Travel theme: Cities
Guy Garvey interviewed in the Independent, February 2014:
“New York Morning” lays out his embrace of the city he describes as “the modern Rome, where folk are nice to Yoko”.
“That comes from John Lennon,” he explains. “In his last press conference when he left England for good, he said: ‘Why wouldn’t you go to New York? Every nation on Earth represented, all getting along – it’s the modern Rome’. Then he said: ‘Besides, they’re nice to Yoko’. Quite aside from what people think, whether she was responsible or not for splitting up The Beatles – and I’m very sure she wasn’t, knowing band dynamics as I do – it was the out-and-out racism that accompanied that, so when New York clutched them to its bosom as icons, they were very flattered, and it was the place where they felt they could live together and be happy. They were never far from my thoughts when I arrived in New York, being a Northerner and a musician. Knowing the love he had for his roots, it must have been very difficult for him to transplant himself, knowing he was a national hero.”
In Garvey’s case, of course, it wasn’t so much a national hero and international icon exchanging one form of attention for another, as an escape from attention into blessed anonymity. Whereas John and Yoko relocated to Manhattan, he settled into the more localised, bohemian surroundings of Brooklyn, exulting in the chance to make friends purely on his personality.
“I enjoyed hanging round these diners, which very much reminded me of the places in Manchester where I decided to do what I did with my life, where everybody’s a writer or a sculptor or a painter, and holding down a job in order to support that,” he says. “I enjoyed being that nice older English guy who comes in every day, like Ralph Richardson in the corner on his laptop! It also made me realise how much more inaccessible that youthful verve becomes as you get older. I prefer the company of one good friend these days, whereas these kids were very much about discovering their identity and showing it to the world. It was a lovely thing to witness.”
These silver purses have travelled great distances since they were made during the first part of the 20th Century. They belonged to my mother, an avid and informed collector of antiques and occasionally artworks. One of her oft told stories was about seeing a pair of original paintings in an art shop window on Shude Hill, Manchester. Despite their primitive construction she thought they captured the essence of this ‘dirty old town’ perfectly. She was tempted to buy but this was the austere time immediately following World War II which meant money was tight and there were hungry mouths to feed. She always regretted not being more reckless – the paintings were by L S Lowry. So here are some silver purses but no matchstick men nor smoking chimneys:
(click on the image to enlarge)
This photograph was taken along the Rochdale Canal in 1981. The journey through Manchester forms part of the Cheshire Ring and this section was always ‘interesting’. An excess of water coming down the flight would cascade over the back gates filling the lock almost as quickly you tried to empty it – descending was a slow process. In confined spaces there were short lock beams operated on rusted chains by a windlass, smooth and easy it was not. On top of that there were just too many disreputable characters lurking in the shadows, some quite keen to lend a hand 😦 . This stretch of canal has changed utterly in the intervening years but the excess of water, laborious locks and ‘helpful’ characters remain:
This second image shows where these broken English windows once looked out. The iconic Refuge Assurance Building can be seen in the background with the time frozen at 11:25. The puddles along the towpath are not from rain but from the canal overflowing – the natural flow of water down the canal combined with emptying locks is more than some of the pounds could cope with. I have been down this stretch three times (1977, 1981 and 2008) and there was never a dull moment.
The photographs were taken with a Mamiyaflex C330F Twin Lens Reflex – the scans are from the printed images, scanning 120 Roll film being just too tortuous.
I have just finished reading Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts Edgelands – Journeys into England’s True Wilderness. As it states on the cover, the wilderness is much closer than you think. Passed through, negotiated, unnamed, unacknowledged: the edgelands – those familiar yet ignored spaces are neither city nor countryside – have become the great wild places on our doorstep. It prompted me to scan some 120 roll film negatives taken in Manchester and around Trafford Park at a time when everything was verging on edgelands. The title for this post is inspired by the first photograph if you can spot the reference and also by the fact they were all taken in the mid-1970s – I would guess 1976.
I am almost disappointed by what has become of Manchester Central – still a functioning railway station when I was a boy, it closed to railway services in 1969 and for a time was used as an undercover car park. The picture included here shows some of the fire damage which closed the interior before the structure was eventually converted into the G-MEX Exhibition Centre. It has since been renamed Manchester Central in recognition of its heritage but that glorious smoke filled cathedral is no more – the dilapidated remains had a more direct association with its past. Sadder still, the Free Trade Hall opposite, once home to the Hallé Orchestra, is now a Radisson Hotel. I attended many an event in that fine building, most memorably, a Simon & Garfunkel concert in 1967 – Manchester ‘seems like a dream to me now’.
These photographs depict elements of Daniel Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays, Manchester; a disturbing monument which comprises three interlocking shards, representing air, earth and water. The museum has an intentionally disorientating construction; floors slope at odd angles whilst the upper reaches of the air shard are exposed to the elements with views through the metal grid floors to the earth far below. It is a building in a future tense enshrined with dire warnings from our past imperfect.