Back to the future in Manchester
Trams and training trigger long-term considerations
Be it the geographical proximity, historical curiosity, artistic sensibility or hopeless romanticism, I’ve long been a sucker for a Pennine townscape under the lengthening westerly light of a summer evening. I’ve frequently seen Bolton bathe in it and Leeds luxuriate in it; tonight it’s Manchester’s turn.
Like Sol himself I’m viewing Manchester from the west, because I’m in what the brand bods christened MediaCity UK, perched high in a Holiday Inn. The tram journey here, to what was wasteland when I left the northwest two decades ago as an economic internal migrant, was a slow ride through the past on a suitably retro-futuristric, or possibly futuristically retro, mode of transport.
The stops were many; journeys take time. From the Piccadilly station whence the family accompanied my biggest (but shortest) sister to the far-off university destination of Stoke, over the canal which gave the street a name later shortened to Anal Tree. Through Piccadilly Gardens, where in late 1996 a fellow student on our postgrad media course was so surprised to see me and my future wife on a late-night bus bound for none-of-your-business that his mouth opened so wide a chip fell out. Past the many and various but somehow familial buildings of Manchester’s industrial pomp — the galleries, the theatres, the town hall.
Snaking — trams always snake, it’s the rules — between the Bridgewater and G-Mex, meccas for music of many moods, we passed what was once the Haçienda, and behind it the canal along which I used to walk on my way to my first journalistic job in 1997, often bleary-eyed from prioritising burgeoning love over sleep. Back then I didn’t pass the monolithic apartment block I can see now from my hotel room, but I did pass more heritage going through Castlefield, as did we tonight: girdered train bridges, one renewed for trams, the other left to nature as an unofficial and unopened garden bridge. Amid concrete and clay and general decay, nature must still find a way.
So did we: on the tram to and through the quays, and on careers to and through journalism. And here we are now, from what cliche demands I call a lofty vantage point, but aware of where we came from. We’re here because our teeth are long enough that people ask us to teach others how to make media. My wife has done this before, around the world; I’ve never taught a class, but I’ve learnt a few lessons, and I have some ideas to pass on. It’s been a fun ride, a beautiful journey, and although I don’t know where the next stop is, I’m intrigued to find out.
Originally published on Facebook, 25 Jun 2017.