Posted by: Richard Frost | April 2, 2020

Electric Six gig review

Logo for Durham University's student newspaper PalatinateOriginal publication date: November 2003
Outlet: Palatinate

Danger! Danger! High Voltage! The band with the best videos around successfully managed to light up Newcastle University with a suitably electric performance (sorry for all the puns, it’s just too tempting).

I’ll admit I was slightly worried that their comic-genius videos for Danger! High Voltage, new single Dance Commander and of course Gay Bar (Gay Bar! Gay Bar!) would fall flat live. Could they really cope without the flashing pelvic lights and the gay gymnasts? Would the mysterious summer walk-out of half the band ruin their euphoric dirty disco vibes? And why has some drunken 14-year-old just poured my mate’s pint down my (deliberately!) camp clothes?

But first the support acts. First up were Surferosa – if you’re named after a Pixies album in my world, you must be good. And they were, despite sounding nothing like the Pixies. A girl-fronted punk band that couldn’t help but remind of The Distillers, though not quite as bad (attitude) and not quite as good (songs). Enough to suggest they can headline and become a cult hit though.

Next up, Kid Symphony. Am I the only one who thinks you can spot a good band from their name? This lot were completely anonymous apart from the aforementioned drunk kid who followed the pint spilling by asking if this MOR rock was in fact the disco-stomping Electric Six.

It’s said that a good crowd makes a good gig and, if true, this was a sensational show. A full 20 minutes before the band, the crowd were swaying and surging so much that I somehow ended up on the third row without even trying. Crowd surfing (aka getting repeatedly kicked in the head) was a constant throughout, whilst I even saw a few mosh pits springing from the Geordie hordes.

Original artwork for Electric Six's debut LP Fire

A personal favourite came at the start with the 1,200-strong capacity crowd chanting in unison ‘We want Dick!’ Mr Dick Valentine duly appeared and promptly sank from view again as the charged (no more, I promise) crowd leapt.

The good news for fans is that Dick is as funny live as he is in the videos and on the storming debut album Fire. Tongue-in-cheek songs Nuclear War (On the Dancefloor) and Naked Pictures (of your Mother) were a huge success, with their gift for a catchy chorus obliging everyone to sing along.

Sadly Danger! High Voltage was sung without the aid of the Jack White sound-a-like (allegedly an Ohio car mechanic). But Improper Dancing with the line ‘Stop!…..Continue!’ proved a brilliant way to lead into the encore.

What’s more, the crowd hit fever pitch when our ‘Gay Bar’ chant was answered with the song’s opening guitar hook for the finale (though Dick never donned the Abraham Lincoln beard, sadly). My aching, sweaty and frankly unattractive body somehow managed to jump with the masses for three more minutes in an ecstatic finale that even seemed to surprise the band. Dick genuinely seemed to enjoy himself and this was confirmed when he repeatedly returned to the stage to humbly thank the audience – a far cry from his cocksure stage persona.

So a fantastic performance whose only downside is that it’s hard to see how Electric Six can improve. Can they possibly follow up this album with a song as catchy or a video as funny as High Voltage or Gay Bar? Maybe not, but for tonight at least Electric Six’s star shined brightly (sorry!).

Posted by: Richard Frost | April 1, 2020

Super Furry Animals interview

Logo for Durham University's student newspaper PalatinateOriginal publication date: October 2003
Outlet: Palatinate

Super Furry Animals are back.

Their sold-out gig at Newcastle University comes in support of their deliberately acoustic sixth studio album Phantom Power. Contemporaries may struggle, but how do they continually escape the Britpop curse? For lead singer Gruff Rhys, the answer is simple – ‘by not being rubbish’. And how are relations between the five band-members after eight years together? ‘It’s like being married…but without the sex.’ The reassuring news for fans is that SFA are still great fun.

However, they reject accusations of being a comedy band, despite surreal lyrics in recent singles Hello Sunshine and Golden Retriever. ‘You can’t be depressed all the time. Besides, we’ve travelled the bars of the world – we have a great job but you can’t take it too seriously.’ And they aren’t afraid to voice their political opinions when for example dedicating The Man Don’t Give a F*ck to President Bush whilst touring America. Gruff cheekily attributes their success there to the fact that ‘they hate Bush too’.

