In this episode, Rob has his annual Manchester Literature Festival chat with Kate Feld (complete with a surprising and extended moan about British sport) and then interviews novelist and flash fiction guru and advocate, Helen McClory about chibbing, things to spend money on, San Francisco, the perils of independent publishing and her latest novel Flesh of the Peach.
↑↑ Kate Feld begins at 4:00 ↑↑
↓↓ Helen McClory begins at 43:53 ↓↓
Manchester Literature Festival: Jon McGregor, Megan Hunter, Joanna Kavenna, Reni Eddo Lodge, Steve Dearden, Dead Ink publishing, Kit de Waal, Zaffar Kunial, Will Self, Malika Booker, Howard Jacobson, George Monbiot, Jennifer Egan, Sarah Hall, John Banville, Michael McCormack, Harriet Harman, Comma Press, Kamila Shamsie, Jeanette Winterson, Dorthe Nors, Samantha Schweblin, Omar El Akkad, Andrew McMillan, Lisa McInerney, Sally Rooney, Joanna Walsh, Joanna Moorhead,
I have been to Salford exactly three times and always by accident. I suppose that’s odd considering Salford is precisely 2.1 miles from my front door (thanks Google Maps) but I just never felt the need to go there. On purpose.
The area around Chapel St has been described to me as an “ungentrified Northern Quarter”, and if you think about it, it is quite like Manchester’s Northern Quarter except that it is nothing like it at all. The Northern Quarter has bars with DJs, gourmet burger joints, music venues, art galleries and craft beer shops. Salford has a Premier Inn with all the letters in the sign burned out, a pub off Coronation Street and a boys home you can cycle around like him from The Smiths. Salford has beards like the Northern Quarter, but unlike a well-coiffured NQ beard, a Salford beard has things in it. Like fluff. Or chips.
Only a music festival in a place as odd as Salford could you see a band called Kult Country in a pub called The Old Pint Pot, or Grumbling Fur in an old mill. Only at a Salford festival could an active parish church be home to ambient techno. There is an actual tent as well (just so you know it’s a festival), but I imagine it exists solely as a place to self-righteously tut. Yech, a tent? So Glasto.
With a festival as bonkers as this, I thought it might be a good idea to do some research. For you. I had big plans. I was going to listen to every band and create a fancy infographic, dividing the acts into tidy genres so you could decide in which venue you should plonk yourself down and at which time. A good idea, right? It was impossible.
How do you classify a band who does Spanish surf rock, punk and dub all on the same album (Las Kellies)? Or a band with a name that is unpronounceable (ZZZ’s)? How do you classify a band who has yet to release an album or who are in fact not even a band? How do you classify an activist? It’s really annoying for an OCD, data dork like myself; that infographic was gonna be awesome. With bespoke images and everything.
Mark Carlin, SFTOC head honcho describes it thus:
”We tend to favour promoters and programmers that are blurring the lines between disciplines, be it art, music, theatre, film; so rather than having music in one place, visual art in another place, theatre in another space, we really enjoy when they all meld together as in one in chaotic cross section.”
Music is in a strange place at the moment. The pop juggernaut that is currently steamrolling everything is making it difficult for anyone without electric teeth or a push up bra to get on a festival stage, so it is nice to find a festival that hasn’t a single act I’ve heard of on the bill. A festival with an eclectic mix of underground acts, artists, producers and venues. A festival in a city 2.1 miles from my house (or a quick train ride from Liverpool).
One thing is for sure, this is not a festival for planning ahead. No lists, no diaries, no apps required. Like the city itself, this is the festival for flipping coins and hoping for the best. This is a festival for winging it.