Manchester Histories Festival

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Remembering Strawberry Studios

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Remembering Strawberry Studios

Friday January 27th will see the launch of a major exhibition at Stockport Story Museum commemorating the history of the iconic Strawberry Recording Studios, founded fifty years ago in 1967 by Peter Tattersall.

Strawberry became one of the first professional recording studios outside of London and was home to the four Manchester musicians who would eventually form the pop group 10cc in 1972. All of 10cc’s albums and hit singles up to 1976, including the worldwide hit I’m Not In Love, were recorded in Stockport and, as a result of the band’s success, Strawberry developed a technical opulence unmatched in the region. Strawberry became so successful in this era, that 10cc found themselves unable to book time in their own studio and they were forced to build a new Strawberry Studios, in the South of England.

However, Strawberry in Stockport went from strength to strength and continued Strawberry 50 Exhibition to provide facilities for a wide variety of bands into the 1980s. It was particularly handy for the new generation of bands who were part of the emerging Manchester music scene of the mid-1970s onwards. Bands on the Factory Records label were regular visitors to Stockport, with Factory producer Martin Hannett particularly attracted to the sound produced in the 19th Century industrial building that housed Strawberry.  Unfortunately, the volatility associated with the emergence of digital sound saw Strawberry lose its way in the early 1990s and the Studio closed in 1993, after a quarter of a century of sound recording in Stockport.

Whilst Manchester’s musical legacy is famous throughout the world, Strawberry’s role is less well-known and the history and legacy of the Studio had been largely ignored until Peter Wadsworth started researching the Studio for a PhD at the University of Manchester (awarded in 2007). This renewed interest led to the Strawberry building receiving a blue plaque in 2007 (updated in 2016 to tie-in with the 50th anniversary celebrations), and the current building owners reinstating the 1980s signage on the outside of the building. Manchester Histories Festival also helped with a series of memory-collecting events in 2014 and this exhibition is the culmination of a number of years’ work in bringing together a variety of items relating to Strawberry’s history.

Strawberry Studios: I Am In Love explores Strawberry’s rich heritage, commemorating 50 years since the Studio first opened welcoming an array of artists, including the likes of 10cc, Joy Division, Neil Sedaka, Paul McCartney, The Smiths, Sad Café, Simply Red, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra and The Stone Roses through its doors.

Strawberry Blue Plaque      Strawberry Blue Plaque (1)

(above) The original blue plaque being removed in 2016 and the new blue plaque prior to installation (Photos: Peter Wadsworth)

Strawberry new signage

(left) Retro signage, fitted by building owners (Mondiale) in 2016 (Photo: Peter Wadsworth)

Strawberry at MHF(above/right) Promoting Strawberry’s history at the

2016 Manchester Histories Festival Celebration Day at Manchester Town Hall (photo: Peter Wadsworth)

Fuse and the Small Blonde

(above) Fuse and the Small Blonde perform at the Seven Miles Out fundraiser Strawberry-themed concert in March 2016 at the Stockport Plaza (Photo: Peter Wadsworth)

Strawberry in 1973

(above) Strawberry in 1973 (Photo: Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council)

(right) The classic 10cc single I’m Not In Love,10cc single I’m Not In Love

recorded in Strawberry in 1975 (Photo: Peter Wadsworth)

(below) Manchester City visited Strawberry in 1972 to record Boys in Blue (Photo: Peter Wadsworth)

Boys in Blue

(below) 10cc’s Eric Stewart in Strawberry in 1970 (Photo: Courtesy of Eric Stewart)

Eric Stewart

The exhibition continues at Stockport Story Museum from 27 Jan 2017 to 28 Jan 2018.

Guest blog by historian Peter Wadsworth

Tagged in CommunitiesPeople

Welcome to our new MA students

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Over the next few months the post graduates students will work with us to support our social media platforms, get out and about to meet our community groups who are taking part in our Hidden Histories and Hidden Historian HLF project. We will be releasing more information about our plans for the project in the New Year. The students will also be posting some blogs about their journey working with us. So watch this space.

