Friday, August 11, 2006

DIRTY OLD TOWN ? YES PLEASE !



We asked Permissive Society guitarist and songwriter, Joe Parkinson, to write his thoughts on where Salford’s at…

What would you do to regenerate a city? I mean, how would you start? It’s a tall order and the answers they’re coming up with don’t seem to make sense to me. I think that coming from Salford has influenced me and permeates everything I write because it’s that kind of city.

I don’t think that the Lowry Centre and upside down houses do it justice and it’s going to take more than that to regenerate the place for everybody who lives here. What Salford needs is its pride back and it’s a place people should feel proud of coming from.

The arts should play an important part in how the city is perceived and it has already been the subject of numerous films, plays and songs. From Dirty Old Town to A Taste of Honey it has always been a bittersweet area of the north for creative people to try and capture. That is something to be proud of and if people felt that connection it would benefit everybody.

Music more than anything is at its best when the people making it are trying to make sense of their surroundings and document their lives. Strikes and political unrest created punk, Thatcherism created The Smiths and a plethora of eighties bands were spurred on in opposition to the Iron Lady.

The reason I loved Shaun Ryder so much when I was young was because I recognised the images he conjured up from my own life. The first album, Squirrel and G-man was one of the only things that made living in Swinton bearable; he got pissed off waiting for the same taxi firms I did…`Get no taxi, get no Radio Car…’. He proved you could do it, that you could get out there and make a difference. He made me proud to be me.

I am inclined to enjoy something more if it’s about, from or making a difference to Salford. I love watching the Salford Symphony Orchestra, I love John Cooper Clarke whose words echo every experience I had growing up. Why aren’t his writings on the school syllabus for every child in Salford? Local history and culture fascinated me as a child because I was fortunate enough to have my granddad who evoked wonderful images from the city’s past. That’s what needs to be bestowed upon everyone in every area, a sense of their own history.

I spoke to fellow musician Adam Leishman from a band called Suzuki Method, a Salford-based collective, about the image of Salford and what needs to be done to change and regenerate things.

“I think the whole Salford image is really coming to a head at the moment and needs to be addressed quickly” he said “A lot of bands have proved what a powerful tool music can be in terms of promoting change, and it really has to come from the people of Salford. I mean, the majority of kids in Salford don’t really give a shit about creating or being part of anything challenging musically or artistically, what with `artists’ like 50cent doing the rounds at the minute. I don’t think there’s any sign at the moment of that individuality returning, but it’s sorely needed.”

Recognising and celebrating talent from Salford must be a priority. Mike Leigh, John Cooper Clarke, Albert Finney, Chris Eccleston, Shaun Ryder - the list goes on and every one of them carries a bit of that elusive Salford sprit with them.
It’s not about regenerating a building, turning it into flats, throwing an impenetrable fence around it and attracting people from outside the city to live in a self contained fortress. That creates divisions and problems in communities. Nor is it about how many coffee shops or new shopping centres there can be.

It’s about us regenerating ourselves, our attitudes and being proud that we come from Salford. It’s about fulfilling the future by appreciating the past and the things people have given us to document our times, whether it’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning or The Smiths video, I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish, filmed around the streets of Ordsall. They are our history and we are an artistic city…and we don’t just have the Lowry to tell us that…

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