The Spring Bank Holiday on the last Monday of May was first established in 1971. It replaced the century-old Whit Monday holiday which moved around each year, always falling seven weeks after Easter Monday. Manchester people used to celebrate Whit (Pentecost) with the Whit Walks, street processions which still take place in some areas like Mossley in Tameside.

Nowadays the bank holiday entertainment is (usually) non-religious: local events include the Eurocultured Festival on Oxford Road, Chorlton Arts Festival in the suburbs, and, this year (2011), a big soul event on Saturday 28th May at the Sheridan Suite, Oldham Road (formerly the Second City Suite.)

The Eurocultured Festival is a pay-to-enter street festival which has been running around New Wakefield Street since 2004. You can get an idea of what it’s like from this short film shot last year:

This year there is an associated event at the Palace Hotel (the Refuge Building) called Manchester’s European Soul Weekender:

When I picked up the flyer I was a bit perplexed; what did European Soul mean exactly? It turned out to mean old-fashioned traditional Northern Soul going by another name. I’m still in awe of the brass neck of the organisers who appear to have secured E.U. funding for this event!

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The Chorlton Arts Festival has also been running for a number of years now; the full line-up for 2011 can be found on their official website chorltonartsfestival.com.

I must confess that I have harboured an in-built resistance to the concept of the Chorlton Festival since I first heard about it; I’ve cringed at the signs proclaiming ‘Welcome to Chorlton, Home of the Chorlton Arts Festival’ (which seem to have disappeared now.) The idea seems so ridiculous… a recently-become-bourgeois surburban backwater trumpetting its artistic credentials to all-comers; the last thing Chorltonites need is another reason to feel smug about themselves.

But then I met someone recently who was bemoaning the fact that Manchester Festival is being commissioned from London and I thought… well atleast Chorlton Festival is being run from Manchester… by people who actually live here. So now I have to give the organisers some credit… even though Chorlton is hardly a typical area of Manchester (now)… and the aspirations of the residents are a little too aspirational to be shared by most Mancunians! But atleast people are doing it for themselves (as far as I know) which must be a good thing!

I really like this painting of women chatting in a shopping arcade; the strong composition, dramatic light, vibrant colour and painting style make the scene appear ordinary and beautiful at the same time. Glamourous images have become so common-place that glorifying the unlovely and mundane with this treatment becomes a radical statement.

Other free events include:

TWISTED
The Gallery
Saturday 21st May, 8.30pm, Free
Chorlton DJs collective – Drum’n’base/Dubstep

THE FELLONS
Iguana Bar, Barlow Moor Road
Fri 27 May, 7.00pm, Free
A soul/funk/house band.
www.myspace.com/thefellonsuk

THE RUM BAR MASSES LEGENDARY SKA
The Lloyds
Sat 28 May, 9.00pm, Free

REFLECTIONS OF PROJECTIONS
Conservative Club
Mon 30th May, 7.30pm, Free
Experimental theatre exploring the human debris of mental illness and desire for hope. The performance contains spoken word, physical scores, projections and music.

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The Legends of the Old School gig at The Sheridan Suite, Oldham Road, on Saturday May 28th is headlined by Joyce Sims, darling of the late eighties UK soul import scene, supported by China Black, Innocence, Opaz and Tammy Payne. I recently bought Joyce’s greatest hits album and was a bit shocked by the light quality of her vocals – I had forgotten how fragile she sounded. Her songs rose to prominence in the late eighties partly because they were produced by Kurtis Mantronik a.k.a. Mantronix, who was the alpha producer of his day. I hope she sounds good live.

Joyce Sims – Lifetime Love

There’s also the cup final on the 28th May which may distract people from attending even though the evening lasts from 8pm-2am. And the location is a little bit out of town, but not much.

China Black – Searching

Innocence – Natural Thing

What’s worthy of note is that the Legends Of Soul concert has almost certainly been organised by local black promoters with the local black audience in mind (although the crowd will be mixed), while the European Soul event has been organised by white promoters and the crowd will be almost exclusively white (though international, because “European Soul Scene” fans travel around Europe for these niche events.) The punters will be from similar age-groups (25-50?) and will all be listening to black American soul music, but will exist in separate bubbles… in parallel universes… I find that quite depressing.

The trouble is that people clump. You just can’t stop people from clumping.