Friday, 1 January 2010

much ado about nothing

it’s the new year and not just any new year, no - it’s a whole new decade, perhaps the real start to the 21st century after the rehearsal ‘noughties’ or whatever we finally decided to call them. so it’s officially a big deal and i can’t shake off the nagging suspicion that i should really have seen it in ‘in style’, in the grand manner with a flourish; on an exotic expedition atop some far flung corner of the world; surrounded by glamorous friends counting down to midnight with champagne and caviar on renard’s daring dirigible; or ensconced in a cosy berth on the orient express, speeding through a succession of windswept lupine steeped vistas, Russian samovar in hand - whimsies i have partaken of aplenty in days now long gone, dear diary believe me, in years with far less portentous baggage attached….

instead, after a week of lounging about in my jimjams happily immersed in the pile of books that santa generously deposited on my balcony (no chimney in niblock towers you see, but he’s a resourceful fellow mr claus...), eating buttery toasted pannetone for breakfast, lunch and supper, i find myself reluctantly shoehorned out of my nest to usher in the new decade with a thousand drunken revelers for a meagre ten minute firework display provided not by the grandees of the city council but (witness a stern dressing down by the manchester evening news in past years!) by the owners of the big wheel. such are the tediously entrepreneurial ways of the twenty-first century commodified city.

and so it was that we gathered somewhat prosaically not in the victorian extravagance of waterhouse’s fine grade I listed civic gesture and the grand sweep of its historic square, ushering in the new year to the sonorous chime of the town hall clock presided over by our cheeky besequined santa and the imperious gaze of old prince albert. no, it remained resolutely darkened and not amused and we were herded unceremoniously into the beleaguered remnants of that oh so nineties experiment, exchange square, heart of the so called millennium quarter, reduced within a few short years from confident public plaza/ cultural space to inglorious cluttered crevice, crushed under the combined weight of endless health and safety obstacles and relentless commercialized encumbrances. where once there was the makings of a cosmopolitan continental square fit for impromptu gatherings, loiterings, picnics, festivals, community displays and temporary exhibitions, markets and seasonal merrymakings, is now a confusion of bollards, instructions, prohibitions and furniture, televisual bombardments and the obligatory big wheel, the waltzer of the 21st century. none of which lends the requisite air of glamour or grandeur to the first day of the future, the start of the new millennium proper, taken for granted in other great cities of the type that manchester believes itself to be, if we are to heed the self important declarations of the ubiquitous cllr pat carney.

in short, whilst grateful to the combined efforts of the lib dems, the m.e.n and the owners of the big wheel for providing some semblance of a convivial open air event, the result was a little desultory. whilst other cities effortlessly and with much panache manage free concerts, cavalcades and carnivals complete with fire eaters, jugglers, lone pipers, brass bands, lantern processions and fire breathing parades, proudly officiated by lord mayor or celebrity, local radio and tv stations providing live satellite link ups on big screens to unlikely twinned towns, we cobbled together a cheap sound system blaring a party-mix tape of old ibiza tunes, culminating in a lacklustre dj-style countdown and roughly 7 minutes of impressive enough but barely coordinated pyrotechnics from the top of the arndale centre. (which with my mms hat on was a noble modernist coming of age for the much despised brutalist landmark..! so thats one accidental point in the events favour...)

meanwhile just around the corner chethams brought some unexpected dignity to the occasion with a roof top midnight bugler regaling a darkened and forlorn urbis with the plaintive strains of auld lang syne. it was lovely and an untapped resource for a proper hogmanay 2011....

then as quickly as it started, it was over; printwork clubbers rushed back to their various shenanigans whilst the rest of us, silver surfers, families, excited toddlers who’d stayed up specially and assorted overseas visitors wandered back to our respective homes slightly bewildered only to switch on the tv and watch other cities do it properly!

it seems to have become something of a niblockian tradition to kick off the new year with a complaint about civic pride, community spirit and lack of public amenities and it gives me no joy to return to this well worn theme as we look the shiny new decade in the eye...

….the future it turns out is threatening to be something of a damp squib.

No comments: