“It could have been straight from the UNISON training manual.” So said one backbencher of Bev Craig’s investiture speech at town hall on Wednesday. “Personable. Calm. Not overly bombastic. Quiet revolution.”
The shift in tone – from Sir Richard’s robotic certainties to Craig’s collegiate cues – has been trailed as almost as significant as the expected policy shifts. Here was not an old school condescending bruiser but a young Belfast-born gay woman who wears her red hair short as a Smiths fanatic, carves her vowels from different clay and regularly breaks her toes playing weekend hockey.
“We will put our people, our places and our planet at the heart of what we do,” she promised. “We want thriving communities and neighbourhoods because Manchester is not just its city centre.”
Down the pub afterwards there was much for Labour group members to pick over. The Great Leese Plan to recapture Manchester’s glory. How DevoManc had really been his way of sidestepping the NHS internal market. The recurrent dark-haired lady in his personal life. Why Pat Karney doesn’t really know who the hell he is…did Leese’s enforcer handle the Marcia Hutchinson affair badly..?
How Craig will bring a public sector perspective to local affairs. Will she have the appetite for selling the city at MIPIM though? Or could Salford council leader Paul Dennett, now Burnham’s deputy mayor, be in line for that role? Will Burnham ever get to lead the party given the timeframes and the London-centric membership set against him? What now for Manchester’s infamous planning officers Dave and Julie Roscoe? What too for the unassertive Joanne Roney? How the recent Burnage fracas was wildly overhyped. How discipline in the new regime may suffer to some extent but the press will inevitably ask is Leese the only person who could hold this Labour group together..?
Such was the tittle-tittle. The substance, we’re told, will be a new housing strategy, change in development policy, in how services will be delivered, in how the group looks outward to the city. “That speech was very logical,” said one member convinced of Craig’s soft-left union background as key to her politics. “It had a logical structure. It’s a big step.”
If you only see one art show this year
If he’s really best known as the director of arthouse feature films such as Sebastiane, Jubilee and Caravaggio then the Derek Jarman retrospective which opened at Manchester Art Gallery this week is a welcome corrective. But of course it’s much more than that. Should you be an artist or have artistic aspirations or simply like to immerse yourself in that world then the inspiration on offer at Moseley Street comes in life-changing doses. It’s one of those occasions when the power of it makes a crashing wave of sense, washing away institutional barriers between creator and viewer…when words seem a bit inadequate or just plain silly in trying to contextualise how fabulous the work is.
Across the spaces you get to follow a tangible artist’s journey as he grows from a young painter at the Slade School…absorbing influences (Paul Nash, Keith Vaughan, William Crozier), acknowledging classicism (the Renaissance, the bible, classical forms), embracing self-portraiture, addressing Englishness, depicting landscape, seeking mysticism, finding collage, moving on to assemblage, foregrounding the personal, declaiming the political, affirming the sexual, seizing on punk, playing with the pop video, the still surfaces of paint, the dancing lights of film, repurposing a wealth of everyday materials and found objects to turn the artlessness of the quotidian against bigotry, oppression and power…all with such a ravishing aesthetic sense as could make you sigh over each handsomely hand-tooled piece.
To see all those influences end up in the form of a garden…a garden of England…a little cottage in the shadow of a nuclear power station by the English Channel…is a moving and wholly inspiring experience. If you don’t emerge from PROTEST! determined to turn your own life into an art project then be assured you haven’t a cultured bone in your body.
For a man whose managerial role model is Arsene Wenger, Ralf Rangnick arrives in English football with an appropriate level of anonymity. Whether the sixty-three year old will go on to have Wenger’s career here remains to be seen. His appointment begs a few questions of a man who enjoys name recognition on a par with a Hungarian racehorse and yet is suddenly the answer to all Manchester United’s problems.
If he’s that good give him the job permanently. What’s the point in appointing someone for six months? Is the real problem at United the lack of a boardroom brave enough to make difficult decisions?