Mancunians: Where do we start, where do I begin? is a portrayal of the industrial city on the cusp of irreversible change. At the turn of the century, Manchester was in upheaval. The devastation of the IRA bomb saw council leaders try to push the city into the future as gang wars repeated the violence of the past. Musicians tried to come from under Oasis's shadow, while the local population tried to push past the stereotypes. Mancunians is the story of those that didn’t fit the typecast: the musicians of colour, the football fans not into prawn sandwiches, the Mancunians who didn’t wear parkas, the frustrated police figures, the optimistic developers, the ambitious artists, the drinkers, the dealers, the drug takers and a young lad trying to negotiate his way amongst the chaos. Through a mixture of memoir and interviews with well-known Mancunians such as Guy Garvey, Badly Drawn Boy, and Stan Chow, combined with unheard voices of the population, David Scott portrays the city in a way never seen before. Mancunians: Where do we start, where do I begin? is the authentic account of Manchester at the turn of the millennium.
This chapter explains Anna Hickey-Moody’s research methods, which primarily consist of a multi-sited ethnography, extended with arts-based methods for young research participants. Arts-based methods are an excellent way of communicating complex information. Life experiences are not always able to be expressed in words, especially when research participants speak languages other than English. However, the artworks they create communicate affectively, regardless of language. In her ethnographic work, Hickey-Moody looks for everyday stories and experiences of belonging, faith attachment and ‘what really matters’. These experiences are often expressed through images, words, memory, allegory, anecdote and collaborative exchanges. Her approach is concerned with making space to recognise subjugated, non-mainstream knowledges. Making art with culturally and linguistically diverse children and talking to their parents is an everyday decolonising approach to a feminist, new materialist methodology concerned with the agency of experience, places, matter and things.
Faith and children’s art are means through which people create and explore the possibilities of other worlds. Both faith and art are interested in how things might be better, both in this world and after our death. Cusak suggests that ‘many stories have the potential to be read as transcendent and uniquely meaningful (as mythology, theology, or other explanatory narrative) by certain individuals and groups’ (2016: 575). This statement brings together old and new faith systems and creative art practices. For example, children often make art about popular cultural stories (video games, fictional characters) and these artworks might simultaneously include comments about the way they wish the world was. For example, they often imagine a world in which we can actually stop climate change, or a world where housing is not a problem. Faith has often served similar functions in the respect that it can be a way of hoping for a better life during trying times. This chapter explores the theme of other worlds, it explains why people maintain their faith and what children often make art about. Anna Hickey-Moody examines the appeal of faith as a way to imagine a better life: both a life after death and a better way of having life now. She then moves on to consider the roles that other worlds play in children’s artwork: both fantasy worlds that children wish were real, and the act of making art as a way of envisaging changes that could be undertaken to make our world a better place.
This final chapter explores what being a Mancunian is, how a stereotype has been media-led and given back to a population to wear. The author and contributors look at how Liam Gallagher has been portrayed in the public eye and become totemic of Manchester. Finally, David looks through his own experience of what being a young man growing up in Manchester has meant for his own identity as a Mancunian.
Using an article that claims Manchester was a ‘city that lets down its pupils’ as a starting point, David draws from his own experience of attending a broken school system, its impact on him and his peers, ‘a lost generation’, and details how limited the city was for young Mancunians and why so many turned to a drinking culture, and later on crime.
This chapter summarises the findings in the book – a testament to the lives of those who have shared their experience of living in Manchester at the turn of the millennium. Mancunians are not a homogenised people. Manchester is a mosaic.
Chapter 4 explores Adam Nicolson’s attempts to ‘revive’ tradition at his ‘ancestral’ estate, Sissinghurst Castle, Kent. Here Sissinghurst becomes the beacon for his political philosophy of landscape, agriculture, and something approaching ‘England’ via his mythology of ‘Arcadia’. It is argued that Nicolson’s vision for Sissinghurst ought to be understood as a response to the central sociological problem aristocrats face: sinking status. Given that if one starts at the top, the only way is down, sinking status must develop strategies for upward nobility. The strategy of upward nobility that Nicolson has chosen is to turn his ancestors into sources of social and political power for the future. It is shown that Nicolson’s telling of Sissinghurst’s story as a story of decline and fall is seized upon as an opportunity to revive and bring back a way of life that can mitigate the problems and ills of the present. Here we see how Nicolson combines Sissinghurst’s twentieth-century renown and its representation in modernist literature with a political philosophy of agriculturalism that evokes the early organic movement, which took the small manor farm and attendant hierarchy of lord, yeoman and peasant as the basis for social harmony and economic prosperity.
Chapter 7 consists of an examination of the writings of upper-class society journalist and commentator Peter York and his classic 1980s series Sloane Rangers. It argues that Sloane Rangers ought to be treated as continuing a tradition of English class categorisation where social status and economic interest are exaggerated by appeals to tradition in the idiom of kinship. Sloane Rangers arose in the 1980s as a response to English deindustrialisation and the rise of an advanced neo-liberal consumer economy: in contrast to new money and widening affluence, Sloane Rangers were offered as a long standing, inherited social position, part of what York called ‘the eternal stream of English life’. Through a critical examination of York’s writings, the chapter shows that the Sloane Ranger was invented to meet a challenge: to preserve forms of social behaviour, attitudes, practices and cultural worldviews which are seen as either dying out or from a time prior to the present. As such, the status symbols of the Sloane Ranger become another way in which the present needs of capitalism draw upon old ideologies and character traits. By extending the analysis of the Sloane Ranger through to its present reincarnations in brands such as Jack Wills, we see how this sense of social practices and status symbols being repetitions from a time prior to the present is one of the ways in which economic privilege and social exclusivity go hand in hand in England.
While the idiom of the house has been drawn up in a multitude of different areas of English social, political and cultural life in the present, it has not provided any satisfactory answers or directions for our future. As such it is suggested that the idiom of the house ought to be viewed as what the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan called a Thing: an empty void into which we have projected our inaccessible desires to guarantee the preservation of a view of English society which is no longer possible, morally permissible, or even desirable. Instead, we could view ourselves not as heirs to a tradition but, rather, as contingent remainders: those people who signal more the crisis and imperfections of a society where kinship and inheritance play so central a role. We could give up the ghost of the house and think of ourselves as freer to be together in new and collaborative ways.
Chapter 2 confronts the problem that sociologists of class in Britain face: how to explain the persistence of a traditional upper class in an advanced modern society where class ought to prevail over status. It is argued that England’s agrarian capitalism gave rise to a form of societal membership and language of class that was never fully able to dispense with kinship terms of descent, inheritance and ancestry. The chapter explores this in three domains. First, by examining Sir Thomas Smith’s 1583 De Republica Anglorum, it demonstrates that the vision of British society as a multitude of households and families provided the means to dispense with a centralised vision of state sovereignty as found in the continental European tradition. Second, it suggests that the origins of the house-based society arise, first, in the vision of society as a ‘multitude of individual households’ and second, in the peculiar economic arrangement of the lease-copyhold which governed the economic relations and kinship structures of the early modern agrarian economy. Because economic interests were conceptually indistinguishable from kinship terms, the organic transformation from feudalism to capitalism in England preserved pre-modern status terminology within naked ‘class’ (economic) interests. Third, it argues that from Sir Gregory King’s Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State and Condition of England (1696) onwards, class categories continue a conflation of economic interests with status, and kinship terms of inheritance with financial power.