Here is a bit about our new arrivals, and we look forward to working with them all.

Becky Brookes

Photo of Becky Brookes

Becky is currently an MA student. focussing on Modern British and LGBT+ histories. She previously volunteered for Manchester Histories during the 2016 Festival, where she was inspired by the range of creative projects on display, and the passionate people who put it all together. Becky has a keen interest in public history as a way to empower people and communities, and firmly believers that histories and heritage have the potential to 'transform lives'. Becky is therefore very excited about working with Manchester Histories again, and looks forward to getting involved with their upcoming projects.

Joe Harrigan

image of Joe

Joe is studying for a MA in History. Joe is new to the city and is looking forward to the chance to see more of the palace with Manchester Histories. Before arriving in Manchester, Joe worked in his hometown of Leicester on a variety of different voluntary and community media projects. Joe has been an advisor to people interst6ed in volunteering or setting up their own charities and has worked on the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Joe has also written a series of short historical films about Leicester, been assistant producer on several other short films for local charity magazines. Most excitingly Joe helped to deliver the Richard III re-interment5 ceremony and worked with Dave's Leicester Comedy festival in 2015. Joe is hoping that he can use all of his skills to help uncover the Hidden Histories of Manchester.

Rebekah Shaw

Image of Rebekah

Rebekah is a recent graduate of University of Manchester, having studied BA History and Sociology. Rebekah is now studying MA History. Rebekah is interested in bringing interdisciplinary approaches to cultural and social history, and wants to get more people excited about their heritage working with Manchester Histories.

Tagged in CommunitiesMH ProjectsPeople

Angel Meadow, Gravestone Genealogy with Friends of Angle Meadow

Monday 7 December 2015

2014 Manchester Histories' Community Award Judges' Recommended prize winners - Friends of Angel Meadow and Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society have written this insightful blog post about their joint project and what they have done since winning the award.

St Michael’s Flags and Angel Meadow park is situated close to Manchester city centre, near to the new Co-operative Group headquarters. St Michael’s Church stood on the site and LS Lowry depicted the area in several of his paintings.

Angel Meadow was originally on the outskirts of the city [Manchester] and was once a field of wildflowers sloping down to the River Irk. Fast forward a few hundred years and it was described as “the lowest, most filthy, most unhealthy and most wicked locality in Manchester”. After the Industrial Revolution, the area became an Irish slum and land next to the old church became a paupers burial ground. An estimated 30,000 bodies are buried here. The German philosopher, social scientist and journalist, Friedrich Engels studied the area for his Conditions of the Working Classes in England (1845).

Friends of Angel Meadow or FOAM was formed in 2004 in Degeneration of Angel MeadowManchester. Since then, the area has been transformed from an abandoned, unloved site into a green retreat amid the bustle of the city.

All that remains of the church today is around 50 gravestones which form part of a planting area within the park. Members of FOAM and park users had often asked about the histories and fates of people inscribed on these stones and we frequently come across tourists visiting the park after discovering ancestors with links to the area. This interest led to a collaboration between Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS) and FOAM to look into the people behind the names and the “Who Do You Think They Were?” project was born.

Our aim [through the project] was to discover more about the people buried in this historical park. Along the way our volunteers learnt about genealogical research, most for the first time. We discovered links to interesting Manchester characters and made contact with descendants in far flung places who were as excited as we were to discover their links to Manchester and its history.

MLFHS were incredibly supportive from the outset. Their burial ground expert, John Marsden, spoke at our Community Day and provided a help sheet explaining how to get started for novice genealogists. MLFHS ran sessions for FOAM volunteers.MLFHS did in-fact carry out a survey of the stones and their inscriptions in 1968, but FOAM’s survey in 2013 found that only 40% of those stones were still in situ. This meant that it was even more important to document this information and history for posterity as who knows what may happen in the next 40 years!

