Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Is it time we had a Manchester Music Museum?

This article from the Independent in May 2004 suggests that plans to set up a Manchester Music Museum were being made at the time by a company called "100% Cotton" and implies that the project have fallen through at a later stage due to problems in finding a suitable site or raising sufficient funds. One possibility is that the materials prepared for the museum may have been used for temporary exhibitions at Urbis, e.g. "Sex, Seditionaries and the Sex Pistols" in 2005, and something on the Hacienda in 2007. Now that Urbis has been transformed into the National Football Museum, the city no longer has a space for such exhibits and it's only a matter of time before the growing calls for some kind of permanent gallery or museum documenting the rise and fall of the Manchester Music scene gather momentum.

A recreation of the Hacienda's interior at London's V&A, March 2012
The importance of Ben Kelly's interior design work on the Hacienda has been made the subject of part of an exhibition on British Design (1942-2012) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The picture above is reminiscent of the recreation of The Cavern in The Beatles Story in Liverpool and any Manchester Music Museum would surely be centred around something similar. Perhaps another room would try to recreate the atmosphere of a Northern Soul all-nighter at The Twisted Wheel, etc. Manchester's tourist numbers are growing and will probably continue to do so. However the city has to make the most of its unique selling points - this site gets a steady stream of visitors from around the world who've been Googling "Joy Division"; The Smiths also have an extremely dedicated international fanbase (as seen by the unlikely popularity of Salford Lads' Club as a tourist destination); the recent Stone Roses reunion showed that there is a huge demand for Manchester-related musical nostalgia.
The National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield opened in March 1999 and closed in June 2000
Many feel that the city makes too big a deal of its past musical prominence, a debate which has seen the BBC asking where the next generation of Manchester bands are going to come from and others arguing that the city should be looking forward not backwards, etc. On the news that Peter Hook was releasing a book on his experiences as part of Joy Division, one wag commented that "someone should buy that man a milking stool." This level of cynicism reflects a city unwilling to rest on its laurels, etc. and suggests that any concrete plans for a Manchester Music Museum would be highly controversial, even if "done right" or "done well." Key players would almost certainly include the excellent Manchester District Music Archive but the project would probably still struggle to attract funding during a time of economic belt-tightening. Similar projects have failed in the past. The National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield was closed just over a year after it opened because of low visitor numbers. Ironically (just as Urbis risked becoming a white elephant until it was converted into the National Football Museum), the Millenium Dome was converted into the British Music Experience in March 2009. The questions remains: how long before we have a Manchester Music Experience and on what kind of scale would it be?

1 comment:

  1. I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The prices being asked and paid were huge too.
    Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8BWS6R, bought some time ago from wahooart.com, is as lovely as ever.