Cover for Super Furry Animals' acoustic album Phantom Power

Bizarrely, three of the five members are former drummers, prompting the band to proclaim ‘they’re great – every band should have one!’ It’s surely nothing short of amazing then that the band possess such a clear plan as to their direction and continuing their recent resurgence – ‘There was more of a plan this time than ever before’.

Providing an insight into Phantom Power’s creation, they reveal that ‘before recording we had about 60 of our songs up on the wall. Then we chose the acoustic songs as the base’. Although this mellow album is far from the Radiator Part 2 that some fans still want, the band are determined to ‘develop and change’ and vow never to simply ‘rehash an album’.

The band is also honest about past failures. ‘The last time we played in Newcastle, we got booed off. We sounded sh*t.’ Recalling the chant of ‘what a waste of money’ with a shudder, they accept that they’ve previously struggled to realise their studio sound live: ‘We were always frustrated with what we could achieve on tour. Now though we have the technology to succeed.’

Perhaps the Welshmen are overly critical though as they’ve grown famous for producing surreal live shows packed with cacti, inflatable bears and nuclear bunkers. Can we expect an appearance of the legendary yetis tonight? ‘People say they’re costumes,’ moans Gruff, ‘but really it’s more of an Incredible Hulk-style transition based on love instead of hate. We’re unable to transform unless there’s love from the audience.’

Posted by: Richard Frost | March 31, 2020

You know when you’ve been furloughed

Tango advert with the slogan 'you know when you've been tango'd'

© Tango

I’ve been furloughed.

Now I appreciate I’m not the only one in this position – it feels like every company in the country is furloughing staff (aka giving them a temporary leave of absence) as the realities of fighting coronavirus hit home – and plenty of people are having to deal with far more challenging circumstances than me at the moment. Still, I enjoy what I do for a living, whether that’s improving Sleeper Media’s online offering or interviewing leading lights in the hospitality world, and I’ll miss wandering round Strawberry Studios on my lunchbreak.

Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining and all that, and in this case the silver lining is that I suddenly find myself with *a lot* of free time to finally do all those things I’d never quite managed to get round to before. What sort of things?

Well for starters, I’ve written tens of thousands of articles down the years covering everything from Heinz Beck’s take on Italian cuisine and Gary Neville’s plans to launch a university to a bunch of volunteers dressing in pink and dancing the conga. You can still read most of them by visiting the websites of Supper, North West Business Insider, Time Out, the Liverpool Echo, the Southport Visiter, the Watford Observer and so on.

Supper website alongside the Starboard, Sleeper and Supper magazines

But many of my pieces have long since disappeared into the ether – either the websites I created them for have been taken down, or they were never online in the first place. Currently, the only place you’ll find these articles is languishing on my hard drive.

So starting tomorrow, and continuing throughout April, I’ll be posting a selection of articles on here spanning the arts, sport, travel and politics that haven’t seen the light of day for quite some time – over 15 years in some cases! My plan is to work through them chronologically, beginning with an exclusive interview with Super Furry Animals in Newcastle.

Hope you enjoy reading them and I’d love to hear from you if you like what you see, or just want to know what Gruff Rhys is like in person.

Stay safe everyone…

Posted by: Richard Frost | March 2, 2020

Food for thought – you can now read Supper online

The new Supper magazine website

Supper’s website

As some of you may know, I recently changed jobs at Sleeper Media, publisher of Sleeper, Starboard and Supper.

I originally came to Strawberry Studios as assistant editor of Supper, the hotel food and drink magazine – I was the editorial lead for nine issues (issue 10 to issue 18), which meant writing features, commissioning freelancers, laying out pages and generally doing whatever the hell needed doing to get something half decent into print. Think it went ok – I got a few nice meals out of it anyway!

Now though I’ve moved over to a new role as online editor of Sleeper Media, meaning I’m basically in charge of doing whatever the hell needs doing to improve the company’s online offering. That includes working with our in-house production team to launch a string of SEO-friendly websites, starting with Supper.

The new Supper website

I’m really excited about the new Supper website for lots of reasons – not least because it allows us to run news and online exclusives for the very first time – but chief among them is that I can finally shout about what cool stuff we’ve been up to these past two years, since you can now read Supper online even if you don’t subscribe to the print magazine.

