Climb aboard and spin backwards through time with us!
We recently moved offices (we mean recently in the old-people way, this actually happened about a year ago now) to a cosy and rain-swept corner of ancient, crumbling Ancoats. It was a bid for more floor space, better lunchtime sandwich access and closer transport links, but you can imagine our unbridled delight when we discovered that our new area has genuine, bonafide celluloid heritage.
We saw ourselves as media pioneers, bringing our wanky, complex coffee makers and fixie bikes to previously uncharted territory, but it turns out, like so many times in history, the boards had been trodden before us. Others had worn ironically clunky glasses to work here when they weren’t even ironic, they were just what the NHS gave you if you couldn’t see. According to our mate, director Chris Gaffey, we were sitting a-top a veritable gold mine of film history, where all the big photographers shot in the seventies and eighties during a peak in the Manchester rag trade. The disused pub on the corner that we assumed had always been a crack den was actually where flutey men in silk neckerchiefs drank snakebites and promised to make each other famous once upon a time. What we’d taken as an interesting and eccentric place for our neighbors Photolink to place themselves was actually a 20-year-old flagship from the now re-generating Northern media scene. These things must be cyclical or something…or we’re just human hamsters stuck in a time warp forced to endlessly repeat ourselves in penance for transgressions we’ll never understand. Either way, we don’t mind.
This got us to thinking about Manchester’s film history in general. Never the most glamorous location, (at least we’re not Birmingham, we’ll always have that.) Manchester has actually been host to more stuff than we’d have guessed. It turns out the Northern Quarter looks just like 1940s Chicago and Victorian London, which is probably what years of under-development by town planners was geared towards. It was a CLEVER PLAN to lure Bruce Willis and Robert Downy Jnr here. Thanks guys! So interesting things are getting shot here more and more frequently, especially since the BBC realised they were allowed to build outside of London, which is awesome.
But beyond that into the annals of history we have so many moving documents of what Manchester was like before even the Arndale was built. With the re-opening of Manchester Central Library we have access to our film heritage like never before. The North West film archive’s new home, combined with some funding from the BFI’s Mediatheque project means Central Library is resplendent with viewing pods where you can kick back and look at everything that’s ever happened in Manchester. Why you would want to do that we cannot say, but still it sounds like a generally positive idea. Better than pods playing back endless Joss Stone concerts or bestiality snuff.
The North West Film Archive’s app “Manchester Time Machine” is something that makes up for the constant battery loss on our iPhones, allowing us to see through time in a way previously only available to acid casualties, soothsayers and wizards. Seriously give it a go. You can be walking down Market Street and at the same time watch the Victorians who went before treading the same steps past the same (although sootier) buildings. If that isn’t enough to totally snap your mind in half nothing will.
What’s our point you cry? Why are we telling you all this? No reason really. Only, when we started out a decade ago it felt like we were at the very thin end of the wedge of media cheese pointing out of London (that’s a crackers metaphor, sorry) but now it feels like we’re getting closer and closer to the creamy center (cheese still) so basically, go Manchester! London was host to 18,000 filming days last year according to The Knowledge UK, and whilst we can’t get a figure for Manchester, we’re guessing it’s massively bolstered by Corrie. Any guesses? Probs loads. Anyway we’d like to hear your own time machine moments. Did you produce Brideshead Revisited here in the 1980s? Or help Jim Royle out of his chair? Or hand a moistened hand-towel to Maxine Peake? It feels like more is going on here everyday and this makes us smile deep into our northern souls.