In 2014 FOAM and MLFHS were awarded a Judges' Recommended Prize of a trophy and cash prize in the Manchester Histories' Community Awards for the project ‘Angel Meadow Gravestone Genealogy’.

Memorial plaque at Southern Cemetery FOAM spent some of the prize money on a memorial plaque to recognise unmarked graves (see image to the left). Works in the park in 2014 meant that graves were disturbed and bones discovered were reburied at Southern Cemetery by Manchester City Council (MCC) in an unmarked “paupers” grave. We felt it was important that the new grave was marked in some way that made clear the historical link back to Angel Meadow. FOAM members also planted some bulbs at the grave so it should look lovely in spring. We combined this with a Southern Cemetery Tour from Emma Fox of Manchester Guided Tours and showed her the grave so she could incorporate this into future tours.

Since winning the award we have been in contact with people as far away as America who have discovered their family links to Manchester via our website which is really encouraging. John Marsden of MLFHS has also subsequently published a book on Manchester’s old burial grounds which includes a chapter on Angel Meadow and the New Burying Ground - We also decided to continue our historical research and some of our members looked into the archives of the two Ragged Schools in our area – the Sharp Street and Chartered Street Ragged Schools. FOAM subsequently gave a talk at the Ragged University Project. This research is ongoing and we plan to co-host a talk next year on site.

Over recent years FOAM has worked closely with MCC and The Co-operative Group/NOMA, along with other property developers in the area. Whilst we have not always seen eye to eye; all sides recognise that St Michael’s New entrance to Angel MeadowFlags and Angel Meadow is a valuable asset to the area and we are all keen to ensure that the history and heritage of the site is protected as further development occurs in the area. Section 106 money provided to MCC by developers led to the rebuilding of the boundary wall on Aspin Lane and the reopening of the “Lowry Steps” in 2014, and European Regional Development Fund grants sourced by The Co-operative Group as part of their NOMA re-development have resulted in a new entrance to the park being formed. NOMA also gave FOAM thousands of spring bulbs and we held a planting session in November and a reopening event on Sunday  6 December this year.

If anyone wants to get involved and learn more, FOAM runs a variety of events throughout the year including; litter pick and gardening sessions, tree, bulb and wildflower planting, historical research and talks and community events, and we always welcome volunteers. A number of guided tours also operate regularly in the area including New Manchester Walks and Manchester Tour Guides.

Entries and nominations for the 2016 Manchester Histories Community Awards 2016 close at 5pm on Friday 29th January 2016. Full details and application forms are available through the Manchester Histories' website.

Tagged in CommunitiesPeople

One Pound Reward for a Lost Boy with Vicci McCann

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Among the posters and handbills of the Warrington County Borough police collection in the Lancashire Archives, there is a poster detailing the loss of an Italian boy at Preston, while travelling to Manchester. It is from about 1860/61. The boy's name is Antonio Grafigna, aged 11 and he is described as having chesnut eyes and hair, wearing a hairy cap, Italian fustian jacket and drab corduroy trousers. An intriguing aspect of his description is that he has with him guinea pigs and white mice, suggesting that Antonio was a street entertainer.

Antonio's brother Davide, named on the poster as 'Davis' hadBlack and white image displaying a LOST poster for a young Italian boy who was lost in Preston. A one pound reward is offered for his return and people are to contact his brother who was living in Back Turner Street Manchester. Image courtesy of Lancashir offered a £1 reward for information and gave his address as 20 Back Turner Street , Manchester. Back Turner Street in the Northern Quarter is also very close to Ancoats, which in the 19th century was known as 'Ancoats Little Italy' because of the large number of Italian immigrants who settled there. Among these immigrants were a large number of 'Italian Musicians' which was a common euphemism for street entertainer or barrel organ musician. A large number of child street entertainers were part of this music industry, and our 'Lost: Boy from Italy' poster is evidence of a history that is often dark and involved what was essentially child trafficking.

