Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"There’s a little Livingstone in even the youngest Mancunian so we go explore."

Walking in the Rain: Rainy City Stories Live! (October 20)

The quote in the header is from Mike Duff's excellent short story, Rats and Mice, which he read in Victoria Station, but we aren't there yet.

Let's start at the start.

We meet up at Urbis. The tears of rain dripping onto the floor from people's umbrellas hint that we might be taking the concept of walking in the rain a little too literally for my taste. It would be fittingly poetic to accompany our walk with a downpour but it would also be wet. Luckily, as we wait for stragglers, the clouds clear. It looks like I’m not going to spend the next couple of hours regretting removing my detachable hood because it makes me look like a quilt. Fashion 1: Weather 0. In your face, weather!

So, following the twin markers of Kate Feld’s umbrella and Chris Horkan’s beautifully luxurious beard, we set of on our literary tour of Manchester. Kate and Chris are the people responsible for the Rainy City Stories website, a collection of writing on Manchester. If, or rather when, you visit the site, you will be greeted by a map covered in little clouds. Each cloud is a story or a poem and it hovers over the location that it is written about. Today, we are visiting some of the central Manchester locations, and at each one there will be a reading from someone published on the website.

First stop is Victoria Station. There, in the bar, we hear Mike Duff's tale of unpoliced-youth, Rats and Mice, the coarse language of the story’s protagonists cutting like a knife through the chatter of businessmen and tourists. Next, we fight against the traffic and the clatter of diners in Croma to hear Anyonita Green reading her lovely poem, A House of Cards.

This tour is quite exciting. Seeing the work read in its location, in its inspiration, makes it that much more intimate. It is one less barrier between writer and reader.

The location of the next stop is a real treat, for we descend into the central courtyard of Manchester Town Hall. Here, in the belly of this opulent Victorian Gothic revival masterpiece, even the drainpipes are ornate, their length a lazy mulberry spiral attached to the wall by eight symmetrical curls. We are surrounded by mosaic and stained glass. As Anne Hill Fernie reads Big Shout to Malmy Hatchman, the bell in the clock tower tolls.

We move onto Manchester Art Gallery, where David Gaffney reads Live Feed. In the next gallery, a party of schoolchildren, fascinated by the possibility of mischief, stare at us through glass doors. In David's story art is as popular as football, and attracts the same level of partisanship and violence. It is witty and fun and again the location adds to the experience of listening to the reading.

Our final port of call is Chinatown, where we hear Socrates Adams-Florou read his very funny poem called, rather appropriately, Chinatown. The tour over, we spread out over the map of Manchester with new eyes and ears for this wonderful city. The stories have given us a new glimpse of our home and the passersby and the cars and the drills, the noise, competing for our attention have not distracted from but added to the experience. Rainy City Stories has produced what the website so often does; a mini masterpiece from the chaos of the city.

Benjamin Judge collects his thoughts on his blog Cynical Ben, which has been shortlisted at this year's Manchester Blog Awards. He also writes very short fiction at Carp Glob.

1 comment:

red newsom said...

I went to this! The City Hall was so lovely (as were the readings, naturally).