Play and Work

Many of my posts so far have been non-academic (i.e. not about the PhD research which this blog intends to document). What can I say? It’s not that I’m unsure about my “communicative purpose”. The blog is intended to offer a representative mixture of the different pieces that currently make up my life: all of which relate back to arriving at MMU to start my studies. Work hasn’t been too intensive so far. It might be interesting to observe over time how the categories and tags I use on the blog become narrower and more focused.  Hopefully it will be a fairly reliable mirror of what has been keeping me busy.

Yesterday was the first day of official faculty induction activities. There was only a small group of us: two M.A. Film Studies students and four of us starting PhDs (two in English Literature, one in Philosophy, and myself, in InfoComms). Dick Hartley, Director of the Institute, asked us all to introduce ourselves and our work. Every topic sounded great. Being in the same department as the Literature, Language, Media, and Philosophy students feels like exactly the right fit. The complementary range of subjects, students, and approaches that can be found in the Information & Communications Department and more widely in the HLSS faculty is for me, ideal. My project will of course take me to other areas (including Science) to keep my work inclusive and to allow us to study and map cultural and other differences. Anyway, it was encouraging that my topic seemed to interest people!

Yesterday was also a chance to go along to one of the weekly “Trauma” film group screenings. This time it was the cult classic “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” by Russ Meyer (which doesn’t in fact have much to do with Jacqueline Susann’s always popular “Valley of the Dolls“). Not my usual sort of film, but that’s part of what made it interesting to go along: the Trauma group’s idea was obviously to attract attention and create a bit of a buzz. I doubt that the film (a silly comedy at heart) is meant to be taken seriously, although its tongue in cheek “critique” or deconstruction of the clichés and stereotypes of swinging Hollywood has probably been written about well by those who know the genre better than me. After the screening, it was time to go to the Sandbar to discuss what we thought of the film – and drink too much beer for a Monday night. The programme for the next few months’ screenings is eclectic and broad; so going again could be fun.

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Maybe you’re wondering why I’ve not yet reviewed The Yang Sing restaurant, where I went last weekend with my Mum? Here goes. The room, the lighting, the staff, and the food, were wonderful. To be honest though, I’m not sure I made the best selections from their menu! It would be good to have an advisor on how real Cantonese cuisine differs from what we might be able to get in supermarkets. The Chinese greens were delicious but the oyster sauce they arrived in didn’t bear much relation to what I expected. That’s my own fault I guess: but it was far too heavy and jelly-like, detracting from the vegetables rather than adding to them. Anyway, the desert I ordered made me smile. I’m guessing they really only expect kids to bother with something sweet after the meal…(see the picture above).

Other highlights of the weekend included a trip to the Manchester Art Gallery to see “Ford Madox Brown: pre-Raphaelite Pioneer” where we got to take a close-up look at “The Last of England“, “Head of a Girl”, “Work”, “Take your Son, Sir”, and various other pieces, many on loan from the Tate. The audio guide by Julian Treuherz (formerly Keeper of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool), which included some original poetry by Angela Thirlwell, shed contextual and creative light on the exhibits.

After many rejections, Madox Brown finally won a commission in 1879 to create murals for Manchester Town Hall, narrating through his images the history of commerce and in particular textiles and weaving, in the city. Maybe it was appropriate then that we also wandered down in the rain towards Salford and visited The People’s History Museum. For me, it was a bigger and brighter version of Glasgow’s “People’s Palace” – a place to learn about the social and political struggles of the “ordinary” people of Manchester throughout the past few centuries. What stood out most was the temporary exhibition of protest banners designed and made by Ed Hall. I’ve included a few pictures here. Powerful, provocative, sometimes serious and at times, with a touch of humour. Banners like these must definitely be a dying art: a shame since clearly they are quite a bit more memorable than a hastily thrown together cardboard-wood-and-marker pen placard. Anyone who wants a banner like one of Hall’s at their march must be serious about their cause.

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2 responses to “Play and Work”

  1. Jemster says :

    You’re right about the Ed Hall banners! They are amazing. Thanks for sharing them. It’s cool how they have become works of art after they’ve been used, and they act as a historical document. The ‘Justice for Jean’ one made me sad.
    I like the photo of the workies ‘preparing for Ford Madox Brown’ too. Hehe. I guess you don’t think of all the work that goes on behind the scenes preparing for these things, eh?
    Glad you are being a proper student and getting lots of drinking done in between all this culture stuff. Lol.

    • musingfrommanchester says :

      Heh. Yeah, was a good wee night! Hope there will still be time a month from now. Had more induction stuff today. And more again tomorrow. Forms to fill in. In triplicate. 😉 The Gallery blog with the pic of the workies is a gem, isn’t it! I’d never thought of that either. 🙂

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