of deception and dishonesty. So many acts of giving and goodness. So many stories.

And where – like with the doors beneath the Mancunian Way – where do these stories go? Do they just fade to grey or do they leave their mark, their imprint, on the fretwork of the buildings which hosted them and on the fabric of the city itself?

It’s a tricky one. There are no ready-made answers, that’s for sure. A degree of humility, in my view, is needed here, a humility acknowledging an element of mystery and transcendence at the heart of things and giving the imagination licence to play with that and express the mystery in its own time and its own way.

I mean, which of us, with any certainty, really knows what lies beyond these doors? Until someone steps in and takes a look we can never be sure. Odds on it’s just old warehouse space, and that’s great! Just think of the exciting futures these buildings might have and the parts they may go on to play in the city’s continuing story? They could become anything – bookshops, cafés, cinemas, nightclubs, community centres, spaces for stillness and reflection. The possibilities are limitless.

But we won’t know until we go inside. And what if inside has nothing to do with cotton after all? What if we find ourselves groping and scrambling along a gloomy passage seemingly leading nowhere until, mysteriously and magnificently, the space opens out and we’re in a ruined theatre, stucco seats swooping and circling in spirals around our heads, red wallpaper peeled, pock-marked and flayed raw by time, weather and human destruction. High above, a dome of patterned glass allows the evening sunshine to fall in an arrow of light at our feet, playing delicate games of light and shadow with the rubble-strewn floor.

We sit on the stage and tell stories in the sunset, resting our bruised hearts and minds in the healing silence and the profound peace filling this vibrant bowl of focus.

‘There seem to have been certain evenings in those days’, writes the poet David Gascoyne, ‘when I was prey to a particular kind of excitement that I would give much to recapture now. The sky was the colour of warm lead, yet the atmosphere was full of a latent silver-greenish light; it was as though it were about to snow. The shadows in doorways, the empty spaces of open windows, took on their greatest power of suggestiveness. An imperceptible smell of sulphur in the air. How finely attuned the nerves were to the least possibility of the miraculous! It seemed that at any moment one was going to be able to walk right through the screen of surface appearances, as through a mirror, into a strangely violent but exalted world of poetry and revolution.’

Gascoyne became one of the great poetic shamen of war-time London, transmuting a world of disintegration and lies into a rich, strange and visionary parade. As in this poem, Zero - September, 1939:

Who can by now not hear
The hollow and annihilating roar
Of final disillusion; or not know
How our condition is uncertain and obscure
And difficult to bear? Yet through
The blackness of his dungeon there still peer
Man’s eyes, unmoving, lit by their desire
To see the worst, and yet not die
Of their lucid despair
But in such vision persevere
Through time into Eternity.
For this is Zero-hour
When the most penetrating gaze can see
Only the Void, the emptier than air,
The incoherent Nada of the seer:
Who blind is yet not blind, being aware
Of the Negation’s double mystery!

Tomb of what was, womb of what is to be.

This is what imagination does. It brings dignity and meaning to lives which, now as then, often seem so broken and fragmented in the face of random forces and a competitive, stonily antagonistic world. Cotton laid our city’s foundations for sure, but it’s the Mancunian imagination that makes the legend and makes an active and positive difference to the lives of so many men and women in the city and across the world.

True creativity, as William Blake knew, can’t be policed or tamed. Imagination has always disturbed and unsettled governments and ruling élites. Left to itself, creativity is far from guaranteed to usher in greater social cohesion or attract more business to the city, but the authorities look through the wrong end of the telescope, as well as betray their own fears, when they ride on creativity’s back to achieve goals of that order. We see this in aspects of ‘cultural regeneration’ and also in Manchester’s rebranding as the ‘original modern’ city. This shortsighted utilitarianism only succeeds, in my view, in killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

We need to relax our grip, take a risk or two and make space for the unexpected and the unpredictable. Imagination, as seen so often in Manchester, is a gift - a gift which keeps on giving - and this is a city which only comes alive and becomes itself when given space and time to sing its song in spontaneity and celebration. That’s always been the way here – from Thomas de Quincey to Jeff Noon, from A Guy Called Gerald to Kid British. Then Manchester can astonish in a modern day fiesta - the city and its people tasting, if only for a moment, what true community, togetherness and unity can be like – true communitas.

So let’s walk through this screen of surface appearances …

let’s walk through this blue door into the place of poetry and revolution …

where you can cut your finger on a blade of grass …

where your sword draws blood from the wind …

‘It’s sure to be no good’, said Eustace with his hand on the handle; and then … the handle turned and the door opened. A moment before, both of them had meant to get through that doorway in double quick time, if by any chance the door was not locked. But when the door actually opened, they both stood stock still. For what they saw was quite different from what they had expected. They had expected to see the grey, heathery slope of the moor going up and up to join the dull autumn sky. Instead, a blaze of sunshine met them …

And it poured through the doorway as the light of a June day pours into a garage when you open the door.

copyright John Fitzgerald 2010

John is a Manchester based writer, researcher and historian. He can be contacted via