Places I’ll miss in Manchester – Part 1

If you’ve read my bio, you might be aware that in the process of moving around 250 miles down South to join my husband where’s he taken up a really good job in Oxford. The Day 4 writing challenge was a 3 part series on the theme of loss, I’ve interpreted it slightly differently than intended and I’m going to let you in on a few of my favourite places in Manchester that I’ll miss the most when I move later this year

Part 1 – Takk, 6 Tariff Street, Manchester

So much more than just another coffee shop, this Icelandic inspired coffee house has to be the most chilled and welcoming place I’ve been to. The back wall is lined with old school desks and you might notice, plug sockets for your laptop and other devices as they encourage people to use the space to work or just hangout, with free wifi as well as offering free refills on the drip coffee!


takk manchester coffee bar

They also do some damn tasty food – freshly made sandwiches and home-made soup (I’m not a soup person, but I took my mum to Takk for lunch and she had the most amazing bowl of soup there, i struggled to keep my hands of it, seriously) and also a good changing selection of cakes and brownies, not to mention of course the coffee – they are seriously serious about the coffee and offer many special blends designed to be drunk black and they’ll be happy to help you in your choice.

But back to the atmosphere – this is what holds this place as special for me, it’s somewhere I can go to in town, sit down with my book or writing pad and just lose myself and not feel like I’m taking up space, if they’d bring back the cinnamon buns I’d be ecstatic


The walls of Takk also play host to a bit of art here and there, from the hand drawn map of Iceland featuring famous names and places, to an exhibition of Icelandic photography there’s also a poster pillar to keep you in the know of the most happening events in town.


Icelandic Map

Did I mention they’re also pet friendly? this makes them pretty awesome in my book, I’ll be seriously sad not to have Takk practically on my doorstep in future

We Face Forward Festival

On yet another wet and rainy summer afternoon I headed down to Manchester Art Gallery to check out primarily the new display of photographic works but got way more than I bargained for.
I started on the ground floor where I was greeted by a sculpture entitled “A Sleek Dry Yell” by Haroon Mirza where sound and visuals form part of the sculpture, which is made from recycled/upcycled materials into new instruments: a bucket of water, a digital clock flashing 12:06, a small chest with lights inside, a keyboard and old speakers covered in two pence coins along with a screen projection, it’s described as lo-fi, redundant analogue technology, it makes for an intriguing sound scape that fits well with the disjointed visuals.  In conjunction with this the gallery was hosting an event with Richard Strange and Haroon Mirza performing live and DJing as part of their new Thursday Lates  – the new late night openings coupled with them now opening Mondays as well, brings the gallery into the twenty-tens along with most other major city galleries (and about time).

Next we headed to the top floor to check out the We Face Forward Exhibition, part of the We Face Forward Festival of West African art & music taking place across various venues throughout the city – We Face Forward is also part of the London 2012 Cultural Festival of over 12,000 events across the UK to celebrate the Olympic Games.

The Exhibition challenges you with the bold statement to ‘forget everything you think you know about African art’ which annoyed me slightly with their  ‘don’t succumb to stereotyping of African art whilst we simultaneously try to fool you into the stereotyping African art by our clichéd promotional material’, that coupled with the first pieces of art you see when you walk in the gallery: bright colours, textiles and recycled materials was exactly what I expected.

However the pieces that stood out for me most was exactly the kind of art I didn’t expect, all three artists that really grabbed by attention were photographers. First up was Hélène Amouzou, who takes black & white photographs in an empty room, with her belongings,often with a suitcase. The images; dark, misty, soft self portraits appear to show the movement of someone or something within the room, and look at times ghostly and ethereal  – the series of Auto portraits in We Face Forward were taken during the time Amouzou was seeking asylum in Belgium.