Italian children were commonly purchased from their parents, sometimes kidnapped, by men known as Padroni. The children would be taught to sing or play and while some managed to save money and eventually prosper, while under the control of the Padroni they were often abused, beaten and otherwise cruelly treated. Because they were foreign nationals they were not covered by developing legislation controlling the employment of children in Britain.

According to Anthony Rea's web site 'Ancoats Little Italy', 'Manchester's Little Italy was well known for its entertainers and especially its street musicians.' There were also a number of barrel organ manufacturers who set up in Manchester in the late 19th century including, the Antonelli family and Antonio Varetto.

The story has a happy ending as Antionio was found and Antonio went on to set up a barrel organ hire shop and bar in Berlin and later was a partner in a company called 'Cocchi, Bacigalupo and Graffigna' making barrel organs. This and other handbills and posters relating to Manchester can be seen at Lancashire Archives in Preston.

Tagged in CommunitiesPeople

Life After Dark with Dave Haslam

Friday 3 July 2015

Researching my new book ‘Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues’ involved exploring many routes. It was five years in the making. In some ways, as you might imagine it was inspired by what I witnessed at clubs I have DJd at, including the Hacienda, and the Boardwalk in Manchester in the 1980s and 1990s.

But distance from those days has given me a wider perception; that it’s not just about what happens in the four walls of a great club or venue but also about how ideas and influences percolate out from them, change lives, nurture and shape communities.

Colour image of the front cover of Dave Haslam's new book Life After Dark about the club scene across the UKIf you take a look at any local history websites and message boards, many of the most active are those hosting memories of clubs and music venues. People remembering gigs, trying to contact friends, trying to place exactly where a long gone venue had been, and sharing links to the music that in some way transports them back to the clubs and venues they loved.

So the book was also inspired by the desire to document other places, places I’d not been to, but clubs and venues that had clearly had an impact on the personalities and the lives of so many people. From Bristol to Belfast, from Streatham to Sheffield.

Some of these nightclubs and music venues in the book are well-known - Wigan Casino, the Marquee etc - but any historian likes to find out what was going on under the radar. The places that have been slightly neglected. Locally, for example; the rave club the Thunderdome, or the Sixties venue the Tabernacle in Stockport.  And the book goes back far into the beginnings of the 19th Century; a time when no-one had much of an inclination to document nightlife venues. You hear most about Victorian music halls in the newspapers, for example, when there’s been an accident (a fire, usually) or some scandal.

I got off Google, and instead emailed people, phoned people, got on the train and interviewed people. What I learned time and again was how much of a personal attachment people have to the clubs and venues they frequented, and the sense of lived history embedded in venues like the Ritz in Manchester; whether memories go back to the 1980s and dancing at the Ritz on a Monday night to endless Smiths records, or the 1950s and 1960s when Phil Moss’s big band was in residence.

There’s plenty of intriguing social history, including that of the Afro-Caribbean community for whom venues were integral in the 1950s and 1960s, providing music links back to the West Indies, and a sense of community and strength here in Britain. For the black community, though, the establishing of self-organised venues was partly out of safety or necessity too; a product of the so-called “colour bar” city centres overtly or covertly deployed (“colour bar” is a polite name for a racist door policy).

So, nationwide, not everyone has only happy memories of nights out. I also couldn’t resist including a comment from a formerBlack and white photograph of the Ritz Manchester Image courtesy of Manchester Libraries & Archives habitué of the Ilford Palais; “Outside the Palais my girlfriend's brother had his jaw broken”.

At their best - ie. when there aren’t fights breaking out inside and outside - venues have a role in personal and communal memory but also have a role in cultural history too. In the book I give multiple examples of venues that act as catalysts, bringing people together, creating a sense of potential and often triggering cultural activity way beyond their four walls; in music, fashion, and art.

As we get older (I should know!), favourite venues close, landmarks buildings in our towns and cities get demolished, time moves on; to some of us, this process seems to have accelerated in recent years as property speculators and city planners run rampant in their search for ways to squeeze every penny out of every acre.

