Manchester Novelist Emma Jane Unsworth’s love letter to her city…

Dear Manchester,

I know we’ve had our differences. I’ve written you a few Dear John letters over the years but I’ve never followed them through. I won’t lie. I’ve thought about leaving. I’ve had the running urge when I felt as though your walls were closing in and I knew too many of your failings and bad habits; when the predictable happened one too many times and I felt as though it was your fault, or my fault for staying. Like that time the top of my dress slipped open on the stage of a crowded Night and Day Café, New Year’s Eve 2001. I was leaping around with a mic after I’d insisted on doing (a capella) karaoke that no one wanted to hear, ignoring the warning cries of my friends who had noticed an escapee boob (I assumed they were just trying to get me off the stage). It was only when I got
to the piano solo of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ did I look down and see the real reason why everyone was waving and shouting, and I dropped the mic and ran, red-faced, out the back emergency exit. The next day was dark, wasn’t it.

Emma in Night and Day. (Boobs safely tucked away).

When someone’s seen you exposed like that, it’s usually time to go. But as I was planning my hasty departure, trawling TEFL websites and imagining a new, pure, untainted life in Prague, St Petersburg or Istanbul – anywhere but Manchester – something stopped me booking the flights. Something held me fast in your hard granite arms… and so here I am, writing this letter as rain slides down the window in August, 32 years stuck fast, and I know that nowhere else will ever feel like home, or half so interesting.

My love for you is a difficult thing to dissect. It’s something to do with your canals, your cafés, your industry – not so much your famous sense of humour, which has always struck me as a little overrated. It’s the feeling I get when I see you lit up. Last weekend, descending from Derbyshire, I turned the last bend of the Snake Pass and the land unrolled to reveal you, shining. I admire how your achievements have spread around the world: sport, science, art and music. It’s hard to believe that you were just somebody’s idea once. The Romans, was it? Someone got tired of walking and decided to pitch their camp in the heart of the north of England. The first of many excellent ideas hatched here.

On good days I think I recognise every face on your streets. On bad days, I have my glazed Victorian bolt-holes. I visit your southern suburbs when I want to feel cool, or anti-cool, but your northern parts constitute a good portion of my soul.

And in your centre, late at night, I walk in infinite drunken dreams, found and unfrightened.

I love New York because I love you; love Paris because I love you. I think I love cities because I love you. I’ll always come home.

Forever yours,

Emma Jane Unsworth

Emma’s debut novel ‘Hungry, the Stars and Everything‘ is available now on Amazon.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @emjaneunsworth

Ah Manchester. Lovely Manchester. With its pulsing industrial veins, derelict warehouses, terraced rows and slighty-above-average rainfall, it’s never really been considered a beauty.

Except to those lucky enough to have lived here, of course. Forget Paris, forget London, forget New York. Because beauty’s only brick deep, and once you fall in love with Manchester, you fall hook, line and sinker. You fall for its soul, for its strength, for its sense of humour. Well, with weather like this, you’ve gotta find something to laugh about, haven’t you?

While Manchester may not be everyone’s choice of muse, its ‘personality’ has been time and again immortalised in song by musicians who’ve been inspired by the place in one way or another. From the ‘factory wall’ of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’ to the underground toilet-cum-bar referenced in Elbow’s ‘Grounds for Divorce’, Manchester has been the inspiration for many a song over the years. Here’s Forever Manchester’s pick of some of our favourite songs inspired by our favourite city.

1. Elbow – ‘Station Approach
The first track off Elbow’s second LP Leader’s of the Free World describes that familiar feeling of returning home to the city that you love, documenting singer Guy Garvey’s walk from Piccadilly Station along Station Approach: ‘The streets are full of goths and Greeks/ I haven’t seen my mum for weeks/ But coming home I feel like I/ Designed the buildings I walk by.’ One of the band’s most bewitching songs (a grand claim, we know), the track builds gradually into a life affirming crescendo as the singer is reunited with his city, and his love. We also like it when he mentions his mum. Well, that’s always nice, isn’t it.

