Manchester mayor hopeful Andy Burnham has been blasted for comments he made about the city’s music scene, ahead of a debate about the past and future of culture here.
Michael Taylor, who co-founded the Manchester-based Discuss debate series and is himself a former Labour parliamentary candidate, criticised Burnham for saying that Manchester music was in danger of trading on its ‘past glories’.
The Shadow Home Secretary was also criticised for suggesting that a mayoral music contest could help revive the scene.
“I think, like most things that Andy Burnham suggests, the idea is a bit lacking in substance and fits his short-term political objectives,” Taylor told MM ahead of a talk he will chair on Thursday.
He acknowledged that discussions and debates about culture in Manchester have a tendency to get caught up looking backwards.
“But as the Stone Roses said: ‘The past was yours, but the future’s mine.’
“Andy Burnham is suggesting that the music scene in Manchester is somehow in decline, but that’s not completely true. I think he just needs to get out more.
“People of my generation aren’t as exposed to a lot of the newer culture in Manchester. And things like the Warehouse Project are probably as culturally significant to young people today as the Hacienda was to us.
“My 17-year-old son still goes to gigs all the time. And there are still lots of good bands coming out of Manchester with The Courteeners and Blossoms being the most obvious examples.”
The Leigh MP’s office hit back saying that if he was elected Mayor of the region he would use that role to enhance the city’s reputation.
A spokesman for Mr Burnham told MM: “Andy goes to plenty of gigs himself, including the Courteeners that you mentioned.
“It’s his passion for music that underpins his desire to invest in and support the Manchester music scene as Mayor. This includes supporting smaller venues and encouraging new bands.”
At Manchester Central Library on Thursday, Mr Taylor will chair a discussion on where Manchester culture comes from.
The panel is headed up by ex-Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam and also includes Councillor Beth Knowles and Fiona Gasper from the Manchester International Festival.
The discussion will centre on what drives culture in Manchester and elsewhere. Specifically, panel members will debate whether cultural activity and movements comes up ‘from the streets’ or down from government, council leaders and programme funders above.
With nearly 30 years of experience working with fanzines and record labels, writing books, promoting gigs and organising events, Haslam firmly believes that culture is something that comes from the ground up, rather than something that’s generated by people like Andy Burnham.
He said that capital investments, like the £78 million theatre and arts venue to be built on the site of Granada TV, have an impact.
But he insists that real culture isn’t a commodity that can be bought and consumed: real culture comes when real people actively involve try and generate it.
“The city authorities habitually give a nod to Factory Records, but I’m not sure they quite get important parts of the Factory story,” he said.
“The Hacienda wasn’t a disco version of the Trafford Centre. The Factory label, the club, those around and involved – from musicians to video makers – produced culture. It wasn’t an exercise in consuming but creating.
“We did things in a DIY style, we made things happen out of nothing: that’s what we did, because that’s what Richard Boon and Tony Wilson and his Factory Records comrades had done.
“Funders, city planners and property developers can design and build glitzy buildings from now until the apocalypse, but the fact is, great ideas come from the margins.”
Mr Taylor co-founded Discuss as an arena for provocative but accessible discussions on important issues in the local community and further afield.
He fought an unsuccessful campaign to become Labour MP in the 2015 General Election, but he did increase Labour’s share of the vote in the constituency by 50% compared to the previous result.
The event on Wednesday, ‘Culture comes from the streets. Discuss,’ forms part of the Greater Manchester Fringe festival, taking place in multiple venues across the city-region throughout July.
Tickets are available from the Discuss website.
Image courtesy of Sky News via YouTube, with thanks.