Glamourising Gunchester

At this point, I think I’ve made it a bit clear that Manchester is one of my favourite cities. I love so many things about the place – the history, the culture, the people, the music scene – and so many of my favourite aspects of the city have been greatly influenced by the Madchester movement. Madchester is even one of the main reasons why I decided to spend a semester living over there.

Madchester is even one of the main reasons why I decided to spend a semester living over there. Most of my favourite bands were involved in the Madchester scene and really, I just find the entire movement very interesting. However, I often forget that a great deal of Madchester is simply nostalgia and it may not have been as great as I always make it out to be.

It really hit me how much I had been glamourising Madchester last year when I interviewed Peter Hook, the former bassist for New Order and co-owner of the Haçienda. Although he was incredibly lovely throughout the interview, once I said something along the lines of “you were one of the people responsible for sparking the Madchester movement“, he very seriously responded with, “don’t blame me for that“.

As much as musicians, Hooky included, generally look back in fondness of Madchester, not everything about it was all that great. The drug trade in Manchester was growing day by day and took over clubs like the Haçienda which was really the heart of Madchester. Along with the drug trade came drug-related violence and as Johnny Marr explained in his autobiography, Set The Boy Free, “gangs started to take over, and became self-appointed kings of the nightlife, especially in the Haçienda, which by now was the most notorious nightclub in the world. Manchester had become Gunchester.

Ultimately it was the drug trade and violence that was the demise of the Haçienda and Madchester as the legendary nightclub closed its doors for the final time in June of 1997, marking the end of Madchester.

Looking back on it in 2017, Madchester seemed like the best thing to ever happen to the north of England. To an extent, it really was. Johnny Marr explained,

The impact of the Manchester scene could be seen all over the country as more and more people flocked to the city to join in the ‘Madchester’ experience. Suddenly it was the hippest thing in the world to pretend that you’d come from the most socially deprived areas of the city and speak as if you were a barely educated urchin from a young offenders institution.”

While it’s great to look back on this time with nostalgia, it is also important to remember that not all of it was as great as we like to make it out to be now. Drugs, gangs and violence took over a large part of the Madchester scene and if it’s not forgotten about, then it is definitely glamourised. Certain aspects of Madchester should be celebrated, but other aspects certainly shouldn’t.

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Has Classic Literature Overstayed Its Welcome?

I’ve been studying English literature at third level for almost three years now and only recently I’ve begun to hear other students in my course complaining about studying classic literature. To be fair, I thought I would hear it a lot sooner than this but the same comments seem to be coming from every other person every day.

Before starting our course, everyone was fully aware that we would be studying a considerable amount of classic literature, especially at the beginning. However, it is now getting to the stage where many people are questioning if we need to study it so extensively, or maybe even at all.

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There are plenty of obvious and valid reasons for classic literature being taught in universities. Students need to learn the history of English literature and why it is the way it is. English teacher, Sally Law, summarises this in an article for the Guardian by saying,

“…studying classic literature from the Western canon (Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell and so on) affords students of English the opportunity to understand, analyse and evaluate language quite different from their own. Structures, trends in punctuation and in the way we speak have evolved through the ages and being aware of these developments really helps us to understand better, language in its current context.
If we didn’t read and study texts from the past, and only looked to the best seller list, how would we know of this evolution?”

However, with this being said there is more to English literature than “Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell and so on“. When I first began my course, I thought that we would only really be studying classic literature for the first few semesters in order to understand the context and history of fiction but now, almost three years later, not much has changed and we still study almost exclusively classic literature.

I believe that we need to keep classic literature as one of the main components of English literature courses, but we also have to start incorporating more modern texts as well. As important as classic literature is, we need to keep students interested in what they’re learning and that won’t happen when they constantly have to translate a text from old English to a more modern form of the language.

I don’t seem to be the only one with this opinion either as Sally Law continues, “While we must safeguard the teaching of classic literature or risk depriving our young people of the wealth of knowledge, enjoyment and sense of heritage and history to be gained from our classics, we should also be open to the idea that more contemporary texts, of varying titles and formats, have a justifiable place in the curriculum too.”