2. Ian Brown –  ‘Longsight M13’
Former Stone Roses frontman, mega-successful solo artist and all round King Monkey Ian Brown has documented his relationship with his hometown in many songs. In ‘Longsight M13’ Brown talks about all the wonderful places and things he’s seen, yet comes back to honours this small pocket of South Manchester with the lyrics ‘Let the stars shine on/ And let her move, move like a queen/ Of Longsight M13’.

3. Gomez – ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’
Perhaps the Southport fivepiece’s most recognisable song and the one guaranteed to invoke a ‘yeah, but that one’s nothing like the rest of their stuff’ from fans, ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’ documents a day and evening out in Manchester in which the band ‘Played a bit of football, fell into the union’ (the ‘union’ being Manchester University Students Union which houses the Academy venues), before boarding a train to Sheffield from Piccadilly Station later that night. It’s been said that the song is about a time when the band were studying at Sheffield University and took a trip to Manchester to see Beck – the ‘someone dressed in a suit, looking like a lunatic’ referenced in the song. This may or may not be true. Either way, we like the story.

4.The Fall – ‘Cheetham Hill
One of Mark E Smith’s many odes to Manchester’s less salubrious areas, the surly singer captures life, love and unfaithfulness north east of the city centre with lyrics such as ‘Where you going, boy? Are you cheatin’? / Is that why you come from Cheetham Hill? /When you stopped up at the station / Was it an excuse to get away from your wife for the evening?’ Pretty self explanatory stuff, really.

5. Elbow – ‘Grounds for Divorce
A huge single for the band from the album that propelled them into superstardom, the familiar ‘hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall’ from the chorus of this track actually refers to a popular Manchester drinking hole; the Temple of Convenience. This former underground Victorian public toilet turned rock n roll drinking den is located on Great Bridgewater Street, next door to the flat that Guy Garvey was living in at the time. The song was written after the death of the band’s friend, singer/songwriter Bryan Glancy (aka ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’) and Elbow’s Pete Turner said that The Temple of Convenience “was a place to go and think about him, and be miserable.”

6. Take That – ‘Mancunian Way
Taken from Take That’s 2006 comeback album Beautiful World, ‘Mancunian Way’ is the band’s only musical tribute to their hometown, and one which sees Droylsden’s Howard Donald on lead vocals. The ‘Mancunian Way’ in question takes on two meanings in the song; as both the traditional ‘ladrock’Gallagheresque walk so often associated with Manchester (We used to walk Mancunian Way/We used to swagger we used to sway) and the elevated city centre bypass (I’m driving home again/ Back down Mancunian Way). They even manage to get in a reference to the famous Manchester weather with ‘I’m gonna bring this town alive/ Through this acidic rain/ I’m gonna come back to life again.’ This lyric prompted us to google ‘Manchester acid rain’ and would you know it, apparently we have the most acidic rain in Europe. God love us.

7. Doves – ‘Northenden’
Another song painting less-than-flattering pictures of life in Manchester’s suburbs, the beautiful, ambling quality of ‘Northenden’ clashes with its less peaceful lyrics ‘The kids are deranged, they love guns and kidnap/ That’s just the way we do things here/ The day dies down not a moment too soon/ Under the Northenden afternoon’. Still, even guns and kidnap aren’t enough to put off vocalist Jimi Goodwin who said at an Oxford gig ‘in some respects I kinda wish I still lived there’.

8. Ewan MacCall – ‘Dirty Old Town’
Made famous by bands such as The Dubliners and The Pogues and therefore sometimes confused with Dublin, the ‘Dirty Old Town’ in question is in fact MacCall’s home town of Salford. The 1949 song describes working class life in an industrial town and dreams of betterment, with lyrics such as ‘I met my love by the gas works wall/ Dreamed a dream by the old canal/ I Kissed my girl by the factory wall/ Dirty old town’. MacColl’s original line of ‘I Smelled the spring on the Salford wind’ was apparently changed to ‘I smelled the spring on the smoky wind’ after a campaign by Salford Council, who were unhappy at Salford being called a ‘Dirty Old Town’. The new lyrics made famous by The Dubliners and The Pogues are now the most commonly sung.

