Monday, 31 January 2011

The Shrieking Violet Issue 12 (and why you should read it whilst listening to Haha Sound by Broadcast)

Issue 12 of the Shrieking Violet has no theme. It does, however, pick up on topics covered in previous zines such as public transport — Tom Hiles has created an imagined map of how a Manchester Underground system might look, whilst poet, artist and public transport enthusiast Stuart Vallantine explains plans in the 1970s for a tunnel to connect Piccadilly and Victoria stations, with an illustration by Alex Boswell — and the media — Steve Hanson recounts a strange but true experience working for the Daily Sport in the Express Building and I have included my interview with artist Maurice Carlin about his project The Self Publishers.

Artist Daniel Fogarty (whose work can be seen at the BlankExpression 2011 show at BlankSpace at 43 Hulme Street until 13 February) has contributed a design essay on Granada idents and Anouska Smith from Cause and Effect art asks why it is so hard to make a living being an artist.

The zine also includes a letter from Joe Troop to his childhood home in Moss Side — part of his project My Hero — and creative writing by Michael Cassidy. Instead of a food recipe, Issue 12 contains instructions by Tom Hiles for making a seed bomb.

The cover is by Fuchsia Macaree.

Small numbers of black and white paper copies of the Shrieking Violet have been left in Piccadilly Records, Nexus Art Cafe, Cornerhouse, Magma books and Good Grief! in the Soup Kitchen as of Wednesday.

Issue 12 can be read online here (in an unfortunately low resolution PDF):

Download a copy to print yourself here.

To have a paper copy sent to you free of charge email your address to Also use this email address if you would like to contribute to future issues or join the facebook group.

Issues 2-12 of the Shrieking Violet can be read online here and issues 1-12 can be downloaded here.

Tom Hiles is hoping to sell merchandise featuring his Manchester Underground map in the future. If you are interested in finding out any news on this when it becomes available email or follow him on twitter.

At the start of the year, when I was putting Issue 12 of the Shrieking Violet together, I started listening to Haha Sound by Broadcast a lot again. So I was shocked when, a couple of weeks into the year, it was announced that Broadcast’s singer, Trish Keenan, was battling pneumonia in hospital and had been on a life support machine since Christmas after contracting swine flu on tour in Australia. Sadly, the next day, on Friday 14th January, it was announced that she had died at the age of just 42.

Since it was released, Haha Sound has rarely been far from my record player, and it is one of the records that came to define for me a certain stage of growing up. Haha Sound was released in August 2003 during, in my case, the long, extended summer between GCSEs and sixth form. At that awkward age when you’re too underage to do much, but old enough to want to do something, being a shy teenager in a small, sleepy seaside town the highlight of my (not so) social life was listening to John Peel on Radio One and daydreaming about moving to a big city. Having fallen in love with Broadcast after hearing him play Pendulum and Before We Begin from Haha Sound on a regular basis, I got the bus to the nearest place with a decent record shop, Canterbury, when the record was released to buy it (from the unfortunately now long since closed down Richards Records) on a thick slab of Warp records vinyl. Over the next two years — the final two years I spent living in Kent before I moved away to go to university — it is only a slight exaggeration to say that Haha Sound was all I listened to.

I had previously obsessed over the wonky genius of Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd. Broadcast, too, are a brilliantly skewed pop band but, whereas Syd Barrett’s eccentricity was familiar and recognisable, grounded in an everyday, typically English setting of big bands, curly hair (in contrast, Steve Lamacq mentioned on the Evening Session around this time that Trish Keenan had ‘the straightest hair in pop music’ and seemed genuinely amazed by it), floorboards and bicycles, Broadcast’s experimental take on pop music was a different kind of weird altogether. Trish Keenan’s smooth, icy, precise vocals floated over pop beats and sounds I had never heard before, including percussion that, in my mind, made me think they were hitting an assortment of boxes, bells and bits of scrap metal. They even sang the odd word in German. The record sleeve, too, was like nothing else I’d seen, featuring collaged fragments of photographs, scattered boxes and clusters of warped, typewritten letters in strange arrangements.

