Manchester Central Library, October 2015
Manchester Left Writers, which formed in January 2014 to share and discuss reading and writing aligned to topical issues and challenges, teamed up with the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University for a unique, sell-out event for Manchester Literature Festival.
Members of MLW paired up to read narrative, poetic, call-and-response pieces of writing based on their experiences and encounters in the city and the sensations of contemporary life. Each of the Precarious Passages readings was accompanied by historic films selected from the NWFA. From vintage footage of Hulme to streetscapes of Manchester and Stockport, CND protests and street carnivals to slum clearance and rebuilding, past and present imagery was brought into dialogue to give a new perspective on regularly encountered environments and situations.
A new piece of writing and performance was created especially for the event, responding to an extraordinary 1961 film of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin visiting Trafford Park. Gagarin, who was himself a foundry worker, visited foundry workers in Trafford Park just three months after his space flight in Vostok. Manchester’s welcoming of Gagarin took place against the backdrop of the Cuba crisis and further East-West tension in Berlin.
Precarious Passages conjure new and distinctive responses to everyday places, landmarks, thoughts and feelings, from trains and transport hubs, to the redevelopment of inner-city areas, to the notorious 192 bus route, in ways that are at once familiar and abstract, fragmented and poetic. The Precarious Passages are laid out in two facing columns, which can be read across, or down and over, in a number of ways.
Free copies of MLW publications, including Precarious Passages, were available at the MLF event.
The readings were repeated at Verbose, a monthly live literature event at Fallow Cafe in Fallowfield, Manchester, in March 2016, with Manchester Left Writers as special guests, and a new Precarious Passage was debuted.
Image: Precarious Passages at Central Library, Steve Hanson