9.The Smiths – ‘Still Ill
When he’s not causing mass offence with silly comments in the news and throwing hissy fits on stage, good old Mozza likes to write songs; many of them about Manchester. ‘Rusholme Ruffians’, ‘Miserable Lie’ (‘What do we get for our trouble and pain ?/ Just a rented room in Whalley Range) and ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ all reference Morrissey’s home town, while the ‘Iron Bridge’of ‘Still ill’ refers to the bridge in Stretford off Kings Road where the singer used to live.

10. The Beautiful South – ‘Manchester’
‘From Northenden to Partington, it’s rain/ From Altrincham to Chadderton, it’s rain / From Moss Side to Swinton, hardly Spain’. Talk about pointing out the obvious. Jeez. But it’s not all rain and gloom, as this jaunty lil’ number by Hull’s finest goes on to big up the rainy city with ‘If rain makes Britain great/ Then Manchester is greater’. Hurrah! And anyway The Beautiful South, you’re from Hull. So there.

Visitors to Heaton Park on August 14th may think they’ve wandered into some weird Rewind Twilight Zone where everything’s in reverse.

But never fear; it’s just 250 or so loons taking part in the UK Backward Run. Or nuR drawkcaB KU, if we’re being clever about it. Why? Because running backwards is so much more fun than running forwards. AND you look really, really cool while you’re doing it. Just try it.

And of course we love the UK Backward Run all the more because it’s raising lots of lovely money for Forever Manchester. All entrants are asked to raise a minimum of £20 for Forever Manchester – but of course we’d be thrilled if you want to raise more.

On the day there’ll be a one mile backward race, as well as a more leisurely Fun Run – so whether you’re a superfit backwards running pro, or you’re more comfortable with a backward stroll, there are races and runs for all abilities.

And apparently, you burn a third more calories running backwards as you do running forwards. Hurrah!

There is a t-shirt and medal for all participants, and there will also be a special prize for the fundraiser who raises the most money for Forever Manchester.

The charity run is limited to 250 entrants so enter now to avoid disappointment.

If you would like to find out more and register to take part, please email Terry Snowden ( with details of your team or register online by visiting the Backward Running website.

Oh, and check out Danielle Sharp’s great account of last year’s run to find out a bit more about what you’ll be letting yourself in for.

See you at Heaton Park, and good luck!

UK Backward Run, Heaton Park, Sunday 14th August 2011

July may be drawing to a close, but never fear; there’s still plenty of fun left to be squeezed out of Summer 2011.

And Manchester is in for a packed August of carnivals, parades, arts and food so colourful that even the inevitable rain won’t be able to dampen it.

Writing this blog just before lunchtime, we’re particularly excited about the foodie bits of August’s offering. Thankfully then, we don’t have too long to wait before The Manchester Picnic (5th – 7th August)descends on Piccadilly Gardens for two whole days, bringing together a mouthwatering selection of food from some of the city’s top eateries, to be enjoyed al fresco in a specially created, themed picnic paradise. With an overwhelming selection of grilled, deli and gourmet produce, it’s probably best to skip the Full English that morning, and save enough room to enjoy all the foodie treats that the city has to offer. As well as food there’ll also be music, crafts, family activities and a special ‘teddy bears picnic’ on the Sunday. We think this bit might just be for children. We don’t care. We’re getting involved.

Forever Manchester will be out in force with our own stall at the Manchester Picnic, so make sure you come and say hello.