© Hélène Amouzou

Next up was Abraham Oghobase, with the series Untitled also black & white photography, along with performance, in these photos he looks like he is caught mid air jump or energetic pose in front of  buildings graffitied with classified adverts. He describes these as ‘my engagement with one such wall of classifieds serves to question the effectiveness of such guerrilla marketing”

© Abraham Obhobase

The next two artists who grabbed my attention were both working in what I would call the ‘social documentary’ genre and both in colour.

Nyaba Léon Ouedraogo documents the young Ghanians who work 7 days a week salvaging copper and other sale-able materials from a  10 square  km of electronic graveyard  aka landfill exported from Europe & North America in his series entitled ‘The Hell of Copper’ which has been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet 2012

The Hell of Copper
© Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo

finally the last artist that struck me was Nyani Quarmyne based in Accra, whos photographs for Climate Change: “We Were Once Three Miles From the Sea” contain a series of portraits of people living on a strip of land in Ghana where the sea is erroding the land. Quarmyne’s photos document the people as they ‘try to combat the encroachment of the sea’
© Nyani Quarmyne

“The fishing village of Totope, near Ada, Ghana, pictured on 9 March 2010, is disappearing as the encroaching sea and worsening coastal erosion bury villagers’ homes in sand. Trapped between the sea and a lagoon, the village has nowhere to go.”

So that was my round up of the We Face Forward Exhibition, there was of course lots more to it, that’s just what stood out for me, after this I headed downstairs for the exhibits I’d originally come for – the Focal Points gallery of Art & Photography.
The focal points gallery hosts some very well known photographs such as Sarah Lucas’ self portrait with Fried Eggs which was a part of the Sensation exhibition of the 90’s.

Self Portrait with Fried Eggs 1996
© Sarah Lucas – Self Portrait with Fried Eggs 1996

Jananne Al-Ani – One of a Pair ‘s two portraits of the same group of women, one in western clothing and one in middle eastern clothing part of her works looking at the roles of women and identity.

© Jananne Al-Ani

OK so I’m not going to spoil the rest of the exhibition by giving a blow by blow account of every art work in there, as that would spoil the surprise, but there’s plenty of familiar artists such as  Richard Billingham, John Coplans and Thomas Demand to keep you entertained along with less well known works.

Book Fair Business

So today was the day of the 6th Annual Manchester Artists’ Book Fair. I’m afraid i didn’t get there as bright and early as planned, as costume buying in town took slightly longer than expected, but once I got there it was busy. So busy in fact that it took me several goes to get around to looking at everything. Along side the various styles of Artists’ books (and there was every sort you could imagine, and then some), there were also zines, cards, posters, prints, paper and other book making materials as well as a series of demonstrations (letter press and marbling to name a couple) and talks. I was selling my etching book(let) San Francisco Series [Black]  on the Hot Bed Bookstars stall which was selling the work of five members from the print studios. To sum it up, I didn’t sell anything but the other members sold a few pieces and I’m not sure whether the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair being on at the same time was a help or a hindrance to visitor numbers and sales.

I also bought a couple of items, namely a cute pin badge by Caroline Pratt – who does some seriously awesome ‘abstract forest’ prints as well and this card by Samuel Horsley – i love the sad expression

Sad Minotaur

another artist who stood out for me was Charlotte Vallance who had an array of illustrated pieces based on travel that I found particularly inspiring. Check out some of the links above for more info

Pin Up Bowling

When I heard that Pin Up Bowling was in town, I knew there was only one this for it – get on the blower to the esteemed members of my knitting club who may be known more for their forays into drinking than their knitting, for a night of 1950’s glamour.

Pin Up Bowling's Pop Up Bowling Alley on Hardman's Square

So on a rainy Friday night (no change there then, Manchester) we got our fairly posh 1950’s frocks on and headed down to Spinningfields for a night of ‘Balls, Booze, Burgers & Beats’. With 2 for 1 cocktails & beers 2 for £5 during happy hour(s) of 5-7pm, which is extended until 9pm for lucky Yellow Card holders (this also gets a nice discount on your game of bowling), and some mighty fine all American diner food (classic cheese burgers and the chilli cheese dogs are both highly recommended by Knit Club) Pin Up Bowling is the place to be, until it packs up to pop up in city someplace else.

