what puts the ‘man’ in manchester

So I’ve come to Manchester for a few days.

Ostensibly the main reason for this is that I am going to be competing in ‘Beat The Frog’ tonight, which is a gong show I’ve heard it’s useful to do well in for getting other gigs in the north-west. But I’m also here because I have a few friends living in Manchester that I’m hoping to catch up with.

Either way, I’m expecting to be a little hungover tomorrow.

I’ve never known quite what to make of Manchester. The people are generally nice and I’ve had some of my best EVER nights out here – the place seems to have a public drinking/drug culture that is genuinely built around music (while I’ve often felt like in London, and in many other places, it is the other way round).

But on the other hand, I can never quite get my head round how incredibly ugly the place is. Not the people so much – I mean, some of the locals aren’t exactly lookers but there’s enough students and cool young people to balance that out. It’s the architecture around the centre of the city. It’s all brick-and-concrete boxes, all so deliberately and claustrophobically functional.

I mean, it’s honest, I suppose – and perhaps the image of the ‘straight-talking’ Mancunian originates from this honesty – but it is a city that once said, look, we only need humans to be instrumental parts in our industrial machine. And we will mill and manufacture and produce with them, in great numbers, until they die. It is quantity and utility that interest us, even in humans.

And this is what Lowry painted and it’s why I hate his paintings – not because he painted badly but because he painted in quantities; massive numbers of people and buildings, without the detail that captures and discloses the intrinsic worth of a thing…perhaps this was his point, but it still doesn’t make his art – or Manchester – very much fun to look at.

And, perhaps at risk of stereotyping, it could be said that these are male criteria, that numbers and functionality are male interests and male needs. Manchester is probably a great place to be if you are, or are interested in, men and masculinity. It is without grace, without cunning and guile, without intrinsic beauty…perhaps even the name of the place is no accident.

None of which I will be mentioning in my set tonight. I think that would probably be unwise.

But I will be expecting the most functional, most set-up/punchliney performers and routines to get the best responses.

We’ll see if I’m right.

Advertisements