From the book “24 Hour Party People” pgs 205-206 by Tony Wilson
A half-hour profile – sorry – small, cheap documentary, of the textile billionaire David Alliance, big boss of Coates Viyella, answered the question, ‘why Manchester?’ once and for all. Alliance was answering the question from Wilson the interviewer: ‘Why do you, one of Britain’s richest industrialists, keep your head office in Manchester and continue to live in Manchester?
‘I’ll tell you why.’
Forty years in England had only mellowed the delightful Middle-Eastern lilt of his speech. Alliance was a handsome, charismatic man in his mid-fifties who once tried to warn his friend the Shah of Iran, ‘You’re feeding their bellies, you’ve got to start feeding their minds.’
‘I’ll tell you why. When I had been in this country from my home in Persia no more than ten days, I was looking for my uncle’s house in Clyde Road in West Didsbury. I was sheltering from the rain under the awnings of the old Rediffusion cinema in East Didsbury. I spoke maybe ten words of English. I had the address on a piece of paper. I saw a woman pushing a pram, I showed her the address and she indicated I should follow her. We walked, perhaps a mile and a half, through the rain, and finally got to Clyde Road and got to my uncle’s house. I knocked. He opened the door and flung his arms round me, shouting, “Davoud, Davoud.” And I looked back and the woman waved and walked back the way we had come, pushing the pram.
‘I turned to my uncle and said, “She wasn’t coming this way, why did she come all this way if she wasn’t coming this way?”
“Davoud, because this is Manchester.”‘
It is this city’s hospitality to the outside that gives rise to the great truism of Manchester music: Manchester kids have the best record collections. That’s not a Wilson line, though he wishes it was. He’d been given this gem by A&R hero Dave Ambrose. Right on, Dave. They do. They have the best record collections. Open to outside influences.
Why do you think Jon Dasilve, Graeme Park and the Pick were playing house music on a Friday night? Why were the Mondays listening to it every fucking night? It was bloody foreign, wasn’t it? It was and this is the city of the foreigner, with its open arms. And hands held out, palm up.
And maybe that’s why so many of the people in this book are mysteriously devoted to the town. Its open arms inspired a return. Even down to putting everything you’ve earned and everything you’re going to earn into a designer dance hall that was now slowly approaching break-even thanks to student (urgh) night and Stella a quid a pint.
And you never give up. That was the lesson of Wilson’s next small, cheap documentary. The story of the Manchester Ship Canal.
King Cotton made us first city of the empire. Foundation stone of the Industrial Revolution. Bit like Peter Saville being responsible for Designer Britain. Good thing or bad? Maybe like Chou En-Lai said when asked the same question about the French Revolution: it’s too soon to tell.
Anyway, come the American Civil War and all this cotton stuff comes to a halt. Famously, the textile workers of England’s North-West sided with the black (Liverpool-imported, if you don’t mind) slaves and Lincoln’s Republican army, although this was precisely against their own interests, holding down jobs that relied on the plantation owners of the South. They rightly identified the African slave labour as remarkably similar to their own alienated labour.
A little bit Bradley Hardacre and a little bit Andy Warhol.