The issue library contains every edition of Supper magazine in full

Supper’s issue library

Ok, ok, ‘show, don’t tell’ as the old saying goes – so to show you what I mean, I thought I’d do a quick round-up of some of the features I’ve written for Supper magazine to date that I’m most proud of.

If you’ve ever wondered how legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese invented the Breakfast Martini, and what makes Jay-Z’s champagne so expensive, or why Irish whiskey was almost consigned to the history books, and where German-born chef Heinz Beck first discovered his knack for Italian cuisine, then wonder no more.

Read all about it

Here’s a selection of my features for Supper magazine (starting with the most recent):

Posted by: Richard Frost | April 21, 2019

Chorlton Festival Calendar 2019

For the past few years, I’ve been publishing the dates of festivals happening where I live – the Chorlton area of south Manchester – to help raise the profile of some of the great community events taking place right here on our doorstep.

This year looks a bit quieter than usual, due largely to the absence of Chorlton & Whalley Range Big Green Happening and the very public meltdown over at Chorlton Arts Festival (more on that later).

But without any further ado, here is the Chorlton Festival Calendar 2019.

Chorlton Open Gardens 2019

Sunday, 30 June 2019

A show garden on Claude Road in Chorltonville

Chorlton Open Gardens

Chorlton Open Gardens will return in June 2019, giving members of the public a chance to snoop round a host of green spaces from private gardens to communal alleyways.

We already know that the event will run from 11am to 5pm, although there’s not much else to report at this stage. Typically, you’ll find that participating gardeners are on hand throughout the day to offer tips and advice to visitors, while several also take the opportunity to sell hot drinks, homemade cakes, artworks and of course plants to visitors – some even pull out all the stops by hosting live music performances. Meanwhile, a plant swap at the community garden next to Chorlton Library gives festivalgoers ample opportunity to brighten up their own homes.

It usually costs £5 to purchase a Chorlton Open Gardens programme, which grants access to all of the gardens involved on the day. Last year, these programmes were sold by Creative Recycling, Chorlton Bookshop, Blossom Florists and Chorlton Plant Nursery from mid-May, and outside Unicorn Grocery in June at the weekend.

Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival 2019

11-13 July 2019

Chorlton Beer and Cider Festival

Chorlton Beer Festival

More commonly known as Chorlton Beer Festival or just Chorlton Beer Fest, Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival will showcase more than 150 real ales, craft beers, world beers, ciders and perries at St Clement’s Church on Edge Lane in 2019.

Organised by St Clement’s in association with Trafford & Hulme CAMRA, the 15th annual festival will run across three days. A quiet preview night will be held between 6pm and 1030pm on Thursday, followed by bigger sessions featuring live music between 6pm and 1030pm on Friday and 1pm and 930pm on Saturday. Chorlton CofE Primary School PTA is also organising activities suitable for small children on the lawn from 1pm on the Saturday – though all under-18s must leave the grounds by 7pm as part of their licence.

Entry to the festival costs £5 on the gate, including your glass and programme, with beer tokens sold separately. Alternatively, advance packages for each day are priced at £14, including your glass, programme and £10 of beer tokens, and a season ticket granting access to all three days with £10 of beer tokens will set you back £20.

Chorlton Book Festival 2019

20-28 September 2019

Chorlton Book Festival celebrates Manchester's most literary suburb

Chorlton Book Festival

The long-running Chorlton Book Festival will return in September 2019, with an inspirational programme of literary-themed events.

The festival’s coordinated by representatives of Manchester Libraries, Galleries and Culture, councillors, businesses, schools, community groups and residents, so it’s a real team effort. Typically, Chorlton Library on Manchester Road acts as the main hub, with other venues around the suburb chipping in as well by staging special events – you can expect the likes of poetry slams, author readings, literary talks, writer workshops and a pub quiz for bookworms when the full schedule’s unveiled later in the year.

Most of the events are free to attend, though a few charge a small entry fee.

The Original Chorlton Arts Festival 2019

20-28 September 2019

Part of Chorlton Voice, the Original Chorlton Arts Festival helps artists share their work

The Original Chorlton Arts Festival

It’s impossible to discuss The Original Chorlton Arts Festival, a new addition to the calendar for 2019, without first reflecting on the sorry goings-on at its near-namesake Chorlton Arts Festival.