Syd Barrett’s comforting, flat, boy-next-door vocals reminded me of quaint, leafy cathedral cities, but Broadcast, from far-away Birmingham, were glamorous, exotic and arty and, I decided, sounded like what living in a big city would be like. They referenced the past, borrowing musically from everything from nursery rhymes to sixties pop, and creating an almost chant-like effect at times, but also remained somehow futuristic and timeless. I still have yet to hear a song I like more than Before We Begin, a swooning slice of warm retro-pop gorgeousness that never fails to give me slight butterflies in my stomach as it swirls around me.

Broadcast played at the Night & Day soon after I moved to Manchester in 2005, promoting the follow up to Haha Sound, Tender Buttons, a more straightforward, but still brilliant, pop record. Pathetically, as a first year I hadn’t yet made any friends who liked Broadcast and was too nervous to go to a gig alone, so had to wait until December 2009 to finally see Broadcast live, at the Deaf Institute, when they were promoting their last release, a mini-album with the Focus Group. It was everything I had expected — an enveloping combination of swirling visuals, captivating pop music and a mysterious stage presence — quite unlike any gig I had been to before or have been to since.

This fanzine is dedicated to Trish Keenan and the inspiration I found in Broadcast's music.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Modernist heroines — a collaborative callout, women we need you!

The Shrieking Violet is delighted to be teaming up with Manchester Modernist Society and the Loiterers Resistance Movement to invite you to join us in a collaborative project promoting a century of Modernist women to coincide with the hundredth birthday celebrations of International Women's Day on March 8.

We are currently looking for expressions of interest around the theme of ten fabulous females strongly associated with the North West spanning the fields of invention, aviation, media, science, design and architecture in the twentieth century.

We aim to produce a publication and range of activities centred around the lives and careers of our ten local heroines in early March, and are looking for your creative responses. This can be (but is not limited to) an event, performance, piece of creative writing, interview or journalism. Our only stipulation is that the work be about one of our ten local heroines.

The Manchester Modernist Society exists to raise awareness and appreciation of Modern architecture & the urban environment and related modern art and design, in Manchester and the surrounding region, through walks, talks and creative collaborations.

The ten modernist heroines are:

1. Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe (January 1 1918 – December 30 2006) was an American sculptor who was a long resident in Didsbury. She was most famous for designing the golden trophy in the shape of a theatrical mask that would go on to represent the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and be presented as the BAFTA award. She also designed the mural on the Heaton Park Pumping Station.

2. Winifred Brown, Salfordian Flyer and, in her early 20s, winner of the Kings Cup (air race) in 1930.

3. Rachel Haugh co-established the architectural practice Ian Simpson Associates. She was born and brought up in Manchester and studied at Bath University School of Architecture. She is a founding partner and co-director of Ian Simpson Architects, a design-led architectural practice which was established in 1987 and employs around 50 people in offices in Manchester and London.

4. Susan Sutherland Isaacs (1885–1948) was a Bolton born educational psychologist and psychoanalyst. Educated at Manchester and Cambridge Universities, she published pioneer studies on the intellectual and social development of children and promoted the nursery school movement. For Isaacs developing a child’s independence, which is best achieved through play, was the best way for children to learn and the role of adults and early educators was to guide children's play. She was awarded a CBE in 1948.

5. Marie Stopes (15 October 1880 – 2 October 1958) was a noted palaeobotanist, campaigner for women's rights and pioneer in the field of family planning. She was the first woman member of faculty at Manchester University.

6. Professor Rosalie David is the world's leading expert on Egyptian mummies. She is Director of the Centre for Biomedical and Forensic Egyptology at the University of Manchester and has directed the Manchester Egyptian Mummy Research Project since 1973. This project has pioneered the 'Manchester Method' — the use of medical and scientific techniques to investigate ancient Egyptian mummies to detect evidence of disease and information about everyday life in ancient Egypt. She was the first woman professor in Egyptology in Britain, and the first to receive an OBE in recognition of her services in Egyptology.

