Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The game is on again

I'm tired beyond words! I was up with the lark this morning in order to catch an 8am train to Manchester. It was incredibly cold in the kitchen and I shivered myself awake whilst eating a bowl of Shreddies, watching images of people being evicted from the Dale Farm travellers' site. The pictures made me feel very sad.

I wrote music on the way up and barely noticed what was going on outside the train, except on one occasion, when I saw a beautiful rainbow stretching across a field which seemed to be glowing like an emerald in the golden morning light.

The purpose of my trip to Manchester was to talk about my next film project, which focusses on the Hattersley Estate on the outskirts of the city. I think it's probably one of the biggest estates in the world, and was built in the 1960s to deal with the effects of overcrowding and slum clearance in Manchester.

It is, of course, synonymous with the moors murderers, who lived on the estate. The infamous house has been demolished, but the stigma remains, which is a terrible shame. The estate was like the promised land when it opened. Families moved there and had their first experience of indoor toilets, central heating and fitted kitchens. Children had their own bedrooms, and no one had to wash in a tin bath in front of the fire.

We visited the estate this morning and my first impression was that it feels rather like an oasis, surrounded by beautiful moorland. Bang, slap in the middle of the hosues is a wonderful community centre, which is crammed with charm and character. It has a little cafe where you can get a stonking cup of tea and a little table covered with all sorts of shoes and books and things that you can buy for a modest donation. The Hattersley residents look after their own.

The building feels like a proper community space. When we arrived, a group of ladies were sitting at a table, sorting out a massive pile of bunting, which they were borrowing to welcome one of their children back from the Navy. Every day, the hall inside the space is home to an almost bewildering number of classes, from keep fit to tea dances, all well attended, we're told. I think the community centre will make the perfect backdrop for our film. I'm excited.

I'm also pleased to announce that the producer I'm going to be working with is a very charming and interesting man. He may well prove to be a slightly bigger ABBA fan than either Nathan or myself, which is a fairly astonishing achiement! He's seen the band playing live... twice, and even met them in a hotel lobby in 1977. He showed me the photographs, and they were extraordinary. One of them was of Agnetha. She looked astonishingly haunted.

We had a meeting with the big boss at Media City in Salford, home to the brilliant new BBC building which now houses, amongst other TV shows, Blue Peter. The new Blue Peter garden is apparently being built on the roof. The atrium in the middle is awe-inspiring, but with thousands of BBC employees' jobs on the line, one wonders whether there are some people who would have preferred to stay where they were!


350 years ago, Pepys went to Limehouse to visit one Captain Richard Marsh, whose house, Pepys wrote with great excitement, had been in the same family for 250 years. Since 1411. They had a “handsome dinner”, but Pepys didn’t enjoy himself as much as the others because he didn’t think he was dressed well-enough for the occasion. I sort of know how he feels. Some days I leave the house wearing clothes that are literally in tatters. I kid myself that it's all part of my charm, but regularly wonder what the official  upper age limit is for bohemian chic. When does it roll into bag lady?

Salford's very cool Media City

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