For the uninitiated, Chorlton Arts Festival has long championed artistic expression across music, theatre, film, comedy and the visual arts, but the 15th instalment in May 2018 was overshadowed by an acrimonious dispute between its new festival director and the Chorlton Arts Festival board. Straight after the festival ended, the director resigned and issued a public statement giving the reasons for his decision – among them non-payment of fees and perceived mismanagement by the board; meanwhile, the board issued its own statement linking his resignation with “grievances with pay issues which arose due to failure to deliver against agreed obligations”. The festival’s Twitter account then began retweeting various messages criticising the board and non-payment of fees, while the website was taken offline, and the Facebook page claimed that “the festival Twitter account is not under our control…therefore any tweets, retweets or likes are not the opinion of the festival or the festival board”.

Personally, I’ve got zero desire to take sides here, though I will say that it’d be a huge shame if this debacle spells the end for Chorlton Arts Festival, which local residents have worked tirelessly to support down the years and which let’s not forget has provided a platform for countless artists to showcase their talents. While a brief statement on the website suggests the festival will return once more in 2019, sadly I can’t find any other indication that another event’s imminent.

However, I’ve just stumbled across a new website billing itself as The Original Chorlton Arts Festival, with an accompanying Twitter and Facebook presence. The Original Chorlton Arts Festival apparently has no affiliation with Chorlton Arts Festival, but seeks to return the festival to the community and reflect its original ethos (their words), helping “schools, performers, artists, art groups, poets, writers, playwrights, musicians (bands, individual performers or singers), dancers and any other type of artist from Chorlton to share their work”. It’s part of not-for-profit community association Chorlton Voice (aka Chorlton Civic Society) and, while details are scarce at the moment, the inaugural event will apparently run from 20-28 September 2019 to coincide with Chorlton Book Festival.

No word yet on whether there’ll be charges to attend any of the events at The Original Chorlton Arts Festival.

Chorlton Bonfire Night 2019

November 2019 (presumably)

Spectacular fireworks on Bonfire Night

Fireworks display

Various places around Chorlton run events to coincide with Bonfire Night, though nothing seems to be confirmed yet.

Typically, one of the biggest is the Chorlton Bonfire & Firework Display, which takes place at The Recreation Ground just off Brookburn Road where West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC play their home matches. In November 2018, the bonfire was lit at 7pm and a firework display was held at 730pm, with refreshments served throughout the evening.

Tickets for the 2018 edition cost £4 for adults and £2 for children, while a family ticket (for two adults and two children) was priced at £10.

Chorlton Christmas Lights 2019

Winter 2019 (presumably)

Christmas tree on Chorlton Green

Christmas Lights

The switching on of the Christmas lights signals the official start of the festive period for many Chorltonites.

The Beech Road Christmas Lantern Parade & Lights Switch On, for example, typically features a lantern parade by local schoolchildren from Beech Road Park to Chorlton Green, where the Christmas tree is lit by Father Christmas himself. There’s also a choir, mince pies and mulled wine, while several traders along Beech Road are open late. In 2018, all the action took place between 530pm and 7pm.

The event’s traditionally free to attend.

Posted by: Richard Frost | April 7, 2018

Chorlton Festival Calendar 2018

Every year, I pull together a list of festivals happening in my backyard – the Chorlton area of south Manchester – so that everyone can get the dates in their diaries nice and early.

This year sees the usual suspects joined by a couple of festivals that are making a welcome return following a break in 2017. It’s good to have them back.

Here is the Chorlton Festival Calendar 2018.

Chorlton Big Green Happening 2018

Saturday, 14 April 2018

A celebration of sustainable living at St Clement's Church

Chorlton Big Green Happening

Also known as the Chorlton & Whalley Range Big Green Happening, the successor to Chorlton’s Big Green Festival took a year out in 2017 but is now back with a bigger focus on Whalley Range.

Whereas most of the action took place at St Clement’s Church on Edge Lane in Chorlton last time around, this time the Carlton Club on Carlton Road in Whalley Range will host the majority of the programme.

