This chapter seeks to locate Manchester as a northern city, and as Europe's premier industrial city. It also seeks to locate Manchester as a migrant and emphatically postcolonial city whose existence owes as much to the reverse-flows of Empire as to internal migration from the rest of England, Scotland and Ireland. As the result of the re-energized social, cultural and political climate of the early 1980s, Manchester began to develop its own, distinctive, literary scene. This scene shared a good deal of the 'DIY' and 'punk ethic' that Dave Haslam and others have identified in the city's music. Manchester's literary output from the early 1980s to the millennium may be seen to constitute a moving testament to both the legacy of Empire and the Margaret Thatcher government's infamously unsympathetic response to the sudden collapse of Britain's manufacturing base.
This chapter shares some thoughts on the texts which describe the role crime fiction has played in mapping the changing economic, social and geographical environment of Greater Manchester. It attempts to capture something of the diversity of Manchester's crime writing in the course of answering a simple question: namely, who, or what, is responsible for the crime of Manchester? The chapter lists out the various answers to this question. All of them demonstrate the way in which literature takes its cue from the sociological explanation yet also moves beyond it by bringing more complex psychological factors into play. The chapter discusses the various motives for crime, many of which, directly or indirectly, bear the mark of the region's colonial past and (post)colonial present. It concludes by proposing that what distinguishes Mancunian crime fiction from other national and international variants is its focus on the city's architectural mapping.
Manchester’s mixed-genre anthologies and short-story collections
This chapter reviews the grassroots of Manchester's earliest, extant anthologized writings, before tracing their evolution into the increasingly confident and cutting-edge publications. This includes discussion of the parallel history of women's writing in the city. The chapter presents the Manchester Irish Writers' Group as a case study of a writers' collective operating in the city, and samples their poems and short stories to reflect upon all that is unique in the Irish migration story. Discussion is structured around the theme of temporality with a particular focus on the dislocation of time and space occasioned by the migrant's repeated 'journeys home' in the context of Ireland's tantalizing proximity to the north-west of England. Combining discussion of the anthologies' thematic preoccupations with their publishing history, the chapter shows how these collectively-authored texts are symptomatic of the social and political function of writing in postcolonial Manchester.
In search of what we’re thinking when we’re driving
In Lynne Pearce's essay, movement between two places (the north of England and rural Scotland) is the focus of a piece combining the personal with the more conceptual. Phenomenology inspires the study of diary extracts of driving the same route regularly over a period of more than ten years. Her account of these road trips in her own ‘driving diaries’ becomes the ‘date’ in this perceptual exploration of what we are thinking when we are driving.
Manchester and the devolution of British literary culture
Corinne Fowler and Lynne Pearce
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book outlines a devolved model of English literature, and its associated cultural practices, in more detail. It features an unusually broad demographic of authors and texts emanating from the various diasporic communities and representing a wide range of religious affiliations. Close attention to both diasporic and devolved literary cultures can add to our existing understanding of, in Susheila Nasta's words, 'the extent to which our visions of the national have been built on migrant and diasporic, colonial and postcolonial identities'. The book explores Manchester writers' imaginative, and often critical, engagements with the 'external geography' of one of Britain's great northern cities. It focuses on writers' collective exploration of the ways in which the city's refugees and immigrants have, together, integrated Manchester into the world. Such an exploration is strikingly apparent in much of Lemn Sissay's poetry.
In 2008, the 'Moving Manchester' project received an enquiry from a local radio producer in connection with a programme about Eastern European migration to Manchester. A nineteenth-century suburb of Manchester, was transformed by immigrant Asian restauranteurs into nearly a mile of neon-lit restaurants, thereby utilizing old Victorian housing to counter the economic malaise of post-industrial Manchester. However, nothing counters the nation's obsession with the supposed newness of immigration as much as Manchester's graveyards. Manchester's graveyards have inspired several of the city's writers to consider the significance of place to the interment of skulls, ribs and femurs in local soil. With regards to Manchester's future as Europe's flagship 'migrant' city, immigration policies are already having a negative impact on the daily lives of the city's diasporic communities in terms of increased personal and institutional racism and obstructions to international travel.
Postcolonial Manchester offers a radical new perspective on Britain's devolved literary cultures by focusing on Manchester's vibrant, multicultural literary scene. This book presents the North West of England as quintessential 'diaspora space' and contributes to a better understanding of the region in social, cultural and aesthetic terms. It examines the way in which stories, poems and plays set in locales such as 'the Curry Mile' and Moss Side, have attempted to reshape Manchester's collective visions. The book features a broad demographic of authors and texts emanating from different diasporic communities and representing a wide range of religious affiliations. Manchester's black and Asian writers have struggled to achieve recognition within the literary mainstream, partly as a result of exclusion from London-centric, transnational publishing houses. Manchester's unfortunate reputation as one of Britain's 'crime capitals' is analysed by the use of fiction to stretch and complicate more popular explanations. A historical overview of Manchester's literary anthologies is presented through a transition from a writing that paid tribute to political resistance to more complex political statements, and focuses on the short story as a literary mode. The book combines close readings of some of the city's best-known performance poets such as Lemn Sissay and SuAndi with analysis of the literary cultures that have both facilitated and challenged their art. The book affords readers the opportunity to hear many of the chapter authors 'in their own words' by reflecting on how they themselves in terms of the literary mainstream and their identities.