Commencing on the same weekend as the Manchester Picnic and running for a week until August 14th, the Manchester  Arts and Crafts Market will set up shop on the other side of the City, in St Ann’s Square. We love Manchester’s specialist markets and the arts and crafts markets is a firm favourite, not least because of the special summer beer (and food – don’t forget the food) garden that accompanies it. The market will see dozens of arts and craftspeople from across Manchester bring a vast selection of gorgeous gifts, jewellery, handmade cosmetics, homeware and everything in between, while food on offer (did we mention the food?) will include paella, chorizo rolls, and hot pork sandwiches, all washed down with a glass of chilled British wine or local Hyde’s ale. Find out more at

Had enough food yet? Me neither. So on the 13th – 14th August, head over to Moss Side’s Alexandra Park for Manchester’s vibrant Caribbean Carnival, where the air will be full of the scents and sounds of the Caribbean. Which means you can eat your fill of authentic Caribbean cuisine and then work it all off by shaking your booty to the vibrant sounds of the carnival. There’ll be stalls, live music on a main outdoor stage, and the all important Carnival Parade, which will see Caribbean dance troupes from all over the UK dressed in breathtaking parade costumes and joined by the tropical sounds of a steel band. Find out more at

Rounding off the month of August in Manchester is arguably the most colourful weekend of the entire year in Manchester –  Pride. Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, the outrageously fun celebration of all things LGBT has grown up into a fine figure of a festival, with its biggest ever events programme laid out to mark the event’s coming of age. Central to the 10 day Pride celebrations is The Big Weekend, a 71 hour marathon of music, comedy, clubs, markets and all things LGBT, climaxing in the famous Pride Parade on Saturday 27th. We’ll be blogging nearer the time with a fuller outline of Pride 2011, but for now, stick it in your diary using your best glitter pen and visit the Pride website for information.

Sleeping sci-fi beauties, sofa superheroes, racist neighbours and a spaceman are just some of the characters you’ll find at this year’s 24/7 Theatre Festival.

In the eight years since its inception, 24/7 theatre festival has become a mainstay of Manchester’s arts scene; going from strength to strength each year with the support of the city’s writers, actors and most importantly; theatre fans.

The idea behind the festival is simple. Brand new chunks of bitesized theatre performed in non-theatre venues. It’s theatre, but not as we know it. It’s lunchbreak theatre. It’s after work theatre. It’s both theatre for people who don’t have time for theatre, and theatre for people whose appetite for new writing is so voracious that they want to gobble up as much of it as they possibly can.

Festival producer David Slack has worked tirelessly to cultivate some truly stunning plays over the years, and 2011 is no exception. This year the festival will premiere 13 original new plays, handpicked by judges from over 100 submissions.

The plays are produced with little budget, relying on powerful writing and passionate actors to deliver that magic and energy that 24/7 is known for.

This year’s plays cover a variety of genres and subject matters, from dark comedy to drama, from romance to racism and sci-fi to sex. And with all thirteen plays coming in at under an hour and tickets costing no more than the price of cocktail, there’s no excuse for not catching at least one or two shows.

So what’s looking good this year? Well, frankly everything.

‘Future Shock’ is a romantic drama by Richard Stockwell about a woman who slept 800 years to be with her lover but was woken up in 2879 – 100 years too early.

Steve Pearce’s comedy ‘The Crimson Retribution’ meanwhile sees Amy, in the midst of a failing relationship, faced with the prospect of a guy in a mask sleeping on her sofa and claiming to be seeking retribution.

Matthew Dunster adresses racial tension and secrets hidden at the heart of a small Northern community in the powerful drama ‘I Know Where the Dead are Buried’.

And if you’ve got little-uns, Joyce Branagh returns to 24/7 with ‘Peggy and the Spaceman’ – the festival’s first children’s drama, which will run every afternoon at 3.30pm.

And of course these are just a handful of the plays appearing at the festival. For the full listings visit the 24/7 Theatre Festival website where you’ll find something for every taste and every mood.