Unusually, the free daytime events between 1pm and 5pm are split between St Clement’s Church and the Carlton Club – Chorlton’s offering includes Dave Bishop from the Friends of Chorlton Meadows and cultural masterplanner Dan Dubowitz, while Whalley Range is promising live music, food and drink stalls, book and toy swaps, and yoga. The evening event from 7pm till late also takes place at the Carlton Club and is ticketed, costing £5 via TicketWeb, with various DJs and musicians taking turns to entertain partygoers.

As ever, the Chorlton & Whalley Range Big Green Happening seeks to celebrate the environment, sustainability and wellbeing in a fun and accessible way.

Chorlton Arts Festival 2018

18-26 May 2018

Chorlton Arts Festival's new logo

Chorlton Arts Festival

Chorlton’s biggest festival, Chorlton Arts Festival, features a myriad of activities over the course of a week in May 2018.

The mantra of newly appointed director Thomas Moore is ‘Excellent Art for Everyone’ and the 2018 festival aims to appeal to a broad audience with a programme spanning the theatre, music and film, comedy, food and family-friendly activities. A dynamic new festival logo has already been rolled out and standout projects in the calendar include bringing Richard Dawkins’ bestselling book The God Delusion and Netflix documentary film Cowspiracy to the stage for the first time, and collaborating with Sunday Brunch presenter and Chorlton resident Simon Rimmer on a three-course dinner to showcase food’s credentials as an art form.

Some of the events at Chorlton Arts Festival, including the trio mentioned above, are paid-for so you’d best get in early if you want to bag a ticket.

Chorlton Open Gardens 2018

Sunday, 24 June 2018

A show garden on Claude Road in Chorltonville

Chorlton Open Gardens

Chorlton Open Gardens took a year out in 2017 but it’s back for 2018, with 23 private gardens, a communal alleyway and a communal allotment opening to the public from 11am to 5pm.

Some of the participants sell hot drinks, homemade cakes and pottery, and a few even put on live music to entertain visitors, so it’s always an enjoyable day out. There’ll also be a plant swap at the community garden next to Chorlton Library in case you’ve been inspired to grow your own.

It costs £5 to buy a Chorlton Open Gardens programme, which gives you access to all of the gardens. These programmes will be sold by Creative Recycling, Chorlton Bookshop, Blossom Florists and Chorlton Plant Nursery from mid-May, plus outside Unicorn Grocery in June at the weekend.

Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival 2018

12-14 July 2018

Chorlton Beer and Cider Festival

Chorlton Beer Festival

The Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival, to give the event its official name, returns to St Clement’s Church on Edge Lane in mid-July.

Also known as Chorlton Beer Festival or simply Chorlton Beer Fest, this annual institution is organised by the church in association with Trafford & Hulme CAMRA. This year’s punters can choose from more than 200 real ales, beers, ciders and perries at the festival, which will also hold the North West round of the Champion Speciality Beer of Britain competition.

The event will start with a quieter preview night on Thursday, before ramping up the atmosphere with the help of live music throughout Friday and Saturday. The Thursday and Friday sessions will run from 6pm-1030pm, with the marathon Saturday session running from 1pm-930pm (children are welcome until 7pm on Saturday and there’ll be special activities put on for them).

Entry prices for the 14th Chorlton Beer Festival are being held at the same level as 2017 – £10 per person, which includes a souvenir festival glass, a programme with tasting notes for the beers, and a £4 beer token. Card-carrying CAMRA members also get a free beer voucher.

Beech Road Summer Fete 2018

22 July 2018

Logo for the Beech Road Summer Fete on 22 July 2018

Beech Road Summer Fete

The Beech Road Summer Fete is a community fundraising event to help raise money for Beech Road Park.

Activities are split between Beech Road Park, Beech Road, Chorlton Green and the Bowling Green and take place from 11am to 5pm. In the park, there’ll be a family fun day featuring a bouncy castle, kite-making, a penalty shoot-out, belly dancing and Zumba while, on the street, several of the bars and restaurants will put on live music. On Chorlton Green, meanwhile, there’ll be a fete so keep your eyes peeled for the hook-a-duck, coconut shy, raffle and tug-of-war among other things, and last but not least the Bowling Green will host yoga and tai chi (bring your own mat and towel).

It looks as though entry to the Beech Road Summer Fete is free, though I imagine you may have to pay for some of the activities.

