the department of forgotten songs

testing. testing. yes, this is still working. apologies to anyone who reads this blog on a semi-regular basis, as there has been nothing to read recently. at the moment i am in the depths of dissertation research and writing as i come to the close of my museum studies masters course. rather than musing about going for a walk or an amazing piece of public art that i’ve seen i am spending my days pondering whether national museums outside london make any difference or not. the answer is yet to come.

however, that doesn’t mean that interesting things haven’t been happening. quite the opposite actually, which hasn’t been ideal for the afore mentioned research project. whilst the arts sector slumps underneath a foreboding cloud, manchester has been carrying on regardless. over the past month i’ve been part of three fantastic free events, all of which displayed the commitment to making this city a) interesting b) inclusive and c) a great place to live. whilst i’m not claiming to be the typical inhabitant of the city, but these events have appealed to a broad range of people, and most importantly were free to get involved in.

Photo - Rowena Scott/Hannah Nicklin

first up was the hazard festival, a loose collection of art/theatre events based around ideas of chance encounters, random occurences and risky ventures. my kind of thing. i took part in the terrific the smell of rain reminds me of you. local playwright/blogger hannah nicklin put together an audio soundscape, which guided about 30/40 people around piccadilly gardens, transforming a rare day of sunshine into a thought-provoking walk in the rain. those people just passing through the area on the way to get a bus were confused to say the least at the sight of this group of people, holding aloft white umbrellas, on seemingly random trajectories. this was a great thing to be involved in, part flashmob, part crowd sourced art. i left feeling relaxed, contented, and a touch emotional.

Photo - Rowena Scott/Hannah Nicklin

from audience-generated theatre to jazz. i can’t profess to knowing a massive amount about jazz, but i do try to listen to bits and bobs. manchester jazz festival recently took over the city for two weeks, though i think it went quite unnoticed by a number of people. working at one of the main venues significantly raised my own knowledge of the events, with the standout for me being the live radio 3 broadcast from band on the wall. again, i can’t claim to know what i’m talking about in terms of the music (i’m notoriously an indiepop fan) but the atmosphere in the venue was one of shared appreciation. to have a festival with huge amounts of free music, including the outdoor stage in st. anne’s square, can only be a good thing in my eyes.

Photo - Visit Manchester

lastly, an event which epitomises the inclusive nature of manchester. the manchester picnic was just that, a picnic, in manchester. amongst other areas piccadilly gardens and spinningfields were transformed into massive picnic areas, with the public encouraged to come and enjoy their lunch there. no hard sell (other than the free pack of crisps you may have been offered), no pressure to buy anything (other than the smell of the jerk chicken barbeque wafting over). just an act to encourage folks to engage with the city centre in a new way. i love events like this, which promote everything that makes me feel at home in the city. people sharing experiences, enjoying themselves, and most importantly remembering that manchester is bloody brilliant.

Photo - Visit Manchester

postscript – i would also like to say many thanks to the fine folks at creative tourist for the writing workshop which they invited me and a load of other great writers to the other week. it was a great chance to spend an afternoon with some creative people, and i’ve not stopped reading other people’s blogs since. i will do a full round up of what makes up my rss reader at some point, as there are some great reads out there.

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