7. Olive Shapley, (10 April 1910– 13 March 1999) was a British radio producer and broadcaster. In 1934 she began her career with the BBC as Children's Hour organiser with the responsibility of producing five hour-long programmes every week. These included at least two full-length live plays a week. After the war she became the third presenter of ‘Woman's Hour’, a programme with which she was associated for over twenty years, producing the programme between 1949 and 1953. Meanwhile, she began to develop a career as a presenter in the new television medium. In the mid-1960s her Manchester home became a refuge (as a charitable trust) for single mothers and later, in the late 1970s, for Vietnamese boat people.

8. Professor Doreen Massey is a Manchester born contemporary British social scientist and geographer. She has devoted her life to the subject, speaking passionately about the significance of geography and the 'politics of place' in a globalised world. Her work has had a profound influence on theorising around space and place and has taken the study of geography into new inter-disciplinary directions.

9. Mary Stott (18 July 1907 – 16 September 2002) was a British feminist and journalist, the first — and longest-serving — editor of the Guardian women's page. One of the great campaigning journalists of the 20th century, in her 15-year tenure from 1957 to 1972 she invented a platform for women's voices and concerns and used it to further such causes.

10. Linder Sterling studied graphic design at the Manchester School of Art from 1974-77 and played a vital part in the 1970s punk scene in Manchester, designing graphics for the Buzzcocks, Magazine and Factory Records. She remains a pivotal visual artist, performance artist and musician, whose work has been selected for the Tate Triennial.

Deadline for expression of interest is Friday 28 January — simply indicate your chosen Heroine and an outline of the type of work likely to be submitted.

Deadlines for final submission of work is Friday 18 February, to allow print and publicity in time for our March event on Sunday 6 March.

Please email in the first instance with your choice of Fabulous Female and a short summary of the idea you might wish to pursue.

Please pass the details onto anyone you think might be interested.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Ghosts in the Machine: Maurice Carlin’s ‘The Self Publishers’, found art from photocopiers

Every two months, Maurice Carlin does a sweep around the photocopying shops of Manchester and Salford, gathers unwanted copies that are left on the glass or discarded around the machines, enlarges them to A3 and collects them into a publication about the cities and the people who live in them called The Self Publishers. As well as including what you’d expect to find scattered around the shops — maps, adverts for rooms to rent, posters for missing pets, failed attempts at reproducing academic texts, sheet music, even a poem by Manchester poet Carol Batton who distributes her photocopied works around the city — some of the material is surprisingly personal. Since it started late in 2009 The Self Publishers has constituted a city-wide scrapbook or diary, with letters and children’s drawings popping up next to Primark pay slips and to do lists. In September Morry exhibited the work at the Pigeon Wing Gallery in London and he was also invited to take the project to Midnight Coffee Preview in Antwerp in December. The Shrieking Violet had a chat with Morry at Islington Mill, where he is based.

SV: What inspired the project? Were people's leftover bits of paper something you had been interested in for a while?

MC: I mistakenly took some stuff that had been left behind in a copy shop and I had it around for a while — I do tend to collect stuff. Sometimes you have something and you don’t know why you’re interested in it then later you realise why. Then later I thought ‘maybe all I need to do is present it differently.’.

I’m interested in the photocopier as a format as it’s democratic — it reduces everything to a black and white image and flattens it all out. Even glossy magazine articles are reduced to a bit of text.

SV: What are the most common mistakes that are made when photocopying?

MC: There are quite often bits missing, pages the wrong size or copies are too light or too dark. In one copy someone’s hand somehow got in there. But the bits that have gone wrong are more interesting.
SV: It’s interesting that you’ve chosen to call the publications The Self Publishers (and chosen quite a decorative font for the title, in contrast to the mainly functional nature of what's inside), as the people who made these copies probably didn’t intend to publish to a wider audience — with a few possible exceptions, I imagine most of the copies were made for personal use.

MC: It is accidental publishing. It would be quite different if I collected all the material I found on the street like scraps of paper — it is found in a place of publication and reproduction. Even if it is being reproduced for one person it is still being reproduced and published.

SV: What interests you about looking through these unwanted documents from other people’s lives?

