More reviews from Tony Wilson Experience

Martin Hewitt, Tony Wilson Experience attendee

Minutes after arriving at the Hard Rock Cafe it quickly became apparent that most of the 200 hand-picked ‘future talent’ that made up the audience of Reification: The Tony Wilson Experience had little to no idea of what to expect from the day ahead. Billed as a 24 hour conversation, the inaugural event’s opening speeches revealed that in reality, the event’s organisers and ‘experienced talent’ had no idea what to expect either… how very Factory indeed.

The opening conversation involving Coogan and Saville was undoubtedly the most formal of the day, but passed in the blink of an eye, summarising the event’s ability to do what Andy Brown, a Chorlton based visual artist described as “engage the crowd and not be boring at all.”

The result was some high-brow conversations, both involving the ‘future talent’ and between the ‘experienced’ hosts on the couch. Topics ranged from the appropriation and inevitable commercialisation of art, funding issues and the importance of both the independent and conglomerate creative industries, to the correct terminology for that most northern of teas- egg and chips- there was rarely a dull moment.

With Irvine Welsh, Steve Coogan, Mark E Smith, Peter Hook, Peter Saville, Jayne Casey, Sue Woodward and Mark Radcliffe amongst the guest speakers, it would be a safe assumption that most of the worthy few took some inspiration from the radically different event, described as being ‘shambolic enough to be useful’.

Reiterating the importance of the occasion the only real consistent themes were the dumbing down of culture, the problems of over saturating creative markets and the need to support the real talent and promote creative communities. Although this message was occasionally lost in the dialogue, it would be hard to imagine many in attendance walking away with anything less than a good impression.

After the dust had settled, A Certain Ratio had reminded us what this was really all about and the bar had shut the memories are almost surreal. 24 hours of stimulating company, good music, food, drinks and potential opportunities and friendships? Who could have asked for more?

Sophie Parkes, Tony Wilson Experience attendee

At 10am on the longest day of the year, two hundred handpicked creative individuals, the ‘talent’, gathered together in Manchester’s Hard Rock Café, nervously shuffling through their goodie bags and hastily consuming canapés, wondering what the Tony Wilson Experience was all about, and what the next 24 hours would bring.

Peter Saville, Elliot Rashman and Sir Richard Leese, well known ambassadors for the city in their various roles, also confessed that they, too, were not entirely sure what was in store but hoped that the event, held in memory of Anthony H. Wilson approximately a year after his death, would be ‘shambolic enough to be useful.’

And so it began. It was Steve Coogan and Peter Saville, with Alex Poots, director of Manchester International Festival, who first took to the stage in the giant tipi in Cathedral Gardens, tentatively discussing Tony’s impact on the city and themselves as professionals in their creative disciplines.

As confidence and beer consumption grew, however, the audience realised that a discussion about a past with which they could not identify was not the Tony Wilson Experience they had in mind, one plucky individual grabbing the microphone to state that as a person in his mid twenties, the Hacienda bears no relevance to his life and his experience of the city and the focus should be on Tony’s legacy and the creative future of the city and its residents.

How right he was. From that moment onwards, microphones flew around the room and the event finally became participatory and interactive, much to the evident delight of its organisers.

Quite frequently debates became furiously heated, such as Irvine Welsh and Paul Morley’s discussion about the possible trend of dumbing down of culture, or Kevin Cummins and Karen McBride’s vehement defence of the role of the professional photographer.

Perhaps most invigorating was the wonderfully shambolic open mic session which saw the young talent finally taking over the microphone to share resources, finding out where in Manchester, for example, cheap art studios could be rented, or how to better promote spoken word performers.

The Tony Wilson Experience was decidedly ramshackle yet inspiring, sometimes pretentious and definitely motivating, undoubtedly an event Tony Wilson himself would have relished.


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