While I was in Manchester I was pretty focused on my research and didn’t get to explore the city as much as I would have liked. Several nights, I ate simple meals of jacket (i.e. baked) potatoes in the studio apartment I was renting and either worked on FotoFest or prepared for the further archival research. That didn’t mean that I stayed in the entire time. I also consistently ate lunch out, so I got bit of a taste of the city.
I went out and about on the one Saturday night I had in town. After I finished at the Rylands, I went to a place making creative tapas, primarily inspired by traditional English cuisine, called Refuge. I had a beautiful trout ceviche, a black bean stew, a dish of olives, and charred radicchio and endive (which people in the States should cook more because they make an excellent warm dish). Then it was off to do a little bit of bar hopping. I went to a place supposed to be the best bar in Manchester (according to TimeOut) called Flok. It was really only OK. However, the place next to it, Eastern Bloc Records, was absolutely hopping. So, after I finished my Negroni I went over there and danced well past midnight to an wonderful minimal house session by a couple of local DJs. It felt just a bit like Detroit, Chicago, or Columbus in the 1990s–wandering into a random bar encountering, unexpectedly, world class electronic dance music. Which I later found out made sense because Eastern Bloc Records is a project of the seminal 808 State and one of the musicians was affiliated with them.
During my time in the city I visited the famous Cross Street Chapel (founded in 1692) for a Sunday service, the People’s History Museum, and the Manchester Art Museum. The art museum was interesting in that they are rethinking what it means to curate art and have disrupted their historic collections by inserting commentary by contemporary artists/critics on the construction of maleness, Whiteness, and the cultural power of capital through the gallery experience. They pair this commentary with select pieces by artists who are not White men that sits next to, for example, their impressive collection of the works from Pre-Raphaelites.
In addition, I went to a movie and an performance at HOME. It is great cultural space with venues for theater and cinema. The performance I saw was titled “Vice Versa.” It was a multimedia one woman show on a dystopian future where everyone suffers through a society based on social credit. The performer was Dorcas Seb and she was what it is often called a triple threat: she can sing, dance, and act.
The movie was titled “Commission.” It narrates the story of the installation of a decommissioned statue of Friedrich Engels in the square outside of HOME. It was enjoyable and I learned a bit more about Engels than I knew before. I also learned that there’s a place in Manchester called the Working Class Movement Library. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit it since it is only sporadically open.
Other places I visited or, more accurately, ate or drank at include: a wine bar named Salut that made a good place to write; Dishoom (an Indian place where I went with a local Unitarian minister); El Gato Negro and Tast (both solidly good and classic tapas bar near the Rylands); Red Chilli (a regional Chinese chain that I thought was simply fantastic); and Takk, where I had salmon on a thick piece of rye toast.