MC: I’m interested in how meaning is formed. The material I collect is both mundane and vital. A lot of it is things that are really important to people, for example propaganda — people copying 100 posters saying ‘Say no to the English Defence League’— or forms motivating people to do something. It’s a document of a moment just gone. I take all these different narratives and put them back to back.

I’m interested in Chantal Mouffe and the idea of agonistic democracy. The public sphere should be based on dissensus rather than consensus. We should be a community of difference rather than a community of one and acknowledge our differences and that we can still get things done.
SV: What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve found?

MC: There are grievance forms about being sacked, documents relating to harassment and someone’s personal fitness report. Some of it is copyrighted material, and there’s an article about JD Salinger suing Random House and copyright law. There’s a seating plan for a bar mitzvah party which I love as it’s really visual and pages with random letters at the top — I don’t know what they are but they remind me of concrete poetry.

SV: Do you feel voyeuristic, like you’re looking at something you’re not supposed to? What if you were looking through a copy and you found something of yours staring back at you?

MC: The ethics of it is something I’ve thought a lot about. It was a shock when I came across someone’s death certificate. Sometimes I’ve blocked out names and personal information but sometimes it’s an essential part of that story. It’s an internal seesaw but there’s something about wanting to present the material in its purest form.

We leave a trail behind us all over the place — online, on social networking sites. There’s a residue of human activity everywhere and artists are among the few people who take an interest in it and find it poetic. They sift through the refuse to find something that says something about people and what they care about and what they don’t care about and leave behind.

SV: How do you go about putting the material together? Apart from adding a cover and stapling the material together, is there an editing process?

MC: In one way you could look through this and think that it’s a random jumble of stuff one after the other but in the way I do it there is a kind of mechanism. Some people suggested I should take the text and put it into some kind of design format but there is a sensibility. It follows a sort of rule of publishing, for example when I have found an abstract, introductory remarks or contents list I put that at the front and when I have found acknowledgements, conclusions and evaluations or indexes they have gone at the back, even if they didn’t relate to what’s inside. But in other ways it makes no sense at all and things don’t really belong together. It could be quite a surreal experience to read through from the front cover but I always want to find the narrative thread — that’s a natural instinct.

It’s a bit like reading a newspaper, which has a design aesthetic but apart from that it’s a jumble of different information, reports and trivia.SV: If there is too much duplication in the material you collect do you limit what you put in?

MC: I use 90 per cent of the material I find, for example there were four copies of the same photograph but each one was slightly different so someone had obviously been trying to get something right and they were failed attempts. I put them all in.

SV: Don’t you find it frustrating that you only have a part of the story when you include a page that is just one part of a longer article, for instance? Don’t you ever find that there’s a page or scrap that interests you so much that you want to go away and read more?

MC: Through one page you can read a whole story about what might have happened. It reflects my own reading habits — I have five or six different things on the go at once and quite often only read a page or a paragraph at one time. I like that I’ve only got a section of the story or a part of it and you have to fill in the rest yourself.

It’s quite in tune with life, which is full of different voices and sources for information and knowledge constantly competing for your attention. I don’t really want to read all of them but I will take in something of all of them.
SV: How does the project work in other cities?

MC: I had no idea if it would translate into a different place. In Antwerp I had to make more of a choice when deciding which material to put in. There was more material in English than I had expected and I chose more in English than was perhaps representative.

I was really surprised the things I found related so directly to the place. Lots of the material related to Antwerp, for example one person wrote an abstract about Antwerp as a port town.

Someone suggested I should go ask copy shops for the material. I went in to shops and asked if they had any old paper they were going to dump. There’s less suspicion of that kind of thing there and they handed a pile over. I asked copy shops when I got back to Manchester and they said they couldn’t possibly give it out for confidentiality reasons. There is more openness and transparency in Antwerp.

I also spent some time at the Middlesex University Philosophy Department occupation in May and June and did an edition there as they were producing lots of material related to the occupation.

SV: Is there a noticeable difference between material collected from copy shops in different areas of Manchester and Salford and do you have a favoured photocopying shop?

MC: It is a barometer of what’s going on around the copy shop. What you find in Staples in Salford is different to what you might get in the Northern Quarter. The ones on Oxford Road are the best for collecting material as they’re really untidy.

