Guest post by Al Lee.
The long and fascinating history of Manchester is punctuated by moments of important scientific, technological and industrial advance, as well as radical socialist thought and revolutionary action. Engels wrote about the “grim future of capitalism and the industrial age” when viewing the dark slums and working class conditions in the city. But without those bleak and hard days of the textile-driven, inchoate Industrial Revolution, we would not have the vibrant and independent city that we know today. The grim, mill-strewn, industrial landscapes of the city’s environs were depicted by L. S. Lowry and later mirrored in the sparse, hard-edged music of Manchester band Joy Division, and the Northern sardonic wit and desolate ordinariness of the people reflected in the words of Stephen Patrick Morrissey, all artists in many ways, being true to their own working class origins.
The city and its denizens have their own unique sense of irresponsible style and language, in a similar way, as does its great rival from 38 miles away, Liverpool. A reluctance or downright refusal to conform to the ideals and ideas of the rest of the country, London notably, have driven the city and its peoples to purposefully think and act differently to the rest of society throughout recent history. The important figure of Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) was born in Moss Side, Manchester. She was an English political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. There is a history here, for sure.
The more clued-up and cool supporters of the red side of the football-supporting community renamed the place, only in half-jest, ‘The Republic of Mancunia’. A working class nod and a wink, no doubt, to the history of independent, socialist thought and perhaps even the early Northern Co-operative workers’ movements.
With true genius comes real pain and anguish. Inseparable and clashing bedfellows, the two extremes have helped to drive the great minds of troubled, technological titans such as Alan Turing, who worked for many years at the University of Manchester, and was instrumental in birthing the nascent functions of the modern programmable computer, without which I would not be able to type this piece… or you to read it for that matter.