Chorlton Bonfire Night 2018

5 November 2018 (presumably)

Spectacular fireworks on Bonfire Night

Fireworks display

For years, the biggest free Guy Fawkes Night party in Chorlton was organised by the Horse & Jockey pub on Chorlton Green – there wasn’t a bonfire as such, but there was a spectacular fireworks display and outdoor food and drink stalls.

Last year, however, the pub announced that it wouldn’t be hosting an event on Chorlton Green “following advice and detailed consultation with all relevant authorities” and specifically concerns over “the safety and welfare of the increasingly large numbers of people attending”.

At the last minute, the Lead Station pub, the Chorlton Fireworks shop and West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC stepped in to collectively organise a replacement Guy Fawkes Night fireworks display at the Recreation Ground off Brookburn Road in Chorltonville.

It’s too early to say what’ll happen this November – but be sure to check the latest before setting off to avoid disappointment.

Chorlton Book Festival 2018

November 2018?

Chorlton Book Festival celebrates Manchester's most literary suburb

Chorlton Book Festival

Chorlton Book Festival traditionally takes place at the end of November.

The festival’s coordinated by the Chorlton Book Festival Group, which comprises representatives of Manchester’s libraries, galleries and culture, councillors, businesses, schools, community groups and residents, and I’m just waiting to hear back from them about what’s in store for 2018.

In previous years, Chorlton Library on Manchester Road has served as the Chorlton Book Festival hub and hosted a lot of the main activities, albeit ably supported by other venues across the suburb on specific events. There are usually poetry slams, author readings, literature talks, writing workshops and a literary pub quiz.

Many of the events are free, but a few are paid-for.

Chorlton Christmas Lights 2018

Winter 2018?

Christmas tree on Chorlton Green

Christmas Lights

There’s typically some sort of organised activity around the switching on of the Chorlton Christmas Lights.

The Beech Road Christmas Lights Switch-On, for example, has in the past featured a lantern parade by local schoolchildren led by Father Christmas.

This procession starts in Beech Road Park at around 545pm, moves down Beech Road and ends up on Chorlton Green for the big switch-on at about 615pm, with revellers tucking into mince pies and mulled wine as they listen to a church choir performing a few festive carols.

It’s usually a free event.

Posted by: Richard Frost | February 21, 2018

Strawberry Studios Forever

Newly updated Strawberry Studios Stockport sign and blue plaque

Strawberry Studios

Manchester’s contribution to music needs no introduction but what’s less well-known is the role that Stockport played in bringing it to the masses.

I recently popped into a brilliant exhibition at Stockport Museum that recounts the story of one of the UK’s first professional recording studios outside London.

Strawberry Studios: I am in Love covers the studio’s complete history – its origins as Inner City Studios on Underbank, its rapid growth following investment from the likes of Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman (who would later go on to form 10cc), its relocation to Waterloo Road, its renaming after Stewart’s favourite Beatles song Strawberry Fields Forever, and finally its closure as a recording studio and conversion into offices in 1993.

Strawberry Studios Stockport was founded in 1967

Introduction to the Strawberry Studios exhibition

Strawberry Studios Stockport memorabilia

Original material on display at the Strawberry Studios exhibition

Artists with links to Strawberry Studios in Stockport

Artists mural at the Strawberry Studios exhibition

A New Order

I’ve been thinking a lot about Strawberry Studios lately having just started a new job as assistant editor of a magazine called Supper. Its office is based in, you guessed it, Strawberry Studios.

The building’s recently been given a makeover to better reflect its musical heritage, which includes recreating the famous ‘Strawberry Studios Stockport’ sign and updating the blue plaque outside.

Strawberry Recording Studios updated blue plaque in Stockport

Strawberry Studios’ new blue plaque

Strawberry Studios Stockport pictured in 2018

The Strawberry Studios building today

The offices within aren’t open to the public (they’re home to various magazines as well as a data research consultancy and even a radio station) but there are plenty of nods to the past such as meeting rooms named after stars with links to Strawberry Studios – Morrissey, Marr, Hook, Curtis and so on. What’s more, the distinctive wide-angle window that once linked the rehearsal space with the studio control room is still there to this day.