SV: How do other people react to the project?

MC: People either love it or hate it. I’m not sure that the project really works in a gallery setting though. It would work much better if you could buy it like any other magazine.

To purchase a copy of The Self Publishers email Morry at

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Teen spirit: Shelagh Delaney, restlessness and Angry Young Women

There is a great documentary about the writer Shelagh Delaney in which she comes across as a remarkably poised, articulate, self-confident young woman, with forthcoming opinions on everything from housing and town planning to the education system. Ken Russell filmed the short documentary Shelagh Delaney’s Salford in 1960, just short of Delaney’s 21st birthday — and two years after her debut play, A Taste of Honey, a bleakly comic look at life in mid-century Manchester and Salford, debuted.

Now seen as a classic of twentieth century drama, in 1961 A Taste of Honey* was adopted into the British new wave cinema movement when it was adapted for the big screen by Tony Richardson. Unlike those films, though, filled with the frustrated, brooding males of the so-called angry young man generation who were trapped in sooty northern towns and struggling against the life awaiting them — following their fathers into the local factory or, if they were lucky finding work an office and settling eventually into marriage and domesticity — it’s unusual in featuring a female protagonist, the sharp witted Jo, played with huge, bright, steady eyes by Rita Tushingham. We see Jo trying to transcend her circumstances and avoid repeating the mistakes of her 'semi-whore' mother Helen (entering into relationships with unsuitable men and moving round a series of substandard dwellings). After she follows in her mother's footsteps by falling pregnant, though, Jo doesn’t dare “plan big plans or dream big dreams for this baby”, because she fears she can predict her child’s future already, foretold by the pattern of her mother, who also got pregnant her first time and ended up raising the baby alone.

A Taste of Honey is full of sexual desire but, unlike other young women in films of the period, who generally play secondary roles and are presented as often hesitant partners to male sexual urges, Jo stands out as being curious and inquisitive about her own sexuality. Despite fantasising about marriage and later inventing a fairytale about her 'Prince Ossini', she knows that she may never see Jimmie, the black sailor passing through the city to whom she loses her virginity, again, but is eager to live in the moment and explore her sexuality.

In Ken Russell’s portrait, you get the impression that the young people of Delaney’s generation were keen for a new, better way of living and finding their own way in life rather than that which was expected of them. The films of the new wave showed a Britain on the verge of great transition — moral, social and cultural — touching on uncomfortable and then risqué topics around sexual desire, homosexuality, adultery, prostitution, illegitimacy, abortion, domestic violence, misogyny, race and class relations, as well as environmental changes — whole areas of cities were being rebuilt to clear lingering Victorian slums and fill the gaps left by war-time bomb sites.

This new urban environment is explicitly mentioned in Shelagh Delaney’s Salford. Delaney takes Russell's camera on a tour of a Salford that is, in some ways, dying, crumbling and full of the old — derelict churches and abandoned pubs — yet in other ways very full of life — its markets, docks and children. Films from the period, such as those of the Free Cinema movement from which the British new wave was born, are full of and celebrate the young, showing children at play both in the street and their playground rituals. They are the future, it is implied, and they are going to grow up in a different world.

Although A Taste of Honey shows a traditional, densely populated working class area of crammed rooftops, Delaney speaks from her modern family home and describes how her own family were moved out to a new estate. She raises concerns about the time it takes to build communities in new estates, as well as the provision of amenities such as theatres, and suggests this transition in ways of living has led to an overriding sense of 'restlessness' in the city. This restlessness permeates her plays, she admits, and is especially evident amongst the young. As she explains: “Children [young people] want to go somewhere…they’re tethered and they’re jerking about waiting for someone to cut the tether saying let me go.” She describes a generation who are lost and ‘don’t know what to do’, explaining “they stay where they are and come to a compromise or they fight it or try to get away." She admits: “When I was 17 I was in a terrible mess. I didn't know what to do. I knew I wanted to do something but what? I thought I could write but so many aren't lucky.” In A Taste of Honey, Jo,who is on the cusp of leaving school and entering the adult world of work, clearly wants to make her mark on the world and be noticed (as her mother remarks, upon discovering self-portraits by Jo, "I suppose you've got to draw yourself — nobody else would.").

