The Manchester Anthology 2014

Various Authors

I’ve always liked to read. From as early as I can remember there’s always been a book at the side of my bed with a steadily deepening strip of leather or cut of cardboard jutting out. But as anyone who loves to read will know, it’s not always easy finding fresh, new writing to enjoy. I’m a lazy reader, and rather than siphon through bestseller lists, crossing out self-help books and train station top-fives, I turn to canonical names like Orwell and Atwood in the hope that I’m more likely to find myself hooked by their words. Thankfully, I’ve been saved from inertia by The Manchester Anthology 2014, a collection of writing by students on the University of Manchester’s Creative Writing MA course.

Featuring an eclectic array of short stories, novel extracts and poetry from 21 writers of equally as eclectic ages and backgrounds, there is, to use the old cliché, something for everyone. From third person accounts of friendships fading to first person flashes about second dates in the cinema, the quality of the writing, whether written in a style you like or not, cannot be questioned. The writers’ abilities to take you to Manchester Piccadilly train station or the inside of a Scimitar armoured vehicle in just a few words is testament not only to the teaching at the university, but also their immense talent, as no amounts of mentorship can craft combinations of words like these without that inherent gift of great writers.

Most impressive is the density of the writing. Often this is a criticism of writers who bog their texts down with complex metaphors and images, slowing the pace to a crawl in the misguided belief that this is what makes a text great. Thankfully there is little of this. The texts zip along at a pleasant pace whilst retaining the descriptions needed to make the worlds that the writers are depicting feel full and the characters they create seem real in just a few words.

In the writers’ biographies section at the back of the anthology, it states that many of those featured are in the process of completing larger works. I can only recommend that you pick up this text as soon as you are able and familiarise yourself with the names at the top of the pages. If the selections offered here are anything to go by, you will be seeing their names lauded in influential literary lists soon.

David Ewing

Different Tracks: Music & Politics in 1970

Steve Millward

The events of 1970 signified an end of era – the swinging 60s. With the death of Jimi Hendrix and the breakup of The Beatles occurring in that particular year, popular culture had come to a standstill.

In his new book, renowned music reviewer Steve Millward explores the deeply rooted connections between the significant events of 1970 and the musical trends which emerged that year. Following a similar format to his previous book, Changing Times: Music and Politics of 1964, Millward identifies the origins of new musical trends and genres that tied in with the major political events that occurred in 1970.

“My last book, Changing Times, was about music and politics in 1964, a year when so many exciting new developments were in the air. It was the year the ‘Swinging 60s’ really began. In 1970, many, if not most, of those came to a crashing halt,” says Millward. “Plus many new trends which had an impact later in the decade began then.”

Whilst reading this book we learn that 1970 was a year of unrest. There was escalation of the Vietnam War under Richard Nixon’s Presidency; an increase in tensions with the Civil Rights Movement as the fight for equality began to fracture after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, leading to increased military opposition to the US by the Black Panthers; the formation of the Red Army Faction in Germany; and the anarchist group the Angry Brigade in the UK.

With so much happening that year, it had a significant impact on popular music. Millward brilliantly provides a very detailed analysis of how certain political events had introduced funk, prog rock, jazz rock, electronic music, folk rock and rock folk in an impartial manner whilst providing his own critique of the music that had naturally emerged to coincide with these political events.

“In the USA, protests against the Vietnam War were becoming ever more violent and many of the leading rock musicians reflected that in their music,” Millward said. “But I think it's also important to say that many singer-songwriters retreated into songs about more personal matters and that prog rock represented an escape from it all.”

Mayur Mistry

Steve Millward is currently working on his third book, which is focussing on 1974 and will be the final volume of the trilogy. His third book should be completed by late 2015.