Unknown Pleasures

I could go on, but instead I’ll just leave you with some of the artists that recorded at Strawberry Studios. It’s impressive stuff:

  • 10cc (including I’m Not in Love)
  • Joy Division (including all of Unknown Pleasures, and Love Will Tear Us Apart)
  • The Stone Roses (I Wanna Be Adored)
  • The Smiths (This Charming Man)
  • New Order
  • James
  • Inspiral Carpets
  • 808 State
  • Happy Mondays (legendary Factory Records producer Martin Hannett remixed and remastered their Bummed album here)
  • Lisa Stansfield
  • Buzzcocks
  • John Cooper Clarke
  • Simply Red
  • The Charlatans
  • Paul McCartney
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Ramones
  • Grace Jones
  • Neil Sedaka
  • Bay City Rollers
  • Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Manchester United (Glory Glory Man United)
  • Manchester City
  • Liverpool FC
  • Everton
  • Danger Mouse (theme tune)

Strawberry Studios: I am in Love runs at Stockport Museum until 28 February 2018. Free entry.

Posted by: Richard Frost | August 10, 2017

Tony Wilson – 10 years on

Broadcaster Tony Wilson hosting After Dark in 1988

Tony Wilson

Today’s the 10th anniversary of Tony Wilson’s death.

The Factory Records founder, Hacienda nightclub manager, In The City music conference organiser, broadcaster and professional Steve Coogan impersonator (ok, so I may have made that last one up) passed away on 10 August 2007 but his legacy lives on.

Tony Wilson, perhaps more than anyone else in modern times, helped to kickstart the vibrant arts scene that Manchester now takes for granted.

Tony Wilson’s headstone

I was walking through Chorlton’s Southern Cemetery a few days ago when I spotted a rather stylish-looking headstone.

On closer inspection, it turned out to be none other than Tony Wilson’s famous black granite headstone designed for his grave by Factory Records stalwarts Peter Saville and Ben Kelly. Describing him as a ‘broadcaster’ and ‘cultural catalyst’, it also features a brief quote from ‘The Manchester Man’ by Mrs G Linnaeus Banks (aka Isabella Banks):

Headstone for Tony Wilson's grave at Southern Cemetery in Chorlton

Tony Wilson’s headstone

The Manchester Man

I only saw Tony Wilson in person once, not long before he passed away.

It was a public debate, something along the lines of ‘Would the rest of the UK be better off without London?’, and in truth I only went because he was speaking. I don’t remember much about it now, although I do recall his answer when asked to name his favourite part of London:

“Euston Station, on a train back to Manchester”

Anthony H Wilson 1950 – 2007

Posted by: Richard Frost | June 16, 2017

Amma’s Canteen restaurant review in Chorlton

Amma's Canteen cafe-bar and street kitchen on Chorlton's Barlow Moor Road

Amma’s Canteen

You could be forgiven for thinking that south Manchester doesn’t really need another Indian restaurant.

But Amma’s Canteen, which only opened its doors six weeks ago (29 April 2017), does things very differently to Asian Fusion, Sher Akbar, the Great Kathmandu, the Original Third Eye and the rest. Forget your preconceptions about gut-busting kormas, baltis and vindaloos because you won’t find any of those here – instead it’s all about small plates and south Indian street food served as and when it’s ready.

A street-cart named desire

And make no mistake that Amma’s Canteen is all about the food. The street-cart menu is far more adventurous than your average Indian restaurant covering everything from lentil donuts to crispy okra and tamarind wings to madras masala mussels, alongside larger dishes such as dosas, fish curries and slow-cooked spring lamb, and a smattering of desserts like ras malai and poached plantain.

We shared four street-food dishes and a dosa between five of us (unannounced and paid for in full), which was more than enough and came to a very reasonable £25.

Amma's Canteen serves Stuffed Kozhukattai filled dim-sum

Stuffed Kozhukattai

Delicious dosas

The slow-roasted Beef Sukka (£6.25) packed a rich meaty flavour, and the Spiced Sundal (£2.95) slow-cooked chickpeas had a pleasant bite to them while the chilli and lime did a good job of getting the tastebuds tingling.

