13th September 2019

Manchester in writing

Sam Coates provides a list of books and poetry we believe are essential to understand and appreciate the city of Manchester
Manchester in writing

As a new academic year dawns on Manchester, we celebrate the arrival of a fresh slate of students. Whether you’ve lived in Manchester all your life or are new to the city, we at The Mancunion are here to provide you with an essential Manchester-inspired reading guide.

Manchester has a rich cultural history shown through its leading role in the development of British music and aesthetics. Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor: Music, Manchester, and More: A Memoir is the fascinating memoir of long-time Mancunian disc jockey, Dave Haslam. Haslam recounts the Manchester music scene of the 80s and 90s. During this time he played sets at famous local landmarks such as the Haçienda and Boardwalk night clubs. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the influence of Manchester’s music scene.

In addition to the famous music scenes found in Manchester, the city is also a hub for multicultural celebration. One such place to celebrate culture is our renowned Curry Mile, which is the focal point of Zahid Hussain’s novel, The Curry Mile. The book provides an authentic account of family life upon the mile. It explores the difficulty of balancing familial responsibilities with the managerial aspects of running a curry house. This novel offers a lot to those looking to experience one of Manchester’s most memorable miles.

Manchester’s music and cuisine are an obvious honey trap for anyone new to Manchester. Alongside this, the works of Kieth Warrender inspire adventure in all those who take the time to look a little further. Both Underground Manchester and Below Manchester are works that detail the extensive network of tunnels beneath the pavement. From air raid shelters to disused toilets and even a few hidden rivers. Warrender details the bones upon which modern cities are built and unravels some of the buried secrets of Manchester.

Next up is the novel, Clockwork Orange; a piece of true Mancunian heritage. Though set in Hove, the novel is not unrelated to Manchester. It mirrors aspects of Manchester’s history through its story of rebellious youths attempting to subvert authoritative social structures. In addition, the novel’s author, Anthony Burgess, is Mancunian through and through having been born and raised just three miles north-east of the city centre in Harpurhey. A centre to commemorate Burgess and his work stands in our city today.

The city also continues to have a fascinating pull for historians. One infamous event is the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. 200 years ago, the working class of Manchester gathered in St Peters square to peacefully discuss the issues of suffrage. In an attempt to disperse the crowds, the authorities ordered officers on horseback to charge the 60,000 innocents. This resulted in 15 deaths and 600 injuries. Hearing of the massacre, Romantic author, Percy Shelley, published The Masque of Anarchy. It is considered to be one of the first modern European pieces of writing to advocate nonviolent resistance. His words continue to be echoed, with lines inspiring modern political campaigns: “Ye are many—they are few”.

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