Seeing the end of buildings that once connect us to our past is traumatic. In the book’s last chapter, as you would expect, I attempts to deal with the threats to venues in the current era. In Manchester, this includes the possible end of one of my favourite venues; the Star & Garter.

But it isn’t all pessimism. There’s plenty of evidence that people go out as much as they ever did. And our city remains blessed with many great venues. Among the best, currently, is Albert Hall on Peter Street, refashioned out of huge chapel built by the Methodists in 1910. It’s a stunning venue, and the sense of history you feel inside those walls is part of the attraction. I see queues of people in their late teens and early twenties – the formative years, I guess, as your sense of identity and community and your music tastes are all being shaped – and I can tell that what they’ll be experiencing at the Albert Hall – or other Manchester venues – will live with them forever. Today’s good times are tomorrow’s favourite memories.


‘Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues’ by Dave Haslam is published on August 13th 2015. More information here;

Tagged in People

Volunteering at Manchester Histories with Becky Stevens

Wednesday 1 July 2015

My first experience as a volunteer for Manchester Histories was being sat in a freezing warehouse on Dale Street in the Northern Quarter. It was a few days before the March 2014 Festival began; myself and a few other volunteers were being Colour photo of Belle Vue Aces speedway bike at the Manchester Histories Festival 2014 Showground of the World Exhibitiontrained how to use fire extinguishers in preparation for the Belle Vue: Showground of the World exhibition. Although it doesn’t sound like the most enticing volunteer experience, we quickly bonded through a shared need for hot drinks and biscuits, the staple volunteer diet! We shook off the chill with stories about our various backgrounds and enthusiasm for history.  In hindsight, the memory of the night of fire-training is only one of many highly fulfilling abut also ultimately, life changing experiences I had!

Manchester Histories opened my eyes to the opportunities volunteering in the arts can offer. We were given the chance to build a wide skill set, which ranged from the basic to specialist. For example, I helped with administrative work, particularly following the festival with the evaluation research; worked with the public by invigilating exhibitions and events; and university lecturers taught us how to undertake oral histories interviews, in order to help build an archive of evidence from people who had memories of Belle Vue. The latter in particular was really rewarding. I spent a lot of time invigilating the exhibition, where I learned about a whole area of history I had previously known nothing about and it was also where I undertook the interviews. To be able to hear people’s memories, sometimes highly cherished ones, was not only incredibly interesting, but also a real privilege. I spoke with many who clearly had a great passion for Belle Vue and relished the opportunity to relive their youth through the footage and objects on display.                                                                           

Aside from volunteering for the Belle Vue exhibition, I was lucky enough to have my personal interest in the history of sport visitors behind a net take in an indoor rackets gametaken into account when allocations of volunteers were being done. I was therefore able to volunteer at a couple of events that focused on Manchester’s sporting heritage. These included helping to facilitate a tour at Manchester Tennis and Racquets Club, a building and institution that truly offers a glimpse into the past. It was like walking into a time capsule! Another event was at the National Football Museum for a very varied and interesting panel discussion, that included basketballer John Amaechi, broadcaster Terry Christian and historian Michael Wood, amongst others, entitled ‘Manchester Heroes: Should the City remember it’s Heroes?’.

My time at the festival had such an effect on me that it has hugely influenced my career path. Prior to my volunteering, I had plans to follow an academic route and intended to do an MA in History. I had even prepared for this, with a move to study in Edinburgh on the horizon. However, the week with the festival confirmed some existing doubts in my mind about this, and I realised what I had enjoyed most was the bringing together of strangers with shared interests and the exposure to ‘new’ histories, be it through a lecture or using an old warehouse as a venue. I therefore began an MA in Arts Management at the University of Manchester last September.  In my second semester I re-joined Manchester Histories for my work placement. It has been fantastic to see what is in store for Manchester Histories Festival 2016; next June can’t come soon enough!

Tagged in FestivalPeople

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