Perhaps the falafel-like Madras street snacks, Masala Vadai (£4.25), were a bit dry and dense for my taste although the accompanying red cabbage coleslaw provided an enjoyably creamy companion. And the Stuffed Kozhukattai dim sums filled with garden vegetables (£5.75) were superb, combining the delicate flavours of dim sum with a hot and fiery sauce.

Masala Dosa crispy savoury pancake

Masala Dosa

But the star of the show was undoubtedly the Masala Dosa (£5.95). This was every bit as good as the dosas served in award-winning restaurants like Indian Tiffin Room, with a crispy savoury pancake hiding a satisfying crushed potato filling and a choice of spicy or cooling sides to keep things interesting. It really is worth visiting Amma’s Canteen just for their dosas.

Oh and while we’re on the subject of food, kudos to the kitchen for providing so many vegetarian, vegan-friendly and gluten-free options and clearly labelling them all on the menu. This will go down a storm in Chorlton!

Lassi orders at the bar

What else?

Well there’s room for improvement on the drinks front I’d say. They don’t serve alcohol and while you’re welcome to bring your own, I was a bit underwhelmed by the choice of soft drinks offered in-house. I plumped for a mango juice which was fine but nothing special.

And the atmosphere as a whole was good with the near-full restaurant generating a nice background buzz. However, we were sat directly underneath an air-conditioning unit which was blasting out cold air throughout the evening – not really conducive to a relaxing environment.

A trio of dishes served at Amma's Canteen

Beef Sukka, Spiced Sundal and Masala Vadai

Then again, the service was very good with members of staff more than happy to offer recommendations (even to the extent of advising us to order fewer dishes when we got carried away!) and coming back after each dish had arrived to check that everything was ok.

Amma’s Canteen is an independent restaurant that’s hit the ground running and I for one hope that it builds on a very promising start – I’ll certainly be back for those dosas.

Food rating: 9/10
Drink rating: 6/10
Service rating: 9/10
Atmosphere rating: 7/10
Overall rating: 8/10

Amma’s Canteen is located at 285 Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton. It’s next to the original Coriander restaurant opposite Southern Cemetery, less than 5 minutes’ walk from Barlow Moor Road tram stop.

Menu of Indian restaurant Amma's Canteen in south Manchester

Amma’s Canteen menu

Posted by: Richard Frost | June 9, 2017

Labour’s Jeff Smith wins Manchester Withington

Labour's Jeff Smith and the Liberal Democrats' John Leech await the poll results in Manchester Withington

Manchester Withington’s declaration

In the early hours of this morning, it was revealed that Labour’s Jeff Smith had beaten the Lib Dem’s John Leech in the race to become MP of Manchester Withington – the constituency that covers Chorlton, Didsbury, Withington, Old Moat and Burnage in south Manchester.

Not only that, Smith massively increased his majority in a seat that he first took from Leech in 2015.

Smith’s total of 38,424 votes was a long way ahead of Leech’s 8,549 votes, giving Labour a hefty majority of 29,875 on an impressive turnout of 71.9 per cent. That’s around double the majority of 14,873 that he secured on a turnout of 67.5 per cent in 2015.

I caught up with him during the count at Manchester Central.

Jeff Smith hails “rejection of negativity”

Jeff Smith's Manchester Withington victory speech with John Leech and Sarah Heald in the background

Jeff Smith’s victory speech

Smith said: “The majority’s about doubled so we’re obviously very pleased. It’s a vindication of the campaign that we ran both locally and nationally.

“This has been a remarkable rejection of negativity in politics from the Lib Dems in Withington and the Tories nationally.

“We offered a vision for the country that offered hope and the Tories didn’t offer anything.

“I’m hoping to carry on as a Labour whip – I’d be happy to do that again if I’m asked. Jeremy Corbyn’s fought a really good campaign and what’s important now is that the Labour Party comes together.”

John Leech promises Lib Dem fightback

The Liberal Democrats' John Leech concedes defeat in the Manchester Withington constituency

John Leech addresses supporters

Smith’s re-election came at the expense of Leech who had hoped to take back the seat that he previously held from 2005 to 2015. Leech, who is also a councillor for Didsbury West on Manchester City Council, remains the official opposition to the Labour-held council.

He said: “The election campaign feels more like seven years than seven weeks.

“It’s been another difficult night for the Lib Dems in this general election. But we will be back.”

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