Delaney identified three distinct generations in her plays — the young, the middle aged and the old. A Taste of Honey is built around the tension between Jo and her mother, Helen, played in the film by Dora Bryan, who live on top of each other — not for Jo the luxury of a room, or even a bed, of her own, in which to develop her independence. Together, however they comprise a great (tragi)comic double act. One of the best moments in Tony Richardson's film is a hilarious bath time exchange between the generations, who don't, or pretend not to, understand each other:

“I hope to be dead and buried by the time I reach your age. What use can a woman of your age be to anybody? Just think, you’ve been living for nearly forty years.”

“Oooh I know, I must be a biological phenomenon.”

“You don’t look forty — you look more of a well-preserved sixty.”

Six years after A Taste of Honey was released, another new wave director, Lindsay Anderson, had a go at another of Delaney’s works, a short story entitled The White Bus, which again centres around a restless young woman. The film starts by showing the central character at her dull typist’s job, where she daydreams about hanging herself, before she escapes to Manchester on a train. Whilst wandering through a deserted cityscape of rubble and past a part-demolished church, a white bus drives past with the words 'See your city' on its side. She then embarks on a surreal bus tour around Manchester and Salford with a disparate cross-section of society — old, young, ethnic minorities, old-fashioned dignitaries such as the mayor — which shows the old — vast, vacant plots of rubble — being replaced by the new — high rise blocks of flats on stilts in areas like Kersal, with a celebratory voice over about how tower block living will solve social ills (like the slums whose residents they rehoused, however, these 1960s housing solutions are now, too, long gone). The bus visits the sights of Manchester, from fiery industry to municipal facilities such as the museum, art gallery, central library and a park. It flits in and out of colour like a dream, to a soundtrack of wonky fairground-style music. Towards the end, after watching an uncomfortably realistic bomb raid reennactment, the other bus passengers turn into mannequins — could it all have been an elaborate fantasy, an escape from real life?

Shelagh Delaney’s Salford is all about finding romance and escape where you can — at the side of canals or by the frothy, scummy river ‘if you can stand the smell’, on vast ships moored on the ship canal, in the cover of darkness provided by hulking railway arches, on the hills overlooking the city and in the black caves below, even in cheap rings from Woolworth's. Tony Richardson turned Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey script into a very beautiful film, with moments of humour, hope, love, friendship and even exuberance, with a protagonist who is by turns vulnerable and full of bravado (at one stage she declares "I'm not just talented — I'm geniused".). In an exchange with Jo’s best friend Geof (played by Murray Melvin), a homosexual artist who, ironically provides the only real role model and steady presence in Jo’s life, and enters a relationship with Jo that is almost like that of an overfamiliar, long-suffering married couple, Jo announces “my usual self is a very unusual self. I’m an extraordinary person” and the two proclaim whilst skipping through the bleak cityscape:

“We’re unique!”
“We’re bloody marvellous!”

Delaney’s words live on in popular culture and continue to resonate with young people today — in the bedrooms of lonely teenagers, at alternative discos, in guitar tabs pored over by hopeful musicians — thanks to being immortalised by one frustrated young man who did go on to find fame and fortune and his own route out of the city. Morrissey claimed his career was at least 50 per cent inspired by the writing of Shelagh Delaney and borrowed, amongst many other references, the line ‘I dreamt about you last night and I fell out of bed twice’ for the Smiths song Reel Around the Fountain**. In 2008, the Royal Exchange Theatre reinvented A Taste of Honey for the twenty first century, set to pop music — Northern Soul, the Smiths, the Happy Mondays and Oasis, going right up to the Ting Tings. The story has stood the test of time because it's full of a teenage spirit, born of a desire to find your niche in the world, that is universal.

*A Taste of Honey is my favourite ever film.

** My favourite Smiths song even before I knew of the Shelagh Delaney connotations, from the debut album (when the Smiths were at their best, in my opinion).

The White Bus
film isn't widely available but can be purchased on ebay for £5, and is well worth it.