Chilli Cheese Dawg ©Claire Howson

It was fairly busy when we arrived and were denied the pleasure of a booth,  however everything about the pop up bowling alley & diner does feels pretty damn close to the real thing, although non of us were alive in the 1950’s, it looks and makes you feel like you’re in Happy Days with the retro American theme (we had a gen-u-ine, bona-fide American gal to rate the authenticity).

2 for 1 Cocktails at the Bar

This pop up alley has 4 lanes, which you can book a time slot for, once you get there. the whole atmosphere is very cosy and relaxed, a lot quieter than I would’ve expected for a Friday night, as they’ve been getting some well known Manchester DJ’s in to fill up the dance floor (find them on facebook for the latest updates, including Lindy Hop Lessons on Thursday evenings). When our turn came, we were given the Booze lane!

Balls, Booze, Burgers & Beats

All I can say is, it’s not as easy as it is on the wii to get a strike (or even to keep the ball straight), bowling shoes look less geeky when in 50’s gear, and cocktails help your spin (the last bit may or may not be true). After the game finished, we managed to snag a booth, where we tried even more cocktails and browsed the upcoming events, including Back to the Future and Big Lebowski themed nights along side a classic car show and a couple of Vintage & retro fairs.

Pin Up Bowling is in Manchester until 6th November, get down there or be a square.

Artisan Flickr Meet

Ok so I’ve been thrown off my post a day stride when thinking I could cleverly pen a swift  post using the wordpress app, like I did yesterday, added a few tweaks this morning and went to add the photo – only for the app to freeze. When it eventually defrosted, my post had melted and was no more – so I’ve had to wait to get to my pc in an attempt to re write yesterday’s and come up with today’s.

So yesterday I went on a flickr meet with the lovely Manchester UK group in celebration of Brian’s 70th Birthday. We started at Kro Piccadilly rather than our usual Font, nicely avoiding the demonstrations and associated road closures brought about by the Tories having their party party here in sunny Manc. The most favoured destination for today’s (or rather yesterday’s) wander was a new Artisan Market being held underneath the arches in Castlefield. With an assortment of delish food stalls (everything from cheese, cakes, olives and meat), antiques, hand made wares and music, there was even a bit of lindy hopping going on despite the inevitable downpour on the way.

Old Hag Cheese

Although my favourite part was definitely the book barge – does what it says on the tin, a book shop, on barge boat. After we were shopped out, we stepped into what was formerly Barca, and is now Top Med/Bohemia, for a coffee – big mistake, it could only be described as foul. 2 sugars for a non sugar taking person couldn’t make it taste nice, so there was no other choice but a cheeky glass of beer.

Generic Beer Shot
Generic Beer Shot

For the final leg of the meet, the very kind Lisa & Helen of Sweet Mandarin in the Northern Quarter put on a very nice spread for Brian’s birthday, including a cake with plenty of candles that had to be blown out more than once for all the photographs!

Chinese Lantern

MiF Volunteering

After I had such a fun time volunteering for Manchester International Festival back in 2009, it was a total no brainer when it came to reapplying this year.

Volunteer recruitment starts around 6 months prior to the 2 week festival. As I was applying for a role of photographer, I had to put together a portfolio to take along for an interview (obviously I was sucessful) and then the emails start! Although the festival spans 2 & a bit weeks in July, requests for volunteers can start weeks before hand as various shows & events need helping hands.

It’s the induction in early June that makes everything feel really real & exciting as this is where you receive the volunteer essentials – accreditation, handbook, shirt, bag and arguably the most important – waterproof coat!

The main difference for me this year is that I’ll be one of the volunteer photographers, however there’s always the option to have a go at other roles. Today I spent my day assisting with costumes for That Day We Sang, which involved labelling, sorting, sewing, & repairing costumes. Tomorrow I’m off for more of the same so time for bed.