Forever Manchester looks back in awe…
What else comes to mind as you think of summer? Eating ice-cream to cool down in the heat or perhaps mowing the lawn and treating your eyes to blooming flowers everywhere…but the Summer of ’76 was extra special and the hottest summer in the UK since records began.
In the midst of a relatively severe drought, temperatures reached 80°F (26.7°C) every single day between 22nd June and 16th July and reached a staggering 90°F (32.2°C) every single day for 15 consecutive days including 5 days at 95°F (35°C) – PHEW!
People had their water turned off to conserve supplies, hosepipe bans were introduced across the country and in some areas firemen were told not to extinguish forest fires in order to save diminishing water reserves.
When it came to rain in the summer of 1976 only 50 per cent of the usual average fell between June and August. Many areas experienced no rain at all during the latter part of July and most of August.”
True to form, as Sir Robert Peel says, “What Manchester does today, the world does tomorrow”, and we were busy making the most of the weather…
The Sex Pistols played two infamous concerts at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on Peter Street. The first of these gigs become notorious for who was there and who wasn’t and a catalyst that famously inspired a score of young Mancunians to form bands like The Smiths, Joy Division and The Fall.
A young Stephen Patrick Morrissey was in the audience, going on to be hailed as the voice of a generation a full decade later, fronting indie-pop icons The Smiths. Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook were there as well. These two impressionable lads were so taken by the Pistols furious energy and demystifying ‘Do It Yourself’ ethos that they’d go out and buy a guitar and a bass the next day, and form their first band Warsaw. (Later becoming Joy Division and then New Order)
You may already know what Tony Wilson said: “In Manchester, people know each other, collaborate, cross-pollinate. Ideas can mix and match. It’s easy to get things moving.”
The Sex Pistols gig was arguably one of the most influential gigs of all time. Hundreds claimed to be there! Were you? If so, consider yourself lucky as in actuality, only a handful of people attended what was recently voted one of the most important concerts of all time, right up there alongside Woodstock and Live Aid.
Other Mancunian memories from the Summer of Love include Manchester City winning the League Cup (beating Newcastle United 2-1 in the final) and featuring the likes of Colin Bell, Rodney Marsh and Asa Hartford.
Musically, you may have caught Abba on the juke box whilst sipping yet another bitter shandy! The Swedish quarter racked up three U.K. Number Ones in 76 with ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Fernando’ and ‘Dancing Queen’. Other tunes gracing ‘Top of the Pops’ on TV were…
‘You Should Be Dancing’ by Chorlton’s very own Bee Gees
‘You’re My Best Friend’ by Queen
And the ever-so summery ‘That’s The Way I Like It’ – KC and The Sunshine Band.
Eurovision boasted a rare UK winner when Brotherhood of Man’s ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ came up trumps as the summer was just beginning to kick in. Pat Phoenix made a welcome return to the scorched cobbles as Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street after an absence of three years.
The Muppets landed on ITV and Noel Edmunds was multi-tasking on the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop where kids swapped unwanted stuff for more unwanted stuff! So while Manchester was hosting groundbreaking creativity with the Pistols, TV audiences were being treated to a real forerunner of Britain’s Got Talent with Opportunity Knocks. Jim’ll Fix It was all the rage and Are You Being Served represented the UK’s top comedy offering.
The long, hot, sticky summer of 1976 eventually ended in September. It was the culmination of a 16-month dry spell. (the longest recorded over England and Wales since 1727.)
…So heres to 1976 and let’s hope the city famed for it’s rainy downpours can hold out for a while longer, so us modern Mancunians can create another great Summer of Love this year! Especially as Manchester’s Plattfields is hosting a homecoming gig for Mancunian legend Ian Brown on Friday 11th June, with Parklife gracing the park the day after which is set to include music from Friendly Fires, Calvin Harris, Erol Alkin, Four Tet and Simian Mobile Disco, to name but a few.
I have to admit, I’ve already bagged myself a ticket for this hotly tipped event which will also offer Roaming Entertainers, Funfair Rides, Live Interactive Art, Comedy, Circus Acts, Massage Maidens, Tea Rooms, Magicians and Themed Chill Out Areas.
I’ve asked a few Mancs what they remember of 1976, and here’s what they said:
“The Wurzels gave us the key to their brand new combine harvester!”
“Starsky and Hutch… car chases, wisecracks and not forgetting, Huggy Bear…what more could you want?”
“I remember when the days seemed endless at my Nan’s house, she gave us a quid for some pick-n-mix and I became a dab-hand at kite-flying during that infamous Summer…”
I’m not suggesting that we try to re-immerse ourselves in the sun-filled days of yesteryear, but we can try to fashion something just as cool and ‘Manc-to-the-Core’ this Summer. I’m thinking glasses of wine at Rain Bar, (situated on the Manchester Canal Basin) cocktails at Apotheca in the Northern Quarter and exotic cuisine at Bem Brazil.
Summer is set to be a scorcher so why not relax at the water’s edge in Castlefield, its permanently canopied banked terrace would not have been out of place serving as an open “theatre” in Roman times, yet still captures all the simplicity and elegance of modern architectural design, without detracting from the natural picturesque qualities of the area itself…a wonderful way to revel in the Summer Sun.
Castlefield Carnival & Boat Rally, usually held on a Saturday and Sunday in late August or early September, has become a popular tradition which attracts thousands of people from all over the region during the 2 days of its duration. The Festival attracts canal boats and cruisers from all over the place, decked out in bunting and accompanied by entertainment such as jugglers, fire-eaters, ethnic dance troops, ballet and steel bands. Sounds like the perfect combination of something quintessentially British yet somehow reminiscent of distant exoticism.
Whether you plan to indulge in al fresco dining, support outdoor events or simply relax with friends –it’s all here, right on your doorstep. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…there’s just something about Manchester; something urbane, cool and well, just plain brilliant. And even if this Great British summer doesn’t deliver the weather, Manchester is filling the summer months with an unforgettable list of things to do. Join in. Get involved. Enjoy your city.
This is Forever Manchester signing off to dig out the sunglasses, bask in the Sunshine and contemplate the next exciting blog!
The temperature is definitely rising, so until then – mine’s a 99