Venues this year are The Midland Hotel, Sachas Hotel, and New Century House. Tickets are all under a tenner, with four for the price of three when you book in advance.

As a musician whose ideas are sparked by what I see in my surroundings, I’d be lying if I said that Manchester hasn’t had a huge influence on me.

One of the biggest influences in my life, as I think must be true of the majority of people, is where I grew up. And that, for me, was Moss Side, Mersey Bank and Withington. They’re three of the more deprived areas of the city. They’re not the the worst areas in the world, but they’re certainly not on the Top Ten Places to Live list!

Growing up in areas like these, I was obviously aware of some of the trouble and the goings on, but this was limited to a small number of people from the communities. For me on the whole, the people I lived amongst were proud, welcoming and decent people.

Even though they weren’t the best places to grow up, there was still a strong community spirit; an open arms, ‘everybody’s welcome’ feel. Because of this I’ve learned to turn the negative things around me into positive little stories within my music.

The things I experienced growing up here were what made me and my mates want to create music. We saw it as an outlet for our stories. Growing up here helped us go from strength to strength, which in time lead us to form KiD BRiTiSH – a collective of musicians of different ages and cutural backgrounds.

See, Manchester is a lot more than just the baggy T-Shirt, Parka jacket wearing, Gallagher talking city the media has painted it to be. It is home to so many people from different heritages and backgrounds, which adds to the city’s beauty.

There is a large Asian community where many people from all over the world travel just to eat from the ‘Curry Mile’; a nickname for the part of Wilmslow Road running through the centre of Rusholme in south Manchester. The name is earned from the large number of restaurants and take-aways specialising in the cuisines of South Asia and the Middle- East, thought to be the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent – and my friends and I can often be found there having late night drunken food binges.

For me, the thing that seperates Manchester from a lot of other major cities – apart from being the home of the biggest football club in the world (Manchester United) ha ha! – is that you are never made to feel like a stranger, or that it’s you versus the world here. Which is why it is home to such a large student population.

I am proud to say that this is the city I was raised in, and wherever my career takes me Manchester will always have a place in my heart, and be the place I call home.

Simeon McLean, KiD BRiTiSH

As one of the city’s most diverse and colourful communities, it’s only fitting that Hulme should have its own festival to celebrate its artistic heritage.

So on July 30th, more than 2000 local residents are expected to descend on Hulme Park to join the fun at Hulme Festival; a community and charity spirited, free family event celebrating local music, arts, food and comedy.

Three stages will host live music all day and night, reflecting a diverse mix of sounds from folk and indie to roots and reggae.

There’ll also be a Youth Stage, celebrating Hulme’s new generation of talent, a comedy and spoken word arena, dance workshops, performing arts and theatre, and a chill out tent supported by Manchester charity The Big Life Group, which will offer plenty of relaxing holistic therapies throughout the day.

Hulme Park will be bustling with stalls selling everything from arts and crafts to delicious foods. In fact, with so many rich culinary influences thanks to Hulme’s diverse community, a whole section of the festival called ‘The Kitchen’ will be dedicated to food education and – more importantly – food enjoyment.

There’ll be plenty to for everyone to get involved with too – from textile workshops and craft areas to family friendly activities and a ‘Kid Zone’ adventure playground.

Something that’s definitely not to be missed at Hulme Festival is Arcspace Manchester’s Dance Off, where youth and community groups across the world work together with choreographers and DJs to create a spontaneous International event via video link.

There’ll also be loads going on over the road at the Zion Arts Centre – the beating heart of Hulme’s cultural activity. To celebrate its 100th anniversary – and it’s looking pretty good for its age – Zion is hosting a VE Day style 1940’s street party with plenty of food, drink, community spirit and (we hope), plenty of birthday cake.

It’s going to be a fantastic, family friendly day full of music, fun, food and colour, and an opportunity for Manchester residents to come together, celebrate, and find out more about this diverse and community minded pocket of their city. We can’t wait!

Find out more at